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BINKYBUNNY FORUMS

Forum BONDING New bond after previously failed bond

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    • Lisa-P&T
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      Hi everyone,

      I have had phenomenal help here in the past with my 16 month old spayed female rabbit, Phil. Her first bond with another female broke down due to a mixture of food aggression and the other female being unwilling to be the submissive bun in the dyad. Phil is a super alpha gal and there was no way on this earth she would accept a lower rank!! That bond became unsafe after a massive and serious fight and despite two desperate rebonding attempts, we had to call time on it and the other bun has now found a five star home and we get updates all the time 😍🐰🌟

      Fast forward 2 months and we have found a 4 year old neutered male called Hopper who needs a new home. His owner describes him as very placid and always grooming everything around him. He has also been a fully free roam indoor bun his whole life. He and Phil have had 3 play dates at his house with a fence separating them. There has been some nice nose to nose interacting and smelling, mirroring grooming, and Hopper has attempted to groom Phil through the bars. Phil has done some binkies and flopped and laid by the bars next to him. So all seems pretty positive and he is coming to live with us this week.

      I have a good feeling about it as Phil really wants a friend I think. She loved her old pal despite their differences. She suffered a lot when we separated them and even went into stasis. I have worked really hard on her food aggression/resource guarding in the last 8 weeks and while they remain, they appear to be less and I have broken the association with me as always having a treat. Even the sight of me used to send her lunging at her old pal and chasing her quite viciously around the room in anticipation of food. I know she won’t love an intruder coming into our small apartment, which she pretty much thinks she owns the deed to 🤣 but I do think it is workable. We got her professionally bonded the first time so this is my first true bonding experience and while I feel that I have read and watched all available resources, I’d like a place to come to ask questions if they arise. I’m mostly worried about bringing them back into what Phil sees as her territory after they bond in the neutral area and the food stuff. I have 10 full days booked off work (crazy bun-mom using her annual leave for this purpose 😅) after he arrives, then will be home part-time for 3 weeks, and off for a further 2 weeks. I’d love the bond to be achieved in the 10 days but know this may not be doable and more than anything, I want it to work for Phil because the thought of putting her through another failed bond breaks my heart. She is a difficult character, I won’t lie, but I adore her and want her to be as happy as she possibly can. So at this juncture, I have no specific question. I’m open to general advice etc in advance of his arrival but I’ll come back with updates and questions as they arise in the next fortnight and hopefully someone will be able to help.

      Thanks in advance to those who have been with me on the previous thread over months and months of hardship!! Hopefully this story will have a happy ending 🤞 thanks guys 😊

      Lisa (and Phil 🐰)


    • DanaNM
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      Replying to question in old thread:

      “I have 2 pens for side by side for as pre-bonding or to step back/slow down.

      Our whole apartment is Phil’s so we will have to bond in the bathroom. But they can be kept side by side in another room that’s “hers”, can’t they?

      Unfortunately, our professional bonder is booked up for the next 6 months. I think we can do it though 😊🤞”

      And yes, they should  be kept side by side in a room that’s “hers”! The idea with pre-bonding and all of that is for the original bun to start to loose track of what’s her territory. So she may not be happy about it at first, but moving the new bun in right next to Phil’s main area is the best thing for pre-bonding. Usually things calm down after a day or two of this.

      You’ll just have to see how it goes with the bathroom! I just mentioned it in case things aren’t going well, because it happened to me when I lived in my old apartment. Even though the buns weren’t allowed in the bathroom, it was close enough to their home area that they just didn’t behave the same as when they were in a super neutral space. Once I started doing bonding sessions at a friend’s house they really made progress quickly.

      . . . The answers provided in this discussion are for general guideline purposes only. The information is not intended to diagnose or treat your pet. Seek the advice of your veterinarian or a qualified behaviorist.  


      • Lisa-P&T
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        OK thank you!

        He’s arriving later today and now I’m quite anxious because I’m wearing jeans that smell like other animals and rabbits (we visited our old rabbit last night, which was lovely) and Phil got very animated, running and jumping onto the couch, running around my feet and grunting with her tail up.

        Trying to not feel instantly like this new bond is doomed 😞 she’s so alpha. Or maybe she’s not and that’s normal..?


    • DanaNM
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      Don’t be alarmed when she acts differently at home vs. elsewhere, I’ve found most female bunnies are more territorial of their home turf, but it doesn’t mean she can’t be bonded. Don’t second guess yourself just yet! I always compare it to how I might behave if a stranger just walked into my home, vs. encountering a stranger outside in the park. You might behave very differently too!

      . . . The answers provided in this discussion are for general guideline purposes only. The information is not intended to diagnose or treat your pet. Seek the advice of your veterinarian or a qualified behaviorist.  


      • Lisa-P&T
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        Wise and reassuring words, thank you! I’ve relaxed a bit now, she was just so annoyed it took me off guard. I know how good and gentle she can be so I have faith 🤞 going to collect the little dude shortly 😁

        She’s in a pen now since earlier as she kept jumping up on the couch at me, trying to dominate me off it, and I couldn’t get anything done when she was being so aggressive. She’s cooled off since!

        I’ll come back with any questions. Light a candle for us 🕯️😅🐰


    • DanaNM
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      Sending calm vibes! And congrats on the little dude!

      One thing that some members have had success with is to rub a towel on the new bun, and then rub it all over the original bun (and leave the towel for the original bun to sniff). Folks have also done similar things with “stuffy” surrogate buns, where they get the new buns scent all over the stuffy and then give it to the original bun to do what they will. Sometimes the original bun attacks it, mounts it, etc., but it seems to help them get their aggression out on something that won’t fight back!

      I’ve also heard of folks putting vanilla on a towel and then rubbing it on both buns!

      . . . The answers provided in this discussion are for general guideline purposes only. The information is not intended to diagnose or treat your pet. Seek the advice of your veterinarian or a qualified behaviorist.  


    • Lisa-P&T
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      Great tips, thanks so much!

      We have been swapping towels and teddies after every play date and she never minded those. I’m half wondering is it because she smelled an unspayed female off us that she went so mad? Or would she remember her old pal’s smell? Also, she’s been home alone a lot lately and I’m wondering is she starting to think she owns the whole place more than she used to. Either way, she’s still penned. My partner came home and let her out but she went for him as well so she’s back in the pen overnight til she calms down and we’ve taken the cushion covers off that smell like our clothes that had the Rabbit smell on them so hopefully a quieter house tomorrow 🤞


    • DanaNM
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      It definitely could have been the unspayed female smell. Hormonal bunnies can really set off other bunnies!

      . . . The answers provided in this discussion are for general guideline purposes only. The information is not intended to diagnose or treat your pet. Seek the advice of your veterinarian or a qualified behaviorist.  


      • Lisa-P&T
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        She was in brutal form this morning, grunted at me and ran away – sulking about being penned!

        She was quite tense then when the little man was put in his pen next to hers… Tail up, staring intently, being very agitated with me when I was feeding her, like food aggression++. But after about an hour, she calmed down and was flopping and dozing next to the bars and eating and grooming and he’s sitting as near to her as possible. So all looks good, I think..? It may just have been the unslayed female smell after all.

        Very proud of her!!


    • DanaNM
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      That sounds very positive! It is SUPER normal for a bun to act really mad when a new bun moves in right next door, and it’s a really great sign that she calmed down so quickly and they are hanging out near each other!

      . . . The answers provided in this discussion are for general guideline purposes only. The information is not intended to diagnose or treat your pet. Seek the advice of your veterinarian or a qualified behaviorist.  


      • Lisa-P&T
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        Day 3 has been rocky. First, the new bun bit me this morning but I don’t blame him for that, he didn’t want to be lifted out of his overnight pen and I didn’t listen to him so fair enough.

        We swapped the areas around. So he’s now in her preferred part of the room and she’s back to being free roam everywhere else. This has caused a major upset. Phil is NOT happy. Pacing the bars (2 sets so they can’t touch) but intermittently lying next to them. Unfortunately, and this is the hard part, she’s taking it out on me, circling my feet, growling, lunging, and darting up onto the couch really quickly as if to bite me and dominate me back down to the ground. It’s making me quite stressed and anxious as she’s doing it to me and not my partner, I think she thinks he’s higher than me in her hierarchy, or whatever.

        I just keep telling myself that it’s normal for her to be annoyed about the new bun in her preferred section of the house. What I find difficult to tolerate is the blatant animosity toward me 😭 any tips?


    • DanaNM
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      I would stick with this arrangement for at least a week, maybe 2, to let everyone calm down and get used to the new bun being around. I usually do at least a week of settling in with no side swapping, sometimes more depending on the bun.

      It may be necessary (and helpful to bonding) to restrict Phil’s space to a large pen until they are bonded.

      Is there a way for you to let the new bun out to exercise without picking him up?

      If you find she is really distressed and won’t stop running the fence, it can help to also add a visual barrier (like a towel hung up on the x-pen). That way she can get used to the smells first, then you can slowly remove the visual barrier as she calms down. I had to do this with Myra when I brought Bonnie home. It really helped a lot!

      . . . The answers provided in this discussion are for general guideline purposes only. The information is not intended to diagnose or treat your pet. Seek the advice of your veterinarian or a qualified behaviorist.  


      • Lisa-P&T
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        Thanks so much. That was really reassuring and helpful. Things are much calmer this morning. She’s not annoyed at all anymore and is just really keen to see him. He’s less interested overall but he’s still settling in so that’s OK. He has periods of intense interest. I’ve put her blanket down next to his own and she’s spending a lot of time there and flopping down after some nice sniffing between them so she’s definitely OK now. It was a big day for her, moving everything and we took away her castle too. She was alternating between rage fits and binkies so I think it was just too much for her 😅

        If it remains peaceful today, I’ll take away the barrier pen tomorrow so they can touch noses through the bars and have more interaction. I’m feeling a lot more positive and less upset today, I just hate when she takes her rage out on me!

        When would you start mini sessions in neutral territory?


    • DanaNM
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      I’m glad she is more calm!

      I would never remove the barrier pen though (until they are bonded), it’s just an invitation for nipped noses which can lead to bad feelings very quickly!

      I think given your history with Phil, I would not be in a huge rush to start sessions. I would go for at least 1 week of settling in (so no side swaps) first. If Phil and new bun (does he have a name yet?) seem calm and relaxed after that week, then start side swaps. You basically want to swap who’s on what side every day or two until Phil is no longer upset by them. So you might see some repeats of her running the fence and being upset at first, but then after a little while she will stop reacting so strongly, and then eventually she will be relaxed right after the swap. This can take a few weeks, so be patient! And again, you might end up needing to pen them both to a smaller area temporarily if she’s aggressive towards you. Remember, it’s not forever, so she will be OK without having her usual huge area for free-roam time (but she will act FURIOUS most likely LOL).

      The goal is to do side swaps until they are both chill with them, and then you can start up actual bonding sessions in neutral territory. I really think this will set you up the best for success. 🙂

      . . . The answers provided in this discussion are for general guideline purposes only. The information is not intended to diagnose or treat your pet. Seek the advice of your veterinarian or a qualified behaviorist.  


      • Lisa-P&T
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        Oh OK, great to get that advice on the barrier pen. I would have taken that down otherwise. I suppose it’s better to be safe than sorry. Thanks 😊

        She’s spending of her time flopping, sleeping, and loafing beside his pen but he’s not doing any of that near her. He’s doing it at the furthest point from her/me. I’m taking that more as a security thing in the new place. He lived in a bedroom with his last owner for the last 4 years so this is a huge adjustment for him. He definitely has no problem with Phil but I guess he doesn’t know what it is to be with another rabbit either, but hopefully over the coming weeks, he will snooze nearer her soon 🤞

        His inherited name is Hopper, but we were thinking of changing it to Dennis… But I think Hopper will stick somehow because we can’t seem to say Dennis consistently 😅

        Yes, you’re probably right with the history to take it nice and slow. Obviously I’d love to do it marathon style, and get it done and dusted but I really really want it to work out for Phil so slow and steady wins the race. We’ll do the swaps as you’ve advised, thanks! And yes, I’ll expect more fury!!! She’s such a furious little woman 😂😂

        Also, any tips for acclimatising Hopper to wooden floors? He’s lived on carpet his whole life. We have him on a big rug with other small bits of blanket down on the floor that the 6ft x 4ft rug doesn’t cover and leaving gaps for flooring.. He’s putting between 1 and 3 feet on the flooring but then going back to the rug or hopping from rug to little blankets. Our whole apartment is wooden floors so he’ll be a bit limited if he can’t acclimatise.

        Also, he’s currently in a space of about 7ft x 7ft. Should I reduce that to encourage him to sleep nearer her or is it good to give him plenty of space as he settles in? She’s trying her best to be friends and I don’t want her to get discouraged, if that’s not a stupid concern?!


    • DanaNM
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      I think your set-up sounds good, and now you just play the waiting game.  I usually like to feed the buns their salad and pellets near each other (on opposite sides of the fence), and have their litter boxes positioned so they are near each other (or can at least see each other) when they are in their boxes. Eating is a social activity in rabbits 🙂

      He will get used to the floor in time. He prob won’t ever binky on the wood floors, so adding rugs and carpets to areas where he might like to run will help. Part of it will also come from feeling safer in the new home in general.

      You might find after settling in and pre-bonding (and maybe a few sessions), that they seem like a good candidate for marathoning. I have usually had the best success with a hybrid approach: settling in, pre-bonding, a few sessions just to make sure they don’t hate each other, then I usually start doing long sessions or marathoning. The only bun I immediately marathon bonded was Cooper with Bonnie, but in that case we were moving to a completely new house so everything was going to be 100% neutral, and Cooper was VERY confident and bold, so I wasn’t worried about him settling in. I think when bringing one bun into another bun’s turf it’s important to do the pre-bonding steps.

      . . . The answers provided in this discussion are for general guideline purposes only. The information is not intended to diagnose or treat your pet. Seek the advice of your veterinarian or a qualified behaviorist.  


      • Lisa-P&T
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        Hi again,

        So I did as you said and moved food and litter trays near each other so they can eat together and no issues, thank goodness.

        The only thing is I’m coming under a bit of pressure from his previous owner and my own partner to start the bonding. He’s quite withdrawn. Like, he’s lying down and doing some zooms and stuff but he’s not approaching us or Phil regularly and is spending most of his time at the furthest end of the pen from us and Phil. We are getting in and sitting with him and petting him and he will lie there and take the rubs no problem… Now that I’m writing this, maybe he is fine??

        Anyway, my partner and his old owner think that bonding them will help him to settle. I said that advice from this forum was to wait a few weeks but I’m just feeling pressured.

        Phil is being a total angel, just lying beside his pen constantly, flopping, snoozing, no issues whatsoever and no territorial poos since the morning after we swapped them, which is now 3 days ago.

        Any advice or is it the same as before?


    • Lisa-P&T
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      By start the bonding, I wonder could we even do a short session just to test the waters? Hard to know what the right thing to do is… I trust your advice to do the swaps back and forth but could we do short sessions while doing mini bonding sessions? As you can tell, I don’t handle pressure well 😅


    • DanaNM
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      It sounds like they are doing really well with each other, but I actually see the fact that he’s still withdrawn as more reason to give him more time to settle in. I think you could start daily side swaps soon though. Bonding itself is very stressful and moving to a new home is very stressful, so giving the bun time to recover from moving before bonding is usually a good idea to make sure the bond that’s formed is stable. He is choosing to keep his distance for now because he is still unsure, but with time you should see him start to move closer. Having this time will also help him start to trust you a bit more, which will help things down the road.

      You want to avoid a situation where the new bun behaves submissively because he’s scared and stressed, and then a few weeks or months later (when you think they are bonded), he suddenly decides that he wants to be top bun and you end up with a broken bond (I had this happen to me after 5 months of seemingly bonded buns). Or they form a relationship where one bunny is just afraid of the other and they can’t get past that.

      I think it’s important to ask yourself, are you feeling pressured (and are they putting pressure on you) because they just want things to be “settled” and back to a normal, or is it truly because they have the bunnies’ interests at heart?

      Keep in mind you haven’t had him home even a week and haven’t don’t any side swaps yet. Giving them more time to pre-bond won’t hurt, it can only help. If you try a short session early and they fight, that will be demoralizing. Also once you actually start sessions, things get more stressful, so I would just enjoy the current peaceful time and try to get to know new bun a little.

      All of that said I know the feeling of just wanting to get them bonded and be done with it, but in my experience that feeling only makes things take longer!

      . . . The answers provided in this discussion are for general guideline purposes only. The information is not intended to diagnose or treat your pet. Seek the advice of your veterinarian or a qualified behaviorist.  


      • Lisa-P&T
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        Thanks so much for that sage advice. It’s hard to keep your head when others are saying something else. I totally agree with you and really want this to work out. I don’t want to put Phil through another failed bond.

        Good news though, yesterday/evening, Hopper spent lots of time at Phil’s side of the pen, not flopped or anything, just sitting and mooching around. He also seemed to enjoy rubs from us more and didn’t run away when we got into that pen.

        Then this morning, I swapped them over. Phil was delighted!! She explored his pen but not in an annoyed way. Did some binkies, ate his food (😅) looked for him through the bars, and then flopped down beside them!!! He did so much exploring, it’s the most animated I’ve seen him (laid down a bed sheet so he could grip). He did lots of digging (mounting?) of Phil’s sleeping blanket, climbed into her food bowl (it’s like a big salad bowl and he’s a Netherland Dwarf and was the runt, so he was able to sit in it, so cute!) and did some general exploring of her stuff. When she flopped, he got back into his cage (we are leaving it open as a safe space for him to return to if he is worried) and did lots of grooming.

        I think that went very well!?! No annoyance or anything!! 😊😊😊 Though we’ll see what Phil will be like when they swap back!


    • DanaNM
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      That sounds really really great!

      . . . The answers provided in this discussion are for general guideline purposes only. The information is not intended to diagnose or treat your pet. Seek the advice of your veterinarian or a qualified behaviorist.  


      • Lisa-P&T
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        Thanks 😊 swapping back was perfect, no annoyance just interested sniffing and exploring on either side. I probably need to look for no territorial droppings before I know that swaps have worked..? Phil did quite a few poos, even in his bed 😅 then he did a wee in it when he got into it after, so that needs a wash now. But overall, that was so fine, Phil was perfect. Feeling great now 😊😊


    • DanaNM
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      The poop wars may not go away till they are bonded, but it’s great they aren’t running the fence or acting aggressively otherwise. So happy for you!

      . . . The answers provided in this discussion are for general guideline purposes only. The information is not intended to diagnose or treat your pet. Seek the advice of your veterinarian or a qualified behaviorist.  


      • Lisa-P&T
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        Thanks so much! You’re like my fairy rabbit godmother 🐰 ✨

        We actually had an unexpected incident after earlier. Phil was using her tray and my friend was petting her. Hopper came up to the bars where I hadn’t replaced the second barrier earlier by accident. Phil went up to him, grunted and went to bite him through the bars 😧 I shouted at her and he ran away for a minute before running back over to see her but she mustn’t have gotten him badly as he seemed unfazed. I’m thinking it might be because where he came was where I was letting her in and out for the swap and maybe she thought he was encroaching on ‘her’ side? Don’t know!

        Anyway, it wasn’t too bad but it was certainly an unmistakable act of throwing her weight around/displeasure. So random, as there hasn’t been anything for days! Oh well, slow and steady will win the race hopefully 💪


    • DanaNM
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      That is all really normal! Buns will get used to sharing a barrier, but the second they think the other bun is possibly encroaching they can get defensive. I wouldn’t worry about it beyond just double checking it doesn’t happen again.

      Bunnies can also display what’s called “referred aggression”. When they smell or see something they aren’t sure about, they often will lash out at whoever is nearest (like how she would attack you guys when she smelled the other rabbit). Rabbits can’t see very well up close, and Phil especially seems to get a bit “confused” when there is a lot going on. So it may have just been a bit of a confusing moment for her.

      . . . The answers provided in this discussion are for general guideline purposes only. The information is not intended to diagnose or treat your pet. Seek the advice of your veterinarian or a qualified behaviorist.  


      • Lisa-P&T
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        Your description of Phil as confused made me laugh, that’s a very kind interpretation of her lunacy, thank you!!

        Yeah I think he came at her head on in a new spot on the fence and she just thought he was about to cross onto her side. I’ll do more swapping and although I think they could probably be bonded now, I’ll just keep going as I am for another while. And the barrier is back up, I won’t forget that again!!

        Still happy with the progress, she’s taking this FAR better than I anticipated.


    • Lisa-P&T
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      Great news!!!

      We did a 15 minute session today after a few days of uneventful swaps. No more aggro at the fence since that last and only incident. Hopper’s old owner came to visit today so we did it together.

      Well they were like old friends in the neutral pen!!!! Popped them both in and he came up to sniff Phil. Phil just sat up and groomed her face for a minute. Then she was straight down with her head demanding grooms. Poor ol Hopper hadn’t a clue what she wanted!! He did give her ears a few small licks but overall just seemed to be utterly clueless about what she wanted. She nipped at him twice when she got frustrated at no grooms but they weren’t bad AT ALL, especially not by Phil’s standards of lashing out. I tried rubbing a bit of banana on her forehead and ears but he didn’t take the bait. She also lay down in like a long loaf with her eyes half closed at one point. We finished the session with side by side rubs and she was so relaxed, as was he.

      I’d love some advice/experience/tips RE encouraging grooming?

      It was like she just thinks they’re already in a bond and was demanding her grooms as usual rather than oh here’s a new bun I have to assert myself with. It was funny how she just assumed right away, oh I’m top bun, groom me now, without any other form of asserting dominance 😅

      Thanks in advance for anything you can offer. Would evening 15min to 1 hour sessions for 2 weeks be OK and then a marathon weekend for a finish be a good idea? I’m just thinking about my work schedule and when I’ll have more time.

      Totally buzzed here!! 😊😊😊


    • DanaNM
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      That’s wonderful! I think just repeat exactly what you did for a few days, and then start bumping up the time if all goes well! Like you could do 15-20 min a day for a few days, then bump to 30 or 45, then an hour, etc. It’s always a good idea to repeat things that go well a few times to “cement” that behavior.

      I wouldn’t worry about banana at this stage. I think the most important thing for grooming is trust (the rabbit that is grooming puts themselves in a very vulnerable position), which just comes with time.

      . . . The answers provided in this discussion are for general guideline purposes only. The information is not intended to diagnose or treat your pet. Seek the advice of your veterinarian or a qualified behaviorist.  


      • Lisa-P&T
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        OK sounds like a great plan and works well around my schedule too.

        Aw, I didn’t realise that the groomer was in a vulnerable position!! Poor Hops 🐰 he’ll get there I’m sure. Well, he’ll have no choice with Phil as she will submit to no man, woman, child, or bun 😂

        Thanks so much again! Hopefully I’ll have nothing to say for another while if the mini sessions go as smoothly as that one 🤞

        I hope you and yours are very well!


    • Lisa-P&T
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      Disaster 😭

      Tried the second session there and Hopper was very aggressive and dominant. He bit Phil on the bum and ears and tried to chase her. Naturally, she fought straight back and they were almost up on their hind legs face to face. I mean this happened within 30 seconds. We separated with a bit of cardboard three times but each time he went straight for her again, so they’re back separate now.

      Got an awful fright 😭😭 maybe it’s very normal but really don’t know if I’m equipped for this. Like he didn’t give up. It didn’t simmer down he just went at her and at her and at her. And he will lose a fight against Phil any day of the week, she’s bigger and stronger than him.

      So upset.


    • DanaNM
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      It’s very normal for there to be bumps in the road. If it seemed very intense then I would go back to pre-bonding for a bit!

       

      . . . The answers provided in this discussion are for general guideline purposes only. The information is not intended to diagnose or treat your pet. Seek the advice of your veterinarian or a qualified behaviorist.  

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Forum BONDING New bond after previously failed bond