One day your rabbit will be somewhere he is not supposed to be. Or, worse, a neighbor will knock on your door, “There’s a rabbit in my yard, can you catch it?” And you’ll be on the spot. Accept the fact that you have no chance of out running a rabbit. The slowest rabbit can run at 27 mph. The fastest human was timed at just under 28 mph. The first rule of rabbit herding is: slower is faster.
The second rule is: rabbits are not people. Unlike you, rabbits have eyes on the side of their heads. They have a blind spot in front of their noses. But, they can see above their heads and behind their backs - all the better to spot predators. Spotting predators is important. When rabbits move or graze they often pause to look around. Fast moving animals, dogs, humans or mountain lions are a reason to run. Animals and people that approach slowly with pauses are not so scary.
Moving the Bunny
Know your destination before you start. Corners or small cul-de-sac’s are good places to trap a strange or frightened rabbit. Gates or doorways - for example back into your yard or house - are also good.
Rabbits have a comfort or flight zone - the distance they maintain from scary things. If you step into the zone, the rabbit will move away from you. They also have a balance point somewhere near their shoulders. If you move toward the hips and tail, the rabbit will move forward. If you move toward the head and shoulders the rabbit will turn toward the rear. Both the comfort zone and the balance point will differ from rabbit to rabbit. If you want the rabbit to go forward and to the right, you step into the comfort zone toward the left hip. If you want the rabbit to turn and go left, you step into his comfort zone toward the the right shoulder.
Your first job is to find the comfort zone. When you see the rabbit, stop. Step forward slowly until the rabbit raises his head or moves away. You are at the boundary of the comfort zone.
You will be most successful if you move the rabbit a couple of hops at a time. This gives you the chance to make small adjustments in the direction you want to send the bunny. You are most efficient if you stay on the border of the comfort zone. Step to the left or right outside the zone to adjust the rabbit’s trajectory. Then step forward one or two steps to get the rabbit to move. Step slowly and pause to allow the rabbit time to pause. Talk to the rabbit in a relaxed voice. Don’t stare at the rabbit; look away occasionally. Work the boundary of the comfort zone until your rabbit is close to and pointed toward your goal. Move forward slowly. The rabbit may try to avoid the goal. Be prepared to shift back and forth to correct the rabbit’s trajectory.
A rabbit’s a comfort zone can be flexible. When they first see you, the comfort zone may be quite large. But if you behave like another rabbit, your rabbit will relax and the comfort zone may become smaller. So when you see your rabbit, stop. Look around. Say something pleasant. You do not want your rabbit to move away so don’t approach the balance point. Take a step or two on a line almost parallel with, but angled slightly toward your bunny. Stop. Allow your bunny a minute to get used to your new location. Turn and take a few steps on another slightly angled line. Continue pausing, turning and approaching along a zig zag path. Why zig zag? Because that is how another rabbit might approach. Be patient. If the rabbit alerts by lifting his head or moves away, stop. Look elsewhere while the rabbit settles. Mimic rabbit grooming: rub your face with both hands. When all is calm take another step.
When you are just out of arm’s length, pause and crouch. Extend your arm and place your hand on the ground. The rabbit will sniff your hand. If the rabbit lowers his head, you have permission to pet. Some rabbits prefer a pet starting at the nose and moving toward the ears. Other rabbits prefer a flat hand lowered to the top of the head at the base of the ears.
If the rabbit does not know you or if your rabbit is frightened, try this. Just within arms length, crouch. Slowly extend both arms out to your sides with the palms of your hands flat and perpendicular and close to the ground. Slowly move your arms until the palm of one hand is in front of your rabbit’s nose and the other behind his rump. Now gradually move both hands toward the rabbit at the same time. If the rabbit is in a corner or cul-de-sac, your arms will make the remaining side of a box. The rabbit will not have a lot of options to move. When your hands are close enough, place one hand on top of the rabbit’s head. Press down firmly but gently. With the other hand, massage the shoulders until you have a bunch of loose skin. Then, scruff the rabbit and lift.