Don’t leave your bunny sitting in his cage, or doing nothing but lounging around all day. With a little time and practice, you can teach your rabbit companion to roll a ball, “gimme five”, jump through a hoop, or even play a game of bowling. Clicker training can also be used to teach your rabbit to use a litter box, jump into his carrier, and come on command. All you need is a clicker and a treat that your bunny enjoys.
Clicker training is a fun activity that can be enjoyed by rabbit lovers of any age. Start out by practicing with your rabbit in the evening when he is most active. The idea is to think of a movement or trick that you want your rabbit to learn, and every time he moves in the right direction you “click and reward.” For example, if you want your rabbit to turn in a circle, decide which direction you want him to turn, put your hand down to lead bunny in that direction (or you can use a target stick) and “click” whenever he moves in the direction of where you want him to turn. Be sure to reward bunny with every click, with a tiny piece of a treat. Suggested treats are pellets (one at a time), a tiny piece of fruit (apple, blueberry, papaya), or bunny cracker broken into very tiny pieces. You don’t want bunny to get fat from his training; treats are used just as rewards and should be kept very small.
Once you get the hang of it, you can use your rabbit’s natural behaviors to train him to do tricks. If your rabbit likes to sit up on his back legs, entice him with a treat and a “click” when you touch your open hand to his paw. Be sure to say the command, “gimme five!” so he’ll associate the sound of those words with the action, and the treat. Over time you can start eliminating the treats and giving praise instead. Your rabbit will likely get as much enjoyment from the activity itself, as he does from getting the treat. Of course, you still want to occasionally give the food treat as a reward to reinforce the behavior.
To help you get started with clicker training your bunny, San Diego House Rabbit Society offers a book for sale, “Clicking with Your Rabbit,” by Joan Orr and Teresa Lewin. This helpful guide teaches you how to properly give commands, the sequences of clicking and treating, and different activities you might teach your rabbit.
Learn more by visiting www.clickerbunny.com, or visit the HRS Bunny Store at 4805 Mercury Street, Suite J, in Kearny Mesa. They are open the first four Saturdays of each month from Noon to 3 p.m. You can pick up the clicker-training book, a target stick, a clicker, and a wide array of healthy treats.