I’ve tried everything but our rabbit still doesn’t like me

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Proudmom89

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Hello everyone, so I wasn’t exactly sure where to post this as it’s my first post, I apologize now if it’s in wrong place.

Ive had rabbits in my past and I have never had an trust issues, they all trust me immediately and I was even able to train one of them to give kisses on demand.

its been a few years since our family has had a bunny. A few months ago I came across a lion head rabbit we immediately fell in love with when we saw her picture. Before messaging to adopt her I did my research on the lion head breed and was nothing but pleased from what I found. I read about their diet, their temperament, how they are the perfect family rabbit, I even read how to gain their trust.

So she came from a farm where she was in a pen with her siblings but was exposed to children and other animals from birth. When she arrived she was very scared and when I was given her (we were outside) she jumped out of my arms and ran a couple houses down (we did catch her) I put her in her cage and let her know I wasn’t going to hurt her. The whole day she sat in the corner but as soon as my daughter came home from school Miss Snow (the rabbit) perked right up and went to see my daughter at the front of the cage.

I’ve done everything possible to get her to trust me, we’ve had her for just about 2 months now and she still doesn’t seem to be my biggest fan. She will sometimes let me pet her for a second or two but then runs away from me. Even when she is running around the house as soon as she sees me she bolts and she only pees in front of my bedroom door and no where else. She loves my kids, especially my daughter and will even sit on top of the couch with the cat and look out the window. Im thinking she maybe thinks I dropped her when she first got here and that’s why she doesn’t trust me? When I give her pellets or fill her hay she nudges my hand like she’s thanking me but when I put her in her bed she looks at me and kicks her shavings out because she’s mad at me for putting her to bed. I’ve come to realize she’s got attitude but she’s also super sweet. I really just want her to trust me and know I won’t hurt her.

is there anything I can do to build a bond with her or am I doomed? She’s only about 19-20 weeks old so she is still a baby. I am grateful for any advice.
 

JBun

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Most likely cause would be if you pick her up regularly, that could be affecting your ability to bond with her. Especially with her showing you her displeasure with a bunny stare and kicking her feet at you after you put her away. Definite bunny body language of being ticked. Most rabbits don't like to be picked up but can learn to tolerate minimal handling. But some rabbits absolutely detest being picked up at all, and any time it is done it can cause a deterioration of that rabbits ability to learn to trust you. Running away from you can be her avoiding you cause she doesn't want you picking her up, and peeing in front of your door can be a way a rabbit shows protest or displeasure.

Or it's possible she has a negative association with adults or adult females, because of possible past experiences. No way to know exactly how. It really could be anything. From how she was handled, to perceived fears, or even possible cruelty.

Another possible explanation could be that she sees you as the alpha bun in the house, but that she herself is a dominant personality, so feels insecure in her position, and especially now being a teenage hormonal bun, is acting out. Which could also be an explanation for the running away from you and peeing in front of your door.

Another thing to consider would be some rabbits are particularly sensitive to strong scents, so any lotions or perfume could make her uncomfortable. I don't think this is as likely to be the cause, but just a possibility.

So it could be one of these or possibly a combination of issues. Spaying could help some, to get rid of those hormones that are starting up, increasing moodiness, and increasing territorial behavior. But it's also going to take some patience and diligent effort on your part, to show and teach her that she is safe around you and that she can trust you. There are lots of things that can be done to help build a good bond with your rabbit, but it may take some experimenting to find what works best. All rabbits are different, so what may work for one rabbit may not work as well for another. And it can take an investment of time to build that bond. Here are some good links on building a bond with your rabbit and understanding rabbit body language.



 

Proudmom89

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Most likely cause would be if you pick her up regularly, that could be affecting your ability to bond with her. Especially with her showing you her displeasure with a bunny stare and kicking her feet at you after you put her away. Definite bunny body language of being ticked. Most rabbits don't like to be picked up but can learn to tolerate minimal handling. But some rabbits absolutely detest being picked up at all, and any time it is done it can cause a deterioration of that rabbits ability to learn to trust you. Running away from you can be her avoiding you cause she doesn't want you picking her up, and peeing in front of your door can be a way a rabbit shows protest or displeasure.

Or it's possible she has a negative association with adults or adult females, because of possible past experiences. No way to know exactly how. It really could be anything. From how she was handled, to perceived fears, or even possible cruelty.

Another possible explanation could be that she sees you as the alpha bun in the house, but that she herself is a dominant personality, so feels insecure in her position, and especially now being a teenage hormonal bun, is acting out. Which could also be an explanation for the running away from you and peeing in front of your door.

Another thing to consider would be some rabbits are particularly sensitive to strong scents, so any lotions or perfume could make her uncomfortable. I don't think this is as likely to be the cause, but just a possibility.

So it could be one of these or possibly a combination of issues. Spaying could help some, to get rid of those hormones that are starting up, increasing moodiness, and increasing territorial behavior. But it's also going to take some patience and diligent effort on your part, to show and teach her that she is safe around you and that she can trust you. There are lots of things that can be done to help build a good bond with your rabbit, but it may take some experimenting to find what works best. All rabbits are different, so what may work for one rabbit may not work as well for another. And it can take an investment of time to build that bond. Here are some good links on building a bond with your rabbit and understanding rabbit body language.



We learned very quickly she doesn’t like to be picked up, she is a very independent little thing, we have taught her “go to bed” to avoid picking her up, she listens to that command very well.
With what you said about her seeing me as alpha bun makes a lot of sense as I am the enforcer with her when she does something bad or with training her. She lets me know very well with her body language when she’s had enough and I will back away but still tell her she’s pretty and I love her to ensure her I’m her friend.

she is a huge sweetheart and likes to cuddle but on her own terms. When she is out playing I will sit on the floor and let her come to me and sniff me out.

she is very relaxed here and happy as she has shown with her body language. She’s still young so maybe it’s just waiting for her to feel comfortable with me.

thanks a lot for your advice, definitely helped
 

Auggie+Snowball+Belle

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I agree with Jbun but thought I’d give you a similar experience I had. I got a new bun 2 months ago now (who sadly already passed but I’ll get into that later). I remembered my other bunnies letting me pet them within the first few days although neither like to be held. I’ve always just got them at country max lol but this time we got one from a breeder. He was a holland lop which are supposed to be friendly and all that. But when we got him, Auggie wanted nothing to do with me or coming out of his cage. Now the breeder said I had to pick him up everyday and my parents always pressured me into doing it even though he obviously was scared and didn’t want that. Long story short, I started a thread that advised me to stop holding him and let him come to me. Which was very hard since at that point, he didn’t trust anybody at all. But let me say in the end it worked. After a week of doing this, he came up to me and just sat there. So I let him and he later down in a loaf position for as long as I’d pet him. Then he’d get up and lick my face. Sadly, he passed away a few days later but we did everything we could.

Now my newest bunny, Tux, is practically the opposite and on the first day was begging to come out (which even with my older buns that warmed up average speed didn’t do).He still doesn’t love being handled but not in a way where he’ll “flick dust” at me or sit with his back towards me (bunny language for being mad).He just doesn’t love it to the point where he’ll stay until I stop petting him. But I do know he’s comfortable with me because he lays down with his feet stretched near me, climbs all over me and eats out of my hand. Which soon hopefully your bunny will too!

So I recommend you stop picking her up unless completely necessary. Then put a baby gate around a small area right outside her cage (or block off a small area right outside her cage) and let her out. Don’t force her to come out and when she does, let her come to you. When she does, let her sniff you and slowly hold out your hand. If she runs away, let her be. If she sniffs or nudges your hand you can try petting her for a few seconds but let her run away. If she comes back after she runs away, I’d just lay there and if she stays then hold out your hand and do as I said above. Only start holding her after she’s completely comfortable with you. Do your kids do something different with her? If so, I would try what they do differently. Anyways that’s just what I would do to get her to trust you and if that doesn’t work, I’d assume it’s bc of any other thing Jbun said.
 

Proudmom89

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I agree with Jbun but thought I’d give you a similar experience I had. I got a new bun 2 months ago now (who sadly already passed but I’ll get into that later). I remembered my other bunnies letting me pet them within the first few days although neither like to be held. I’ve always just got them at country max lol but this time we got one from a breeder. He was a holland lop which are supposed to be friendly and all that. But when we got him, Auggie wanted nothing to do with me or coming out of his cage. Now the breeder said I had to pick him up everyday and my parents always pressured me into doing it even though he obviously was scared and didn’t want that. Long story short, I started a thread that advised me to stop holding him and let him come to me. Which was very hard since at that point, he didn’t trust anybody at all. But let me say in the end it worked. After a week of doing this, he came up to me and just sat there. So I let him and he later down in a loaf position for as long as I’d pet him. Then he’d get up and lick my face. Sadly, he passed away a few days later but we did everything we could.

Now my newest bunny, Tux, is practically the opposite and on the first day was begging to come out (which even with my older buns that warmed up average speed didn’t do).He still doesn’t love being handled but not in a way where he’ll “flick dust” at me or sit with his back towards me (bunny language for being mad).He just doesn’t love it to the point where he’ll stay until I stop petting him. But I do know he’s comfortable with me because he lays down with his feet stretched near me, climbs all over me and eats out of my hand. Which soon hopefully your bunny will too!

So I recommend you stop picking her up unless completely necessary. Then put a baby gate around a small area right outside her cage (or block off a small area right outside her cage) and let her out. Don’t force her to come out and when she does, let her come to you. When she does, let her sniff you and slowly hold out your hand. If she runs away, let her be. If she sniffs or nudges your hand you can try petting her for a few seconds but let her run away. If she comes back after she runs away, I’d just lay there and if she stays then hold out your hand and do as I said above. Only start holding her after she’s completely comfortable with you. Do your kids do something different with her? If so, I would try what they do differently. Anyways that’s just what I would do to get her to trust you and if that doesn’t work, I’d assume it’s bc of any other thing Jbun said.
I haven’t picked her up in a couple weeks nor has anyone else since we realized she didn’t like it. She eats out of my hand and has since day one, with that it seems like she trusts me a little bit not much. I have been letting her come to me and not force her. I am going to do what you guys have suggested and wait it out. I’m hoping one day we will get there
 

SableSteel

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One thing I would have to say - good for you for doing research on the lionhead breed. But that is one of the most inconsistent breeds. It was only ARBA recognized within the last few years, so even the purebred lines are all over the place in terms of temperament. The lionhead gene is dominant as well, so any rabbit that is crossed with a lionhead will look just like a lionhead, so there are a lot of mixed breed rabbits out there being called lionheads by people that don't know better, to the point where I'd be surprised if anything less than 95% of the "lionheads" in the US were mixes. So I wouldn't expect her to act like a lionhead, instead she's a blank slate with what her personality might be.

Not all rabbits want to build trust easily; they are prey animals after all. It sounds like she already likes you quite a bit. With some of my more shy rabbits, I always feed them after a petting or holding session (and stop the session when we're still on good terms, so they don't associate running away or starting to act up with getting food. if you can learn what she acts like when she is almost tired of you, thats a good time to stop - also gives her a way to say she's done without physically running off) so they come to look forward to it, because they get food after.

19-20 weeks is 100% teenage girl stage though so I wouldn't expect too much of her until she gets older, especially if she is intact. Hormones can make even the friendliest female rabbits more flighty and less cuddly than they usually are and at about this age they are at their worst in terms of hormones. When my does are hormonal and angry and ready to breed (they go through short ovulation cycles every so often in addition to being induced ovulators; stress can also induce hormones in them) I try to handle them as little as possible, because it never turns into a really good experience for them.
 

Mac189

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I have a spayed lady bunny with an attitude and I've had to come to accept that she is the ringmaster of all activities. Some bunnies are just a little grumpy and less snuggly. She often does not want to be pet, preferring to check in with nudges or only be pet when she asks for it. Despite this aloof behavior, I know she trusts me, although it was hard-earned. To some degree, I made her work for attention, seldom initiating myself, and instead would sit on the floor and read until she got curious enough to come over. During our bonding process, I almost never held her and she still dislikes being caught, but certainly loves being held and cuddled now. She has always been very confident and curious.

I agree that it sounds like you have a "brattier" more confident bunny who actually likes you a lot and is just dealing with the teenage phase. The fact that she likes and trusts your daughter is fantastic and may be proof that she is in fact more cuddly and she just needs more quiet time where she isn't forced to interact to decide if she can trust you. If she is simply a little less cuddly and more "bratty," fear not. As the owner of a bratty bunny, they are the best! She loves hanging out with me but never feels the need to be a personal space invader, she lets me know she wants things with a tug on the pants cuff, and when she wants to be cuddled it is so much more rewarding. I wouldn't change a thing about her. I personally love more aloof bunnies and find them to be just as wonderful, if not more so, than cuddly, needy bunnies. We have a relationship more like companions than snugglers and that doesn't have to be a bad thing.
 

Proudmom89

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One thing I would have to say - good for you for doing research on the lionhead breed. But that is one of the most inconsistent breeds. It was only ARBA recognized within the last few years, so even the purebred lines are all over the place in terms of temperament. The lionhead gene is dominant as well, so any rabbit that is crossed with a lionhead will look just like a lionhead, so there are a lot of mixed breed rabbits out there being called lionheads by people that don't know better, to the point where I'd be surprised if anything less than 95% of the "lionheads" in the US were mixes. So I wouldn't expect her to act like a lionhead, instead she's a blank slate with what her personality might be.

Not all rabbits want to build trust easily; they are prey animals after all. It sounds like she already likes you quite a bit. With some of my more shy rabbits, I always feed them after a petting or holding session (and stop the session when we're still on good terms, so they don't associate running away or starting to act up with getting food. if you can learn what she acts like when she is almost tired of you, thats a good time to stop - also gives her a way to say she's done without physically running off) so they come to look forward to it, because they get food after.

19-20 weeks is 100% teenage girl stage though so I wouldn't expect too much of her until she gets older, especially if she is intact. Hormones can make even the friendliest female rabbits more flighty and less cuddly than they usually are and at about this age they are at their worst in terms of hormones. When my does are hormonal and angry and ready to breed (they go through short ovulation cycles every so often in addition to being induced ovulators; stress can also induce hormones in them) I try to handle them as little as possible, because it never turns into a really good experience for them.
I live in Canada and she came from a farm just outside my town. The breeder I got her from said they were pure lion head but it’s hard to know for sure as she couldn’t just said that and I didn’t know her. The breeder told me she should have her main of hair all around her face at about 6 months old
 

Proudmom89

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I have a spayed lady bunny with an attitude and I've had to come to accept that she is the ringmaster of all activities. Some bunnies are just a little grumpy and less snuggly. She often does not want to be pet, preferring to check in with nudges or only be pet when she asks for it. Despite this aloof behavior, I know she trusts me, although it was hard-earned. To some degree, I made her work for attention, seldom initiating myself, and instead would sit on the floor and read until she got curious enough to come over. During our bonding process, I almost never held her and she still dislikes being caught, but certainly loves being held and cuddled now. She has always been very confident and curious.

I agree that it sounds like you have a "brattier" more confident bunny who actually likes you a lot and is just dealing with the teenage phase. The fact that she likes and trusts your daughter is fantastic and may be proof that she is in fact more cuddly and she just needs more quiet time where she isn't forced to interact to decide if she can trust you. If she is simply a little less cuddly and more "bratty," fear not. As the owner of a bratty bunny, they are the best! She loves hanging out with me but never feels the need to be a personal space invader, she lets me know she wants things with a tug on the pants cuff, and when she wants to be cuddled it is so much more rewarding. I wouldn't change a thing about her. I personally love more aloof bunnies and find them to be just as wonderful, if not more so, than cuddly, needy bunnies. We have a relationship more like companions than snugglers and that doesn't have to be a bad thing.
Miss snow has one of the funniest and best personalities I’ve seen on a rabbit, i caught her laying down drinking her water from her bottle the one day lol she will push my sons door open just so she can go in to sit behind the curtain, she made a pillow with her shavings today for her head 🤣 she also likes to sit infront of our fan on the floor so her hair blows in the wind. The last week our so as soon as I put hay in her holder that was on the side of the cage she would immediately pull it all out, 2 days ago I watched her pull the hay out but then go underneath and lift it—I then realized she was telling me she wanted it out of her cage. If she’s in her cage she will grab and flick her one toy in her cage with the bell to let me know she wants out. Needless to say she’s a very smart girl and is not Shy to let me know what she wants and is persistent until she
She definitely likes to hang out on her own but when it comes to my daughter she will cuddle with her all day. My daughter has built an amazing bond with her already, every morning she goes to her cage and opens it and pets her and talks to her for a little before getting ready for school, from day one they’ve been best friends.

Today though my daughter picked her up and miss snow nuzzled into her neck like she normally does (my daughter was standing) Miss snow was perfectly fine until she saw me coming from the other end of the kitchen and got close—she freaked out and wanted out of daughters arms—-once she was down she ran and hid—she definitely did not want me anywhere near her
 

Auggie+Snowball+Belle

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@Proudmom89 thats the best, she’s quite the personality haha. I don’t know if you tried this but maybe try putting a baby gate or block off a small area near her cage and then let her out. Provide a hiding space but that’s it and then sit there. She’ll probably get bored and slowly start to come up to you. At this point I’d just kind of ignore her or hand feed her until she becomes comfortable with you (comes up to you sooner, doesn’t run away when you move, lay down with her feet stretched, etc. This could be a few weeks or an hour, it depends). Then you can start petting her and eventually hold her. Possibly she could still be upset about the first day, but I’d assume if that was the problem then other things like that would have have happened with you around. But some bunnies could hold grudges I think. Good luck!
 

Proudmom89

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I opened her cage tonight and gave her a piece of apple as a treat and she ate it right from my hand and then let me pet her. Maybe she’s just been in a mood the other times or she may actually be slowly warming up. She hasn’t been out as much lately either as we’re getting ready to move so the house is kind of chaotic. I’m thinking she’s been extra moody because she’s been locked up more
 
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