How To Bond With Your Rabbit
How long will it take to bond?
It may take some time for your rabbit/ rabbits to adjust when you first bring them home. They are leaving a known environment and entering into a whole new unknown territory. Some rabbits adjust within minutes of being in their new home while others may take months. This depends on where you got your bun from and what kind of social background they have. Most rabbits from shelters are there because they were abandoned or abused. It is not impossible for you to get a social and un-skittish bunny from the shelter and I personally know of families that have very social buns that they have rescued. So don't get me wrong, this is still a great option to adopt from shelters. But the odds of getting a social bun decrease for sure given most of their circumstances are coming from being ignored for months. I can't tell you how many emails I get on the daily from families who have rescued bunnies and are having a hard time bonding with them. Sometimes it can take months or even years just to get them to not be skittish around you and more often then not, they will eventually let you pet them but most do not prefer to be picked up because they weren't used to that. If you adopt from a responsible breeder who socializes their buns on a daily basis then the odds are much higher that you will get a social bun that will open up to you quickly.
When you first bring them home
When you first bring your bunny home it's good to give them time to adjust. I've heard other breeders tell their families to leave the bunnies alone for 3 days and not touch them at all because you can scare them to death. I don't agree with this because I have only ever raised my babies one way.; socialized with people and other animals (our dogs) on a daily basis. Our bunnies are involved heavily in our community in bunny therapy and they are very social. I cannot speak for those breeders that tell families to leave their bunnies alone completely, but if you adopt a bun from Blue Clover, I HIGHLY recommend you bond with them on day one when they come home with you. Excuse me for being blunt but I feel like it's an excuse for breeders to tell families not to socialize the first few days because they didn't really socialize with their babies the first 8 weeks they raised them. It can be terrifying for rabbits if they have had little to no contact with humans and then all of a sudden they are being picked up, pet, and smooshed on by multiple people. It's always a good idea to talk to the person you are considering getting a bun from and ask them how they socialize with their buns. Do they just pass by and feed them twice a day or do they get play time outside of their pens with people that are interacting socially and physically with them? SUPER important!!
Ok back on track...
When you get home, put your bun in their pen/cage area and let them sniff around and do bun things. Normal behavior could be that they hide right away and breathe quickly from being nervous. This is normal because they are in a new territory and they most likely took a car ride home which most rabbits are not fond of. If your bun was raised in a quiet home with little to no noise and you have a loud house with dogs and kids then it may take a little more time for your bun to come out of their shell. Let your buns hide for a while and establish a safe place. After a few hours go by you can sit or lay down in their pen area with treats and try to lure them out. Some may go for this and some may not. Each bunny is different and you'll just have to gauge their behavior. I personally like to sit on the couch with a blanket or towel and put them on my lap. Then just start to stroke between their eyes and down their back to get them calm. This will help them bond to you and it's a good idea to make it a routine daily. Keep trying to handle them in different positions on the couch if they keep jumping away. Sitting on the couch is also a great way to practice picking up and handling, so in case they jump, or you drop them, they will just land on your lap. Always be sure to scoop under the bum so the back is supported and then place the other hand under their front paws when lifting. If their back is supported and they feel secure, this will help them not squirm so much.
Have a really squirmy bun?
Every rabbit has their own personality and will go through a hormonal stage between 8 weeks old- 6 months old. Some rabbits are never fixed and stay super calm letting you hold, cradle, and kiss them. Some can be the complete opposite and you'll be counting down the days until you can get them fixed. Spaying/ neutering helps reduce hormone levels and is highly recommended for your pet bunny. In the mean time if you are having a hard time handling your bun you can try a few things. This may sound weird but you must be the dominant one in your relationship with your rabbit. If you have a rabbit with a dominant personality, you may need to put a little extra effort to let them know you are boss. It took me years of watching and learning behavior of rabbits bonding to realize, hey, why not try what they do together and see if using their techniques helps me bond to them. When two bunnies are learning to bond together there is usually always either a submissive one or two stubborn buns that take a few fights to figure out where they stand. As soon as one submits, they bow their head down and let the other bun groom with licks or mount them. If your bun is squirmy you can wrap them like a burrito in a blanket and then tuck them in your arm so that all four legs are down on your forearm (aka not on their backs). Begin to pet in between their eyes stroking up and over the head and down the back. Do this firmly and constant and it should help calm them down. If they are feeling comfortable with that, you can even add their ears in with the strokes. They may try to move or jump away but try to hold them in the blanket and pet their head the same way mentioned above. This isn't meant to scare or traumatize them so do watch their behavior. Most baby buns that have been socialized could just be hyper wanting to run around at that time. You can put them down and let them zoom around and try again later when they seem tired. If you rescued a bunny and they are completely terrified of any contact with humans, I do not recommend doing this step right away. Gauge how they are reacting and make adjustments or stop.
Rabbits do like to bond so if your bun is skittish then just keep working with them building trust. Whenever you feel is right, and this could be a few weeks or a few months, take away any areas they have to hide in and lay in their pen with them. You don't need to grab and hold right away but it's best to try to get them to come to you. Find what kind of treats they like. Usually fruit does the trick, but be careful to not over do the treats as their little tummies are sensitive.
You can also do their feedings with them if you have the time. Most rabbits are super excited to get their pellets or fresh veggies so if you can sit with the bowl in front of you and see if they will approach you to get to their food, then they will start to associate you with the person that brings them food and they should grow closer to you. After whatever amount of time you feel is necessary has gone by, try to reach out and pet them during feeding time as well and see if they will allow it!
If you are persistent in socializing with them on a daily basis and you can get a routine going, I guarantee that they will build trust and grow on you more as the weeks and months go by.
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