Before you attempt to start rabbit jumping, it is important that your rabbit is happy in your company. Spend time with your rabbit and make sure they enjoy spending time with you. Rabbits are prey animals so you have to be very calm with them, don't shout at them and chase them around, and don't hover over them and try grabbing them. Bonding with your rabbit can take time, so be patient.
If you wish to take your rabbit to any future shows then they must be used to wearing a harness before you start teaching them to jump. See the 'Harnesses' page for more information.
Once your rabbit is happy with you and with a harness, you can start to jump them. You will need to set up a small course of at least two jumps in an area the rabbit is familiar with. See the 'Jumps' page for information on making jumps from household items and building real jumps like the ones in competitions. To start with, you don't want to put the bars higher than 10cm. Some people even start with the bars just lying on the floor.
When your course is ready, put your rabbit in its' harness and sit them just before the first jump. This is where you have to encourage them over if they do not go forwards naturally. To encourage them, first try gently tapping their rump or hind legs. If they don't respond, try tickling their stomach or chest, some rabbits are sensitive here and should move. Should that fail then gently lift the rabbit over the jump. If the rabbit tries to go round the jump or go backwards on the course, take them back to their previous position. When they have finished the course, praise them, and give them a short rest. When the rabbit is ready for another go, go back to the point where you first started, otherwise the rabbit may start to complete courses then turn around and go backwards. Make sure you stay behind the rabbit when jumping; don't stand above them as they're likely to stop.
You should have short training sessions to start with and only have a few a week, so the rabbit does not get bored. When the rabbit is comfortable doing a small course of low jumps, don't increase the height of the jumps straight away, instead add more low jumps so they get used to completing a longer course. Once they're happy with this, then you can very gradually increase the height. If your rabbit is less than four months old you don't want to strain them whilst they're still growing, so don't go much higher. By eight months old they are fine to be jumping around 50cm.
If the rabbit is not happy with higher jumps, they are probably not 100% confident with the lower ones. Practise a lot more with the lower jumps and very slowly and gradually build up the height again. When going higher, you should put the jumps on carpet or grass so the rabbit doesn’t hurt itself.
The important thing is to praise the rabbit, never punish. Some people use treats (and even clickers) when jumping and reward the rabbit at the end, this often isn't reliable though, and if the rabbit is full it won’t jump.
Please do not go out and buy a rabbit specifically for jumping; it isn't about the breed, it is about the individual rabbit as to whether they want to jump or not. If you don't have a rabbit but wish to get one or two and maybe try out jumping then we recommend that you go to a rescue centre and find the perfect rabbits for you. Rabbits are usually happiest when in a bonded pair or group; the pairing of a neutered male and spayed female usually works best. Please take a look at www.rabbitrehome.org.uk if you are thinking of adding some rabbits to your family!