with on a regular schedule. You should never hop an overweight rabbit because this might cause physical injury to the rabbit. Rabbits are easily startled. By exposing your rabbit to different noises,
surfaces and surroundings you are teaching your rabbit to pay attention to the obstacles and not to the distractions. Your rabbit needs to learn to relax when you put him or her on the course.
The first step in training your rabbit for hopping or agility is ground work. Put the harness and
leash on the rabbit and get your rabbit use to walking around in an open area out in front of you
with the leash fully extended.
When the rabbit stops in front of you, bend over and touch the rabbit near the tail or tickle it in the
rib area. The rabbit will eventually start to move forward when it sees you approaching it from
behind. Wearing white shoes may help the rabbit to see your feet. This is what you want the rabbit
to do. It is very important to never touch the rabbit with your feet.
Rabbits do not naturally run in a straight line. To avoid predators, rabbits tend to run in a zig zag
pattern. This is where ground work comes in. When the rabbit starts to run to the left you need to
step on your left foot where the rabbit will see your feet or you may bend over and place your hand
beside the rabbit. Because of natural instincts, the rabbit will move in the opposite direction.
Practice time should be limited to 15 or 20 minutes once a day for the first week. By the
second week you can advance to 20 minute sessions twice a day.
Next, set up a series of wooden rails, PVC or boards painted white in front of you. They should be
placed horizontally approximately 6” apart in a straight line. Walk your rabbit while in the harness
and leash over the rails or boards. Walk directly behind your rabbit so you can help guide it by
slightly touching it with your hands to keep it on course.
Pick up your rabbit at the end of the course and bring it back to start again. Repeat the process. Do
not let the rabbit turn around and go back over the course during training. This teaches the rabbit
to look at the objects in front of it and to stay focused on something set in front of its path.
Practice this method daily for one week twice a day until it hops through the rails at a quick pace.
This is an important process as part of the “ground work.”
After you have been working on ground work and your rabbit understands that they need to move forward, it is time to begin working with a little added height.
Begin by setting up a short jump with the rail no more than 2” off of the surface. Once the rabbit is able to complete this, add 2 more elevated rails, each 2” off the surface so the rabbit will learn that they need to go through a series of jumps.
To teach your rabbit to go over the jump you may need to place one hand underneath the front legs
of the rabbit and the other hand under the rabbit’s bottom. Lift the rabbit forward and over the
jump bar gently letting it land on the other side. You will have to repeat this several times until the
rabbit understands that it can hop over the bars on its own.
Talk to your rabbit in training using cue words such as “over”, “hup up”, or “jump” so they will
understand you want them to jump each time.
Gradually add height to your jumps, not more than 2” per training session. Always start sessions off
with a low jump to warm-up, and always end sessions on a positive note. If the rabbit is having
trouble with the 6” height you are trying to get them to jump, before ending the session reduce the
height to 4” and let them complete the jump successfully.
When the rabbit has learned how to hop up to 8 jumps at 2”, 4” and 6” intervals in a straight line,
you can then set up a few higher jumps. Never exceed 2” at a time when you raise the bar to the
Training sessions at least twice a week must be maintained for the rabbit to remember what they
have learned. Always listen to the rabbit’s body language. If they lay down on the course it means
they are tired and need to rest. Make the training different each time by placing the jumps in a
different location to get the rabbit used to all types of surroundings.
Safety is the first step to having a fun hopping experience for you and your rabbit. Always train in a
safe environment away from dogs, cats or other animals that may harm your rabbit. Unless you are
in a totally fenced area, keep your rabbit on a leash at all times.