Handling Dougal- Any ideas

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Handling Dougal- Any ideas

Post by BugsBunny on Tue Jul 02, 2013 3:33 pm

Hi everyone,

Sorry I have been off for 3 or 4 days, been very busy, spending a lot of time with our baby Dougal too.

At the moment I am trying to desensitize Dougal as he really does not like his tum or chest being messed with, he lets me put my hands under and rub/tickle  his belly when he is stood up and eating hay etc but I cannot get him to let me do it when he is lead down, he hides his belly and his chest he does not like me touching at all. I also have a problem looking at his ears. I do not know why as he is a big humums softy boy, he lies next to me and has nose rubs on his twitchy bit of nose, he loves that, lets me stroke him on back and head etc and I can lean over him, stand over him , anything but he still will not allow me to pick him up. I know this is a slow process but it is the most difficult hurdle with him for me. I have tried just lifting a bit to start with , his front end up but he just jumps away and tried the training to jump onto the knee and this does not work, he does not like like being on knees, he is happy with 2 paws on but that is his limit.

I am just trying to find out if there is anything else I can try  apart from keep putting my hands as if I am going to pick him up and keep doing that for a while. I am fine doing this and will do it for as long as it takes, I am just getting worried as I cannot do all the health check I need to and worried as he gets older he will not allow me to do this at all. It is such shame as he really is a good boy for his age, for a baby rabbit, he does not spray pee everywhere or destroy anything, just wallpaper now and again but rarely and he is just brilliant for his age and a big softy. When he sees me go passed the gate he bolts to it and sits at it waiting for me to come in. He does this all day, he bounds over to me and does binkies and runs around and puts his back right to me to stroke him or guides my hand to his twitchy little nose. You would not believe he is the same rabbit when being handled, well trying to handle.

If anybody has any suggestions I would much appreciate it as apart from we could not have got a more well behaved, adorable baby rabbit. He is very much a humums boy and makes me smile every time he sits waiting for me. My cousin was well impressed and loved the fact that he is like this with me, she witnessed him looking the saddest rabbit ever at me when we left his room on friday.
Love Love Love
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Re: Handling Dougal- Any ideas

Post by gentl on Tue Jul 02, 2013 6:28 pm

You are able to do much more with your Dougal than we can with our Rory. Our 11 yr old granddaughter has been visiting for almost 3 weeks and he trusts her a lot more than he does us. Of course she can get down on the floor with him and crawl/hop around. She's taught him several tricks as well.

It's almost impossible to do health checks on him. He gets SO scared when we attempt to pick him up. He's afraid of hands and having his sides touched. I've read that many bunnies are ticklish on their ribs but he looks afraid. His previous home wasn't a good one and he is terrified of hands.

I wish you luck with Dougal!
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Re: Handling Dougal- Any ideas

Post by FluffSlave on Tue Jul 02, 2013 6:50 pm

I think some bunnies will never be handled, my Willow being one of them.

Rabbits rarely enjoy being picked up/restrained and it's very much on their terms. I think this is a universal bun thing, and not Dougal himself Thumbs Up

I get by just fine without ever handling Willow. If I tried to pick her up it would just result in huge stress for both of us and potentially injuries. He sounds a lot like her in that he is very friendly, and this is how I do my health checks with Willow. She's quite happy to have her face stroked, this is how I check her teeth. She will periscope up for me with a treat, this is how I check she's not wet/sticky underneath. You get the gist. Just think of ways to work around it, rather than try and handle him.

In cases where you need to go for a vet trip or whatever, I lure Willow into the carrier. With Mojo he is smaller and so whilst it's not pleasant for either of us, it is a case of grab and bundle him in. It's only once in a while and much less stressful than trying to herd him in whilst Willow escapes again. Either would probably be an option with a bunny Dougal's size Very Happy

I hope this helps. Don't worry too much Hugs
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Re: Handling Dougal- Any ideas

Post by cheryl'n'bruce'flo on Tue Jul 02, 2013 6:51 pm

Flo will not do touching let alone co-operate with being picked up. Even Bruce who is laid back objects to anything up! Rabbits just don't like to be picked up. What I suggest you need to do is be firm. It is not as if you need to develop the relationship with him - he comes to you and is not scared of you. Flo is a bit like this. Open the crunchie tub and she is right up in your face, she is clearly not scared of me, but she doesn't want contact. What Flo and I have worked out is there are places she will go which she feels more comfortable to be picked up from. If I approach her with an obvious intention to pick her up she goes either to the litter tray or under the maze on the table and she will grudgingly allow me to pick her up from there. You also need to be confident, firm and relatively swift.

Dougal is clearly not scared of you so when you put your hand under him slowly he is reacting by simply moving away - victory to Dougal. Quickly put one hand behind front legs and the other under his bum and scoop him up. Hold him firmly to your body. Give him a stroke or 2 then put him down. Then give him a treat. He may never be happy about this but he will learn to cope with it.


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Re: Handling Dougal- Any ideas

Post by Sparky on Tue Jul 02, 2013 8:27 pm

You haven't met Dougal, Cheryl Laughing 

Even those of ours who hate being picked up (Cindy springs to mind) can be controlled and eventually get the idea that you are getting hold of them long enough to do nails etc. and will tolerate it. Max has his moments where he is going to squirm free no matter what even if it means going over your shoulder, and Humum has to do the drop to the floor and get him to a safe height thing Laughing 

Dougal is something else entirely. You can't even get a hand round under him long enough to start to get a grip for actually lifting, and if you do manage to start a lift he'll just go loopy and wants to get away so badly he'd be willing to hurt himself in the process.

I'd be inclined to take a completely different approach and try treat-training him. I would try to get him to hop up onto a low stool or box to be fed his absolute favourite treat, something he will never turn down. I would not leave the hop-up item in his room, but take it in every day at the same time and when he hops up onto it he gets the treat. Once that is firmly reinforced I would try to introduce another activity, starting with something he does like then slowly introducing those things he is less keen on. So it starts off: stool, hop up, treat (then the stool is taken away each time). Then stool, hop-up, noserub, treat. You want to create an association of a chain of events that always ends up with his most favourite treat (and reserve that treat for the training, he can never have one at any other time). Over a very long period of time you might be able to get him to: stool, hop up, noserub, hands round tummy but not lifting, treat. As with any training it needs to be very slow and if a step 'fails' go back to the previous one for several days and always end on a positive note.

I think part of the difficulty is that it is *his* room, he has plenty of places to hide and he gets to set the agenda. That's why I suggest a stool or box - it is something alien to his room and when he sees it coming he knows what the next steps should be. If you can train him that at a certain time a sequence of events happens that ends with a very positive note, he might learn to accept the sequence that comes before the bit he loves.
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Re: Handling Dougal- Any ideas

Post by BugsBunny on Tue Jul 02, 2013 8:48 pm

All good suggestions.

Dougal does sounds a lot like Willow indeed. He may never want to be picked up but I can carry on desensitizing him and keep working on it very slowly. The only reason I want to be able to handle him and only when i need to is for when he is outside in the run, getting him back in, I can trick him into his carrier but only once in a day as he knows if he goes back then he gets carried back to his room in it, he loves being back in his safe haven but does not like being in the box. At the moment tricking him into the box with treats works but I do not know how long for so need to handle him for the vets to get him in for appointments if needed and it makes it easier for the vet too. He may never let me or get used to it like Willow though but I will try and see and I will use your ways of checking him out for now Fluff slave , thanks for the tips.

Amanda is right, and I know that you thought I was probably being a first time soft rabbit owner as most people would but then you quickly got to see that it is not just me and he absolutely is terrified of handling and belly being touched mostly. I can put my hands under a lot more now but not when he is lead down he then hides his belly if I start to tickle it or anything and his feet too. He came from a good breeder as far as I could tell and all hers where tame and obviously got handled. Maybe when people have been to look at them they have picked him up wrong and maybe he is just that way inclined with being a bunny and not being natural. He did have a big bald patch on back of his neck when we got him too so maybe he got bullied with his siblings and that has not helped, no idea.

I will try what you said Amanda too, me and my mum where at tesco direct outlet other night and next door was a furniture store, too expensive just for bunny furniture but there where some small stools and I said to my mum, Dougal would love that in his room as he loves my plastic one but it is too high for him and he always sits under it when I bring it in and runs around it. I will keep an eye out for 1 like I saw yesterday and try that then and also do what i am doing now, I am already using treats and stuff to help and let him know it is a good thing when he lets me put my hands under him and stays etc, I will try that though with the stool sounds good and he would love it.

Laughing Laughing  Nope, you are right he definitely is not scared of me, he puts his nose to mine and follows me around and I almost stand on him as he is at my feet a lot. He also bounds up to the gate for me and I have to climb over as most time he is too excited to move away and wants me in so he just stretches up to me and then goes under my feet as i try to step down into the room, I do tell him it is not good as he will get squished but he does not care Laughing , so I have to be very careful. He plays binkg boo, hide and seek, chasey, I pretend to get him and have my arms on floor around him loosley so he can escapse me and we play a game, I do that and go oh where ya gonna go now and he goes under my rams or jumps over and runs back at me. He is very funny and very playful.
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Re: Handling Dougal- Any ideas

Post by FluffSlave on Tue Jul 02, 2013 8:53 pm

Sparky wrote:Dougal is something else entirely. You can't even get a hand round under him long enough to start to get a grip for actually lifting, and if you do manage to start a lift he'll just go loopy and wants to get away so badly he'd be willing to hurt himself in the process.

This sounds just like Willow. Now imagine two of Dougal doing this and you can see how it could never work Laughing
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Re: Handling Dougal- Any ideas

Post by BugsBunny on Tue Jul 02, 2013 8:56 pm

That would be hard work, 2 times the cuteness and awesomeness but 2 times the fussy with meds and handling situation Laughing , what other tricks do you use with them like getting them inside from being out etc?
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Re: Handling Dougal- Any ideas

Post by cheryl'n'bruce'flo on Tue Jul 02, 2013 9:10 pm

You could try using massage to chill him a bit. There is a book called the relaxed rabbit that will guide you in massage and may help you desensitize him a bit.


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Re: Handling Dougal- Any ideas

Post by BugsBunny on Tue Jul 02, 2013 9:24 pm

Thanks, will grab that when got some money spare. Sounds like a great book. Very Happy 



Last edited by NickieM on Tue Jul 02, 2013 10:26 pm; edited 2 times in total (Reason for editing : admin removed a video link)
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Re: Handling Dougal- Any ideas

Post by cheryl'n'bruce'flo on Tue Jul 02, 2013 9:31 pm

OMG I do not like that video at all!


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Re: Handling Dougal- Any ideas

Post by BugsBunny on Tue Jul 02, 2013 9:41 pm

Nope, I thought it was a bit strange when I watched it through , thought it would show you properly how to calm them, the 1 with the food is not very helpful, at a glance I thought it would be helpful but it is not at all. Plus can you imagine trying to get them to stay still, would never work.
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Re: Handling Dougal- Any ideas

Post by NickieM on Tue Jul 02, 2013 10:23 pm

I actually think videos like that can be really dangerous. The lady has obviously done the massage with her incredibly compliant rabbit many times. I would be concerned about someone trying that out with their rabbit and injuring it. A rabbit with a good active lifestyle and lots of opportunity to do natural rabbity things doesn't need massage. I hope you don't mind but I would like to remove the link as I don't want to publicise this video in case someone hurts their pet.

Rabbits instinctively, like most animals, dislike have their belly touched because it is a vulnerable area. They also equate being lifted or restrained with being grabbed by a predator.

I think you are worrying too much about health checks. You are running the risk of making yourself and Dougal miserable and damaging your bond. Try to relax and enjoy your wonderful bunny. Some of Sparky' s tips to help desensitise are really helpful.


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Re: Handling Dougal- Any ideas

Post by cheryl'n'bruce'flo on Tue Jul 02, 2013 10:32 pm

I agree completely with Nickie. Also I would add that the techniques I have developed with Flo around her having safe places etc have been worked out between us over the last 6 years. She was a nightmare when she was younger. Buns do mellow a bit with age.


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Re: Handling Dougal- Any ideas

Post by FluffSlave on Tue Jul 02, 2013 11:06 pm

BugsBunny wrote:That would be hard work, 2 times the cuteness and awesomeness but 2 times the fussy with meds and handling situation Laughing , what other tricks do you use with them like getting them inside from being out etc?

She's just such a big bunny that she's too powerful for me to restrain. When Mojo scrambles I can keep hold of him until he calms down, but I'd never keep hold of Willow.

I tend to herd Willow in and out via the back step from/to the room when they go out Laughing, Mo gets carried.
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Re: Handling Dougal- Any ideas

Post by BugsBunny on Tue Jul 02, 2013 11:24 pm

Do not worry I will not be dong the massage with Dougal and he is happy and fine, I do not pester him too much and let him have his fun and run around, he comes to me 9 times out of 10 and lets me know when he wants attention and to play etc, he is a very happy baby rabbit. he does a lot of binky dances and running about and he lies with his feet out to the side or stretched behind him all the time. He is healthy as far as I know apart from his eye, the vet when I took him in the first time liked his skin and fur and said he was a perfect weight and teeth are great too. He has a lot of attention, love, thinkgs to do from keep him from getting border and a good quality hay, he has been a good hay eater from getting him and took to the western timothy really well. He likes it green, he is not keen on hays that have brown in. I definately will never over power him etc or constantly keep checking him. The only reason I wanted to check his ears for was because I knew he had something wrong with it and I was right, it turned out to be mites in 1 of them.

I laugh at a lot of things on the net to do with rabbits and especially vids like that, not in a cruel way it is because when I watched it through as I had not watched it when I posted it, I just thought it was a normal helpful vid I did not realise so I apologise, but I laughed at how stupid it was and how non helpful/ informative the 1 on the food was too. I much prefer books and this forum who know what they are talking about tbh. II know Dougal would not like what she did at all. I would much rather build it up slowly with him as our bond is very strong, I was just with him then and came out and he ran after me, he loves me being there and he has asked for nose rubs, stroking, he just had a brush too and he where nudging me for more nose rubs. I wont let anything spoil that, that is why I have not just scooped him up and I will not allow anyone else to either. He is only a baby so for his age he is fantastic and so well behaved.
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Re: Handling Dougal- Any ideas

Post by NickieM on Wed Jul 03, 2013 12:18 am

Check out the articles and videos on handling in our Rabbit Care section. They feature Anne McBride who is a noted rabbit behavioural expert and were made by a member of the forum and feature his lovely bunny Stewie.


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Re: Handling Dougal- Any ideas

Post by BugsBunny on Wed Jul 03, 2013 7:59 pm

Ye I have watched those and love them but cannot get Dougal to do the knee thing so will have to approach it a bit differently but they are very helpful and brilliant vids.
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