It’s been just over 3 weeks since Dallas arrived, and what a 3 weeks it’s been. There have been territory disputes, arguments with neighbors, disagreements over feeding schedules, two days without central air conditioning, a slew of new faces, and on top of it all- a whole new training program to learn. Despite it all, he’s shown that he is still capable of joy and silliness.
3 weeks ago, Dallas was moody, aggressive, territorial, vocal, and prone to bolting in random directions out of fear.
Today, Dallas is only aggressive when overwhemed, only territorial over his food bowl, much less vocal, and only ever bolts towards his safe space. He’s also far more prone to binkies and dead bunny flops.
He’s also far more social. Visitors to his pen are now more likely to get a boop on the foot instead of a nibble on their toes. He’ll accept treats from strangers about 70% of the time, and he’ll eat his prize immediately instead of running off with it. When he’s feeling especially calm, he’ll accept a few nose rubs or ear scritches.
The main hurdle is that Dallas is very in-tune to his environment, and so the key is in calmness and patience. In addition to loud or sudden noises (which all bunnies have problems with), he can read emotions. If I’m on edge about something, so is he. But if I’m relaxed or happy, then he is as well. It’s the same with any person he meets- it doesn’t matter their age or height, it’s all in how they approach him. His future forever home will need to be a calm one, but there doesn’t seem to be a reason it can’t also have kids.
He does like to be around people, and adapts to new faces pretty easily. He had two pet sitters recently, and got along with both. He loves to able to see what’s going on, and he gets moody if I leave the door to his room closed for too long. When he’s out to explore, he pops into my office every 10 minutes or so. He’ll poke around my feet for a moment or two, and then head back out on his patrols of the kitchen and hallway. It’s his way of making sure everything is still OK before resuming his adventures.
In terms of continued work, Dallas is learning how to target this week. For him, his target is touching his nose to my finger. The goal is to be able to use that behavior to distract him from otherwise triggering events. For example, targeting while his bowl is being filled in the morning means he’s not able to lunge or otherwise be territorial. That’s safer for both him and the feeder, and he’ll learn that he doesn’t have to fight to be fed.
Targeting may also help break some of the aggression. When Dallas gets overwhelmed by noise or people, he ether bolts for his box or turns aggressive. If he can be distracted from a spiral into aggression, he can be trained to always go to his box to escape. He may never lose the instinct to react, but he can learn the best way to react.
The BunnyFest for the Georgia House Rabbit Society is coming up on the 26th. Alice and Hatter are signed up for the Hoppy Hour there. While Dallas isn’t up for that (mostly because of his on-going feud with Alice and Hatter), I’m hoping that he’ll be up for at least coming with us. It’ll be a good test of his reaction to a new environment, and maybe even a chance to meet some potential adopters.
(I’ll be sure to bring his box, just in case.)
Remember that you can follow the #DallasDevelopments hashtag on instagram to see more pictures and videos of Dallas in between posts here on the blog.