How to clicker train your rabbit

Clicker training is a tried and tested animal training method that can in fact be used on your rabbit. By using a simple clicking noise you will be able to teach you rabbit the behaviour you want it to learn and give it instructions as to how you want it to behave.
Pet training clickers
Clickers are an effective way of training your pet
By using a pet clicker or by simply clicking your fingers when you rabbit does something you want and then positive association this with a reward, primarily food treats your rabbit will soon learn what 'good behaviour' is.
Clicker training is also better than other forms of training because it's not dependant the sound of your individual voice so more than one member of the family can share the results of the training. Also because anxiety or frustration can creep into your voice clicker training is less likely to cause your rabbit stress.
However its important to say clicker training is supposed to be fun for you and your rabbit. It is not a way of getting your rabbit to do something it doesn't want to do and it is defiantly wont help as a way of stopping you rabbit doing something you don't want it to do.
Choosing a reward
Before you begin you will need to find out what will motivate your rabbit the most. Its unlikely it will respond to a positive verbal response or petting. Typically the best form of reward is some sort of edible treat. The treats should be small and easy for you to pass to your rabbit and should be quick to eat. If you feed your rabbit a diet of hay and green food then it can be easy to simply up the value of the food to get your rabbit a treat, some fresh herbs such a coriander or basal may be a favourite or some small some pieces of vegetable. You can use fruit but sure you don't give your rabbit too much as it can contain a lot of sugar which is unhealthy, If your rabbit likes crunchy things then a bag of dry food. Try you rabbit out on a variety of things and it will soon become apparent what food it likes then keep this in reserve for the training process.

Choosing a clicker
Their are a verity of clicker available however it is important to check it's not to loud. A lot of clickers are made for dogs which are two loud for the sensitive hearing of rabbits who may become afraid of the noise. You can by clicker where the noise can be reduced or you could even use a retractable pen. Clicking your fingers will also work if you do this consistently.
Introducing your rabbit to the clicker
An important step is to introduce your rabbit to the clicker carefully or it may get an adverse reaction and making it longer to gain your rabbits trust. Pick a quiet place your rabbit is used to where you are not likely to get interrupted. Let your rabbit get in a calm state and sound the clicker then give your rabbit its reward. once it has eaten it repeat the process. You may need to pause a second between the click and the treat at first to make sure the noise sinks in but after a while you rabbit will soon recognise the sound and leap on you for treats. It is important from this point that every time you click you dish a treat out.must follow. For the rabbit, the clicker must never lie.
Ways of teaching behviour
There are a few ways to teach behaviour the simplest is when you see your rabbit doing something you want it to repeat, you then use the clicker then give a reward. The more time you do this the more you rabbit will associate them together.
If you want to teach your rabbit simple behaviour that may be less likely to occur on its own you can lure your rabbit to do the thing you want, typically with a treat then when you get the rabbit to perform the action you want you use the clicker and give a reward. Its a bit like tricking your rabbit into doing something the first few times then when you have done it enough times your rabbit will want to do it. As your rabbit learns the behaviour you need to rely less on the lure and will eventual use a cue like a voice command or gesture your rabbit will recognise till eventually you can give the command and you get the desired result. There is more about this later on in the article.
If you want to teach your rabbit more complex behaviour you need to break it down into a series of steps each of which moves you closer to the desired result. The key part of this process is to move between steps by raising the criteria the right amount at the right time in small steps so your rabbit is rewarded regularly and remains attentive. The balance is between making sure the behaviour has been learnt but not over repeating it or you could get stuck and find it difficult to move onto the next stage. If you rabbit becomes confused you may even need to go back a few stages and start again.
It's important to talk too much when you are clicker training, it can lead to confusion and obscure the importance of the clicker however it can be beneficial to introduce a voice commend to let your rabbit know its behaviour other than the one expected, this can be a simple 'No' in a kind voice or 'Bad luck', Don't however use it to you rabbit off its all a part of the encouragement.
Using a cue word
The next important stage is to naming the behaviour with a cues. It should be a words or words that are easily identified with a distictive sound. Try and avoid words that are used it general conversation as this can lead to confusion. Each behaviour you teach should have a distinct cue. The cue should be given clearly and confidently, there should be no need to shout the word as rabbit have very sensitive hearing and will have heard you. Make sure the cue sound the same each time so avoid emotional intonation and your rabbit should will eventual only need to be give the cue once to response.
Extending behaviour
With many types of learnt behaviours, the first step is to get an immediate response that can be repeated then you can begin to extend the the same behaviour for longer periods of time by introducing a pause. This can be achieved by introducing small periods of delaying between the behaviour your rabbit has learnt and the click. By gradually increasing the length you pause you can get your rabbit to hold the position for longer and longer.

How to extend behaviour

  • Make sure you rabbit can perform the behaviour on cue
  • Once the behaviour has been performed pause a little before the click and treat
  • Gradually extend this and you rabbit will learn that the pause it a part of it
Rewarding for excellence
When your rabbit can repeat a behaviour on cue you can then start to improve this by giving rewards for excellence. By withholding clicks and treats when its below an acceptable standard and then improving this standard you can bit by bit make improvements. Don't try and do too much at once, pick one aspect and work on this till an improvement has been made then move on to the next.

How to reach perfection

  • Make sure you rabbit can perform the behaviour on cue
  • Pick an aspect you want to improve
  • If the behaviour is below an acceptable criteria don't click and reward reward
Reinforce behaviour
Your rabbits motivation is essentially the reward and once it has learnt a behaviour it knows it can go through the motions and get its treat however if you want it to put more effort into it you can make it reinforce the behaviour by skipping a treat every other time. In an effort to persuade you to reward him, your rabbit will respond by repeating the behaviour harder and faster.

How to reinforce behaviour

  • Make sure you rabbit can perform the behaviour on cue
  • Every so often don't click and treat and if your rabbit makes a greater effort then click and treat.

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