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Clicker training your rabbit: how to start

You’ve read up on clicker training your rabbit, why it works so well, and how to prepare for your training sessions.  You are all ready, but what is the first thing to ask of your rabbit?  


The First Step

Just get your rabbit used to rewards from your hand.  For a few days, seize a good moment with your rabbit and offer food from your hand.  Maybe Muppet is resting so sweetly beside you while you work, or maybe Flopster just flopped.  Take a tiny bit of something in the tips of your fingers and offer it to your bun.  


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photo credit: petmd.com

Then we can move on to introducing the clicker. 


Go to your rabbit, sit in front of him, and start clicking and rewarding.  Click, fast reward.  Click, fast reward.   The only thing your rabbit needs to do is stay there with you and not move away.  


If your rabbit seems upset by the click, maybe choose a softer clicker.  If your rabbit looks away when you click but sticks around, start by moving your hand to where her face is pointing and rewarding.  She should stop turning away once she figures out there is a reward involved! 


If your rabbit is still turning away from you, or is just generally not cooperating, check the whole situation.  Is there upsetting noise coming from outside? Are you in a place she feels secure (perhaps move off the slippery kitchen floor onto a carpet)?  Is she feeling OK?  You might be feeling some stress from attempting this new program.  Did you take those deep breaths before the session?  Take a few now.  Relax, and try again.


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photo credit: Daily Mail, UK


Here’s the magic:


Start out with about five rounds of click-and-treat.  Just like before, but fewer repetitions.


Now pick something your rabbit already does naturally…something like changing your location and waiting for your rabbit to come up to you.  You want a very clear idea of what “coming up to you” means.  Does your rabbit often come up and touch you with his nose?  Then that touch can be the goal.  AS SOON AS HIS NOSE TOUCHES YOU, click.  Reward quickly (reward times can get longer later, but for now keep it quick).  Change your location, repeat.  In the coming days, try it from a standing position, or from the couch!


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You are on your way!


Keep your daily sessions short.  A five minute training session is about right at the beginning, and remember you want to end with success!


Need some ideas about what clicker training activities to do with your rabbit?  We’ve got some suggestions!


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