Is your rabbit trainable?
This first thing you need to know when training your hopper is some just don’t want to do it! If the rabbit does not want to jump, its not going to jump. You want to get a bun that tends to have a lot of energy, not something laid back and really quiet. You DO NOT want a rabbit who is mean in anyway for jumping. I tried to train a Dutch to jump once and she was very talented. But she had attitude issues, it made things very difficult and I did get hurt quite a few times. Make sure your bun has a good temperament before you start training. There really is very little that you yourself has to do in training your bun to jump. Once they get the idea and they want to do it then they will do it all themselves!
Different methods of training
There are a lot of different ways you can go about training your hopper. A lot of people clicker train, quite a few people will also
reward the rabbit with treats every time it jumps. I have tried clicker training and training with treats before, though I found it did not work well for me. I want the rabbit to jump because they love to do it and not because of food. I do still give some treats but not after every jump. Another great way to teach your rabbits to jump is simply to have them watch another rabbit! Yes they CAN learn without you doing a thing, if they watch an old pro jump through a course a couple times then most of them will just go to it themselves! Though you need a very experienced “teacher” rabbit to do this which can be difficult to get.
When starting out the first thing you need to do is teach your bun to go in a straight line. If you can get them used to a harness early on then that is good also. A lot of people have their rabbits learn how to go in a straight line by putting mats down on the floor. Most of them will quickly learn to run on these and to not go off them. Once they are used to a harness and you can keep them going in 1 direction, first set a row of standards (about 2 or 3 or so) up about 2ft or more away from each other. Then by each standard put a rail (pole) on the ground. You don’t have to use a mat you can also just fence in the area where you want them to jump. Start out with getting the bun to run in a line over every jump. Don’t let them turn around and go the other way or go past the jumps setup. They need to learn that they are suppose to jump them. After you do this a couple times and they seem ok then put a rail about 2 inches off the ground on the last jump in the row. If the buns stops at the jump just give them a little nudge on the behind and they should go. Gives TONS of pats when they are good! Make a BIG deal out of it when they do something right 😉 I will do this for about 2 days or so just letting them practice over a single small jump at first. Make sure not to jump them every single day and you should not have your training sessions last more then 15 minutes. You want them to leave wanting to jump more and not to make them tired of it.
After you practice with what is written above and if the rabbit is doing well then you can move onto the next step. Don’t practice too much with only 1 jump as this can teach them bad habits. Try to move onto at least a small line as soon as possible. Next you should put all the rails up to about 2 inches high with a line of 2 or 3 jumps. At this point they should have at least some sort of idea of what they are doing, buns are fast learners! Some will get it faster then others. First just sit at one end of the line and hold the bun letting him look at the course of jumps. At this point you want to start teaching them that when you make a clucking sound that this means GO. Clucking is often used to encourage the rabbit during when your jumping a course. So you can make this sound when they are getting close to jumping. If the bun stops in the line make sure they don’t turn around and go the other way, just give them a little nudge. If they are to close to the jump to take off then pick the bun up and move him farther away so he can get moving again. Many will get the hang of it right away! And others need more practice. The goal is that you want the bun to WANT to jump and you want them to be running to the jumps by themselves. Most buns at this point will discover its a lot of fun and as soon as you put the bun down they will run through it. Make sure to always give lots of pats and even the occasional treat when they are good!
Once the bun gets good at the small jumps then you could start to add a couple more jumps to the line if you like. And you can slowly start putting the jumps up. IF your teaching a young rabbit who is around 3-4 months you should just set up small jumps until they get older. You don’t want to put the jumps up to fast, you just want to slowly build their confidence and keep it fun! One crash could scare them for life. Don’t make the bun jump bigger then they are comfortable doing. Not all rabbits can jump high, they all have different talents. At this point you could start to put different jumps together like ones that are wider, or even things like water
jumps! Once they get good then you can start bringing your hopper to shows! You could also work with things like high jump, long jump, or the crooked classes! The more your practice the better your bun will get 😉 Most buns love to jump and will often become more attached to their owner when they can because it gives them sometimes really fun to do with you. Different buns will be good at different things, some may not want to jump in a long line of jumps maybe they just want to compete in high jumping or long jumping. Others will just drag you to any jump insight! Those normally do very well in crooked. Just experiment and see what your buns loves to do best.