My future mother-in-law questioned why I was training my rabbits. The question does give me pause as well. . . Why, I can recall that I was committed to training them early on, so committed in fact, that it was required of me in my ordination track for ministry, as part of my personal development. But where did I get the commitment from even then, when I knew nothing about what could be achieved through training bunnies.
I suppose I wanted to train my bunnies because my two girls were a bit on the wild side. I had acquired them at the same time, to keep St. Francis company, and three was a little much for me, in addition to the one cat that I had. I don't know why these two girls were as wild as they were, unlike St. Francis, who was very affectionate toward me. I suppose that I hoped by training to make them somehow as equally well disposed toward me as St. Francis had been. I think our training process is beginning to have that effect. They look forward to my arrival as the arrival of the treat lady, and they approach me the way that I wanted them to approach me. I suppose it's a bit of a disappointment to admit that they are in it for the treat and not for me, but maybe years down the road they will actually find that they were in it for me, and the fact that I trained them to that point of realization will be like a halo around my head.
The skies threaten thunderstorms again today so we only do indoors training. I know that the now three girls are getting restless. They do become restless when they don't get to run out in the yard in their pen. I wish I could get them to follow the target stick more closely, but I realize that is going to take a little more time. In the meantime we work on simple tricks like going through a hoop, crawling through a tunnel and walking on their hind feet. That is enough for right now.
I suppose I could be accused of "using the clicker for training, instead of using the clicker-training method". I wonder if that is a confession that is dangerous to make on this website: I find that I need to get my rabbits' attention first, and the best way of doing that is to click the clicker. I also find that I can click it repetitively while they are running to reinforce the positive without them stopping at each click for a treat. It is encouragement and attention that I use the clicker for. I don't think they would understand it only in coordination with the treat. They understand the treat well enough on its own.
I don't know what I will think about all this when it comes to fading out the treat for a trick. That could cause some real problems. I suppose in actuality we are encountering this for standing up on their hind feet. They do this repeatedly because it used to be the one thing that they did for treats. I no longer necessarily reward that with a treat. I am sure it is confusing for them, but I have not really analyzed it. I know it is particularly offputting for Maddie, as she is still having trouble switching over to natural treats from the processed ones.
So what about this phenomenon of them continuing to beg for treats on their hind feet when I am not rewarding them for it? I guess I try to shape the behaviot into another positive direction, like having them walk on their hind feet for the treat. It's just there's not that many alternative tricks that I can have them do.
Are my rabbits destined not to hop over jumps like the bunnies in the Danish competition on YouTube? I hope not. That's another reason that I train my rabbits -- I believe that is still a possibility. I am, however, beginning to realize that I may have pushed them too hard. They need to be more accustomed to jumping over a stick in the Purple Room on command before they will go over the jump easily. WHy is it so hard to convey this to them? They can all jump so high, when they want to, to get up on furniture. How can I make jumping over a stick look attractive to them? I guess I really have to work on getting them to recognize the target stick better. I wonder if it would help if I changed color? I still have a dark blue and a bright orange target stick that I have not tried out with them. I heard that they were color blind, but I wonder if they really are. . .