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House Rabbit Clicker Training: Step-by-Step

clicker train your rabbit, yes you can

With special thanks to Wolf, Dr. A.G. Bradbury, DVM; Joan Orr; and Teresa Lewin.

Hello again! Our first blog on house rabbit clicker training explained why it’s so beneficial for you and your bun. Today, we’re going to walk you through all the steps for successful training sessions. Also, we’ll explain the reasoning behind the actions. Are you ready???

Let's go graphic


We are almost ready to start the first house rabbit clicker training session. But, before we grab our ballpoint pen and start training and rewarding, let's take a breath.

Getting into the proper frame of mind is absolutely key to successful training. We've got to consider how rabbits think and make sure our own heads are clear and calm.

Dr. Bradbury gives us some things to keep in mind: 

Prep Rewards

You won't need special equipment, but you need to prepare about 15 tiny high-value treats as rewards.

What is a high-value treat? Get a plate and put a variety of your rabbit's foods on there. Greens, herbs, bits of bark, flower petals...whatever you think your rabbit loves. Now watch and see what she eats first. Did the red clover disappear in seconds? Whatever your rabbit chose to gobble up first, THAT is your high-value treat. If you use pelleted food as a treat, deduct that pellet quantity from their daily amount; we don't want to overfeed pellets. You may want to take a look at our herbal blends or oat tops as rewards. 

Training goes faster, and the urge to get the reward is more potent when the treat is tiny. So, make sure you've got itty bitty little pieces as rewards.

Recommended High Value Rewards

Get Ballpoint Pens

Again, rabbits don't respond well to clickers used for dogs and horses. Therefore, you'll need ballpoint pens to use as a clicker.

Mindset and Training Plan

  • Take some deep breaths. Are you feeling calm and patient?
  • What are you going to work on today? Know precisely what you want to ask for before you ask! Picture it in your head. Do you want your rabbit to come to the door of her ex-pen? Do you want her to come running to you when you call from another room? Do you want him to stand on his back legs? Picture each thing specifically and decide when the request is a success. This will help you focus on the exact right time to click when the moment comes.
  • Keep your daily sessions short. In the beginning, a five-minute training session is suitable and remember you want to end with success!

Prepping the Environment

Phone turned off? TV off? Other animals in a different area? Great. You're ready. 


First Training Session

To make sure House Rabbit Clicker Training gets off to a smooth start, we've got a few basic activities for you to do with your lovable lagomorph.

Practice Rewarding

You and your bun are going to hate this step! Just kidding!! Before starting house rabbit clicker training, you need to get your rabbit used to taking rewards from your hand. For a few days, seize a good moment with your rabbit and offer a high-value reward from your hand. Maybe Muppet is resting so sweetly beside you while you work, or maybe Flopster just flopped. Take a tiny bit of something in the tips of your fingers and offer it to your bun. 

Introducing the Clicker

Go to your rabbit, sit in front of him, and start clicking and rewarding. Click, immediate reward. Click, immediate reward. The only thing your rabbit needs to do is stay there with you and not move away.

If your rabbit seems upset by the click, maybe choose a softer clicker. If your rabbit looks away when you click but doesn't run away, start by moving your hand to where her face is pointing. Then reward your sweet girl. She should stop turning away once she figures out there is a reward involved!

Check the whole situation if your rabbit is still turning away from you or is just generally not cooperating. Is there disturbing noise coming from outside? Are you in a place she feels secure (perhaps move off the slippery kitchen floor onto a carpet)? Is she feeling OK? You might be feeling some stress from attempting this new program. Did you take those deep breaths before the session? Take a few now. Relax, and try again. 

Foil #2 balloon

Second Training Session

First off, start out with about five rounds of click-and-treat. Just like before, but fewer repetitions. 

Now pick something your rabbit already does naturally. For example, try changing your location and waiting for your rabbit to come up to you. You want an obvious idea of what "coming up to you" means. Does your rabbit often come up and touch you with his nose? Then that touch can be the goal. AS SOON AS HIS NOSE TOUCHES YOU, click. Reward quickly (reward times can get longer later, but for now, keep it quick). Change your location, repeat. In the coming days, try it from a standing position or from the couch!

Guess what? You are on your way to mastering house rabbit clicker training!

Teaching any Trick

The following step-by-step instructions employ the same basic approach. Once you are comfortable with it, you can follow this approach to teach any trick you like. The basic steps (which may require several training sessions to accomplish) are:

  1. Establish the behavior so that the pet is doing it without using any cues. Then, try various approaches to get the pet to do the movement you have in mind. You can also include luring with food, using the target, or setting up the environment so that the behavior is likely to happen.
  2. C/T (click/treat) when the pet moves in a way that is the behavior you want or is a behavior that is a beginning to the behavior you want. Here is an excellent example of click timing from Sarah Owings.
  3. Raise the criteria for a C/T as the pet gets closer to the desired end result.
  4. Once the pet is doing the action you repeatedly want, i.e., once the behavior is established, give a verbal cue and/or a hand signal WHILE the pet is doing the behavior. C/T for good performance.
  5. After a few trials, give the verbal cue or hand signal BEFORE the pet does the behavior. C/T for good performance.
  6. When the pet seems to be performing reliably, reserve the C/T only for correct performance that occurs after you give the cue. Don't C/T if the pet performs spontaneously trying to get a response from you when you have not cued the behavior.
Toy rabbit studying a book

Example: How to Train Your Rabbit to Come When Called

If your rabbit hears a click then gets a treat every time she comes to you at the ex-pen door, she'll quickly learn that coming to the door means a click and that the click means a treat. She'll start to come up to you on her own to get the click. Eventually, verbal cues can be added in, and fancier behaviors can be learned. However, in "Clicking with your Rabbit," Joan and Teresa mentioned, "…perhaps you are trying to teach your bunny to come to the door of the cage. She has done so, but by the time you open the door to give the food reward, the bunny is frustrated and started chewing on the door. You give the treat because the bunny came to the door, but she associates the reward with chewing on the door. You may have inadvertently taught your rabbit to chew on his cage door to get a treat. Use the clicker to instantly "mark" the appropriate behavior of coming to the door. He will learn that the correct behavior is to come to the door of the cage. You will be amazed by how smart your bunny is! All she needs is to be able to communicate effectively with you and with her. The clicker makes this possible."

We're all ears graphic

Aaaaand that's how you teach your house rabbit clicker training! Please let us know if it worked for you by emailing or commenting on our socials. Keep your eyeballs peeled for the final house rabbit clicker training blog on Advanced Training.

DISCLAIMER: The links and information are being provided as a convenience and for informational purposes only; they do not constitute an endorsement or an approval by Small Pet Select of any of the products, services or opinions of the corporation or organization or individual.

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