by Nancy J. LaRoche Copyright 1997 – All Rights Reserved (May be copied for free distribution)
Perhaps you’ve thought about letting your rabbits play for awhile in a fenced backyard. You may have hesitated to do so because you’re afraid you’ll never catch them. But this fear denies your rabbits the joy and physical benefits of exercising in the sun and fresh air. If you decide to give your rabbits this privilege, remember: rabbits must have your constant supervision when outdoors for many reasons of safety.
There is a technique that almost always works, if you allow sufficient time and you are patient. It works best on rabbits accustomed to being picked up, even if they don’t much like it. I call it “walking down a rabbit.” About ten or fifteen minutes before you’re ready to bring your rabbits inside, select the rabbit you’re going to “walk down” first. Once you’ve started, keep working with the same rabbit until you’ve suceeded.
Walk toward the rabbit at a normal pace. She will probably run a few yards and stop. Follow at a normal pace. The rabbit will again probably run a few yards and stop. Do this half a dozen times. Then, still walking at at a normal pace, circle around so you are approaching directly from the front. Attempt to pet the rabbit between her eyes, using the back of your fingers, approaching from above not in front of the nose. If the rabbit runs away, go back to following her, never letting the rabbit rest for any length of time.
Don’t run after the rabbit! She will then become frightened and struggle unnecessarily to keep running, causing herself both physical and emotional stress. And don’t creep, giving the impression you’re sneaking up on her. All your movements should be done at a normal walking, matter-of-fact pace. Keep a broom handy if there are bushes where she can hide, so you can push her out into the open if she’s trying to hide.
Usually by the third or fourth time you circle and approach with the back of your hand, the rabbit will drop her head, accept petting, and allow you to pick her up.