How To Make Friends With An Outdoor Rabbit
A reader asked how to bond with an outdoor bunny, and also mentioned that she had three dogs to contend with. This is an excellent question, and one which faces many rabbit owners. How do you become friends with a fuzzy little creature that spends all its life in your back yard?
For starters, when it comes to outdoor rabbits, we must look to the size of their cages and runs. If you have a typical commercial rabbit hutch (something too small for you to sit in), then your rabbit does not have enough room to live a happy healthy life.
The great thing about having a cage and run which is big enough is that you can get in there too and bond with your rabbit that way. If a bigger cage or run is simply not an option for you, you need to ensure that your rabbit has time (several hours a day) to stretch its legs out of the cage.If you can not do either, I would advise finding a new home for your rabbit. Rabbits are animals that love to run and jump. Keeping them in a space too small to do either is just as cruel as keeping a cat in a similar sized cage would be.
You mentioned that you have dogs. I do not recommend letting a rabbit out whilst dogs are around. Even if they do not attack it, the addition of a prey animal to what is essentially a 'pack' inevitably results in some pack behavior and it is incredibly easy for dogs to simply stress a rabbit to death without laying so much as a fang on it.
If your back yard is secure (no spaces under the fence where the rabbit can squeeze out), then putting the dogs away inside and spending some time with your rabbit when he or she is out of its cage is a great way to bond with your bunny. A great many rabbit owners keep their rabbits outside but let them run about for a few hours a day, and if you spend some of that time out there with them (keeping an eye out for cats and other dogs), you'll soon find that you start to form a friendship with your rabbit.
Spending time with your rabbit when it is not in its cage is also a good way to avoid issues of territory that often arise when dealing with rabbits. Rabbits develop a very strong sense of territory about their space and are well known to defend it, even from well meaning owners, by nipping, biting and scratching.
So then, either get a run or create a safe space and time for your bunny to explore the world and get to know you. Not only will you have a happier, healthier bunny, you'll also have a friend for life.