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2:16 AM   December 18, 2014
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Tricks Are for Rabbits


Courtesy of Ljupco Smokovski, Dreamstime.com

Though a Flemish giant or mini Rex won’t learn to fetch or roll over like a dog, customers can teach their rabbits some entertaining—and useful—tricks, such as learning how to come when called.

When teaching rabbits to come, be sure to your customers devote plenty of time to training them—being patient and always using a gentle touch. They should never use harsh words or physical punishment when training their rabbits. Here is a customer-ready list of training steps for rabbits.

  1. First, gather treats and set the stage. When selecting a treat to use, choose a commercial variety from a local pet specialty store, or simply try a piece of tomato or melon—whatever the pet finds irresistible. Clear an area on the floor and set the rabbit next to you. Give him lots of strokes and praise, making it as pleasant an experience as possible. When you and your pet are ready, get down on the floor close to your rabbit.
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  2. Next, hold the treat out so he sees and smells it. Because the exercise centers on incentives make sure that the goody is one your rabbit loves. Bunnies are intelligent, and with the right reward, your pet will learn the trick in no time.
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  3. Say in an upbeat voice, “’Fluffy,’” come!” The rabbit will see and smell the treat and come toward you to get it. Always use the exact same command so he learns to recognize your request and associate those words with getting a treat.
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  4. As the rabbit masters the routine, gradually increase the distance between you and your pet. Squat several feet away and practice the exercise, holding out a treat, saying the command and rewarding him immediately when he hops over to you. Heap on the praise and treats—now is not the time to skimp!
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  5. When your rabbit performs the trick consistently, slowly wean him off the treats and replace the goodies with praise and strokes. Give him a treat every other time he obeys your command, for instance, or offer a food reward the first and last time during a training session. Eventually, you won’t need treats at all—just a lot of love and upbeat praise. 
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  6. Reinforce the trick as often as needed. Rabbits are smart, but sometimes they need a reminder. Retrain your rabbit using the same steps as above, starting slowly, offering a food reward, increasing the distance and replacing treats with praise. Chances are he’ll hop right back into the routine in no time.

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