Want to build an incredible bond with your pet rabbit? Teaching them to come when called is a great way to strengthen your friendship! Rabbits are highly intelligent animals just waiting to learn. With the right techniques and lots of patience, you can train your bunny to eagerly hop over for love and attention whenever their name is called. This simple skill makes playtime more fun, helps keep an eye on free-range rabbits, and is an easy way to get interaction on your terms. Whether your rabbit is shy or bold, old or young, they can learn to come when their trusted human calls. Read on to learn step-by-step how to teach two different methods for training your rabbit to come to you! It just takes a little time but is so worth the effort.
Teaching your rabbit to come to you on their own
Rabbits are naturally curious and social creatures who enjoy interacting with their owners. With time and patience, you can teach your rabbit to voluntarily approach you and seek out your company. This bonding technique relies on positive reinforcement and teaching your rabbit that coming to you results in rewards and affection. Follow these steps to encourage your rabbit to confidently hop over to you.
Step 1: Sit quietly near your rabbit
The first step is to simply sit or lie down on the floor a few feet away from your rabbit's enclosure or where they usually spend time. Avoid making sudden movements or loud noises that could startle them. Let your rabbit grow accustomed to your presence and feel comfortable in the situation. Sit still and relax, blinking slowly to show the rabbit you are not a threat. You may need to spend 10-15 minutes a day over several days before moving on to the next step. Gradually decrease the distance between you and your rabbit as they become more comfortable.
Step 2: Reward your rabbit for approaching you
Once your rabbit seems relaxed in your presence, offer them a small treat for coming closer. Place a piece of leafy green, small piece of fruit or a spoonful of pellets on the floor in front of you. When your rabbit hops over to take the treat, praise them enthusiastically. Continue this process, rewarding them each time they voluntarily come nearer to you. As your rabbit grows more confident, place the treat right next to you so they have to approach very close to get the reward. Reward spontaneous hops towards you with pets and cuddles too.
Step 3: Make a habit of sitting with your rabbit every day
Dedicate 10-15 minutes daily to simply sitting quietly with your rabbit. Bring along a book or your phone so you're not completely still. Allow your rabbit to freely interact with you if they choose by climbing into your lap or nuzzling your hand. Reward them with treats when they initiate contact. Your rabbit will come to associate this time with you as safe, rewarding and an opportunity for free-range play. In time, they will likely hop over looking for attention when you sit down! Continue rewarding them with attention and treats.
When rabbits voluntarily seek out human interaction, it strengthens the bond and trust between you. This technique may take days or weeks depending on your individual rabbit's personality and past experiences. Remain patient and consistent, and your rabbit will learn to confidently approach for quality time together.
When to use this technique
This technique of teaching your rabbit to come to you voluntarily works best when you first bring a shy or timid rabbit home. Sitting quietly and letting them make the first move at their own pace helps build confidence and trust. It's also useful for free-range house rabbits to encourage them returning to you for attention rather than hiding under furniture. The key is patience – let your rabbit decide when to come say hello. Never chase after them or pick them up against their will. This technique relies on coaxing them over with positive reinforcement like treats and pets.
You may also use this method if your rabbit has become fearful or aloof due to stressful events like visiting the vet, changes in household routine or introducing new people or pets. Help renew their confidence in approaching you by revisiting these quiet bonding sessions. It reminds your rabbit that you are a source of good things! Consistency is important, so try to sit with your rabbit daily. This technique is not well suited for rabbits who are naturally independent or aloof. For shy rabbits, it may take many weeks for them to consistently come when called. Have realistic expectations for your individual rabbit's personality. The goal is progress over time, however gradual.
Teaching your rabbit to come when called
In addition to teaching your rabbit to voluntarily approach, you can train them to come when you call their name. This requires positive reinforcement methods and patience over many training sessions. With consistent practice, most rabbits can learn to hop to you when called. Here's how to do it:
Step 1: Say your rabbit's name as you give them a treat
Start by saying your rabbit's name immediately before offering a treat. Each time you feed them pellets or greens, say their name first. You can also call their name and then give pets and praise. The goal is associating the sound of their name with good things. Spend a few days on this step before moving to the next part of training.
Step 2: Standing a couple feet away and call their name
When your rabbit consistently perks up at the sound of their name, take a step or two back and say their name. Immediately reward by tossing a treat to them once they look at you. Gradually increase the distance between you as you continue this process over multiple training sessions. Reward with excited praise every time your rabbit turns their head or hops toward you when called.
Step 3: Stand far away or in the next room and call their name
Now that your rabbit understands their name means a reward is coming, you can practice from greater distances. Try calling from across the room or from an adjacent room. Reward with treats and affection immediately when your rabbit comes over to you. Avoid punishing them if they do not come every time at first – remain patient and keep sessions positive. With regular practice, your rabbit should consistently start coming when called from anywhere in your home.
Teaching a strong recall cue takes most rabbit owners several weeks of daily 5-minute training sessions. Always use positive reinforcement – never shout at or punish your rabbit. If they lose interest during a session, simply end on a positive note and try again later. With patience and consistency, you can teach your rabbit to eagerly hop to you when their name is called!
A word of warning: when NOT to use this technique
While teaching your rabbit to come when called can be very useful, there are some situations when you should avoid calling them over to you:
If your rabbit is sleeping or clearly wants to be left alone, let them rest. Don't disturb them or force them to interact.
If your rabbit is injured or sick, it's best not to move them unless completely necessary. Call a vet for guidance instead of calling your rabbit over.
If your rabbit has escaped or is hiding from perceived danger, chasing after them may cause more stress. Let them calm down before attempting to retrieve them.
If your rabbit is displaying signs of aggression, like growling or lunging, leave them be. Don't risk getting bitten or scratched.
Anytime your rabbit seems distressed, nervous or is busy eating should be avoided. Never disrupt their meal time.
While teaching recall is useful for bonding and everyday interactions, follow your rabbit's lead when they clearly don't wish to come. Forcing them over when scared or aggressive can damage the trust between you. Use the "come" cue judiciously and always make the experience positive once they approach you. With care and patience, a well-trained recall cue can be a fun trick and helpful for keeping tabs on a free-roaming rabbit! Just be sure to consider what's best for your rabbit in the moment when deciding whether to call them over or not.