Bonding with a Fierce Bad Rabbit

Published: Sat, 07/10/21

My daughter Iduna is fascinated by animals and is always excited to see dogs when we go our for a walk. She loves to watch the cats and dogs that come into the garden and we sometimes watch animal videos on Youtube. Rabbits are a particular favorite and I will be asked specifically to find a rabbit video. As you might expect there are lots of rabbit videos on Youtube and we have discovered that these furry vegetarians are becoming quite popular as house pets. Which does make sense compared with keeping free ranging predators such as cats and dogs confined to your house. There is even a ‘rabbit lifestyle channel’ presented by a young woman called Lorelei (yes she is American) who lives with a black and white bunny called Lennon. We will get a pet for Iduna one day, which is my excuse for learning more about pet rabbits than I ever thought I wanted to know.

One episode of Lorelei’s show has the title ‘How to bond with an aggressive rabbit’. One suggested exercise is to take the bunny for a ride in the car (preferably with someone else driving). Rabbits apparently find car journeys quite stressful so the animal is stroked and reassured on its owner’s lap. The creature then comes to associate it’s owner with comfort in unnerving situations and a bond develops. Lorelei is applying a basic principle of behavioral psychology which also works well with children. A child who is very independent minded in a familiar environment, suddenly becomes very close and attentive to a trusted adult in a potentially threating situation. Creating a little bit of fear and stress, and then being the source of comfort and reassurance, is a powerful way of creating a bond, and indeed a degree of authority.

As far as pets, domestic animals, and small children are concerned bonding with a responsible adult is generally a good thing. However, it is also worth remembering that the elephant and the twig principle also applies. Baby elephants can apparently be conditioned to believe that once they are tied to a tree it is impossible for them to escape unless their keeper releases them. This conditioning will last an elephant’s lifetime, so that even full grown elephants can be tied to no more than a twig, and yet they will make no attempt to break free.

Bonding and boundaries are necessary for society to function. However, the difference between a domestic animal, or dependent child, and a self-determining adult, is the conscious awareness of bonds and boundaries as mental constructs. An understanding of behavioral psychology reveals how we are conditioned to bond from an early age. The same science explains the methods by which physical controls experienced at an early age build long lasting boundaries in our minds.

We might like to think of ourselves as free and self-determining adults, but behavioral psychology is a very powerful tool. Is there really much difference between taking a nervous rabbit for a ride in a car, and telling a whole population that a new and deadly disease is sweeping the world? The basic principle of creating fear, and then being the reassurance, will create a bond between the fearful, and the seemingly powerful. Once you are conscious of this principle in action you are free to choose which bonds you accept and which boundaries limit you.



PS Here is Lorelei’s video on applying the principles of behavioral psychology to rabbits,