How to teach a rabbit to wear a harness and leash

Many rabbit companions enjoy going outside! But it’s important to make sure they do so in a way that keeps them safe. Training a rabbit to accept a harness and a leash is a great way to allow them to safely explore the outdoors. Read our tips for help on how to teach a rabbit to wear a harness and leash. 

Training steps 

Select a lightweight body harness with a band that goes around the rabbit’s neck and a band that goes around the rabbit’s chest/torso. Never use a collar, since a rabbit can easily slip out of one or become injured. Also, select a lightweight leash (6 ft or more). 
Start by kneeling on the floor beside them; see if they will come to you and offer a treat.  
When they are comfortable, gently pick up the rabbit, holding them gently and keeping their body close to yours.  Gently wrapping them in a towel may help make the rabbit feel safer while you hold them.  
Speak gently and soothingly to the rabbit as you slowly ease the harness onto them. Offer the rabbit treats while they are getting used to the harness to make the experience positive and rewarding. 
If the rabbit is reluctant about wearing the harness, try again slowly later in the day or the next day, offering extra treats and positive reinforcement. Never force a scared rabbit; be patient as it may take time.  
Once the rabbit is used to wearing a harness inside, attach the leash, toss treats and let the rabbit drag the leash along behind them until they get used to the feel of light resistance on the harness. 
When the rabbit is at ease with the feel of the harness and leash, take hold of the loop end. 
Walk inside for several days before venturing outside, providing lots of rewards. If the rabbit has never been outside, get them used to it by putting their cage outside in a pet-safe area. Ensure it is located in the shade and out of the elements. 
To coax the rabbit to walk along with you, offer them special treats. Place a treat on the ground a few feet in front of the rabbit; when they get to that treat, repeat the process. 

Important notes 

Even the most confident bunny may panic if suddenly aware of open space, the constraint of the harness, and the approach of an unknown animal. When walking your rabbit, it is best to stay within low traffic areas, and away from dogs. Take a towel with you to wrap the rabbit if they panic. 

If the rabbit doesn’t take very well to walking on a lead, but enjoys the outdoors, there are other options. These can include a variety of outdoor playpens that provide room to explore and investigate in a safe, escape-free environment. 

Happy training! 

The post How to teach a rabbit to wear a harness and leash appeared first on Ontario SPCA and Humane Society.

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