Rabbits tend to be, to use a nice word for their behavior, unpredictable pets.
Rabbits are always exploring spaces where you don’t want them to be. They eat things they shouldn’t eat, and they chew on things they should not chew.
Your adorable little bunny may even bite things it should not bite, and that can includes you.
In this article, we’ll give you four ways to deal with rabbit misbehavior:
- Avoiding physical discipline.
- Using behavior modification.
- Giving your rabbit commands.
Then, we’ll tell you how you can prevent problems with rabbit behavior before they occur, and we will give you the answers to frequently asked questions about managing bunny behavior.
Never Use Physical Discipline on Your Rabbit
Rabbits, like most pets, have selective memories.
Your rabbit will have no memory of anything it does wrong five seconds after it does it. Your rabbit will remember something you did wrong to it forever.
If you slap, hit, punch, or kick your rabbit, there are two things you need to know.
One is that rabbits have delicate bones. Physical discipline often results in the injury, disability, or death of the rabbit receiving it.
The other is that the rabbit will not make a connection between what it did wrong and the punishment it receives. It will only be angry, affronted, and possibly ready to defend itself.
Scratching, kicking, biting, and running away may quickly follow physical discipline.
Rabbits are fussy when you treat them like the beloved pets they are. They are impossible when they are given corporal punishment.
Behavior modification is a powerful tool for dealing with a naughty bunny. The hard part to remember is that the behavior you are modifying is your own.
Communicating Disapproval to Your Rabbit
Rabbits communicate disgust by shuffling their feet.
You can communicate your displeasure with your rabbit by shuffling your feet.
It helps to signal your unhappiness with your rabbit’s behavior while your rabbit is still in the act.
Coming home and finding gnaw marks on your antique coffee table is not the optimal time to shuffle your feet to tell your rabbit “No!”
Also read: Why Do Rabbits Wiggle Their Tails?
Communicating Alarm to Your Rabbit
Sometimes you need to tell your rabbit to stop doing something right then and right there.
You can tell your rabbit “Get out of the way” by gently touching its nose. Children need to be taught that this means gently tapping on your rabbit’s nose, not holding its nose, squeezing its nose, or hitting it in the nose.
There are better and worse ways to rescue your rabbit from a dangerous situation.
Let’s say that you want to pull your rabbit away from a dog or your neighbor’s python that has found its way into your backyard. Or you want to keep your rabbit from hopping into the street.
If possible, look your rabbit straight in the eye when you pick it up.
Rabbits have a great vision to the sides of their bodies. They can almost see what’s going on behind them.
But because their eyes are on the sides of their heads, they cannot see what is immediately in front of them.
When you pick up your rabbit by its shoulders, it may be startled and upset. It may try to get away. But even if your rabbit is upset with you, it won’t injure its spine as it tries to get away.
Also read: Why Does My Rabbit Pee on Me?
Verbal Discipline (and Discipline with Sound)
Your rabbit isn’t intelligent in the way, say, your Poodle might be.
Rabbits have a limited ability to learn commands spoken by their people.
You may be able to train your rabbit to come when you say its name, and you may also be able to train it to respond to “No!”
Your rabbit does not respond so much to the word “no” as to the way you say it. An emphatic, loud, unmistakable tone may warn your rabbit that it needs to change its behavior immediately.
Reserve the “no” command for special occasions.
Always shuffle your feet the same way your rabbit thumps the ground to express your displeasure.
There Are Some Behaviors You Can’t Really Correct
There are some rabbit behaviors you may not like, but you can’t really correct.
The rabbit’s pooping habits take some getting used to.
The soft turds a rabbit produces are known as cecotropes. They aren’t really a waste product.
Cecotropes are partially digested food mixed with probiotic bacteria that require exposure to the air to do their part of breaking down fibers into fatty acids.
Rabbits eat their cecotropes to extract the fatty acids the bacteria release, and then poop them out a second time as hard turds that they do not eat.
You can’t really stop your rabbit from doing this.
Rabbits new to your home may mark their territory by pooping all over the house, if you give them a chance.
You can’t really stop this pooping behavior, either. You can only limit how large a space your rabbit can access until it feels at home.
Rabbits, as we all know, are born to reproduce.
Female rabbits are always in heat. Unlike other mammals, they ovulate whenever they have sex. They are ready for mating all the time, except when they are already pregnant.
Male rabbits mount female rabbits to produce baby bunnies. They mount male rabbits to show they are dominant.
They may even mount your leg if there isn’t another rabbit around.
There is no kind of discipline that stops this kind of behavior. The only way to stop rabbits from showing the reproductive behaviors of rabbits is to have them spayed or neutered.
Also read: How To Tell If Rabbit Mating Is Successful?
When your rabbit licks you, it isn’t because they are salt-deprived. Licking is a way your rabbit says “You’re family to me.”
Since the only way you can train your rabbit not to lick you is to convince it you are not family, it’s not a good idea to try.
But There are Some Behavior Problems You Can Prevent
The best way to deal with some behavior problems in rabbits is to make sure they never occur by bunny-proofing your home.
Be aware that these techniques are very effective, but not all of them will work on all pet rabbits.
Protect Your Possessions
You can let your bunny roam freely around your house, but you need to remember this important principle”
If you don’t want your rabbit to chew it, don’t give them access to it.
Never leave your clothes or shoes on the floor. Don’t put books or magazines on lower shelves. Don’t place fragile glasswork on your coffee table.
Protect Walls and Baseboards
Cover baseboards with shipping tape. Scotch tape isn’t rabbit-resistant.
Protect walls with corner guards. Home improvement centers carry corner guards you can paint to match your walls as well as transparent ones.
You can also put down wire grids, the kind used to make shelves in closets, or untreated wood across your baseboards, especially behind your furniture.
Protect Electrical Cords
Run electrical cords through flexible accordion-style tubing to prevent your rabbit biting through.
You can also protect an electrical cord by running it through a garden hose. Cut the garden hose to the length you need.
Then cut a slit lengthwise down the hose, so you can pop the electrical cord inside.
You can also use floor channels and wire molding to protect the cables to your wall-mounted television.
If you have bundles of cords you need to keep together, you can pop them into a basket, a bucket, or a storage box.
Carpets and Rugs
Bunnies like texture. They will nibble on the fringe of carpets and rugs, especially at the corners.
Protect the corners of carpets and rugs with a ceramic tile.
You can also protect the corner of your rug with a floor lamp or a chair, or just buy another, cheaper rug to fit over the more expensive rug at its corner.
Also read: 11 Tips to Stop a Rabbit From Chewing Carpet
Rabbits love to nibble on couches.
Cover your couch with a fabric couch protector when you are not around to shoo your rabbit off the sofa.
Couch protectors are also useful for families that have dogs and cats.
You can also protect upholstery with a sheet or a blanket.
Place wooden legs of furniture inside socks. You can find socks that match your decorating scheme.
When you are buying new furniture, consider furniture made from iron or laminate that your rabbit cannot bite into.
Blocking Off Areas of Your Home
You can block off certain areas of your home entirely with a baby gate.
Make sure it is made from metal, because rabbits can bite through metal or plastic.
The litter box needs to be cleaned and sterilized once or twice a week.
It’s not hard to potty train your rabbit. Pick up its soft poops for a week or two and put them in the litter box. Your rabbit will figure out that’s where to go.
Many rabbit behavior problems can be prevented by enrichment.
Make sure your rabbit always has fresh, clean, dry hay to eat. And give your rabbit lots of toys.
Knowing When to Seek Professional Help
Sometimes, despite our best efforts to discipline our pet rabbits using positive reinforcement and preventing unwanted behaviors, we may find that our furry friends continue acting out.
In these situations, it’s important to recognize when it’s time to seek professional help.
When attempting to address a rabbit’s unwanted behaviors, it’s crucial to stay patient and consistent.
However, if the situation does not improve after several weeks of implementing effective discipline techniques, it’s wise to consult a professional.
A rabbit behavior specialist can help identify any underlying issues that may be causing the unwanted behaviors and suggest tailored strategies to address the problem.
Additionally, it’s essential to monitor your rabbit’s overall health and well-being. If you notice any physical changes or signs of illness, such as weight loss, low energy levels, or changes in their usual activities, consult a veterinarian immediately.
Rabbits are good at hiding illness, so changes in behavior could indicate an underlying health issue.
Finally, if your pet rabbit’s behavior endangers themselves, other pets, or the people in your household, it’s crucial to seek expert guidance.
This could include aggressive tendencies or exhibiting destructive behavior that can’t be resolved through your efforts.
A professional will help evaluate your rabbit’s situation and recommend the best course of action, whether it involves behavioral therapy or changes to their environment.
Remember that addressing a rabbit’s unwanted behaviors requires patience and persistence.
But in cases where your efforts seem to be fruitless, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. By involving a specialist, you can create a safe and happy environment for both you and your pet rabbit.
Frequently Asked Questions About How to Discipline a Rabbit
Do rabbits sense when they’ve misbehaved?
Yes, rabbits can sense when they’ve misbehaved. They are intelligent animals and can quickly learn to associate certain actions with negative consequences. When correcting their behavior, it’s important to be firm but gentle in order to avoid causing them distress.
What should I do if my rabbit pees on me?
Peeing on people, also known as spraying, is seldom a problem if the rabbit has been spayed or neutered. Otherwise, the rabbit may need to be litter box trained, or it might be in pain as you picked it up, or it may have a urinary tract infection. If this problem persists, call your vet.
How can I tell if my rabbit is angry?
When your rabbit shakes its tail at you, it is telling you “No. I won’t.” Try to use a positive motivator to get your rabbit to change its mind. If your rabbit’s ears are pointing backward, its tail is upright, and its body is stretched out, it is signaling you it is ready to attack. It will scratch or bite.
How do you correct bad rabbit behavior?
Correcting bad rabbit behavior can be achieved through redirection and positive reinforcement. For example, if your rabbit is chewing something they shouldn’t, calmly say “no” and redirect them to a safe chew toy. When they make the right choice, reward them with praise or a small treat to encourage the good behavior.
What are some effective rabbit training methods?
Some effective rabbit training methods include clicker training and positive reinforcement. Clicker training involves using a clicker device to mark desirable behaviors, followed by a reward. This helps the rabbit associate the clicking sound with the desired behavior. Positive reinforcement involves rewarding your rabbit for good behavior, reinforcing their positive actions.
Can you discipline a rabbit without causing distress?
Absolutely. It is crucial to discipline a rabbit in a way that doesn’t cause emotional distress. Avoid shouting or physical punishment as rabbits can become traumatized. Instead, calmly redirect their behavior and use positive reinforcement to encourage the desired actions.
How does bonding with your rabbit affect their behavior?
Bonding with your rabbit is important for building trust and fostering a healthy relationship. A rabbit that trusts their owner is more likely to listen to commands and understand cues for good behavior. Spending time with your rabbit, grooming, petting, and providing mental enrichment can strengthen your bond and improve their overall behavior.
What are common reasons for rabbit misbehavior?
Common reasons for rabbit misbehavior include boredom, lack of appropriate toys, unchecked hormonal behaviors, and an inadequate living environment. Ensuring that your rabbit is spayed or neutered, has enough space to roam, and has access to mentally stimulating toys can greatly help reduce bad behaviors. Additionally, stress can be a factor, so maintaining a peaceful and secure environment is essential for their well-being.
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