Rabbits are surprisingly intelligent animals.
They can learn their name. They can learn tricks. They can manipulate people into laughing at them and giving them treats. They need constant mental stimulation to stay happy.
Rabbits are as smart as cats and dogs. But they use their intelligence in different ways.
In this article, we will share some fascinating facts about the intelligence of rabbits and some of their potential as pets.
Are Rabbits Smarter Than Dogs?
When it comes to comparing the intelligence of rabbits and dogs, you might be surprised to learn that rabbits can be quite smart.
Just like dogs, rabbits are able to observe your behaviors and movements and can react accordingly.
Their reactions may even be more comparable to a cat’s body language.
Rabbits are often underestimated, but they are actually capable of using logic to solve problems and can even be taught tricks.
They can also learn a range of human words, making them great companion pets. To keep your rabbit’s mind stimulated, it’s important to provide them with activities and exercises that challenge their intelligence.
However, it’s essential to remember that intelligence can vary among individual rabbits and dogs.
While rabbits may excel in certain areas, dogs might be better at learning complex commands and tasks. In some instances, rabbits may be considered more intelligent than dogs in certain aspects, while dogs can outshine rabbits in other areas.
As you explore this topic, keep in mind that intelligence is not a one-size-fits-all trait, and both rabbits and dogs have their unique strengths that make them excellent pets in their own way.
Your Rabbit Is Trying to “Talk” with You
Rabbits don’t bark, purr, or wag their tails (well, usually), but rabbits communicate with their owners. Most owners aren’t aware that rabbits have a kind of language.
Your rabbit might do binkies to tell you it is happy or excited. These are spontaneous leaps into the air.
Rabbits may or may not do twists when they do binkies.
Your rabbit might do zoomies to tell you it is time for play. Zoomies are running around very fast with no particular destination.
Or your rabbit may do floppies just to say “Ah. Life is good.” (This can also be your rabbit’s way of telling you it has fleas or an itchy inflammation of its skin.”
Rabbits have their own language that you can learn. Once you know how to “speak rabbit.” you will start noticing that they are at least as intelligent as your cat or dog.
But rabbit intelligence does not stop there.
Also read: How to Introduce a Cat to a Rabbit?
Just How Intelligent Are Rabbits?
There has actually been a scientific study of the intelligence of rabbits, the All Ears study sponsored by the US National Institutes of Health.
The National Institutes of Health sponsored the study because people who understand just how intelligent their rabbits are take better care of them.
The survey of 1,596 rabbit owners found that once owners understood that rabbits feel pain, can experience joy and anxiety, and try to dominate their owners (in much the same way that cats do), they got a lot more pleasure out of their pet rabbits.
Rabbit owners started noticing things about rabbits they had never noticed before.
The rabbit researchers allowed rabbit owners in the survey to make any additional comments they liked.
Here are some of the things rabbit owners wrote about rabbit intelligence when they were just given a blank space to write anything they wanted.
- “Rabbits can learn tricks, and they are easy to potty train” (217 responses).
- “Rabbits have a good sense of time” (108 responses). For instance, many rabbits will stomp around their food bowl and grunt when it is feeding time.
- “My rabbit knows her/his name” (66 responses).
- “Some rabbits are smarter than others” (63 responses). Smaller breeds tend to be more manipulative of their owners than larger breeds. This is probably because larger rabbits are less vulnerable to predators and feel less need for protection.
- “Rabbits can learn commands, but they only obey the commands they want to, like cats” (51 responses).
- “My rabbit recognizes me” (41 responses).
- “When I stop my rabbit from doing something,” like gnawing on the furniture, “he/she eventually figures out a way to do it anyway” (34 responses).
The nearly 1600 rabbit owners generally agreed that rabbits can easily communicate happiness.
They express grief when they lose a mate.
They let you know when they are bored (usually by chewing on something).
They let you know when they are afraid.
They can show you and other rabbits affection.
The owners, who had several years of experience with rabbits, noted that rabbits will conceal physical pain.
They instinctively do not reveal their vulnerabilities, so sometimes owners must recognize pain (and the need to go the vet) from lack of activity, lack of eating, and hiding.
But rabbits are generally intelligent. They may not be as intelligent as a Border Collie or a Poodle, but they are usually more intelligent than a Lhasa Apso or a Bloodhound.
Also read: How to Discipline a Rabbit?
Neurobiology of Rabbits and Dogs
When it comes to the intelligence of rabbits and dogs, it’s essential to examine their brain structures and how they function.
In this section, you’ll learn about the neurobiology of these two popular pets and their differences.
Rabbits have been found to possess higher intelligence and logic compared to dogs, and their reactions are often more similar to those of cats.
They can observe your behavior, and they’re capable of reacting to your movements in a complex manner. Usually, rabbits are good at understanding and adapting to their surroundings.
On the other hand, dogs have brain structures that vary based on their breed, as reported by a Harvard researcher.
For example, the study showed that neuroanatomical features in dogs’ brains were linked to specific behaviors such as hunting, herding, and companionship. These behaviors are tied to brain regions involved in vision, eye movement, and spatial navigation.
While rabbits demonstrate a different kind of intelligence, it’s important to recognize that dogs are known for their ability to learn complex commands, exemplifying their loyalty and intelligence.
While intelligence is difficult to measure, as it varies from species to species.
Each animal has its unique set of skills and abilities that may not necessarily be comparable to one another.
So, when trying to compare the neurobiology of rabbits and dogs, keep in mind that their intelligence manifests differently based on their specific behaviors and natural instincts.
As you interact with your pets, observe and appreciate how their unique brain structures shape their intelligence and personalities.
Also read: How Do Rabbits Apologize to Humans?
How to Teach Your Rabbit Tricks
Once you realize just how intelligent your rabbit really is, you may want to have some fun teaching your rabbit tricks.
Some of the tricks rabbits can learn are:
Lap is just what it sounds like. Your bunny hops up and sits in your lap when it learns this command.
The lap command helps your rabbit get used to being close to you.
Get down on the floor with your rabbit.
Take out a treat.
Hold it in front of your rabbit. Lead your rabbit to your lap. Give your rabbit the treat when it sits in your lap.
Dried berries, such as goji berries, work well as treats for performing this trick.
Rabbits will also do spins for treats.
Get down on the floor with your rabbit. Take out a treat.
Hold the treat in front of your rabbit’s nose while you lead it to spin around.
As soon as your rabbit has made one spin, immediately give it the treat. But don’t reward your rabbit until it has performed the desired behavior.
Once you rabbit has learned this trick, you can just tell your rabbit “Spin!” and it will spin around for you. But you still need to give your rabbit the reward every time!
Avoid rewarding your rabbit when it does not perform the action you ask.
Perching with paws on your hands is a rabbit’s way of telling you that it trusts you.
When a rabbit perches, it exposes its underbelly. If you were a predator, it would be very vulnerable to you.
You can train your rabbit to show you this sign of trust.
Start by holding a treat in front of your rabbit, guiding it to stand on its hind legs.
Don’t say anything. Just let your rabbit stand up and give it a treat.
After your rabbit has done this several times, grab its front paws.
Some rabbits will become very excited when you do this. They may pull back.
That is OK. Give your bunny a break, and try again.
After your rabbit gets used to standing up and putting its paws on your hand, you start telling your rabbit, “Perch.”
With practice, your rabbit will enjoy standing on its hind legs and letting you support its body with its paws on your hands.
Don’t forget to reward performance with a treat.
This trick can train your rabbit to jump to cuddle with you in your lap when you are seated in a chair or on the couch.
This trick has your rabbit poking its nose through your fingers to get to a treat you hold in your other hand.
Get down on the floor.
Show the rabbit a treat you are holding with one hand. Then, make an O with the fingers of your other hand so it has to stick its snout through your fingers to get the treat.
This trick helps your rabbit feel more comfortable when you need to inspect its ears, eyes, nose, or throat.
Once your rabbit has learned how to perch, it can learn how to walk.
Get down on the floor. Hold a treat in front of your rabbit. Then, raise your hand so your rabbit stands on its hind legs.
Then, guide your rabbit over the floor so it is walking. Give it the treat when it has walked a few steps.
High Five is another trick your rabbit can learn after Perch, and your rabbit gets used to standing on its hind legs.
As for other tricks, get down on the floor at rabbit level.
Place a treat between your index finger and your middle finger. Be careful to make sure the treat extends away from your hand about half an inch (a centimeter or so) to keep your bunny from nipping at your fingers.
Place the palm of the hand in which you are holding the treat higher than your rabbit’s face.is when you give it the treat.
Training Takes Consistency
Consistency is the key to persuading your rabbit to use its intelligence to learn a trick.
You will need to use the same words to give your rabbit the command every time.
You will need to use the same inflection and the same tone of voice for your rabbit to recognize that you want it to do the trick for you.
You need to do the same motions every time you want your rabbit to perform the trick.
If multiple members of your family are training your rabbit, you all need to use the same words in the same tone of voice with the same gestures every time to get your rabbit to perform.
This means you all will have to practice practicing the trick before you start training your rabbit.
Training Takes Time
Don’t get discouraged if your rabbit does not learn a particular trick instantly.
Even the most intelligent dog will usually need 3 to 10 repetitions to learn how to respond to a new command. Some dogs need as many as 125 training sessions.
Your rabbit will probably need 5 to 7 sessions to learn a new trick. Once a day will usually be enough.
Then, you will need to give your rabbit the command and reward performance with a treat about once a week just to make sure your rabbit does not forget.
That makes your training schedule learning one new trick a week and practicing one previously learned trick every day.
Don’t forget to reward desirable performance with a food treat.
Rabbits are very food-oriented. They learn tricks faster when they are rewarded with a food treat.
Litter Box Training for Your Rabbit
Rabbits are smart enough to learn how to use a litter box without a lot of effort on your part.
Rabbits have a unique two-part pooping process.
They release soft poops that need to be exposed to the air to activate probiotic bacteria. Then the soft poops make a second pass through the rabbit’s colon and come out again as hard poops.
Rabbits eat their own soft poops. Sometimes, they eat them immediately as they are coming out. Sometimes, they eat them a little later.
Train your rabbit to poop in its litter box by placing soft poops in its box. It will quickly get the idea to go both #1 and #2 in the box.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the intelligence level of rabbits compared to dogs?
Rabbits have a higher intelligence level than you might think, and they are often compared to cats in terms of logic and behavior. Surprisingly, some argue that rabbits can be even smarter than dogs.
How do rabbits’ problem-solving skills compare to dogs?
While dogs are also intelligent animals with impressive problem-solving skills, rabbits have their own unique abilities.
They can perform tasks like jumping over fences and opening doors if trained properly. Just like dogs, they learn through repetition and positive reinforcement.
Can rabbits recognize their owners like dogs do?
Yes, rabbits can recognize their owners in much the same way as dogs.
They can distinguish between familiar and unfamiliar people. Rabbits notice your behavior and movements and react accordingly, forming strong bonds with their caretakers.
What are the smartest rabbit breeds?
Generally, rabbits’ intelligence is comparable to that of cats. However, individual intelligence may vary, so it is crucial to monitor your rabbit’s unique traits and skills.
How do rabbits compare to dogs in terms of trainability?
Rabbits can be trained for various tasks and tricks, similar to dogs. They learn commands when rewarded with treats or positive reinforcement.
However, rabbits may require a bit more patience and consistency due to their independent nature. They are most responsive to training when they feel comfortable and secure in their environment.
What role does domestication play in the intelligence of rabbits and dogs?
Domestication plays a significant role in the intellectual development of both rabbits and dogs.
Domesticated animals tend to have an enhanced capacity for learning and adapting to new situations.
Continuous interaction with humans exposes them to various stimuli, which encourages the development of problem-solving and communication skills. Therefore, properly socialized rabbits and dogs will likely display higher levels of intelligence than their wild counterparts.
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