You read this whole series about clicker training your rabbit, did your prep, and started out great. Maybe, though, you’ve hit a snag. Something just isn’t working. What could the problem be?
Let’s think like a rabbit for a minute.
Rabbits are prey, and we need to consider that when we are asking them to do things. Anything coming from up above is a huge signal that something horrible is about to happen. As a result of this ingrained behavior, RABBITS DO NOT LIKE BEING PICKED UP. It can be very hard to teach a rabbit to be picked up without fuss. See these ears? These are not happy ears.
photo credit: expertvillage.com
Maybe yours is OK with it and shows no outward signs of distress, but even the calmest and most confident rabbit is letting out a little muffled scream on the inside. Any rabbit who has been mishandled or is at all frightened will fuss and resist when you try to pick him up.
Sometimes, though, we do need to move our rabbit around. Maybe they have to go to the vet, maybe they need some grooming and you need the light and height of a table. In these cases, the easiest thing is to train your rabbit to get in and out of a carrier. Once your rabbit is inside, you can move them without nearly as much stress. The carrier can seem like a trap to your little friend, though, so getting in to one is also not the easiest thing to teach.
Here’s a great video by Dr. A. G. Bradbury, a clicker-training expert from the UK. Notice how she says that although she has taught her rabbits more complicated things with clicker training, teaching her frightened rabbit to be picked up was the hardest thing she has tackled:
Here’s part two:
Big hint: it isn’t the complexity of the behavior we are trying to teach that makes it hard. The most difficult tasks to teach are ones that go against the natural instincts of a rabbit – so think like your rabbit! Be patient, and make the situation as positive as humanly possible each time. As in the video above, break down the behavior you want into tiny steps and reward each success.
You and your rabbit will get there! Sometimes what seems like an easy thing to us is a big huge scary deal to them. If we remember what might be going on in their little heads, we can better understand why they might balk at certain requests.
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