Unedited Tips & Tricks
Spring is finally here! The warmer weather is long overdue, and that means that more rabbit handlers are going to want to take their training outdoors- myself included. But before we all go outside and go crazy setting up hopping and agility courses in our backyards there are a couple things every rabbit handler should be aware of. If you heaven't read my earlier posts on training outdoors in the winter, "Winter Blues", please go ahead and read through that first. Some of the tips I'll be mentioning relate to some safety things I talked about in that post.
Training outdoors is super fun, for both handler and rabbit, and it has many benefits. Working with your rabbit in big open spaces is great for helping them gain experience and help desensitize them. However there are a few things to keep in mind if you want to start taking your training practice outdoors. The first big thing is actually the fit of your harness. Some rabbits like their harnesses fitted loosely around either the neck strap or the belly strap, which can become a dangerous situation if your rabbit gets spooked by something outside and decides to freak out. Even the best, most well-trained rabbits can become frightened by something or spooked without warning (trust me it does happen). So before you take your rabbit outdoors, make sure you do a through safety check of your harness and leash. The two-finger rule is a great way to check the fit of your harness, but always use your own judgment when fitting your rabbits harness. While we are on harnesses, don't forget to double check that all snap clips, d-rings, and the harness material itself are all in working order and not damaged. The leash should not be half-chewed through where it can easily snap if your rabbit pulls suddenly or decides to chew through the rest of your leash while you're not looking. Remember your leash is your only connection to your rabbit, so if you don't have a leash you have a loose rabbit! This is most important for training outside in an open space or one without a fence, but the same holds true for training indoors and competing. Don't forget to also check your metal snap hook, sometimes smaller thinner metal hooks can actually bend and break or lose a spring overtime. If you know that your rabbit pulls a lot then consider buying a leash with a heavier metal snap hook (like this one below).
Another safety concern that many rabbit handlers overlook while working outdoors is the surface they are training on. Most of us are probably going to work in a backyard, which usually is a grassy lawn. Grass is actually a really nice and easy footing for hopping, but there are a few things you need to be aware of.
-Worms & Mites
-Lawn Food/Growing Fertilizers
Some of these things most people never think of when taking their rabbits outside, but some of these can cause real problems for both you and your rabbits (especially bees, that's a whole different story). Rabbits are very fragile and sensitive animals, and even things we often take for granted like fertilizer or pretty plants in our yards can be a death sentence for a rabbit. So before you go outside, take a walk through of the area you'd like to train in and check for these things. Preparing ahead of time can save your rabbit's life, and if you are not sure if your yard contains chemical fertilizers it might be best to not risk your rabbits safety.
One item in particular on this list tends to be something most rabbit handlers don't even think about or know is a risk. That is worms and other parasites! These little buggers can cause horrendous health problems for your rabbit, including the infamous fly strike. Not fun at all. It is hard to tell if your yard could possibly contain parasites, but the best course of action is prevention. If your yard is wet and soggy, it is likely the home of some parasites. One big tip is to make sure that you deworm your rabbits regularly with a rabbit safe dewormer and check your rabbit daily for any signs of parasites.
All of this may seem a bit much just to take your rabbit outside, but safety is important! Always use your own judgment when setting up your outdoor training empire, but most importantly have fun. Training outdoors is a lot of fun and is a great way to mix things up.
Happy Hopping and good luck at all the spring rabbit hopping & agility shows this season!
If you are interested in learning more about how to train your rabbit for rabbit hopping, stay tuned for our upcoming Online Classes, Demonstrations, and Events. Our first Online Class, Harness Training 101 is scheduled to be released this Spring 2019 season!
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