Rabbits need lots of exercise. They love to run around inside or outside. I suggest you find ways to exercise your rabbit. In fact, I get asked my people all the time if their rabbit can wear a harness and walked on a leash. So, can rabbits wear a harness?
Why Is Exercise Important For My Rabbit?
Most rabbits owners understand their pet needs a large cage for moving around, eating and drinking. But rabbits need more than that. They need a good amount of daily exercise. Exercise helps your rabbit stay healthy and happy. A lack of exercise can cause various health issues for your rabbit, such as
If your rabbit isn’t exercising, she’s at risk for gastro-intestinal infections or a deadly illness called GI Stasis. This is a deadly condition that causes a rabbit’s digestive system to slow down or stop all together. Bacteria builds up in the rabbit’s intestines releasing toxins into her digestive system and eventually causes organ damage.
Lack of exercise causes your rabbit to become overweight. She can also develop health issues such as a urinary tract disease or bladder problems that can lead to bladder stones.
Rabbits get bored when they aren’t active enough. This leads to over grooming, destructive chewing or digging or overeating. Daily exercise reduces boredom, keeping your bunny happy and content.
How Do I Exercise My Rabbit?
Your rabbit needs daily play and exercise. Here are several ways you can give your rabbit plenty of exercise.
Indoor play-If your rabbit lives indoors, allow her to run around the house for exercise. Be sure to supervise her though, rabbits are curious and can get into trouble if left alone.
Outdoor play-Give your rabbit time to run around outside in a play area you’ve created or just around the yard. Always stay with your rabbit when she’s outside in case she tries to nibble on a dangerous plant or a predator sneaks into your yard.
Digging box-Build a digging box for your rabbit to dig to her heart’s content. Fill the box with safe materials for your rabbit such as shredded paper (like you get in gift bags), straw, twigs, pine cones or hay. Never fill the digging box with dirt, sand, foam packing materials, newspapers or magazines.
Walk on a leash-Rabbits love to run around, but your rabbit may enjoy walking on a leash. Not all rabbits can be leash trained. If your rabbit has a calm personality and adjusts well to new experiences, she will probably be fine. But if your rabbit gets scared easily or dislikes change, she won’t enjoy leash walking. You know your rabbit s personality best, so don’t force her into leash walking.
What Type Of Harness Is Best For A Rabbit?
If you think your rabbit has the right temperament for walking on a leash, be sure to buy the correct harness. Many rabbit owners prefer an H-style harness (it looks like an H when you lay it flat) which is very safe for your rabbit. Never choose a harness that could hurt your rabbit’s neck. Rabbit owners say a harness that wraps around your rabbit’s body is safest. That way, if she bolts, the wrap stays put and doesn’t pull on one part of her body like her neck.
Can I Use A Collar Instead Of A Harness On My Rabbit?
Collars are not recommended for rabbits. They can slip out of a collar easily. Plus, if your rabbit runs, the collar will pull on her throat causing injury to your rabbit. Harness are more secure and less dangerous. There are many harnesses on the market just for rabbits. Choose a well made harness for your rabbit’s safety.
How Do I Train My Rabbit To Wear A Harness?
Leash walking a rabbit isn’t like walking a dog. When you leash walk your rabbit, it means you follow behind the rabbit as she hops and explores the surrounding areas.
Allow your rabbit to inspect and smell the harness before you put it on her. For some rabbits, the harness feels like being trapped by a predator. Move slowly and gently as you put the harness over your rabbit. If the harness is too loose, your rabbit could escape, if it’s too snug, she could get hurt. The harness should be tight, but you should be able to put a finger or two between the straps and your rabbit’s body. If your rabbit is fluffy, the harness may look too tight, but use the finger test to decide if the fit is correct. The first couple of times you try to put on the harness, your rabbit might not like it. Be patient, she’ll eventually get the idea that the harness means exploring and fun.
How Do I Train A Bunny To Walk On A Leash?
Teaching your rabbit to walk on a leash can take time. Be patient during the process. Have some rewards handy for your rabbit like parsley or a bit of fruit when your she does well. Give her lots of praise, too. Here are some steps to train your rabbit to walk on a leash.
- If your rabbit is new to your household, don’t begin leash training. You must earn your bunny’s trust to take her out on a leash. Once there is a good bond between you and your rabbit, she’ll trust you enough to let you train her something new.
- Let her smell the harness and touch it. Give her a treat as she does this. This will make her feel like the harness is a good thing.
- Lay the harness over your rabbit’s back for a few seconds and give her a treat. Then let it remain there a bit longer. Always give her a treat while the harness is on her back. If she stresses out, stop and try again later.
- Slip the harness on her without buckling it. Let her walk around. Give her a treat. If she stresses out, remove the harness then try again later. If she gets agitated and upset, she may not have the right personality for leash walking. Don’t pressure her.
- Put the harness on and buckle it this time. Watch her, if she gets upset, remove the harness. If she’s okay with it, give her a treat. Leave the harness on for several minutes. Is she’s fine, take it off. Then put it back on in five or ten minutes for an extended time. Keep taking it off and putting it back on for a longer time. If your rabbit acts completely fine with the harness eating and running around, you can continue to put it on her for longer periods of time throughout the day.
- Once your rabbit is happy in her harness, attach the leash and give it a gentle pull so she can feel it. If she doesn’t mind, you can try walking her around your inside your house. After two days of inside walking, you can take her outside to the backyard. Be sure the harness is secure and be sure to keep her away from trees or bushes where the leash could get caught or tangled.
- Never tie your rabbit’s leash to a stake or fence. This is dangerous because your rabbit could get caught in the leash and injured. Plus, a predator could sneak up and attack her.
- Never let your rabbit run around outside or inside with a dangling leash. She could catch her leash and get injured.