BINKYBUNNY FORUMS > BEHAVIOR > Getting used to being picked up
Last Post by LBJ10 at 10/18/2012 5:13 PM (9 Replies)
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User is Offline Aylnine
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10/16/2012 11:24 PM

Sorry for posting 2 topics but this was so unrelated that I didn't think it would be seen.

I want to let Sir Rupert get used to being picked up/held so that when I have to do it or when he's at the vet it's not such an ordeal. It's not for my own cuddly benefit (although that would be nice...) because I realize they just don't like it and for a reason.

I assume I would start at lower heights and then work up from there? I remember when I first got him he wouldn't let me put my hands around him at all, but now he'll kind of let me slowly hug his ribs with my hands and lift him up just a teensy bit. Should I maybe just start from there, lifting him up a little more every time and then treating him right after? I have a clicker so I may even be able to clicker train him into it, but I'm not sure at what moment I should click (probably not after he jumps out lol). Any tips?

User is Offline Monkeybun
Hillsboro, Oregon
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10/17/2012 5:20 AM
I just routinely picked up my bunnies every day.. and now even cranky Monkey is much more easy going about it. They still don't like it, but tolerate it much better. Personally, I don't agree with a lot of people that say to not pick them up at all, but I'd rather have them accept it than have to chase them around in an emergency.

User is Offline RabbitPam
South Florida
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10/17/2012 6:02 AM
Sammy is one of those bunnies that doesn't want to be picked up. Lately, she is a bit easier to catch, so it may be that she's more used to it. But I believe her particular problem is that she doesn't like heights, since she doesn't jump up onto anything and prefers to be under shelters like baskets and tents.

I do think it helps to start lower and go up gradually. I mean, you can practice by picking him up while you're sitting and putting him into your lap. Then try picking him up from a kneeling position, let him down again, and give him a treat. It's so you can both find a position that is comfortable for you to hold him, so eventually he's snug in his spot on you while you stand. Because of the height thing, I noticed that putting a hand over Sammy's eyes, or tucking her head into the crook of my elbow made her stay still better because she couldn't see what bothered her.

Practicing can help, but keep in mind that in an emergency or just a mild illness (I discovered with her) it is much easier to pick them up. Sammy did not run much or struggle when she wasn't well. I was able to know how much better she was in later days after seeing the vet by how much she went back to being her old self. When they are sick or hurt and you need to move them fast, you become more firm and they become more compliant.

One tip: Press down firmly on the shoulder blades behind the ears. You can reach it by head pets first. Press the shoulders, then pick up. It is a dominance gesture that doesn't hurt, but makes you seem like the Alpha animal at that moment.
SPIKE, my snuggle bunny (aka Spikey Marbles)

User is Offline FrankieFlash
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10/17/2012 6:15 AM
Those are some great tips RP. I noticed Bunjamin is more complacent with being held even though I don't do it too often. I do the shoulder thing but I didn't know that was the reason it worked. Basically I start giving some good pets he relaxes then I scoop in. lol

User is Offline Stickerbunny
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10/17/2012 8:40 AM
Monkey, well, it depends on the bunny on whether you need to get them adjusted to it or if it's better to leave them alone. My two, if I pick them up often, will RUN from me and REFUSE to be picked up anymore, freak out when I do pick them up and generally make it horrid and difficult, in an emergency they would be in trouble. However, if I leave them ALONE and only pick them up when needed, I can reach down and snatch em no problem at all, no running and no fighting me. When I had to medicate them, it caused the freak out run response cause each day I had to pick them up and they knew it was coming and for two weeks after medication ended, they still ran from me whenever they saw me, thinking they were going to be picked up. When I nail clip, I have two very calm bunnies since I only pick them up when I need to. And for vet visits they are calm until the vet goes to try to pick them up since they hate strangers. lol Other bunnies do better when they get used to it though.

But since your bunny OP is already freaking out about being picked up, I would say when you DO pick him up try to make the end result a pleasant experience, hold securely (I hold mine against my chest, with one arm supporting their back legs/back and one supporting their shoulder blades since it makes them fight less) and always treat afterwards. I find treats are a great way to make any bunny like something more. Craisins work well for my two. When I pick them up, I do it in one quick motion, rather than slowly, since they freak if they are in the air and not supported by my body. So it depends what your bunny prefers. Mine get a little pressure on the shoulders, then two hand pickup (being sure to support the back/backlegs) directly against my chest while I am stooped down, in one fluid motion. This causes them to not kick, fight, struggle or attempt to jump away once they are supported. If I try to go slowly, they kick and flail and try to do the bunny flip arounds that are so dangerous to their spines. I also find positioning it so they can hear my heart beat and remaining perfectly calm myself helps a ton to keep them calm.

Again, what works best depends on your bun. For Powder petting him keeps him calm enough to pick up and for Stickers it has to be a quick snatch-n-grab cause she's not the pet type, she's the "leave me alone or I shall foot flick you" type.

Experiment with safe, secure pick up procedures and find the one your bun accepts the best. Just be sure to be aware if they struggle too much, let them go. Bunnies can hurt themselves in their panic to get away from their owner, so you want to find that method that keeps the flailing to a minimum.

User is Offline tanlover14
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10/17/2012 8:42 AM
This is an interesting thread. I may need to start doing this with my little whipper snappers since any time of picking up comes with claws and fangs bared.
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User is Offline Elrohwen
Hudson Valley, NY
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10/17/2012 8:57 AM
I think your current method is good. I also got Otto to the point where I could hug him (and restrain him), then pick him up an inch or so from the ground via clicker training. I didn't shape the rest of picking up, but he got much easier about it in general after that.

I always herd my bunnies into the carrier before picking them up for something like nail trims. Being in a confined space in a different room makes them much more docile about it. If I tried to pick them up while they were running free, they would bolt and avoid me and I wouldn't get anywhere.

If you're going to clicker train it, just make sure you go slow (let him set the pace) and end the session before he freaks out.
- Elrohwen

User is Offline lindsay715
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10/17/2012 10:58 AM
I'm able to pick up both of my bunnies with not too much of a problem, but neither of them like it... so I try not to make a habit of it. In my experience it is a personality thing. My dwarf Wesley will growl and scratch while he's being held, and I am fairly sure that reaction would not change even with repetition. My other rabbit is very quiet and docile while being held, but even she will flick her feet at you when she is put down. I think the best thing to do is understand how your rabbit reacts to it and adjust your actions accordingly - for example, a bunny like Wesley who kicks will need to have hindquarters supported more firmly so that he doesn't hurt himself, whereas a rabbit like Bluebell that does not struggle can be cradled a bit more naturally.

User is Offline Binky91
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10/18/2012 11:53 AM
With wilbur I found daily handling definitely helped and since I've gone back to college and am away 2 or 3 days its definitely had a negative effect. Also I noticed with wilbur he always struggles to get down when I go to put him down so I place him on my knees and let him hop off in his own time. Good luck!

User is Offline LBJ10
Bunny Name Master
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10/18/2012 5:13 PM
Mine always get a treat for being held. I think it helps because the experience isn't "all bad" that way. Mine are not terrible about being picked up though. I can hold them close to my body and they don't really struggle all that much. Now when I try to do something to them, it is an entirely different story.

BINKYBUNNY FORUMS > BEHAVIOR > Getting used to being picked up