Be Careful What You Wish For

Be Careful What You Wish For

Ask and It Is Given: Why Force-Free Is the Way to Go!

Rabbit Agility Has Become a Very Popular Sport!
Rabbit Agility Has Become a Very Popular Sport!

Why would you force someone to do something when you can just ask them politely?

This is what many animal trainers have been trying to teach the public (and our fellow “old school” trainers and colleagues for years). Thankfully, now we are seeing it happen in almost every species!

Rabbits are one of the many species to benefit from force-free training. Rabbits can be trained to do amazing things!  They are incredibly intelligent, clever, and engaging companion animals.  They are often underestimated.  As their guardians, it’s necessary to provide them with proper medical care, a proper diet, and daily exercise.  Some even exercise their rabbits with rabbit agility!  You can watch these Agility Rabbits in action here!

It’s also important that we teach our rabbits how to safely interact with you and the other animals in the house, and how to be trusting and well behaved. Force-free training is the answer to all of these goals.  However, as frisky and as playful as rabbits are, most do not enjoy being picked up or restrained.  Where do you think the phrase “Rabbit Kick” came from?  In order to maintain a relationship based on mutual trust, it’s important to train your bunny buddy with positive reinforcement.

Check out this video from Barbara Heidenreich at Bunny Training.  It’s a wonderful presentation of a relaxed rabbit getting her nails trimmed, willingly!  No force is needed!  These simple, effective training techniques can help you to maintain your bond, increase trust, and make simple tasks like nail trims fast, effortless, painless, and easy!

Training Tip:  The video demonstrated that by pairing one of the rabbit’s favorite things (head petting) with touching her back toenails, the guardian was able to make nail trimming a pleasant experience for everyone!

This same technique is how I conditioned our 4 cats, turtle, and dog to allow me to trim their nails. They are never restrained.  They do it willingly.  I ask, and they give!  Positive reinforcement training is all about making the process easy and enjoyable for the animal.  This helps to maintain a wonderful, trusting relationship between you and your companion animals. And it makes your job easier as their guardian!

Why force an animal to do something when you can ask?  Why break the bond and lose their trust by using force?  If a rabbit can be taught to offer her nails for trimming, you can teach your cat, dog, parrot, or pig to do the same!

Do you have any medical or behavioral success stories or training techniques that you would like to share? Please post your positive success stories in the comments below!

“Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding.” ― Albert Einstein

Spare a Rabbit. Say NO to Bunnies this Easter

Spare a Rabbit by Saying NO to Bunnies this Easter

Many cherished Easter traditions, from the Easter bunny to decorating and hunting for eggs, have been around for centuries.   Let’s begin with the infamous Easter Bunny.   The exact origin of this mythical mammal is unclear.   There’s no story in the Bible about a long-eared, cotton-tailed creature.   Nor is there a passage about young children painting eggs or hunting for baskets overflowing with delicious Easter goodies.   And real rabbits certainly don’t lay eggs.   However rabbits, because they are prolific procreators, are an ancient symbol of fertility and new life.   Easter eggs are linked back to centuries of traditions.  The egg, also an ancient symbol of new life, has been associated with pagan festivals celebrating spring.  From a Christian perspective, Easter eggs are said to represent Jesus’ emergence from the tomb and resurrection.

Bunnies, eggs, Easter gifts and fluffy, yellow chicks in gardening hats all stem from pagan roots
Bunnies, eggs, and Easter gifts stem from pagan roots. They are ancient symbols for fertility and new life
The origin of the Easter Bunny can be traced back to 13th-century pre-Christian Germany
The origin of the Easter Bunny can be traced back to 13th-century pre-Christian Germany

Fast forward to this century. So many parents buy rabbits for their children for Easter, many of whom do not even know the history behind these long eared lagomorphs.  Our culture is filled with images of children and rabbits, so most parents see rabbits as low-maintenance starter pets for kids.

Nothing could be further from the truth.  

Before you fill your Easter basket with a live bunny, find out what is involved with caring for this complicated animal companion. 

Consider getting a special painted egg as a gift for Easter this year.

Did you know?

  • Rabbits can live ten or more years.  That cute bunny you’re thinking of buying for your child on Easter could still be around long after your child has grown into a teen.  Should the novelty wear off, you’ll have an adult rabbit in the house who needs your care and attention every day for the next decade or longer.
  • They require as much involved, long-term care, and management as a dog or cat; and often more.
  • Rabbits are physically delicate and fragile animals.  They must be handled with care.  This makes them inappropriate for families with very young children.  Adults should be the primary caregiver in families with young children.
  • We all know that children are energetic and loving, but “loving” to a small child means holding, cuddling, or carrying an animal around.  These are precisely the things that frighten and can injure rabbits.
  • Rabbits have been known to scratch and bite to protect themselves from well-meaning children, and to defend territory.
  • Rabbits are accidentally dropped by children, resulting in broken legs and broken backs.  (This is not as uncommon as you would think). I know from personal childhood experience.
  • Rabbits are not low-maintenance pets.  -They have very specific dietary and housing needs.
  • The days of leaving a rabbit in a hutch outside are long gone; that’s now considered borderline neglect.
  • Thousands of ex-Easter bunniesare abandoned to shelters and zoos, or thrown into the wild each year when their novelty wears off.

    Our rabbit Ezra
    Our rabbit Ezra
  • Rabbits require specialized veterinary care, which means you will need to find a veterinarian who speciliazes in rabbits.
  • Rabbits must be spayed or neutered – something else you’ll have to consider (the cost, the stress of the procedure, and your close involvement in the rabbit’s recovery)..
  • Rabbits can be messy, so you’ll need to clean their enclosure at least three times weekly.
  • Rabbits require regular brushings to remove excess hair and keep their coat in good condition.
  • Companion rabbits should live indoors with their human family.  Although an outdoor hutch has been the traditional housing for a rabbit, today that is not the case.  A backyard hutch forces these social animals to live in unnatural isolation.  Rabbits can die of heart attacks from the very approach of a predator.  They are prone to overheating as well.
  • They may be small, but rabbits require a lot of room for housing and exercise.
  • Rabbits need exercise for several hours EVERY day.  They are designed for running & jumping!
  • Annual cost of one rabbit per year is $730

Is your family ready to commit to all of this??

The Teutonic deity Eostra was the goddess of spring and fertility. Feasts were held in her honor on the Vernal Equinox.  Her symbol was the rabbit because of the animal’s high reproduction rate.
The Teutonic deity Eostra was the goddess of spring and fertility. Feasts were held in her honor on the Vernal Equinox. Her symbol was the rabbit because of the animal’s high reproduction rate.

Our family has always had rabbits.  Ever since I can remember my mother and father raised rabbits, and I loved them dearly, but they were the caregivers.  When I was old enough to have my first rabbit my parents made sure we had the space, finances, and the dedication to a rabbit.  They made sure I was mature enough to take on 100% responsibility. And let me tell you, rabbits are amazing companion animals, but they are a LOT of work.  They are wicked smart, very clever, very sensitive to heat and humidity, and sometimes very awnry!  They get into everything; plants, wires, shoes, etc. They are prey animals, so sometimes it’s very dangerous to have them in a home with cats and/or dogs.

You really need to consider the risks before you go out and buy that cute bunny.

Our rabbit getting into my mom's newly planted plants on the patio
Our rabbit getting into my mom’s newly planted plants on the patio

If your family member has their mind set on getting a rabbit, and you have discussed all of the facts listed above, get a book on rabbit care.   Do your research and homework first.  Then you can make an informed and well educated decision.  If children know what is involved and how high maintenance rabbits or bunnies really are, but are still begging you for a rabbit after the holiday has passed, hop over to the House Rabbit Society  for information on bunny rescue groups to find out how to adopt the rabbit (or even better, a bonded pair) of their furry dreams.

Starch, our family rabbit lived for over a decade! She was loved dearly, but  she was a handful to say the least!
Starch, our family rabbit lived for over a decade! She was loved dearly, but she was a handful to say the least! (in her youth on the left, and in her senior years on the right).

Learn more about what is involved with companion rabbit care HERE.  

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If bunnies were advertised like this, I have a  hunch that it would cut down on the numbers of pet rabbits bought on a whim during this time of year