Domestic Rabbits make great pets and many people keep them as house pets. Rabbits can be litter trained, leash trained and can learn a few tricks. The more time you spend with an animal the better the bond will be between you. With a good bond the rabbit will trust you and training will become easier.
CHOOSING A NAME FOR YOUR RABBIT
Choosing a name for your rabbit is more important then you might think. A "harder" name like Jake is better then a "softer" name like John. Teaching the rabbit it's name will be easier for them to learn with a "hard" sounding name. Also a short name like Row is easier for the rabbit to learn then Rowmetaford. It will roll off your tongue while training easier too. However, a name like "Row" rhymes with "no", so for training a name like "Row" or "Snow" would not be a good name choice.
THE TRAINER OR TEACHER
Every Trainer and every animal is different. I can not be held responsible for your training and the way your rabbit acts while you are training with it. I am giving ideas on training that have worked for my husband and I. You are responsible for your own safety and the safety of your animals while training and working your animals.
It is important that only one adult person teaches the rabbit tricks, or one mature child under adult supervision. After the rabbit is good and consistent at doing the trick on command, then and only then can other members of the family ask the rabbit to do the trick. The reason behind this is just like dog training. Consistency in learning. One person should teach the same way each time they train. Use the same fraises, same tone, same voice, same mannerisms. It is easier for the animal to learn if each time the training is as close to the same as it was the time before. It is better if an adult is the rabbits trainer because an adult will not only be more patient, but persistent at training the rabbit.
There are many training methods. What works for one person may or may not work for another. Even the same trainer may train two rabbits differently, because again, what works for one rabbit may or may not work for another. Different is not wrong, if you are training and it is working for you, continue training "your way", as long as it is fair and just to the animal.
Wash your hands before and after training. You do not want the rabbit to be distracted with trying to guess what you were doing or eating (smells on your hand) before you came to train. Washing your hands is also a good way to keep you and your rabbits happy and healthy.
TEACHING YOUR RABBIT TO COME WHEN CALLED
This may one day save your rabbits life. Teaching your rabbit to come when called will be helpful if your rabbit would get loose. The best and fastest way to teach a rabbit it's name is to call the rabbits name when you feed it, as you are playing with it and when you give your rabbit a treat.
Teach this the same as you would a puppy or even a child to learn it's name. Also call your rabbit by name to come to you as you get it out of it's cage each day. To the rabbit it's name should equal fun and or food and time with you.
If your rabbit ever does get loose and come back to you when called get out it's very favorite treat and give the rabbit verbal praise like never before.
TEACHING YOUR RABBIT THE WORD NO
Usually when teaching the word "no" to other animals you would also do something like clap your hands. When training a rabbit this is not a good idea. A loud shouted no, or a no with a clap might frighten your rabbit so bad it will run away from you or be afraid of you and training in the future.
After telling the rabbit "no" in a firm but not loud voice, move it to a behavior that is correct and praise the rabbit.
Be forewarned some rabbits may not really learn the word "no", and some if they do, will have what is called "selective hearing" listening to your correction only when they feel like it.
LITTER BOX TRAINING
We have found that a kitty litter box works well for rabbits. Hospital pans are great for smaller breeds. You can buy pet litter pans in a pet store or pet dept. You can use kitty litter, pine shavings or sand as litter for your rabbits. Sand will make a mess, it is the best liked by rabbits but is the least liked by humans, but it is cheap.
Confinement and supervision are the key to training your rabbit to use the litter pan. If a rabbit is allowed to urinate and defecate wherever it likes from the beginning, it will be much harder to train the rabbit as it becomes older. At first, keep your rabbit in a small cage with a litter pan with litter in the litter pan.
Place a litter box in the cage in the back corner that your rabbit has chosen to "potty" in. Your rabbit may start using the box straight away, or it may pick another corner of the cage to use as a toilet. If your rabbit starts doing this move the litter box to the area your rabbit seems to prefer, even better, ad another litter box so that both corners are covered.
Once your rabbit is using the litter pan in the cage, allow the rabbit out of the cage in a small area. Leave the cage door open with the litter box in the cage where the litter box will be placed in the future.
Accidents will happen, and you can not punishment a rabbit. If you catch your rabbit urinating calmly and gently take it to the litter box immediately. If you do not catch the rabbit just clean up the mess and watch your rabbit a little more closely next time. The key is to get your rabbit to the box before it goes. Taking your rabbit to the litter box every 10 - 15 minutes during playtime can also be helpful.
Your rabbit will soon learn to use the litter box and you can increase the amount of time out of the cage and increase the amount of area that your rabbit can be in. You may need to provide more litter boxes as you allow your rabbit access to more space. If your rabbit repeatedly chooses one place in the room to go potty, consider putting another litter box there.
Establishing a routine with your rabbit will also help. Once in a while a rabbit will "regress" in it's litter box training. Start fresh from the cage with a litter box again, the process will go faster this time.
LEASH TRAINING YOUR PET RABBIT
Leash training a rabbit is fun and still a novelty, however, few rabbits will behave on a leash like a dog that will trot obediently by your side and sit when you stop walking. Most rabbits will stop often to look around and eat a bit of grass. You will be surprised how many people will take your picture while you are out walking your rabbit.
Leash training for rabbits requires the same basic principles as any other kind of rabbit training; proper equipment, patience, patience, more patience and positive reinforcement. Because rabbits are intelligent, sensitive creatures, you should never use force in training. Instead, you must show your rabbit what you want it to do, then persuade it to perform the behavior.
During training, you may use food rewards; later, you will phase out the treats entirely. Be prepared to spend a lot time training your rabbit to walk on a leash. The rabbit may need several days to adjust to the harness and leash, and it will take even more time to teach the rabbit to walk with you on the leash. Spend 15 minutes once or twice a day everyday training your rabbit.
Before you begin, you'll need proper fitting, safe equipment in good repair to ensure that your rabbit cannot escape or become injured. Because a rabbit's neck is more delicate than a dog's, collars are not appropriate for leash training or for walking, no matter how pretty they look.
Buy a sturdy, lightweight figure-8 or figure-H halter with one strap that passes around the rabbit's neck and another strap that passes around the body behind the forelegs. Buy the correct size for the breed/size of your rabbit. The harness should fit securely without being too tight; you don't want to choke your rabbit, but you don't want the rabbit to be able to back out of the harness either. A metal ring in the center of the top of the harness allows you to hook the leash above the rabbit's back.
You can find rabbit harnesses at most pet stores. A cat harness will fit most breeds of rabbits.
Wear flat soled comfortable shows. Wear clothes that you can move freely and bend over easily in.
Choose a lightweight, short leash, no longer than 5 or 6 feet, with a handle that loops around your wrist. If danger threatens, you'll want your rabbit close by so you can quickly pick it up.
Start training the rabbit indoors or on your clean driveway or sidewalk. Do not start your rabbit in the grass. Rabbits love to eat the grass and that is all it will be thinking about.
When first harnesses your rabbit may fall over to one side and refuse to move, or it may even lie down. In either case, don't worry. Offer the rabbit a treat and wait. When your rabbit stands up and walks toward you, give it the treat. Leave the harness on for up to 10 minutes at a time, two or even better, three times a day. Once your rabbit is comfortable wearing the harness, attach it to a leash. Never leave a rabbit unattended in a harness and/or leash.
Your rabbit may balk, fall down or try to run away from the constraint of the leash. Talk gently to the rabbit and always remain patient and gentle. When the rabbit finally stands up and walks with you, have the food rewards ready.
With the leash in your hand, move one step forward, gently tug the leash, and show your rabbit the food reward. If the rabbit follows, reward the rabbit. After a few days of successful following or even if the rabbit leads you, begin gradually to phase out the food reward.
When you walk your rabbit, it may be a good idea to loop the leash around the opposite wrist that the rabbit is walking on and control the leash with the other hand. For example, if your rabbit is walking on your left side, hold the leash in your right hand and control it with your left. That way, if there's a problem, you may grab your rabbit with your left hand and keep the leash secure with your right hand and wrist.
Out door outings can be difficult and dangerous, and owners must take many precautions to ensure that their rabbits are safe while out on the leash. It is not recommended to walk rabbits near streets and highways, or where aggressive animals might jump out and attack. Quiet, well-maintained parks, yards and other secluded areas are ideal places to walk a rabbit. A fenced in area would be the best. Never take a pet rabbit on a leash to a dog park. Dogs can/do see your rabbit as prey.
Walking a rabbit is rarely like walking a dog. Walk slowly, have fun, and your rabbit will have fun, too. Be prepared for much stopping and starting.
If your rabbit is fearful, don't insist on walking very far or staying outdoors long, just stand and let the rabbit look around and eat a bit of grass, however, don't let your rabbit nibble your neighbor's grass. You never know what parasites or pesticides have been used in someone else's lawn.
TEACHING YOUR RABBIT TO JUMP THE JUMPS
To start your rabbit jumping the jumps first train the rabbit to walk on a leash with a harness. After your rabbit is comfortable walking on the leash, have the rabbit walk up to a low jump. A short jump such as a 2" x 4" board laying on the ground, and let it sniff if it would like to. Say the word "jump" and give the rabbit a slight gentle boost over the jump....praise and give the rabbit a little piece of treat.
Repeat this stage of training until the rabbit will walk up to and jump over the board. After the rabbit is doing well at a low jump add another jump about 5 foot behind the first jump. Make the second jump a bit higher but made to resemble the first jump.
Take the rabbit over the first jump and up to the second jump. Say "jump" to the rabbit as it approaches the second jump. If the rabbit jumps it, praise and treat the rabbit. If the rabbit does not jump the second jump, give it a slight boost as you say "jump".
About the age of rabbits that you begin training for agility or hopping. I have heard that only rabbits that are 4 months old should be taught to jump. I have heard others say any age rabbit can learn. I believe that it will depend on the amount of time you have spent with the older rabbit. No, if you rabbit is just out there in a hutch and has been for a couple of years with little if any handling.....this rabbit is not a good candidate. However, if you have spent time with that older rabbit, housed inside or out, and if it is used to you and used to being handled, by all means try this rabbit at jumping.
NUTRITION FOR THE AGILITY RABBIT
Athletic rabbits needs to eat right. Not only does your rabbit need a good grade rabbit food mix, but also have Timothy Hay as well as small pieces (about the size of a silver dollar) of fresh vegetables and fruits daily. Rabbits that do not eat right will not be able to preform or compete as well as those that do.
Fat rabbits have no business at all jumping over jumps, it is just too hard on their bodies.
ABOUT SHOWING OFF
It is not a good idea to show off your rabbit each and every time someone comes to visit. What I mean by that is when someone comes to visit do not get the rabbit out, have it "preform" then stick it back in it's cage. That is not good training. The rabbit will become bored by this, you will not be focused on the rabbit, you will be showing off for your friends. You might even find that your rabbit will preform less and less well if you continue to "train" or show them off like this.
Rabbits can jump extraordinary lengths and heights, but why have them do that? To me it comes back to the old "How much can a horse (or dog backpack) carry?"
My question for this question is why push the animal to the maximum when first training? Work up slowly and don't ask for more then they are capable of...or what you yourself would want to do (as per proportion). Keeping the jumps within reason will ensure your rabbits health and happiness.
TRAINING WITH FRIENDS
It is a very good idea to train with friends that are also training their rabbits for agility. Not only will the rabbit get used to working around other rabbits, but training in different areas will keep the rabbit more focused at an event.
Also, I have found, that the more people that come out and train, the more people will be interested in Rabbit Agility and that will help promote the sport.
But the best part is, more and more people will make and bring equipment and that will increase the size of your Rabbit Agility Course.
Having friends to train with will give your someone to talk to about the training and it's problems and glories. It will also encourage you to train more and you all can put on your own competitions if you chose to.
You alone are responsible for training your animals. Any training you do with your animals is your responsibility. We only tell of what has worked for us with our animals. We can not and will not except responsibility for something so far out of our control, people we do not know, training, who knows how, with animals we have never seen.
[center]Marna Kazmaier - firstname.lastname@example.org
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