It’s easy to get you bunny to realise that they are doing something wrong, but it’s a different matter entirely to get them to stop what they are doing. Through a combination of voice training and clear direction you can improve this situation without having a negative effect the well being of your bunny and you.
You are the bad guy
When thinking about disciplining your rabbit for inappropriate or destructive behaviour you have to keep in mind chewing and digging would normally be beneficial types of behaviour to them and other bunnies so they are really, in fact, trying to help, or they may be simply looking for something new to aid their digestion or ware down their teeth which important to there health. The necessity to use discipline comes from the danger your home can pose to a curious bunny. Discipline is important as you need to be firm with what behaviour is appropriate or inappropriate to ensure you are acting responsible for their safety.
How to start using discipline
If you are going to start using discipline you need to do it in a consistent manner and always make sure you have exhausted every other possibility first. Always ensure the environment they are going into has adequate distractions and alternatives such as chew and toss toys, boxes that can be shredded or soft bedding or nesting areas that can be rearranged. Failing to plan this ahead is planning to fail and you will not achieve any positive results if you just let your bunny run amuck in your home. What you consider to be unacceptable behaviour is ultimately natural behaviour for a bunny which, like it or not, you are not going to be able to stop. The success will come from offering them guidance as to what’s acceptable to interact with and what not to. When you have things set up release them from their pen letting them wander around, but watch them constantly, when they try something out with there teeth or jump on a surface you don’t want them to be on things gently stop them using a firm but calm manner making it clear that it is inappropriate then distract them with something they can chew offering them reassurance.
Why physical discipline should be avoided
Never hit your rabbit they simply do not understand physical discipline, period. Unlike dogs and cats that can respond to aggression as an aversion technique, in bunny training, physical discipline simply dose not play a part in their world of communal behaviour. Use of these techniques could trigger irreparable aggressive or antisocial behaviour leaving them in permanently disturbed. This can be displayed by bunny cowering or turning away from attempts to approach them affectionately as a result.
Amandas facts about physical discipline
Rabbit owner Amanda gives us the low down about physical discipline
“The naturally behaviour of bunnies dose not encompass physical discipline. In the wild their mother practically abandons them, aside from cleaning and feeding to avoid drawing predators to the nest, so they do not receive the kind of gentle physical guidance a cats would give to teach kittens. After the first month the babies already become territorial and leave the nest to live individual lives. Unlike dogs they don’t develop pack behaviour where the hierarchy is kept in check with aggression.”
Why shouting should be avoided
Avoid shouting, bunnies have very sensitive ears and loud noises could damage their hearing or trigger anti social behaviour such as aggression or cowering. You could also find yourself becoming anti social or stressed yourself. Although they responds to high pitch screeches as this is a sign of pain or alarm. Its worth avoiding this to prevent inappropriate destructive behaviour, instead saving this method as deterrent in case they developed nipping problems.
Why chasing should be avoided
Never approach a bunny hastily or aggressively, they are incredibly sensitive to things that loom up at them. The vibrations of feet stomping on the ground towards them can be interpreted by your bunny as a sign of extreme danger and the only response you will get out of them is fright, which will not communicate your desire for them to cease destructive behaviour.
Although they only have a small vocabulary of words they understand, teaching your bunny its name is key to getting its attention and giving them some instruction as to how you want it to behave. Get them used to their name first using it frequently in a positive manner such as calling them when you give them food or treats. When you need to stop them from doing something inappropriate then say their name in a firm voice followed by a command like “no”. You may need to say this a few times. Also if they are inappropriately climbing on thing say their name and in a firm voice say “Down”, this can be an effective way of getting them off a surface without the damage scrabbling away can cause.
Getting down to your rabbits level
Even though they don’t communicate vocally bunnies are very sensitive and sociable creatures, and their sophisticated range of body language makes up for it. If they have done something inappropriate, show them by turning your back to them or by putting them in a pen for a few minutes. If when you let them out they continue to be destructive put them back till its their normal time to come out again. They learn very quickly that freedom is associated with good behaviour. They may not exactly know why you say “No” but they quickly learn from the consequences.