Hi everyone, I'd really appreciate some advice / encouragement...Sorry its long, but I wanted to give as much detail as possible.
I've just started bonding 2 rabbits. The female (a) is new, I've had her a couple of months. She is lovely, very friendly and docile, and settled into neutral territory really quickly. The male (b), I've had a few years. I rescued him from a hutch in someone's back yard I had him neutered about 18 months ago when I first though of getting him a companion. I reckon he's about 5, and has been a solitary rabbit all his life. He's very loving to me and people he knows, and is very bold. He is aggressive to people he doesn't know if they go in for a stroke.
Anyway, I've been prebonding for a good month. Swapping litter, toys etc at first, then the past 2 weeks swapping territories. When they swap, both rabbits are relaxed. I have a divider between the 2 rooms they live in, and I'll often feed them together. There is no aggression at all, they often bump noses or lie near each other through the partition.
Due to the nature of my flat, I'm bonding in the living room, in a small xpen, and I am in there with them (armed with thick gloves and a dustpan!).
Sessions 1 - 4.
The first session, b endlessly humped a. She took if for a while, then understandably got annoyed with it, and I had to break up the scuffle. The first few sessions lasted 10 minutes, in small neutral areas, with quite a bit of fur flying, but me breaking it up very quickly. There was also a few minutes of ignoring and self-grooming, which is why I carried on with the sessions. I thought the fighting would be really bad for their relationship, but in their adjoined rooms, they were still touching noses etc through the partitions though, b frequently hung out near the bars, and a even flopped right next to them. But face to face I had to really watch them when they were near each other, and there was a good scuffle every session. It was really disheartening. After each scuffle I'd force cuddle. Still friendly through the partition though.
I decided to take a different approach. I did a longer session (1 hour) in a larger area, with loads of forced cuddles, and holding one while the other is free to investigate the other. This was really successful, and I eventually let them both free. There was lots of ignoring / self grooming, eating hay, and whenever they approached each other I soothed them both. I pre-empted any scuffles and both rabbits were really chilled out It was really positive, a real break through.
I decided to stay with the longer sessions and the soothing. This session was an hour, with only a brief scuffle. It was really successful, and I even left the pen to go to the bathroom. B is however really dominant. He chins everything, including her, and has sprayed a few times. a generally keeps out of bs way, but there was a fair amount of very tentative interaction. A grooms b when I do forced cuddles. When they interact more than a nose touch, b chins her and looks like he is nibbling her, or maybe even grooming. A lies very flat on the ground. I soothe them both during any close up interaction.
Sessions 7 and 8 were 2 hours. Really successful. I left the pen a few times, it was quite frankly boring. They were ignoring each other, grooming them selves, snoozing, eating hay, tentative noses to each other. A very brief scuffle when a was snoozing and b tried to follow me out of the pen and ran over the top of her. Another scuffle when b got too chinny on a, but a ran off and I soothed both until they were calm and they ignored each other again. All really positive. I'd frequently find them flopped near each other when in their territories.
Which brings me to today.
We did another 2 hour session, as the longer sessions seemed to give them the change to have a good ignore and relax. I was all set with netflix, and basically it was really dull. Until the end of the session, when b got super dominant. He chinned a repeatedly, then humped her and she ran off, he followed and I had to break them up. Forced cuddle, and a groomed him. Fine. But each time I let go of them, b followed her, and just wanted to chin her / hump her repeatedly, until she got really annoyed and they scuffled, loads of fur flying. I repeated the forced cuddles until both were calm, but he kept following her. So I soothed him, let her free and finished the session when he ignored her for a couple of minutes. Again, relaxed and friendly through the bars with each other, and laying near the bars near each other.
Today's session was really disheartening after all the positive ignoring! It really felt like a step backwards. Is it normal for one bunny to be so dominant? Is A not yet accepting his dominance, is that what he is waiting for? She does groom him and let him chin her. Or is b being too dominant? Will he tone down with the aggressive chinning / humping?
Tomorrow I'll do another supervised soothing session, but it really worries me how b constantly wants to dominate her, and the fights that break out when he does. Do you think this bonding will ever work???