When your rabbit knows the cue word and performs the behaviour, you can start to reward for excellence. Out of every 10 times your rabbit responds to the cue word, two will not be very good, five will be acceptable and three will be outstanding. Start to be more discriminating about which efforts you decide to reward. Only reward the behaviours which are acceptable or better. Ignore the rest.
To improve the standard of the behaviour, look at which aspects of it you need to tackle (the fastest, the longest or the straightest) and work through each aspect in turn e.g. you may choose to start with the speed at which the behaviour is offered, before continuing with the length of time that the behaviour can be maintained. Only work on one aspect at a time. For example, don't confuse the rabbit by trying to improve both the speed and the length of the behaviour at the same time.
This technique is used to strengthen behaviour. Asking for more effort can be achieved either by reinforcing excellence as described above or by deciding to reinforce only every other time the behaviour is offered, or every third or fourth time. In an effort to persuade you to reward him, the rabbit will often repeat the behaviour harder and faster each time.
The Clicker is Not Magic and is Not Forever.
The clicker is a tool to help you teach your rabbit a new behaviour. Once the rabbit has learnt the behaviour and the cue word, the clicker can be dropped, but do not forget to reward your rabbit, with treats or a stroke.
However, if a behaviour begins to deteriorate, for example you have not done much practice with that behaviour for a while, or if you want to teach a new behaviour, bring out the clicker again. It is a training aid that your rabbit will learn to love and he will never lose that original association.
Teaching a Behaviour Can Be Fun and Useful
Do you have a problem getting your rabbit in a basket, or in his hutch? Well, we now give you one way of teaching your rabbit to go in happily and on cue. Teaching your rabbit to go to his carry basket (or hutch or other safe place) This suggestion assumes that you already have a rabbit who understands that click means treat.
Planning - There are ways of teaching this behaviour using capturing, luring and shaping. I have decided to start using luring and also to include shaping.
Equipment - Your clicker (or equivalent), food treats. A small dish as a feeding station.
Place your feeding station on the ground in your rabbit's exercise area with a small number of food treats within it. Place the rabbit within a short distance of the dish. If he looks at the dish click and hand treat. If he makes any movement towards the dish, C/T. If he moves up to the dish click just prior to him reaching the food.
Repeat the same process but with the rabbit a little further away. Gradually increase the distance that your rabbit will travel to the bowl. Make the increases in distance very small. Move the bowl about the area so that he can move to it from a variety of directions.
When you are very sure that he understands the behaviour of moving towards his bowl from anywhere, place it just inside his carry basket. Place the rabbit again very close to the basket and bowl and start again shaping to go to the bowl.
When he is going freely into the basket from a distance of about ten feet, consider adding a cue to the behaviour. Use a single sound or word, such as "Basket" or bed, and say it just before you know he is about to move to the bowl in the basket. This will possibly need to be repeated 40 - 60 times over a period of time before the connection between the word and the behaviour is fully known by your rabbit.
You can now fade the use of the bowl (i.e. remove the bowl), but still click and treat each time he goes into the hutch on cue.
Now try asking your rabbit to go to his basket on cue from different places in his exercise area, or even from different places, e.g. different rooms, from further away for example. You are 'lengthening and strengthening the behaviour'.
Once the behaviour is reliable you can stop using the clicker for this behaviour.
Hopefully you are now interested in teaching your rabbit a range of tricks!! Fun for you both. For further information, see Orr, J and Lewin, T 2005 Getting Started: clicking with your rabbit Karen Pryor Publication.
View this video to see what you and your rabbit can achieve through clicker training