When you watch a rabbit in a comfortable environment and there are no distractions, what will you see them do? Sleep, sniff standing up on their back feet, nibble on things or rub their chin to mark their scent. Their ears will pivot and sometimes they freeze when the dogs bark. I can spend a lot of time simply watching their natural explorations. We do try to make it more interesting by adding tunnels, boxes, balls, and jumps to play yards. We add hiding places, bells, hard plastic toys, cardboard tubes, boxes, etc. to their cages.
As I watch my rabbits in a play yard, I have many questions about their actions. What are they thinking? Do they get bored? Why do they change direction when they are hopping? Did something catch their attention to make them turn left, right or reverse course? Is there a plan in their mind as they move about? Based on my own questions, I have wondered what the rabbit owner can do to encourage curiosity and playfulness? Logic toys!
The videos included in this article were my inspiration for trying logic toys, http://bunnyapproved.com/bunny-logic-101/. The title of the article is Bunnies are Smart! I would agree. Rabbits have shown me that they associate the pleasant smell of banana treats and cilantro with my morning greetings. They meet me at the door literally bouncing as they wait for their turn to get the delicious smelling goodie. I have seen disapproval on Juliette’s face if I hand over the treat to another doe before her. She likes to be first.
We had one new buck still in quarantine with some ear mites. I know he is smart because even though we are still developing a relationship with him, he demonstrates patience with us during his treatments. He KNOWS we are helping him.
To be honest, some of the intelligent actions of our rabbits are instinctive. For example, when Bunny Girl is displeased that one (or more) of her kits are literally sitting in the feed hopper and she can’t get her pellets, she wags her tail in displeasure, but makes no attempt to push the kits out of the way. She is an instinctively good mother.
What we know is that the training sessions with the clicker or our jumps need to be in short sessions like 5 minutes. I have found that the logic toys can be used in longer time frames because the rabbit may not initially engage with the wooden box for example. Once the rabbit zones in on it, then you have their interest. Some people like to train with just the normal pelleted food as a reward. I think that they use the sense of smell more than we realize (the banana and cilantro smell mentioned above). I prefer to use dried fruit or cilantro or mint to appeal to their sense of smell.
Another hint mentioned in the Bunnies are Smart! Article is to mount the logic toys to a heavier board so they don’t tip over or scoot away from the rabbit. A few of the wooden logic toys we purchased are lightweight so that is a great idea.
This link gives pros and cons to several logic toys for rabbits: http://bunnyapproved.com/bunny-logic-101/.
Take time to watch your rabbits! Make plans to further engage them. Make the play sessions fun and different. Build that bunny brain!