We have been getting letters like this lately: Hello there. I wonder if I might want to be part of your organization. I took the long course and test for Pet Partners/The Delta Society and passed but I do not wish to put my rabbit on a leash and I found out now that is a requirement. Would you consider accepting that I took and passed their test along with a generous donation so I could be part of your organization? Thank you in advance for your help.
YES--we welcome other program members! If you are interested in becoming a BIB VRT (Visiting Rabbit Team) please contact us by email at email@example.com. Usually, the $20 two year BIB fee, a copy of the other organization's registration and application paperwork, and a copy of your medical exam are all that are needed!
This is a reprint from Elizabeth Olson (Rabbit Advocates; Portland, OR)
I have a bit of a different take on desensitizing rabbits and other prey animals, based on experience training our llama (under the tutelage of an expert, whose techniques come from horse training) and working with our own rabbit, Amelia. The basic idea is not to completely shield your rabbit from normal everyday experiences that scare him/her. Rather, it is to repeatedly, gradually, humanely expose the bunny to experiences that frighten him/her, while the bunny is in a safe place.
NOTE: Don't over vocalize with "It's OK, it's OK," because the rabbit will pick up on any tension in your voice. If possible, use your calm body language rather than your words to soothe the rabbit. Of course, if you are teaching a trick (like standing up for pellets), use your training word consistently.
Here are several examples:
Example 1: Rabbit is afraid of being transported. Put the carrier in the room, with a litterbox, hay, and some pellet treats inside. Let rabbit explore, go inside, have door closed, have door opened. Relax. Progress to picking up the carrier while animal is inside. Return carrier to room and open. Eventually, progress to putting carrier in car, returning. Driving around the block, returning. Driving to the vet (no exam), and returning. You get the idea.
In other words, break the scary experience into very small steps that help animal realize each step is safe and, therefore, the "big step" is also safe.
(In horse/llama halter training, we start by having the halter hang around the animal's living area until it's no big deal. Then we move the halter close to the animal's head, and back away. Then close to the nose and away. This progresses until the halter goes on the face without any scared response. We do similar activities with noisy objects such as empty soda cans in a bag, things touching their legs, and many more activities.)
Example 2: Scary sounds. Amelia was terrified of even the tiniest sounds, such as a nose sniff or a door opening. She would literally flip out, as Mary's rabbit has done. The solution involved two people and the rabbit. Person #1 sits with the rabbit in an enclosed area, calmly petting and not paying attention to Person #2. Person #2 performs the "scary" act while Person #1 remains calm and makes it clear to the rabbit using body language and petting that this is NO BIG DEAL. Over time and repeated exposure in small doses, bunny learns the situation is not scary any more. The key is for Person #1 NOT to react, stay calm, and either distract or soothe the bunny while Person #2 takes care of making the noise.
Example 3: Picking up the rabbit. Start in a small, enclosed area such as an ex-pen or a bathroom. Be sure the rabbit is comfortable with you sitting calmly in the area and can accept petting or touching before you start this. Lift the rabbit just an inch or so from the ground (in a safe, fully supported position) and put him/her down again WHEN THE RABBIT IS CALM; let the rabbit relax fully before trying again. Be calm and matter of fact. Do not talk to the rabbit other than to use a training word such as "pick up." Repeat the process, gradually lifting a bit higher each time. Do this in several sessions over a period of time.
The KEY: Rather than avoiding the scary issues altogether (unless they truly are unsafe), address them head-on, but in a gradual way that helps the rabbit understand he/she is safe. Be patient. Take your time. Break everything into small steps. Stay calm. Transmit that calm to your rabbit. Keep your voice quiet or very low.
Over time, your rabbit will learn he/she is safe, and these "scary" activities are not to be feared. Eventually, vacuum cleaners, doors slamming; human sneezes, coughs, sniffles; cleaning in the area; being picked up; etc. will be much less scary (if scary at all). Of course, a NEW and slightly different situation might cause alarm, but then you just start back at square 1 with THAT issue and work it piece by piece.
I hope this is helpful. These desensitization techniques have worked well for us and for many prey animals we've worked with.
Today's Oregonian (3/16/13 - LIVING C-1) contains two wonderful articles by Pet Talk columnist Monique Balas about the consequences of impulse purchases of baby chicks and rabbits. Please pass these along ;-)
Chicks dig commitment. Keeping baby chicks happy and healthy -- and for good -- requires diligence:http://www.oregonlive.com/pets/index.ssf/2013/03/pet_talk_prepare_to_care_for_b.html
Cute as a bunny, but complex to care for: Slightly shortened version of Pet Talk blog article http://www.oregonlive.com/pets/index.ssf/2013/03/thinking_about_adopting_a_rabb.html
Check out this news story!
Look at this wonderful link of our own BIBs!
GREAT work, Becky and Gary!!!
The Americans with Disabilities Act defines service animals as any guide animal, signal animal, or other animal who is trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability. For example, some animals are trained to pull wheelchairs, others are taught to alert to the sounds of the telephone, oven timers, alarm clocks, smoke alarms, and even a baby’s cry. Service animals are not considered pets.
Service animals and their human companions must be allowed access to buildings (including restaurants, libraries, supermarkets, and churches), transportation systems, and other public areas and services.
A therapy (or visiting) animal is a generic name given to an animal once it has been specifically evaluated and registered with one of the national organizations that operate in this capacity. Bunnies in Baskets is one of those organizations. Therapy (visiting) animals do NOT operate as specially trained assistance or service animals that open doors; turn on lights; assist the hearing or visually impaired. Therapy (visiting) animals do NOT have federally granted legal access to public transportation, airplane cabins or public buildings as is afforded to service animals. Many different types of animals participate in both AAA and AAT.
Good visiting rabbits come in any size, sex, breed or mix of breeds. They need to like people, be controllable, be trained, well mannered, and have a stable personality. The rabbit's ability to calmly accept unusual or new circumstances is one of many keys to a good visiting rabbit. Not every rabbit will like doing this activity. Rabbits should not be forced to do an activity they dislike; it creates too much stress for them.
The rabbit handler must be able to communicate with his/her rabbit in a gentle, positive manner; recognize their animal's particular signs of stress; and know how to help their rabbit(s).
Younger rabbits can begin low impact training and exposure/desensitizing at any age. Handlers can begin learning handling etiquette and techniques before their rabbit (bonded pair) is ready to begin training. A large portion of what is involved in preparing to engage in these types of activities is exposure or desensitization to a wide variety of unusual sights, sounds, smells, touches and situations. Both the animal and handler learn proper responses to situations.