We have thought about offering leashes in our shop very carefully before deciding to do so – after all, they are quite controversial and potentially dangerous. Some rabbits love to be outside and don’t mind a leash while others will absolutely refuse to tolerate one. Forcing the latter kind of rabbit could possibly be considered as abuse, so I feel the need to address a few issues before adding the leashes to our shop. After all, safety is our biggest concern. If you intend to purchase a leash set from us (or anyone else for that matter), please continue to read and make an informed decision. Especially if you don’t have any experience with it.
The leash we have selected is stretchy to accommodate sudden binkies as well as unexpected racing away. It comes with a wide, soft harness that covers the entire belly as well as a large area of the chest/neck. If you choose to go with a different leash, make sure it’s similar to the one we offer. Even if a rabbit tries to run away and it suddenly gets restrained, the wide harness will distribute the sudden force evenly across the rabbit’s body. The thin stringy leashes I have seen could easily break the delicate bones or even strangle a rabbit. Personally, I would not recommend them.
First of all, only consider a leash for a rabbit that is tame and trusts you. Please be aware that a rabbit is not a dog and will therefore never go for a walk with you the way a dog will. Even with a leash. After all, a rabbit is pretty low on the food chain and you cannot control all the dangers out there. That is also why you should never NEVER let your rabbit out of your sight while outside and/or on a leash. Do NOT tie the leash to anything ever. The leash should always be in your hands and your eyes should always be on your rabbit.
The only thing a leash will do is help you keep your rabbit from running away when you are outside in a backyard or in a meadow that isn’t fenced in. That’s the true benefit, giving your rabbit the opportunity to go outside. When you have your rabbit on a leash, he or she will not go where you want to go, though. Just the opposite. In order to keep your rabbit from a sudden anxiety attack you need to walk with it wherever it wants to go. The leash should never be used to restrain at all unless danger makes it essential. If your rabbit wants to run, run with it. If it wants to sit in a corner for 30 minutes, so be it.
Never force your rabbit to do anything. That includes dragging it over obstacles (if you want your rabbit to jump, tempting it with treats works so much better and is so much more fun for everyone involved). That’s also why it is best not to let children hold the leash. Let your rabbit decide what it wants to do outside. Be mindful that a rabbit has very thin bones and becoming entangled with the leash may cause sudden anxiety. Try to avoid that as much as possible, because it could lead to broken bones. A scared rabbit that also feels restrained will rarely stop its frantic behavior until it frees itself and can run away. If you feel that your rabbit shouldn’t go any further, use your hands and a soothing voice to direct its attention elsewhere.
Please get your rabbit accustomed to the harness before attaching the leash. Until it is absolutely comfortable with the harness and leash, stay indoors only. This may take several attempts or may never happen at all. Be patient. For a better chance at success, make sure your rabbit associates happy times with the harness. Favorite treats, fun games, extra cuddles – whatever your rabbit loves, now is the time. When I grew up we had a black dwarf rabbit named “Snuffles”. He was the most stoic and patient rabbit I have ever met and nothing could ever upset him. He loved spending time outside in the yard, but I do remember that he didn’t immediately like the harness. He tried to take it off. Once he associated it with going outside, though, he got excited whenever he saw it. Bunny hates putting the harness on, but once he wears it he doesn’t mind one bit, even though it makes hopping about a bit more difficult. We have a fenced in yard now, so Bailey has never worn a harness before.
When you do go outside with your rabbit, choose a location that is the least stressful, so someplace quiet without predators, people, or other pets, like your backyard. The side of a road, no matter how quiet, is never a good choice. A meadow full of fresh grass (NOT treated with chemicals) would make the best location and your bunny the happiest. Also be aware that areas with a lot of wild rabbits or dogs should be avoided because of diseases.
Rabbits are animals that instinctively flee as soon as they sense potential danger. The things that make a rabbit feel scared, though, may not be something a human would immediately be aware of. You may have seen your rabbit suddenly and without warning race through your home at crazy speeds to hide wide-eyed under a distant table just because you opened the fridge door. Sometimes there is no sense to the instinctive behavior of a rabbit. An animal like that may not enjoy a leash that prevents running from danger. You can try to put the harness on without the leash and see if your rabbit gets accustomed to it, but if it doesn’t, do not force it. Accept that you have wasted a few bucks and move on.
Whatever you do, please make sure you do it for your bunny’s benefit, entertainment, and enjoyment and not your own.