Clicker train your rabbit? Absolutely!
For anyone who shares their home with a rabbit, this is no news: rabbits are scary smart. They can and do learn quickly, and they are pretty darn good at training the humans they live with. Rabbits totally get cues. Mittens will bump, dance around your feet, possibly even nip – until you do what she wants. This is a type of training. Make no mistake about it, you’ve been taught a “trick”.
We can harness that intelligence! Clicker training your rabbit has so many benefits: it makes it easier for you to share space, sure. The bigger benefit may be in the increased bond you share. As you work together, you will build trust and confidence in each other, and become better friends.
Dr. A. G. Bradbury is a veterinarian in the UK, and has a special love of rabbits. She’s got two rabbits of her own, and uses her expert clicker training skills at home. She also helps other people clicker train to form a deeper bond with their rabbit, and solve behavioral issues. Here’s an interview with Dr. Bradbury, introducing the concepts and methods behind clicker training your rabbit (we’ll be going over all this information in the next few posts):
Rabbit intelligence is a gift and a curse. These smart creatures are often mentally under-stimulated, and they get bored. Guess what happens when a rabbit is bored? You betcha – they get into trouble! They chew things they shouldn’t, they destroy furniture, all kinds of acting out occurs. This unfortunately snowballs: you have a “bad” rabbit, so that rabbit can’t enjoy free run of the house often, and is contained in a small and boring space.
Clicker training your rabbit can accomplish two different things: you can teach new behaviors, or you can also train out of unwanted behaviors. In both situations, positive reinforcement works wonders.
Rabbits are individuals. Some learn faster, some learn more slowly. Some are little more stubborn, some very much want to please you. Be patient, and stay calm. Give it time. If you feel yourself becoming frustrated, pick it up later. If possible, always end on a positive note – ask your rabbit to do one thing you KNOW he can do, and reward that.
photo credit: rabbitaware.org
PS – you won’t need any equipment, other than maybe a ballpoint pen to use as a clicker. We don’t recommend the clickers used for dogs and horses, since they are loud and kinda scary for a little rabbit.
In the next few posts, we’ll take you from philosophy and preparation to the first few lessons, and give you ideas of where you can go with clicker training.