Using any sort of discipline with a bunny is going to be tricky as they often don't respond well to it. At best you will be able to offer them some gentle guidance away from one activity to something more suitable. At worst you could make them antisocial or even aggressive towards you.
Also timing is everything. It is most often the case that by the time you notice your bunny has been up to something naughty their attention has moved elsewhere. It is likely they will have forgotten what they were doing, so any telling off you give them is wasted and could make your bunny unfriendly towards you.
Offer calm but firm guidance as to what's acceptable
However, if you do catch your bunny in the act, it is possible to offer calm but firm guidance as to what's acceptable behavior and what's not.
We hope the advice in this guide shows you how to do this as kindly as possible.
It's important to realize that bunnies have very strong wild instincts and are often only doing what's natural to them. Remember discipline is not punishment, the aim is to discourage unruly behavior and to stop it.
When you bring a bunny into your home you have to accept some compromises by removing temptations, by being patient when they do something inappropriate and forgiving and forgetting pretty much immediately so you can focus on activities that are acceptable and reinforce good behavior.
Fortunately, there are a few things you can do that can help stop unwanted behavior and still leave you being the best of friends.
Firstly, never push or hit or grab your bunny, discipline is not punishment and your bunny will simply not understand physical discipline.
Unlike dogs for instance where you may steer their behavior with a firm touch, any sort of physical aggression with a bunny can trigger antisocial behavior leaving them permanently upset.
This can make your bunny fearful of you, turning away from you and ultimately making them less affectionate as a result. It may even result in them becoming aggressive back towards you.
Shouting or loud clapping should also be avoided. Bunnies have extremely sensitive hearing and loud noises can also trigger a fear response that will lead to timid or anti-social behavior.
Only use discipline when you catch your bunny in the act or any telling off will be wasted.
If it's a second afterwards they won't associate the punishment with what they are doing, and it will be wasted.
The best way to let your rabbit know it's not allowed to do something is by saying their name followed by a firm NO!
If they keep going back to their naughty behavior then take them away from the situation and give them something more interesting to do and encourage them by spending time with them.
If this is having no effect, then you may want to try using some stronger methods of telling your bunny off. Why not try using a water mister, the cold mist will deter them without causing them harm.
Bunnies usually show aggression because they are afraid or frustrated with something, usually food, or because they want to defend their territory like their litter tray. This behavior can include nipping, biting, boxing or jumping at you.
If your bunny has become aggressive towards you or is behaving antisocially you should try and gain their trust again before you use discipline to correct any behavior.
Approach your bunny quietly and calmly, being careful not to startle them.
Some bunnies don't seem to enjoy being handled so don't try and pick them up. Sit or crouch down beside them and let them come to you. Some treats can help to gain their trust.
Lastly it's worth noting that changes in rabbit usual social behavior can sometimes be a sign that your bunny is feeling unwell or in pain. If you are concerned, speak to a vet specializing in exotic pets.
Using discipline with a rabbit is very different to cats and dogs. Dogs grow up in social groups and kittens have the guidance of their mother. These natural instincts to learn behavior have been developed further through domestication which helps us live side by side.
Rabbits on the other hand are hidden by their mothers mostly undisturbed when they grow up, so they learn to survive on their own.
They are still very much wild animals and don't have many boundaries either as they grow up or in adult life, so setting boundaries for them is very hard to achieve and can be misunderstood by them.