Did you know that you can teach your rabbit tricks? It’s true. Bunnies are clever and love a challenge. Teaching tricks is also a great way to have fun and bond with your bunny. Best of all, training your bunny buddy is not that much different than training a dog. The secret is motivation, association, and repetition.
Positive reinforcement means rewarding your bun when it does what you ask it to.
This means treats!
Every time your pet rabbit performs the trick you’re working on, give them a high-value treat. This will teach them that when they perform tasks on command, there will be something in it for them.
How do you choose a treat that will motivate your bun?
Lay out a selection of safe foods and treats. Which one does your bunny go for first? That’s a high-value treat.
Sometimes your bunny might want a different kind of treat. If your bunny ignores the food and looks at you expectantly, listen. Do they want skritches? Or a gentle brushing? Maybe they fancy a bit of freedom in the run?
For some rabbits, these are greater motivators than food treats.
In all cases, though, reward your bunny for doing what you ask it to. Never punish them for not performing.
You can train your rabbit to do different tricks using a clicker, including:
- Ringing a bell
- Coming when you call
- Giving a high five
- Jumping through hoops
- And more
A clicker is a small, simple, hand-held device that makes a clicking sound. Trainers originally developed the device for dog training, but now people use it for training cats, horses, and yes, rabbits, too.
Clicker training teaches your rabbit to associate both the trick and the payoff with a sound. The sound is soft and non-threatening. However, it’s also easy to distinguish it from other sounds in the environment.
How to Clicker Train
Job one is to teach them that a click means a treat.
Start before mealtime, when they’re looking forward to their food. Have 10 to 15 bite-size treats, and one treat in your hand. Small, commercial treats are fine, as well as pieces of vegetables — anything that your pet enjoys eating.
The smaller the treat the better. Small pieces get eaten faster, so the process will be more exciting. Also, your bunny won’t get full as quickly and lose interest.
Feed your bunny a treat. As they chew, click the clicker once. When they’ve stopped chewing, offer another treat. When the treats are gone, the session is over. Training sessions should last about five minutes.
The goal is to teach your rabbit to associate clicking with treats. Some bunnies may need more training sessions than others.
The next step is to click before treating. Use the same number of treats, but click first and deliver the treat immediately. The click should get your rabbit’s attention.
When your pet hears a click then looks to you for a treat, they’re ready to move on.
What Tricks Can I Teach my Bunny?
Once you get your rabbit to respond to the clicker, they’re ready to learn tricks. No matter what the trick, the process is the same:
- Elicit a behaviour
- Give them the treat
Ring a Bell
Ringing a bell is a variation on a trick called targeting. Targeting means teaching your rabbit to touch a target with its nose.
(By the way, once your rabbit has learned to target a specific object, like a stick, you can use it to teach other tricks later.)
Start sitting on the floor with your rabbit. Your clicker is in one hand, your treats are nearby. In your other hand, hold a bell or other object that you want your rabbit to touch.
When your rabbit turns to look at the object, click and give them a treat.
Repeat the process 15 times. Now try some variations. Hold the stick to the right of your rabbit’s nose, then to the left. Hold it slightly above head level. Then hold it slightly below chin level.
Each time your rabbit turns to look at the object, click and treat.
The goal is to get your rabbit to not just look at the object, but to touch it. So if your rabbit touches the object, it’s time for a treat jackpot! Give them five treats in a row.
It’s not enough to teach the trick once. You’ll need to reinforce the behaviour with several sessions a day. Keep these sessions short and sweet. 15 treats per session, then done. You want to stop before your bunny gets bored, and you don’t want to ruin their appetite.
Once your rabbit is targeting the object, move it farther away. Look for an 85 percent success rate before changing the parameters.
When your rabbit is successfully targeting, raise the stakes by clicking and treating only when your rabbit touches the object.
Come When Called
If you can get your rabbits to come when you call, it’s easy get them back into their hutch for the night, or into their carrier for a trip to the vet.
The secret is to give a treat when your rabbit responds to their name (or the command of your choice).
Use the same 15-treats-per-session training technique described above. Every time your rabbit reaches that 85 percent success threshold, move a bit farther away. Eventually you should be able to call your rabbit’s name and get your rabbit to come, even when you’re out of eyesight.
Watch this technique in action here:
Jump Through a Hoop
Remember your targeting stick? You can use that to train your rabbit for a variety of tasks. You may need more than two hands for this one, so it’s good if you have a friend to help.
Again, start on the ground with your rabbit. Make sure your rabbit is on a non-slip surface so nobunny injures itself. Allow your rabbit to sniff the hoop so it won’t be afraid.
Now hold or prop up your hoop. Hold your targeting stick on the other side of the hoop. Your rabbit should go straight through the hoop to get to the stick.
Click and treat.
How do you Mentally Stimulate a Rabbit?
Rabbits need mental, as well as physical exercise. You can provide this by interacting with your rabbits and by providing toys and boredom busters.
Training your rabbit is one way to stimulate their minds and bodies. And it can be fun for you, too!
How do I Teach my Rabbit to High Five?
First, sit on the floor facing your rabbit. Hold out one palm flat.
With the other hand, hold up a treat above your flat hand and a bit behind it. The rabbit should have to step onto your hand with one foot to get the treat.
Repeat the process a few times each day, using the 15-treat-and-done technique. The goal is to associate stepping onto your hand with getting a reat.
Gradually face your palm toward your rabbit. With practice, your rabbit should touch its paw to your hand.
Don’t forget the treat!
It’s Easy to Train a Rabbit
These are just a few rabbit tricks that you can teach your bunny to do. Just remember, training your rabbit requires: motivation, association, repetition, and lots and lots of love.
Have you taught your rabbit any new tricks lately? We want to hear about it!