Being able to take your rabbit on a nice walk as if it were a dog is the absolute dream. Think of the adventures you could have together. Think of all the tasty greens your fluffy friend could nibble on along the way!
Every bunny owner has wondered if such a life is possible at one point or another, which inevitably leads us to ponder whether it would even be safe for a rabbit to wear a collar or harness.
You never see them wearing anything but their furry birthday suit, but is that just because nobody’s given it a go yet, or is it down to some sort of health and safety concern? That’s exactly what I endeavored to find out.
I know we’re all busy bees, so before I dive into a more in-depth analysis of the topic, I’d like to answer the question as succinctly as possible.
No, you shouldn’t put a collar on your rabbit. Harnesses are a much more comfortable prospect for your fluffy family member.
Why Are Harnesses Better for Rabbits than Collars?
Don’t get me wrong, collars are nice and everything, and if they have a little bell on, it makes finding your bunny a lot easier when you treat them to some free-roaming in the garden, but here’s the thing…collars can be pretty dangerous.
Rabbits have extremely sensitive necks, so a collar can cause irritation, and they can easily catch on something while your bunny is hopping around, which could possibly lead to strangulation.
Furthermore, when you attach a leash to a collar it puts a lot of strain on a very small area of a rabbit’s body, so in all likelihood, it will try to wriggle free and either hurt itself or escape.
It’s sad to think about, but if this happens in the middle of one of your walks, there’s only a very small chance you’ll be able to catch up with your AWOL bunny, and as soon as it reaches some shrubbery and bushes, it’s probably gone for good. As such, it’s best to avoid collars altogether.
Harnesses, on the other hand, are a viable option as they provide more even pressure distribution across a larger surface area of your bunny, which means you connect a leash and take your rabbit for walks without harming them.
Another great thing about harnesses is that the leash attaches at the bunny’s back, which is a far more robust area of their anatomy than their neck.
When the slack of the leash runs out, they’ll just feel a gentle tug, letting them know it’s time to say goodbye to the particular blade of grass or wildflower they’ve been chowing down on.
I recommend something like this adjustable soft harness, as it’s incredibly supportive, and there are a bunch of lovely colors to choose from.
Okay, so you’ve got your harness; time for walkies, right? Well, actually, I’m afraid not. Before you can even think about taking your bunny out on one of your nature walks, they’ll need to be harness trained.
Harness training can take a while, so it’s important to approach it with positivity and patience. It all starts by introducing your rabbit to the harness. Simply leave it in their home or play area, so they can acclimate to its presence. If they’re refusing to acknowledge it, why not try perfuming it with a pleasant scent?
After a few days, your bunny and their new harness will be well acquainted. Now’s the time to try and put the harness on. If they start to struggle, back off and try again once they’re more accepting of the harness as an object.
Giving them plenty of fuss and tasty treats is a great way to encourage good behavior as you slide the harness on. Once the harness is secure, give your rabbit another treat as positive reinforcement.
Allow your little friend time to get used to the sensation of wearing the harness. Leave it to hop about for a while, and observe its behavior. they may express discomfort at first, but after 20 minutes or so, they should start to settle.
Should your bunny refuse to accept the harness, try again for another 20 minutes the next day, and then the next, but if they still don’t like it, it’s best to give up and accept that you’ll never be able to take them for a walk. Continuing the process will only cause them unnecessary stress.
The next step is attaching the leash and walking them around indoors. You can establish the nature of walking on a leash by giving it a gentle tug every now and again, signaling it’s time to move.
Once your bunny is comfortable walking on a leash indoors, you can move the exercise into the yard. There will be more distractions to deal with, such as all the tasty blades of grass, but be vigilant, and your rabbit will eventually become more responsive to gentle tugs on the leash.
That said, you should absolutely allow them to get distracted for a while. Letting them have a sniff and nibble here and there will provide comfort and help to build their confidence.
When your bunny is happy as a clam on a leash in the great outdoors, you can finally move onto the greater outdoors.
Should You Take Your Rabbit for a Walk?
We rabbit guardians get so wound up about whether it’s possible to take our fluffy pals for a walk, we often forget to ask, should we take our rabbits for a walk? Well, no, not really.
Rabbits are free-roaming animals, so they’re simply not suited to being on a leash. There are also numerous dangers to consider when taking your rabbit for a walk in the wild, including other animals like cats and dogs, poisonous vegetation, and as rabbits have relatively weak immune systems, general illness and disease.
There are a few exceptional circumstances in which you may have to walk your rabbit on a leash. For example, if your rabbit is very nervous, walks might be the only way to get it to exercise.
Rabbits tend to develop lethargy after sickness or an injury, so a leashed walk may also become a necessary part of a rehabilitation scheme to rebuild their physicality, but generally speaking, it should be avoided.