How to Understand Your Rabbit’s Behavior

While it is true that every dwarf rabbit has its own inborn behavioral traits, each rabbit goes on to develop its unique temperament. Your dwarf is best able to develop its temperament when it receives daily exercise and has a companion of its own species to live with.

Behavior Patterns You Should Know

To understand your rabbit, you should be able to interpret its body language properly:

  • Standing on its hind legs: It gets a good view and can nibble on overhanging high branches.
  • Rolling: This is a clear sign that it feels good.
  • Gentle nudging with its nose: This is how rabbits greet each other. When the dwarf nudges you gently with its nose, it means, “Please stroke me.”

  • Vigorous pushing away of your hand: The rabbit doesn’t want to be disturbed now.
  • Licking: Rabbits that like each other mutually groom each other. This behavior is also called social grooming. If the dwarf licks your hand or, in an excess of enthusiasm, also your cloth­ing, this means, “I like you.”
  • Cowering; The rabbit presses itself flat on the floor. Its ears are laid back; its head is down. This is a gesture of subordination to another rabbit. A submissive, anxious rabbit can also display this posture to you.
  • Relaxed crouching, ears laid baek:lhe ani­mal is resting and you shouldn’t disturb it.
  • Side position: The legs are outstretched, the eyes slowly closed. The rabbit wants to sleep.

Noises a Dwarf Makes

Rabbits are by nature very quiet animals; often you must listen very carefully to hear any sound. Here are some of their sounds:

  • Peeping: An anxious complaining sound that, for example, a young rabbit in the nest makes when it feels cold and is hungry.
  • Fussing: Short, fast, scolding noises one after the other. The rabbit “bleats” like this, for instance, when it is put back in the cage against its will.
  • Growling: This sound is usually heard from the buck before and after mating.
  • Snarling and growling: These sounds express defense and aggression. A lightning-fast attack may follow.
  • Squealing: This sound can be heard when the rabbit is deathly afraid, such as when it has been seized by a dog.
  • Teeth gnashing: This is always a sign of severe pain. The eyes are dull and dim and the animal is apathetic.
  • Slight grinding sound with the yaws: This an expression of contentment and is often heard when the rabbit is being scratched.

The Scent World of the Rabbit

Rabbits mark their territory and communicate with one another with the aid of scents, called pheromones, which are produced by various glands. The chin glands are situated under the tongue. Their scent is transmitted to the underside of the chin through pores. The rab­bit marks its territory by rubbing its chin on a branch, for example, or, in the house, on a cage corner or the leg of a chair. The buck also rubs his “bride-to-be.”

The anal glands lie on both sides of the anal opening. The rabbit covers its droppings with their secretion to mark its territory. The inguinal glands are found in the hairless skin folds on both sides of the genital opening. From the scent of these glands, rabbits can tell at the first approach whether the other rabbit is a family member, a male or female, or in the mood to mate.

Hearing Ability

The auricles are structured like long trumpets and can be turned independently of one another. The rabbit’s hearing ability is very good and even the most delicate sounds are registered. Lop-eared rabbits with hanging ears have decreased hearing ability.

What this means to rabbits:

  • Your dwarf is able to note your voice and recognize it again.
  • Noises such as doors slamming, loud music, or screaming produce fear and flight behavior.


The rabbit can see everything that is happen­ing at a distance very well; it doesn’t see as well in its immediate vicinity. The position of its eyes at the sides of its head gives it a visual field that is almost a complete circle; thus it can quickly discern enemies. Its visual acuity is also very good in dusky light; on the other hand, brilliant sunshine blinds it. Recognition of colors is limited; a rabbit can only distin­guish between green and red. Because of your rabbit’s eyesight:

  • Always approach the dwarf rabbit slowly—a fast approach triggers its reflex flight response.
  • Crouch when greeting it.
  • Never suddenly grasp the animal from above. To the dwarf, it feels as though a bird of prey has suddenly grabbed it.
  • Be careful during daily exercise indoors. Since the rabbit doesn’t see things well that are close to it, it may suddenly run between your legs.

Sense of Smell

The rabbit’s sense of smell is its best-devel­oped sense. Its nose is constantly twitching up and down to take in the scents. It recognizes other rabbits by their scent, and the sense of smell is important for its entire social and sex­ual behavior. The nasal mucous membranes are very sensitive.

Because of your rabbit’s sense of smell:

  • Dusty hay, dry air, acrid cleaning solutions, and perfumes irritate the mucous membranes of the dwarf’s nose.
  • If, for instance, your hand has a different smell than usual (maybe you were petting a dog), the rabbit will recoil in fright when you try to pet it.

Sense of Taste

The rabbit has a well-developed sense of taste and can distinguish between sweet, sour, bitter, and salty.

Because of your rabbit’s sense of taste:

  • Rabbits love to nibble on sweet chocolate and cookies but these can cause serious digestive problems.
  • Domesticated rabbits have, in large part, lost their ability to recognize poisonous plants by taste. Do not keep any houseplants around that are poisonous. Your veterinarian or local library can give you a list of harmful plants.

Sense of Touch

The rabbit has an outstanding ability to orient itself by means of tactile hairs that are positioned on both sides in the mouth-nose area, over the eyes, and on the cheeks,

These enable the rabbit to feel obstacles in the dark and tell whether an opening is wide enough and high enough for it to go through.

What this means for dealing with rabbits:

  • Never pull on or cut the sensitive tactile hairs. Without tactile hairs the animal would be deprived of an important orientation tool.

Filed Under: Pets & Animals


About the Author: Fred Goodson has a passion for pets and animals. He has 4 dogs and is planning to have another one. He is also a blogger who writes about pets and animals. Currently, he is living in New Jersey.

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