Difficult Bonding - Experiences?

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msmab

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Does anyone out there have any experiences with really difficult bondings? As in, it took you months?!

We've had our new girl for a month now. We adopted her as a companion for our boy after his bonded mate passed. The girl we adopted is eight months old and spayed. Tony is 2 years and neutered.

We introduced them in neutral territory at the shelter. There was no aggression - a lot of circling and mounting, but that was about it.

The aggression and fighting started when we got home. The mounting has now stopped and even the fighting isn't quite as bad or as frequent as it was, but they still do go at each other. Here is what we have tried:

-dividing our apartment in two and keeping them separated; we alternate who gets which side of the apartment and the pens the use for the day
-putting them in the bathtub to try to encourage them to bond in a stressful situation
-putting them in the kitchen for the same reason as given above
-seating them side by side and face to face for pets and attention
-having them share a plate of lettuce
-giving them treats at the same time

It should be noted that Tony gets aggressive when Jasmine is in "his" pen. how should we proceed so as to break this possessiveness?

Also, and please don't judge me here, we adopted Jasmine only a day after Tony's mate was put to sleep. I realize now that we were probably quite hasty in doing this. However, Jasmine has been adopted and I do not want to return her to the shelter. I really, really want to make this work.

I would appreciate hearing from other people whose bunnies have taken a while to bond. This is only the second bonding we have done. Tony's first mate, our sweet Jessica, was love at first site and they were bonded within a matter of days.

I know patience is key, but some days I feel like they will never be friends.

HELP! Any and all advice welcome. :)
 

msmab

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I should also note that we have a water bottle on "stream" and both buns get a good shot of water when they tussle. They hate it. It breaks them up and I try to spray whenever I see any sign of aggression from either of them. Has anyone found that this works in the long run? Do they learn that if they show aggression/fight, they get hit with water and eventually learn from this?
 

whiskylollipop

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Hello there! You are in exactly the same position I was in months ago when our dearly missed Rosebun passed away, leaving his brother Merlin lonely and depressed. Like you, I was off to the shelters right away to find him a new buddy, and we settled on Sasha, a spayed female. Their bunny date at the shelter went well, but the moment we got home, they started fighting no matter what neutral territory we put them in. It felt like we tried every trick on the internet from honey hats to car bonding, but they just wouldn't get along.

It has taken a full 6 months. But I came back on this site to update my bunny blog, which I will shortly do, to announce that Merlin and Sasha are now a happily bonded couple!

What it took, for us, was lots of time and patience and stepping back. At a cursory glance I can see a couple mistakes you might be doing that I did as well. Firstly, squirting them at any sign of aggression. Don't do that. Rabbits cannot build a relationship without a clear hierarchy and some level of aggression is necessary in working out who is top bun. Let them duke it out to an extent, and only squirt/intervene when the fighting is escalating out of control and things get murderous.

Secondly, only bond them in neutral territory. Of course Tony will want to protect his territory from an invader. He won't even care about getting to know her, that is HIS territory and he will defend it to the death. You need to bond them in territory that neither can claim and ultimately, when things progress till you can start housing them together, you'll need to do a deep clean of Tony's and Jessica's areas to remove marking scents so it's no one's territory again. Maybe even move some furniture around to make sure Tony can't recognise "his" territory.

Here's my bonding experience: In the start, we put them together daily for short 5-10 minute dates that ended when I was tired of breaking up fights and didn't see the date going anywhere. Ending dates on a bad note was a huge mistake. This only helped them associate each other with relentless warring, and whenever I went to put them together they would already tense up in anticipation of a fight. They also figured out that violence would get me to take them apart again, so there was no pressure to work things out and learn how to live together - they would just fight until mummy stepped in and took the stranger bunny away for them.

I don't know if this will pay off for your buns, but after the first 10 bad dates, we decided to cool things off and give the bunnies a break. We stopped bonding, and just housed them side by side, one in a cage, the other in a pen. They couldn't get to each other, but just lived and ate and pooped beside each other for 6 weeks. Maybe this helped them break the association between the sight of each other and fighting.

After that, we found a brand new neutral spot that neither had been in and started again. This time I had a Plan. I wanted them to associate each other with good things. Dates started off with 15 minutes in a box on the balcony, where wind pummeled them around and stressed them out, made sure fighting was the last thing on their minds. Then I whisked them off to the cool calm of the bathroom, where they were showered with fresh veggies (that I took care to neglect giving them when they were alone) and spent the next hour or more together, occasionally tussling mildly with no intervention from me. We stuck it out. Dates would then end with me holding out a banana for them to eat together from the same source, and on that lovely note, separating them back into their cages.

I'm immensely lucky in that the final stages of bonding my buns coincided with me moving out. Now in my new apartment, completely neutral territory, I was able to put the bunnies together right away in a bonding session....that NEVER ENDS. Muahahaha. They are living together right now, and apart from a coupl of minor punch-ups that mummy ignored so they were forced to resolve on their own, things have been going great.

Best of luck!
 

msmab

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Thank you so much for your message! This is immensely helpful and reassuring.

The reason I spray is because they seem to go from "0 to 60" SO fast. Jasmine actually sustained a bleeding ear last night because of this. I think I will take a break to cool things down, though. One blessing is that we are going to my in-laws for three days at Christmas. It's a two hour drive on the highway, so they will need to be crated, but once we're there, it's neutral territory without scents.

Hopefully this will help! And good idea on cleaning everything up. We'll definitely do this. And, like you, we'll be in a new house in the new year, so this brings me hope.

Thank you so much for taking the time to reply with a very detailed message. I greatly appreciate it!
 

whiskylollipop

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I feel you on the "0 to 60" thing. I had crazy heart palpitations in the first few weeks when it seemed liked they were both going for the jugular at every opportunity. Seeing little fluffy cuties turning into furious battlemonsters is quite jarring! It takes a good bit of experience to tell between hot air heckling/posturing/lunging and real murderous brawling. Bleeding ears, bleeding noses and even guillotined tails are part and parcel of bunny battles, but they're always difficult to witness.

The two hour drive and bonding at your in-laws' sounds like a good idea, assuming it wouldn't take too much Christmas fun out of having to constantly supervise the fluffies. :p It would be great for the bonding when you move too, especially considering how territorial Tony is.
 
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