Training Your Rabbit with a Trio of Tricks
If you let your rabbit run in a large area of the house, you may want her to come when you call her name. It will allow you to find her if she’s hiding and you’re concerned for her welfare.
Rabbits can be trained to come when you call them, provided that you always give them a good reward when they do what you ask.
The best way to get a rabbit to come when you call her is to find out what her favorite treat is. Whether it’s a piece of tomato or a chunk of melon, use this as your lure.
These easy steps will get your rabbit to come when called:
1. Get down on the floor close to your rabbit.
2. Offer the treat.
3. “[Say your rabbit’s name], come!”
Your rabbit will see or smell the treat and will come toward you to get it. She doesn’t know that you called her because she hasn’t figured out this part yet, but if you repeat this routine over and over, she’ll start to associate hearing you call her name and “Come!” with getting her favorite treat.
4. After your bunny consistently comes to you from this close distance, start to work from farther away.
Instead of being so close, squat several feet away from your pet. Offer out the food and call your rabbit’s name and “Come!”
Some rabbits catch on more quickly than others, but within a few weeks, your rabbit should come to you just about every time that you call her. You may even be able to get her to come to you from another room.
Making like Van Halen: Jumping
Another fun behavior that you can drill is jumping up on a piece of upholstered furniture on command. (Non-upholstered furniture can be too slippery!) Of course, that’s if you want your rabbit on the couch. If you’d rather have bunny keep all four paws on the floor, you may want to skip this one.
To train your bunny to jump up onto the couch on command, follow these steps:
1. Hold the treat on the couch when your rabbit is having her free time in the house and is hopping around on the floor.
2. When she approaches the couch, make sure she sees the treat.
You can do this by holding it in a spot where she can reach the treat just standing on her hind legs with her front paws on the couch cushions.
3. “[Say your rabbit’s name], hop up!”
Or if you prefer, just pat the top of the couch with your other hand as a signal.
4. Even though she’s on her hind legs at the edge of the couch and hasn’t jumped up on the couch, give her the treat so that she associates a treat with the couch.
5. When Fluffy responds to you without fail, hold the treat farther back onto the couch.
That way, your rabbit has to really reach to get the morsel.
6. Repeat steps 1–5.
Eventually, she’ll jump up on the couch to get it, provided it’s not too high for her. If it is, you may want to skip this trick or provide a small stool for your rabbit to hop up on to make her way to the couch.
Make sure that you have given the command just before your rabbit makes her attempt to get the morsel. You want her to associate hearing her name and “Hop up!” or a hand patting the couch with the action of coming on the couch and getting the treat.
7. When your rabbit finally jumps up on the couch, gently praise her, and scratch her on her favorite spot while letting her dine on her reward.
Eventually, you may eliminate the treat because the command or a pat on the cushion should be enough to get your rabbit to join you on the couch. Your rabbit can jump down alone. Helping her might be more detrimental!
Working on the abs: Sitting up
Another good trick (and one that will impress visitors) is sitting up on command. This trick is pretty easy because rabbits naturally sit up on their hind legs all the time.
1. Start when your rabbit has all four feet on the floor.
2. Put your hand above her head with the treat in your fingers.
3. “[Say your rabbit’s name], sit up!”
4. When your rabbit rises up on her hind legs to get the treat, give her the treat and some verbal praise.
5. After she rises up consistently in response to your command, start eliminating the treats.
Wean her away from the treat gradually — one time, she gets the treat, the next time, she doesn’t. Pretty soon, all you’ll have to do is say her name and “Sit up,” and your bunny will rise up in that adorable position.
Depending on how trainable your rabbit is, it can take anywhere from just a few training sessions to a couple of weeks before she’s trained to sit up on command.
Cozying up in his cage: Go in
Your rabbit can be trained go into his cage or into his travel carrier on command. If you want to train your rabbit to go into his travel carrier, make sure he’s already comfortable with being inside it.
This can be a handy trick for your bunny because it will spare you the trouble of pursuing him when you want to put him away for the night or in his carrier for a trip to the vet. (You should train for this behavior at times when you don’t need to have your rabbit in his cage for a trip or bedtime. This allows for more flexibility in the training process.)
1. Get a piece of your rabbit’s favorite treat.
2. Put your bunny close to the opening of his cage or travel carrier.
3. Say “Go in!” as you lure him into the opening with the treat in your hand.
Make sure your rabbit sees you put the treat inside, so he knows it’s in there.
4. After he’s inside the cage or carrier, give him the treat.
After your rabbit gets the idea, you can place the treat in the carrier and then say, “Go in!”
If he doesn’t go in and retrieve the treat after you give the command, don’t put him inside or give him a treat anyway. He needs to associate getting the treat with actually going into the cage or carrier.