Advice-Flemish Giant

Discussion in 'Nutrition and Behavior' started by Masey75, Mar 6, 2019.

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  1. Mar 6, 2019 #1

    Masey75

    Masey75

    Masey75

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    Good Morning!

    We have a 6 month old recently neutered Flemish Giant. We've had him since he was four months old.

    He is actually my daughter's rabbit. She is hoping to train him to be a therapy animal, however she (and me as well) is getting discouraged. She sees videos of all these cuddly, laid back rabbits, and thinks she's doing something wrong.

    He HATES to be picked up (which I know is common) and will bite and kick. When we sit on the floor with him, he'll lick us but will also bite/nibble us, sometimes pretty hard. He seems uninterested in us, even with food and toys. He will run around and binkie and even interact with the cats, but could careless that we exist..LOL. He has fairly large pen set up and is able to free roam our upstairs for about 3-4 hours a day broken up morning and evening.

    My questions are:

    -What can we do to get him to be more social? As part of his therapy training we visit my daughters school and pet stores as well.

    -How can we help him feel safer while being held? He's already 10 pounds and only 6 months. I've watched videos on youtube to make sure we are holding him properly.

    Could it be his age/ left over hormones, something he will outgrow?

    Is he lonely, does he need a bunny friend?

    Any suggestions and advice would be greatly appreciated!
    Thanks,
    Stephanie 014A1831_FOR WEB-DO NOT PRINT.jpg 014A0886_FOR WEB-DO NOT PRINT-1.jpg
     

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  2. Mar 6, 2019 #2

    Deludedbyreality

    Deludedbyreality

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    Sounds to me like you should work the bond between you guys before working him into more stressful situations, (to be a therapy animal surrounded by loud noises and people, sights, smells). The attitude issues seem to be stress related and can be a result of residual hormone fade out which can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to up to 4 months after surgery to level out.
    He is also still very young 6 months is equal to teenager - early 20's for us and that's quite a bit of learning they do in a short period of time. Rabbits typically go thru temperament changes naturally as they age the same as we do some are more subtle than others.
    Also considering the fact that you've only had him for 2 months and during that time he's basically been on a speed course in terms of your training and been neutered as well as rehomed to live with you it's all a big adjustment for him and bonding can take quite some time.

    Something to bear in mind however is that while you may have had intentions for him to be a therapy animal, he may not be suited for that kind of life, it takes more than training to do so and disposition is key.

    "If it doesnt fit - dont force it," is a general rule of thumb...I have raised a lot of rabbits and only a few have I ever recommended as therapy animals and even emotional support animals and only due to their temperaments after housing them longterm and working with them.

    Be sure to remember that having a bunny is like having another child, you have the well being of the animal to keep in mind, and it may be that he just needs some time to mellow out. Personally I would rather have a loving bunny that's well adjusted than one I would have to deal with aggression and resentment issues because I ignored its feelings or it got sick due to stress. They're complex individuals and highly intelligent smarter than dogs even.

    I would try to limit his extracurricular play dates for the time being and maybe try to work on some puzzles and agility training to instill some discipline + reward mapping in his brain and also to further solidify his bond with you and eliminate some of the stress brought on by travel and so much interaction... Having a pet stroller for when you do take him out and just letting him feel comfortable and secure, monitoring how he's doing (speed of air intake thru the nostrils is a huge gauge - the faster the more panicked /in pain), if he seems to get apprehensive or aggressive dont take him out to get overstimulated, offer little treats, gentle loving words and head rubs if he will stand it, and make sure he has hay with him.
    Wishing you all the best!
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2019
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  3. Mar 6, 2019 #3

    Hermelin

    Hermelin

    Hermelin

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    Rabbit have different personalities which can make him not the best therapy pet.

    For me to make my rabbits kind and social, I work with food and take everything in their own tempo. Forcing them to do something will only have the opposite effect and positive reinforcement works best for rabbits in my opinion.

    For example took me 6 months to teach my scared bunny to stop attacking and hide. He’s now a rabbit that run up to people and you can cuddle with him. But I can’t pick him up perfectly yet so baby steps.

    When you pick up your bunny try to reward him or let him nibble on a carrot while being picked up. Distraction and let them get used of being handled.

    When I start training them to be picked up, I first start with getting used with being touched everywhere like stomach, paws, behind and so on. Then getting used with only the front being lifted up while the back legs stand on the floor. Then it’s just the last step lifting up. When the rabbit it’s calm in the arms give a reward which will tell him how to behave when being lifted up.

    But keep in mind not all rabbits will like being picked up. For example two of my rabbits love being in the arms while my french doe only tolerate being picked up.
     
  4. Mar 6, 2019 #4

    Masey75

    Masey75

    Masey75

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    Thank you so much for the advice!
    Putting it into perspective age wise, you're right, he is still really young, and having had a whole lot of adjustments in such a short time.
    I have had the discussion with my daughter about the fact he may not be the right fit for a therapy pet. Of course, she doesn't want to give up, but we def look into more discipline training. Reward mapping, I'm not familiar with but I will do some research. Thank you for the air intake suggestion, I was not aware of that, but makes total sense! Even though he seems calm when we're out I will keep an eye on that.

    Thanks again for the advice!
    Stephanie
     
  5. Mar 6, 2019 #5

    Masey75

    Masey75

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    Thank you!! We will def be implementing your suggestions! I think we also need to work on our confidence when holding him. He's already such a big boy. I'm even hesitant and I'm sure he can sense that, giving your advice a try will probably help us all gain some confidence!

    Thank you again!
    Stephanie
     
  6. Mar 6, 2019 #6

    Deludedbyreality

    Deludedbyreality

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    I guess the way I phrased that it could be taken a little differently than intended. I'm referring to my statement on discipline and reward mapping 'in his brain', it's basically another way to say this...
    Basically association and memory cognition. You+him x doing what you want=good things! They have very good memories and it's easier to get positive results from positive rewards.
     
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  7. Mar 8, 2019 #7

    Imbrium

    Imbrium

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    Others have covered things well; I'd just like to add that hand-feeding his daily pellet ration instead of giving it to him in a bowl or whatever can be another good way to bond. The amount of actual treats you should offer (fruit, non-leafy-green veggies) daily is pretty limited even for a 10 lb rabbit. Pellets = bunny crack and feeding them by hand is enough to make your rabbit see them as a "treat."

    Also, if he nips or bites, immediately press his head to the floor (gently but firmly) - this mimics the way a momma bunn would discipline her kits, so rabbits instinctively know that you're trying to say "I don't want you doing that." It's a good way to discourage bad behavior without making him resent you for it (the way something like a spray bottle of water might do).
     
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