Rabbit agility is a little known, up and coming sport. How do I know this? Ask just about anyone, including rabbit people, and see what response you get when you ask if they know about rabbit agility.
So what is rabbit agility? Rabbit Agillity is alot like dog agility, only the obstacles are smaller and the rules will be modified to fit rabbits and their abilities.
A Good Agility Rabbit
So you are interested in doing rabbit agility with your rabbit. The question is, what makes a good agility rabbit?
A good agility rabbit is one that loves to be around people, comes to the front of the cage to be petted, is energetic, and loves to explore when it is out of its cage.
Rabbits that may not be good for agility are ones that are scared to come out of the cage, overweight, giant breeds, rabbits with long droopy ears like english lops. The reason giants and english lops may not be good for agility is because 1. their size- giants could hurt themselves doing high jumps, 2. english lop ears may get in the way or knock over jump rails.
Ways to tell if your rabbit will be a good agility rabbit:
- Your rabbit comes to the front of its cage wanting attention
- It loves to explore when it is out of its cage. (rabbits out of their cage should be in an exersize pen or on a leash.)
- It is energetic in its pen or out of its pen
- It really likes being with you
Ways to tell if your rabbit would not make a good agility rabbit:
- It acts scared when it is in or out of its pen
- It is overweight for its breed
- It has an impairment like a healed broken limb
- It wants to hide when you take it out of its pen
- It always flattens itself and won't move if you put it on a leash
It may be possible to work with a rabbit that doesn't like to be out of its pen. It will take longer for this rabbit to come around than one who is outgoing and loves people. We have a doe that seems skittish to be out of her pen and a little scared, but when we work with her and just let her get used to the outdoors she comes out of her shell and explores.
If you don't already have a rabbit I would suggest getting one that is over 5-6 months old, dwarf to medium sized, is in good health, loves people and exploring without being overly afraid. Any rabbit will exhibit fear in a new place or with unfamiliar people, animals or objects they are not used to. What you are looking for is a rabbit that gets over its initial flight instincts and acts as if everyting is fine and exciting. Agility rabbits can be purebred, mixed, show quality or pet quality.
Training Your Rabbit to the Leash
The first thing the rabbit needs to do is get used to wearing a harness and leash.
An H style, non-slip harness made of nylon is the best. The leash should be 1/2" or smaller nylon or leather. Do not use a chain link or a retractable harness.
These are pictures of an H-harness & leash and how it fits on your rabbit. This particular harness is a small dog harness & leash.
Put the rabbit in the harness and let it run around in a safe area, like a large exersize pen or inside your house where you can catch it. Don't put the leash on it just yet. When the rabbit seems to be used to the harness, you can put the leash on it.
To help get the rabbit used to the leash & harness, let the rabbit run around and just follow it. Don't let the leash get tangled up in anything. If the rabbit is suddenly jerked, it will probably get scared.
As the rabbit becomes used to the leash and harness, you need to start training it to go where you want it to. The best way to do this is to stand in one place (make sure there is nothing the leash will get wrapped around) and let the rabbit explore. Decide in a direction you want the rabbit to go in and when the rabbit goes in that direction move with it. When you want to go in a different direction stand still until the rabbit goes in that direction. The rabbit will probably struggle when it finds it can't go where it wants to, but as soon as it starts to realize that it can go forward in another direction it will get the idea.
You may have a rabbit that needs to be coached to go forward. To do this stand behind the rabbit with your feet on either side of the rabbit in a V shape. With one foot GENTLY nudge the rabbit's behind until it goes forward. Keep doing this and say "go" until it gets the idea you want it to move forward. If the foot cue doesn't work, use your hands and give the rabbit a pat on the rear or tickle it. Eventually you want it to go without touching it.
My rabbit, Aremis, loves to follow me like a puppy dog, so the foot cues don't work. He just sits on my feet. So I just let him follow me on the leash until he decides he wants to explore ahead of me. We are working on getting him to go forward to the word "go" because I need him to be ahead of me for the agility equipment. He is getting the hang of it now and goes forward at his "go" cue.
The obstacles for rabbit agility are:
Pipe tunnel (kid's play tunnels are great!)
In the future as rabbit agility grows, there may be more types. If you don't want to make or purchase equipment, you can use things around the house. Here are some things you can use that you might already have:
Pipe tunnel Kid's play tunnel, large barrel or other tube like object - 18" wide
Chute plastic garbage can with bottom removed (18" wide) and a sheet
A-frame two wooden planks or plywood 12-18" wide braced up so the
peak is around 18" high
Spread jumps pieces of wood stacked next to each other in a row 4" apart
Vertical jumps broom handle
Tire jumps Hula hoop, old vacuum hose
Water jumps broom handle with a pan of water under it
Bridge a supported plank of wood with two ramps, 12" wide/ 18" high
Teeter Totter a plank 12" wide placed on a round object like PVC pipe
Pause Box 4 pieces of PVC pipe or dowels shaped in a square
Pause Table A box 2' x 2' x 6" high
Weave Poles Stick dowels or PVC pipe in the ground 12" apart
The agility equipment you see below belongs to the Rockin' Rabbits Rabbit Club, a 4-H club in Iosco County, Michigan.
Oatmeal box jump instructions
This page has instructions to make your own homemade oatmeal box jump out of materials around the house. The most expensive thing is the duct tape.
Training Your Rabbit on the Equipment
(This section is under construction. Thank you.)
Rules for Rabbit Agility
At this time there are very few rules for rabbit agility. Rabbitagility.com has some rules you can follow if you want to start out. I have adapted rules that I have found on Rabbitagility.com, the book Rabbit Agility! What's That? by Dell Robbins, and some I have found on dog agility websites. I added some of my own as well. If anyone is interested in seeing these rules you may contact me and I will send you a copy. Please give me your input as I would like the advice.
These rules are a work in progress. As I learn more about rabbit agility from others and my own experiences they will probably be revised as I learn. If you have a former copy of the rules, you may want to use these. These are not "set in stone" rules and regulations, just something to use to get your events off the ground. Feel free to contact me about changes, corrections (I am not perfect. LOL) and rules I could add, change or take away and the reasons for doing so. Thank you so much. I also have a slightly different version for 4-H groups if you would like those. The content is similar, but made for kids to understand and cloverbud rules.
Two good sites to learn about rabbit agility are Rabbitagility.com and The Canadian Rabbit Hopping Club. There is also a book called Rabbit Agility! What's That? by Dell Robbins. I purchased the e-book at Lulu.com.
If you are interested in joining a group that discusses and has information about rabbit agility:
Have fun learning about rabbit agility.
Rabbit Agility Videos
Here is a video of our rabbit agility demonstration at the Iosco County Fair.
Rabbit Hopping Video
In the United Kingdom, rabbit hopping is the original form of agility, but it is being adapted here in the U.S. as rabbit agility with contact equipment. Here is a great video of a rabbit hopping competition.