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Food-Motivated Nipping?

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Hi RabbitsOnline community! We are new here. Waffles came into our home this summer and we love him to bits, and he's a pretty content guy. I haven't been a bunny mom in a while (I had rabbits when I was younger), but fell right back into it. :) We also have 5 cats, each of whom were very curious when meeting but are now happy just to hang out most of the time.

My question is behavior-related. Waffles is generally very chill and laid back unless he's excited about being out of his pen or getting treats... at which point he gets really happy and does binkies, hops up next to us on the couch looking for where we hid the treat, etc. We've noticed that the more comfortable he's become the more likely it is that when looking for treats he'll start to nip, even after finishing a treat and returning to look for more. He's nipped at our toes, legs, fingers, even sides (when he jumps up on the couch). I've never had a bun nip so much!

Do you have any advice for addressing this?

Many thanks in advance!
 

Sophia

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I would give him treats when hes not nipping and put him back in his cage for a few minutes when he is nipping
 

Blue eyes

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If the neuter was very recent, he could still have lingering hormones. It can take some rabbits as long as 8 weeks past surgery before those hormones are fully dissipated. If he is hormonal, that could be the cause of that nipping.

I would suggest that whenever he nips you, gently but firmly push his head to the ground and hold for several seconds. This is a way a momma rabbit would 'teach' her babies. Another option is to yell out a high-pitched yelp the moment he nips. He should understand that that means he went too far.

I, actually, am not a fan of using a cage as a "time-out" or a source of punishment for a rabbit. They are already prey and prone to feel insecure. Their cage is typically the one place they feel most secure and most safe. It is their sanctuary. I advocate that a rabbit's cage be their "safe zone." For this reason, I don't pet my rabbits in their cage or otherwise bother them. I reserve that for when they are out of their cage. They learn, then, that their cage is their own personal space and is one in which they will not be bothered. It is my opinion that this makes for a more content rabbit.
 

HearseGirl

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It could be that he is trying to get you to move a little to continue to look for treats? They nip each other to move each other sometimes.

I have had/having this problem with Benjamin. When he first came to us (a month ago) he would nip every time he was picked up. He is getting used to that and realizes that there are really good scratching on the cheek time involved with being picked up, so that is slowing down. Now.. if you put your hand in front of his face when he is trying to go somewhere, he will nip your hand to get you to move it as it is in his way. And with him getting free range in the kitchen, he started this thing where he nips at our toes, legs and what have you because he wants your attention. When I was on the floor with him, he would nip because that was apart of him being a loving bunny and wanting to groom me. Rabbits have a language, and nipping is apart of that. However, some can be accessive, and teaching them to not do that with humans is a good thing, I think you would agree, lol.... Its not always a successful path, but here is what I have done.

In the rabbit world, one good stomp means "no" or "I don't like that" so when ever bunbun nips, I stomp one foot on the floor good and hard. Not crazy hard, just firm, lol... He just did it again, and I stomped again. After a few times, you could see him pause and think about it. This went on a few more times, then he gave up and started running around my feet in circles, doing the bunny 500, of which got the reward of petting a bit. It took a few weeks of him nipping and me stomping back to back. But he nips less and less now. Its a slow road, but worth it. Its like telling a 2 year old "no"... They have to have that repeated to them often for them to start putting it together and realizing yes is a much more fun word, lol. When I'm sitting on the floor with him and he nips, I use my hand to "stomp" once on the floor.

Back in the day when I raised rabbits for show, there was a rew mini rex buck I had that nipped when ever he was held. I think he thought he was being loving. Never was sure with him, and he just always did. I'm glad that II am making headway with Benjamin, I hope you will with yours too.
 

HearseGirl

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If the neuter was very recent, he could still have lingering hormones. It can take some rabbits as long as 8 weeks past surgery before those hormones are fully dissipated. If he is hormonal, that could be the cause of that nipping.

I would suggest that whenever he nips you, gently but firmly push his head to the ground and hold for several seconds. This is a way a momma rabbit would 'teach' her babies. Another option is to yell out a high-pitched yelp the moment he nips. He should understand that that means he went too far.

I, actually, am not a fan of using a cage as a "time-out" or a source of punishment for a rabbit. They are already prey and prone to feel insecure. Their cage is typically the one place they feel most secure and most safe. It is their sanctuary. I advocate that a rabbit's cage be their "safe zone." For this reason, I don't pet my rabbits in their cage or otherwise bother them. I reserve that for when they are out of their cage. They learn, then, that their cage is their own personal space and is one in which they will not be bothered. It is my opinion that this makes for a more content rabbit.

Ya... I kind of feel like it might teach him that when he is ready to go back in his cage, he nips to get that action?
 
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Hi all, just a quick update.

He definitely nips when he wants a treat. Rather than pet him and say no, we're "thumping" the couch or floor so he understands that it's a refusal (and not rewarding it with petting).

He's also nipped when we seem to be in his way, lol, but that's less frequent. If and when that's happened, I've squealed a little. His ears tend to go up and he bolts away quickly when I do. I hate scaring him; it always feels like I'm pushing him away (when I really want him to come hang out with me!), but thus far it hasn't dissuaded him from coming near me again, so I think it's been going pretty well.

Thank you all for chiming in :)
 

Blue eyes

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Rather than pet him and say no, we're "thumping" the couch or floor so he understands that it's a refusal (and not rewarding it with petting).
Just wanting to clarify here. I don't know where the "petting" idea came from but I hope it wasn't a misunderstanding of when I said to "gently but firmly hold his head to the ground for several seconds." If so, this was not at all intended to imply petting. It is restraining the rabbit by holding his head down (against his will) for several seconds. It is how a momma rabbit disciplines her babies. So a rabbit sees this as discipline, not as affection or petting.

If this isn't where the idea of petting came from, then ignore what I just wrote. ;)

Thumping the ground is a way that rabbits warn each other of danger. I would be hesitant to continue to use that tactic because it doesn't really say "you're not getting a treat" but rather shouts "watch out!! some danger is nearby!" At best it ends up serving as little more than a distraction rather than teaching him anything. He may stop what he's doing but it is just because the thump serves as a distraction and serves to put him 'on alert.'
 
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Just wanting to clarify here. I don't know where the "petting" idea came from but I hope it wasn't a misunderstanding of when I said to "gently but firmly hold his head to the ground for several seconds." If so, this was not at all intended to imply petting. It is restraining the rabbit by holding his head down (against his will) for several seconds. It is how a momma rabbit disciplines her babies. So a rabbit sees this as discipline, not as affection or petting.

If this isn't where the idea of petting came from, then ignore what I just wrote. ;)

Thumping the ground is a way that rabbits warn each other of danger. I would be hesitant to continue to use that tactic because it doesn't really say "you're not getting a treat" but rather shouts "watch out!! some danger is nearby!" At best it ends up serving as little more than a distraction rather than teaching him anything. He may stop what he's doing but it is just because the thump serves as a distraction and serves to put him 'on alert.'
No, no problem - someone else somewhere (maybe not here, sorry) mentioned that it's not a good idea to pet when they're exhibiting behavior you don't like as it can reinforce the behavior. :)

I didn't realize that re: the thumping. Now I feel like a bad mom! I'd totally overlooked the holding-the-head-down suggestion, I'm very sorry, but we will switch to that as a tactic moving forward.
 

JBun

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Thumping can also be a sign of displeasure or irritation(I should know as I get thumped at regularly for irritating my rabbits), so thumping can work to let your bun know you are not happy with him, as can the yelping or squealing. Though the yelping can be more startling to your bun.

Holding the head/shoulders down can also work for some rabbits, though some it won't work well with so you'll just have to gauge your buns response. You want to make sure you do it gently so as to not cause injury, but you also have to be somewhat firm, and it's just for a few seconds.

I would probably try all three and see what seems to work the best. Though the thumping may work better than the holding the head down as I've only had success with that with a few rabbits. And yes, don't pet or reward when your bun is exhibiting negative behavior as that just reinforces it.

If you haven't seen this link yet, take a look as it does a good job of explaining much of rabbit behavior and communication.
http://language.rabbitspeak.com/
 

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