Building Trust with New Rabbits

by Nancy J. LaRoche  Copyright 2009 – All Rights Reserved  (May be copied for free distribution)

Don’t worry about the lack of friendliness with new rabbits. They need to learn they can trust you. If you can sit inside an X-pen (or any contained space) with them and read or watch TV, completely ignoring them, they will get curious about you. When they do, continue to ignore them – do NOT respond to them coming up to sniff you.

Put some treats on yourself or anywhere they can get to them without actually touching you with their feet. The first few days, they shouldn’t have to do more than put their front feet on you, but after they get used to that, make them have to get all four feet on you, or climb on you to get to their treats. Tiny pieces of banana are good for this, but of course, they’ll mess up your clothes, so wear something easily washable. In fact, it should be something old, so you don’t have to worry about the rabbits making holes in it.

Each day, assume a different position. Maybe lie down on your stomach the first day – or several days, (don’t even look at the rabbits) – sitting up the next day or several days, lying on your side with your head lying on your arm, and later, with your head propped up on your hand, etc. Throughout all of this, don’t look at them; don’t respond to them when they get a treat. Just let them explore you while you pretend you’re a statue. Then start holding the treat in your hand, requiring that they put their front feet on you to get it, and later, requiring all four feet. Then start watching them when they come up to get their treats. Each time they take one, say, “Treat!” so they begin associating the word with the treat.

By this time, you will probably have taken the tune-up class and can then proceed to the next step in winning their affection, which will be to pick them up multiple times a day, but prior to the class, just do the above. Just remember that rabbits, in general, are not like dogs, who seek out human attention. There are some who do, but the majority don’t. So the tables are turned and YOU have to win THEM over. Be patient, and you’ll be richly rewarded in time.

For a more comprehensive article on this topic with more information, also read Making Friends With Your Rabbit.