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I would like to be able to leash train my rabbit so its easier to travel with her, and to take her out to parks and such (under careful supervision).

I've seen footage of rabbits in showjumping events on leashes so I know its possible, but haven't the first idea where to start.

How can I get a rabbit used to wearing and travelling on a leash, while minimising the risk of them chewing on the leash?

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To get a rabbit to use a leash, the first thing to do is select the right leash for this type of pet. Depending on the type of rabbit, the animal may be more fragile than a typical cat or a dog. Rabbits, being prey animals, are also more likely to panic and try to run away. Therefore, to protect the rabbit from injuring itself, a harness would be best.

When selecting a harness, make sure the straps around the front legs and chest can be tightened enough to where the animal doesn't get her foot caught in the harness, which can lead to her slipping out of the leash. For the European rabbit my brother found, a harness intended for a small poodle was almost sufficient, but we had to watch the rabbit to make sure he didn't slip the leash.

Get the rabbit used to being in the harness by taking her outside in the yard, but only a short distance and for a short amount of time. She may behave differently than indoors. You may notice she'll be more alert and aware of her surroundings or sit perfectly still for periods of time. Unlike a dog, the rabbit may not seem as adventurous at first.

Also, be aware of your movements. Some rabbits have poor vision and rely on shapes or silhouettes. See this What do Rabbits See? for more details. For instance, I was outside with the rabbit on a leash one day, sitting on the front porch as he watched me oddly. As I stood up, he suddenly bolted to the end of the harness and continued to try to run away once he reached the end of the leash. I had to pick him up and take him inside to let him go hide. He'd had enough of the great outdoors for the day.

As with any animal training, a lot of it is about just getting used to something. The more time your rabbit spends outdoors on a leash, the more comfortable and relaxed she'll become. Just remember to take it slow at first, and be on the lookout for dogs and cats! If your rabbit does get spooked, WikiHow has some advice on How to Calm a Rabbit.

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    +1 for the harness, though this is also true when using a leash on cats. – John Cavan Oct 15 '13 at 4:10
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Bunnies leash train very easily. The two primary concerns are choice of a harness and a leash.

For the harness choose one that is soft, and can be attached snugly. I personally prefer the Comfort Harness by Super Pet. It is soft, pliable and mesh so it breathes well. It comes with Velcro straps and buckles. Personally, I cut the buckles off and just use the Velcro. In bunny to bunny language, attempts to work your way under the other bunny is dominance behavior (you will groom me!) so the less time you spend under the bunny the less you will disturb them.

For a leash, I prefer a retractable leash of 10 to 20 feet. The small ones are fine, but it is important that end closest to the bunny is wide enough to get bit and not break. The first leash I used had a narrow nylon cord and lasted about 3 minutes.

I volunteer at the WPHS and often take bunnies to off-site events on harness and leash (always an attention getter). In my experience, 9 out 10 bunnies will adjust to it immediately. However, proper balance of environment, bunny comfort level and handler experience is critical in all situations.

Two Key points

The largest hurdle is getting the harness securely without upsetting your bunny. You have to fasten under their neck, and this is a bunny's least favorite place to be handled. Once it is on, you're fine. Some may try to chew at it, but most will ignore it once it is in place.

Second, once the bunny is on the leash and harness, keep your eye on the bunny and stay behind the bunny. A bunny is narrower in the front, and if he pulls backwards against harness he will get loose. The leash is to keep you attached to the bunny, you can prevent him from going under things (like chairs & tables), and generally just follow him around.

When going out

Do not let the leash and harness give you too much confidence. Both you and your bunny need to learn and adjust to then new processes. Go slow; let your bunny become accustom to new things slowly.

When going outside for the first time. Use an excercise pen (without a leash) to allow the rabbit to become accustom to it. Many house rabbits have never been outside in thier entire life, it is a big scary place out there, it takes time to addjust. Some rabbits may never be appropriate on a leash outside, after 3 years one of ours is still only allowed outside in an exercise pen.

If the bunny becomes fearful, begins to struggle in the harness, or becomes tangled, address the situation immediately. Thing can go from fun to bad in one second or less.

A bunny on leash requires your constant attention.

The pictures below show two different rabbits in super pet harness, at different off site events. The dark bunny was a Rabbit Wrangler Bunny at an event this spring he has since been adopted. The White bunny with black spots is Ruby at an event on October 20, 2013. (She was adopted on November 29, 2013 but several others remain available for adoption.)

Brown rabbit on leash Brown rabbit on leash White rabbit with black spots on leash White rabbit with black spots on leash

Related considerations

If you take your rabbit outside they will be exposed to fleas and other parasites, proper prevention is required, see How do I get rid of fleas on my rabbit?

Rabbits don't actually "walk" anyplace when you have them on a leash. If you set them on ground in a safe place with grass to eat, they sit there and eat grass. If you set them on the ground in an unsafe place (i.e. the side of the road you want to walk on) they will look for a safe place and hide there. The prefer shade to full sun. They prefer being undercover to being in the open. In the open your rabbit is at risk from birds of prey, even if she is on a leash next to you and other preditors.

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Rabbits have such strong back legs, relative to their body mass, that they can literally break their own spine if they are restrained while kicking violently. This has been known to happen while a rabbit is on a leash. A rabbit is so easily startled that any sound can scare them, causing them to bolt and then be jerked backward once they reach the end of the leash, snapping their backbones. The House Rabbit Society has a video of this on their website, and other entries about it also you can find numerous other sites that warn against walking a rabbit on a leash. It is dangerous.

  • I edited your questions to include reference from your listed source, if you don't find these edits helpful you are welcome to revert them. – James Jenkins Oct 30 '16 at 10:02
  • Thank you for posting this, I didn't realize how badly my answer overlooked safety and other considerations. Taking a rabbit outside on leash or other wise should not be undertaken lightly. – James Jenkins Oct 30 '16 at 10:34

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