Hello Everyone,today we have a Special Movie day.A 101 on harnesses and Rabbits.Now before we start I have to say that I don’t reconmend harness training for all rabbits because the truth is the majority of rabbits are just not suitable for harness training.Your rabbit needs to be very relaxed in temperment and quite happy to be picked up by you to be cuddled and loved.He or she needs to be comfortable with going in a carrier and short car journeys.He or she needs to be the sort of rabbit that doesn’t get spooked by noises and sudden movement.If your rabbit is happy and relaxed with those activities and not easily spooked then you have a possibilty of getting your rabbit used to a harness and leash.But if they refuse then don’t force them….rabbits are by nature very stubborn,and can get stressed and frightened very easily when being forced to do something they don’t want to do….so don’t force them!
Speedy has 2 harness and the one in the photo above is the first one I got him.The first thing I did was to see if he would let me put it on him which he did,and I let him wear it in the garden without the leash a few times to see if it bothered him to much and only then did I try him on the leash in the garden once he was comfortable wearing it.which didn’t take long about a day but I left the leash bit for about a week.
And this is the 2nd harness.Now the vest harness I use on Speedy when the weather is cooler and the blue harness he wears on warm days as when its warm he prefers that one to the vest.As to the fit I do them up just tight enough that I can slip 4 fingers between the harness and Speedy’s body and the neck I do about 4 or 5 for comfort and ease of movement but tight enough that he can’t try an slip out of it or hurt him self on it.The leash I use is actually 2 the first one clipped directly to the harness is an elastic leash which should alway be used with a rabbit on a harness,The 2nd leash is clipped to the elastic leash is an retractable leash which extends to 3m and with the elastic leash that is a total of 4m in length at full extention but it is rare that Speedy is more than 2 as I always try to stay right behind him.
Lucky for me Speedy took to the leash fairly quickly but I did have a couple of hiccups the first couple of times I took him out for short walks.I took him to a quiet spot with no dogs or animals,it was in an empty field with no livestock …what I didn’t reckon on was a jet fight deciding to do maneuvers and low level flying over me which did spook Speedy and he did struggle to get away but I scooped him up and gave him a cuddle till the plane had gone and then tried again.He looked around at his surroundings and went off to explore the field with the plane all forgotten about.Speedy didn’t normally get spooked by loud noises so that was an exception which a lot of pets would be unsettled by.
When you are out with your rabbit on a harness you need to be constantly scanning and assessing for possible dangers such as predators and dogs and other hidden dangers.As soon as I see a dog I pick Speedy up straight away unless I can see that the dog is on a leash too.If he is going to close to somewhere I am unsure of I put the break on his leash and give a very gentle tug just enough to cause a bit of resistance on the leash and I call him to re-enforce the encouragement to come back to me and change direction.
When taking your rabbit out for walks you normally have to go where they want to go.They will not walk to heel like a dog would,if you want that then don’t harness train a rabbit get a dog for that as Rabbits can not be trained to be obedient.Speedy has been going out with me on his harness for a bit over 2 years and he does now follow me for a while but when he decides he doesn’t want to go your way he puts the breaks on and will sit dig his feet in and no amount of coaxing will get him to follow.But he does follow me enough for me to distract him from going where I don’t want him to go!
If you can get to the point where you can take you rabbit out and are prepared to keep a constant look out for dangers then you and your rabbit will get to enjoy many adventures like I do with Speedy.
For more information its worth checking out Bunny Approved they have lots of great articles on bunny care and this link takes you to their article about harness,they also have a great shop for those of you in the US who have Bunnies.
I hope this helps to make the right informed choice on harness training your rabbit.