Rabbit Behavior and Training: Understanding and Nurturing Your Bunny’s Behavior

Published: April 14th, 2023
Last Updated: July 22nd, 2023
Written By: Bradly Spicer
Rabbit Behavior & Training

Since rabbits are very rarely vocal, they mostly communicate through body language. If you’re unfamiliar with rabbit behavior, some things your rabbit does may seem weird or downright silly. 

In this article, we’ll decipher all types of rabbit behavior and what each sign means.  Before we look into those, note that not all rabbits are identical, so you may not see all these signs in your rabbits. For example, some rabbits are extremely affectionate, while others rarely like to be held or touched. 

Understanding Rabbit Behavior

Confused Rabbit

Before you can effectively train and care for your rabbit, it’s essential to understand their behavior. Rabbits are social animals that use various communication methods to express their emotions and needs.

Communication Methods

Rabbits use nonverbal communication methods, including body language, vocalizations, and scent marking. They may use body languages such as ear positioning, tail posture, and body position to convey their emotions.

For example, if your rabbit lies flat on their stomach with their ears pinned back, it may express fear or discomfort.

Rabbits also use vocalizations to communicate, including purring, growling, and thumping their back feet on the ground. Scent marking is another essential communication method for rabbits. They may use scent glands on their chin or paws to mark their territory or communicate with other rabbits.

Dominance Hierarchy

Rabbits also have a natural dominance hierarchy, which can cause aggression or territorial behavior if handled incorrectly.

As their owner, you should establish yourself as the alpha in your rabbit’s life and create a safe, secure living space for them. Typically, the male would be the alpha in a relationship. However, adding humans into the mix does change this.

Based on our anecdotal experience, the hierarchy in our family typically goes in this order:

  • Male Human Owner
  • Male Rabbit
  • Female Human Owner
  • Female Rabbit

Territory Marking

Rabbits also have a strong instinct to mark their territory. They may chew on objects or urinate in specific areas to establish their dominance and claim their space.

While this behavior can frustrate owners, providing your rabbit with a designated area to mark and chew on is essential.

Common Rabbit Behaviors

Rabbits are quirky creatures that exhibit a range of fascinating behaviors. Here are a few of the most common rabbit behaviors and their meaning.



Binkying is a happy, joyful behavior that rabbits exhibit when excited or content. It’s characterized by jumping, twisting, and kicking their legs out. If your bunny is binkying, it’s a good sign that they are happy and healthy.



If your rabbit starts thumping their back feet on the ground, it’s a sign that they are feeling anxious or scared. They may also thump to warn other rabbits of danger or to communicate with you.


Chewing is a natural behavior for rabbits and serves several purposes. It helps to keep their teeth healthy and sharp and provides mental stimulation. However, rabbits may also chew on objects out of boredom or to establish dominance.



This position is common in rabbits and is often a sign of feeling calm and content. Rabbits may loaf for extended periods of time while they rest or sleep. Some rabbits may even loaf while petting or receiving affection from their owner.

Loafing can be a natural position for rabbits as it helps them conserve heat and energy. It is also a position rabbits may take when they feel safe and secure.

Circling your feet

Rabbit circling feet

When a rabbit circles your feet, it could mean a few different things depending on the context and the rabbit’s overall behavior. Here are a few possibilities:

  1. Attention-seeking behavior: Rabbits may circle around their owner’s feet as a way to get attention or affection. If your bunny is seeking attention, they may also nudge you with their nose which usually indicates you’re in their way or they want your attention
  2. Territory marking: As mentioned earlier, rabbits use scent glands to mark their territory. By circling around your feet, your rabbit may leave their scent to claim you or the area around you as their own.
  3. Bonding behavior: When rabbits are bonded with each other, they often engage in circling behavior as a way to show affection and establish their bond. If your rabbit is circling your feet, they may show similar affection towards you.
  4. Investigative behavior: Rabbits are naturally curious creatures and may circle around your feet to investigate their surroundings. This is especially true if you are in a new or unfamiliar environment, as your rabbit may be trying to understand their surroundings better.

In general, circling behavior is often a sign that your rabbit is feeling playful or curious. However, if your bunny seems agitated or aggressive while circling your feet, it may signify fear or discomfort.

Periscoping / Begging


When a rabbit periscopes, it means they are standing on their hind legs and looking upwards. This behavior is similar to the periscope on a submarine, which allows the submarine to see above the surface of the water.

Rabbits may periscope for a few different reasons:

  1. Curiosity: Like many animals, rabbits are naturally curious creatures. They may periscope to view their surroundings better and investigate interesting sights, sounds, or smells.
  2. Fear or suspicion: If your rabbit is periscoping in response to a loud or sudden noise, it may signify feeling frightened or suspicious. By standing on their hind legs, they can better view potential environmental threats.
  3. Attention-seeking: Rabbits may also periscope to get their owner’s or other rabbits’ attention. They may try to catch your eye or initiate play by standing up and looking around. If you work away from home, this can indicate that they’ve missed your presence and want you to engage with them.

Chin Rubbing

Rabbit Chin Rubbing

Chinning is a rabbit’s way of marking its territory. When a happy rabbit is exploring, they rub their chin on things, which is a little “mine” note on things like table legs and doorways, among many other household items.



If you have two bonded rabbits, they will play with each other. A common one that they share with wild rabbits is what I like to call the Matador game.

One rabbit runs at the other, and just when you think they’ll crash, the other rabbit jumps. They take turns until they’re tired.

Aggressive Behavior in Rabbits

Aggressive behavior in rabbits can be caused by a variety of factors, including fear, pain, territorial behavior, and hormonal changes. Some common signs of aggression in rabbits include lunging, biting, growling, and thumping their hind legs.

If your rabbit is exhibiting aggressive behavior, it’s important to seek the advice of a rabbit behaviorist or veterinarian. They can help you identify the underlying cause of the behavior and provide guidance on how to address it.

Training Your Rabbit

Training your rabbit is essential for creating a strong bond and ensuring their safety and well-being. Here are a few training methods

Litter Box Training

Litter box training is an essential part of living with a house rabbit. Rabbits are naturally clean animals and prefer to use a designated area for urination and defecation.

To litter box train your rabbit, start by placing a litter box in their designated living space. Encourage them to use the box by placing some of their droppings in it and rewarding them with a treat when they use it correctly.

Clicker Training

Thank you, Bunnies’ Brigade, for such an informative video!

Clicker training is a positive reinforcement training method that can be used with rabbits. You’ll need a clicker and some small treats to train your bunny.

Start by clicking the clicker and giving your bunny a treat. Repeat this process several times, and your rabbit will learn to associate the clicker with a reward.

You can then use the clicker to train your rabbit to perform specific behaviors, such as jumping or running through an obstacle course.

Leash Training

Leash training your rabbit can provide them with exercise and mental stimulation while keeping them safe. To leash train your bunny, start by purchasing a rabbit harness and leash.

Introduce your bunny to the harness gradually by allowing them to wear it for short periods of time each day. Once they are comfortable wearing the harness, attach the leash and allow them to explore their surroundings while you supervise.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does it mean if your bunny licks you?

When a bunny licks you, it usually signifies positive behavior and affection. It can mean grooming, bonding, or a way for the bunny to explore and taste its environment.
Licking is a sign of trust and acceptance, indicating that your bunny sees you as part of its social group. It may also be a request for attention and interaction. Remember to respond with gentle care and engage in activities that promote your bunny’s well-being to strengthen your bond.

Why does my Bunny nip me?

Bunnies may nip for various reasons. It can be due to overstimulation, fear or startle response, territorial behavior, or lack of socialization. Nipping is their way of communicating discomfort or setting boundaries.
Pay attention to their body language and context to understand the cause. Consult a veterinarian or rabbit behaviorist for guidance if the nipping persists. Approach your bunny gently, respect their boundaries, and provide positive reinforcement to foster a trusting relationship.

Why does my Rabbit nudge me?

When a rabbit nudges you, it’s often a friendly and social behavior. It can signify affection, food or treats requests, playfulness, or exploration. Nudging is usually how they seek attention, initiate interaction, or express their needs. You should respond with gentle care, offer treats, or engage in play to foster a stronger bond with your bunny.

Why do Rabbits Wiggle their Nose?

Rabbits wiggle their noses as a natural behavior that serves important functions. Wiggling helps them regulate their breathing by facilitating air circulation and ensuring they receive enough oxygen. It also aids in their sense of smell, as rabbits have a highly developed sense of scent.

By wiggling their noses, they can detect and distinguish various odors in their environment. The constant movement of their nose is a fascinating and essential characteristic of rabbits.

Rabbits also wiggle their noses when excited or engaging in social interactions. When you talk to or interact with them, rabbits often show enthusiasm by wiggling their noses rapidly. It’s a sign of their excitement and anticipation. This behavior demonstrates that rabbits are attentive and receptive to their owners’ presence and communication. The adorable nose-wiggling adds to these delightful creatures’ charm and endearing nature.

Do rabbits popcorn like guinea pigs?

Yes, rabbits do have a similar behavior to guinea pigs’ popcorning, which is called “binkying.” Both binkying and popcorning are joyful and playful movements where the animals jump, twist, and kick their feet in the air.

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