Walking a rabbit

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If you would like to take your rabbit outdoors in an unenclosed rabbit-safe area to explore, it is important to accustom your rabbit to a harness and lead to prevent them running off.

Please be mindful of the usual outdoor dangers including parasites and disease if you choose to take your rabbits outside.

Also, please understand that not all rabbits can be easily acclimated to a harness and leash, and for these rabbits, it is best to only let them outside in enclosed areas instead of using a leash and harness. Rabbits can break and injure their shoulders in a panic while in a harness. See Tinsel's and Arduina's stories.

Howcast. (2013). Can I Walk My Rabbit on a Leash?

Choosing a harness

"This sweet little bunny was brought into us yesterday as a stray after being found on Balista Street in Riverton. He had a collar stuck around his teeth and jaw and required sedation for removal and treatment. He has recovered well and we are now trying to locate his owner. - Pictures and text used with direct permission from Riverton Rossmoyne Veterinary Hospital

February 17, 2017: Update.

February 24, 2017: Final update, after 4 weeks of treatment Buttons is doing great and was adopted by a vet nurses, Stacey and her family at RRBH.

Neck collars should not be used on a rabbit due to their danger. Rabbit necks and spines can be easily injured if a rabbit is startled on a collar and lead. The rabbit can break their own neck or strangle themselves dashing off by running out of lead or catching the collar on something. Please only use harnesses. It only takes a rabbit to panic once on a collar to end up with severe injuries.

There are several types of harnesses available for purchase that a rabbit can use. Rabbit agility sites provide excellent resources for recommendations. Regardless of the type you end up choosing, harnesses should be properly fitted and snug on a rabbit. The harness should only allow one or two human fingers in between the rabbit's collar or waist. If it is too tight, the rabbit will be uncomfortable and may become stressed.[1] If it is too loose, the rabbit may be able to chew or slip out of the harness. Do remember that a rabbit has a lot of fur, so although it may look tight on the bun, it is mostly just fur.

Please remember that no matter how cute a harness is, if it does not fit the rabbit, it is not safe to use. Do not leave rabbits unattended with a harness and lead on. Safety first. See Riverton Rossmoyne Veterinary Hospital's story of a stray rabbit found with a collar stuck around his teeth and jaw (additional graphic before and after image series).


An H-harness.

This is the most popular type of harness for rabbits. These can easily be obtained at a pet store in the kitten, cat, or dog sections.

Some examples on Amazon:

An H-harness looks like a sideways H when laid out on a table. There should be two buckles -- one around the neck and one around the waist. These can easily be adjusted to properly fit a rabbit.

Some H-harnesses, especially cat ones, may also come with a chest strap. It is recommended to cut the chest strap off because it rarely fits well on a rabbit. Additionally, the chest strap may restrict a rabbit's movement when stretching to hop. Some have found that a belly strap on the harness makes it easier for the rabbit to escape out of the harness and puts the neck strap within reach of the rabbit to chew on.[2]

Connect the lead to the waist loop, not the neck loop. This harness style is safe because each section is separately adjusted, and a rabbit will have pressure distributed across the belly in the case of pulling instead of the neck like a collar.

Be forewarned, some rabbits make dislike the sensation of the neck strap and will need to be trained to get used to the harness.

Vest or coat harness

Vest Harness

This type of harness is usually specially targeted for small animals like rabbits and ferrets. This harness will have a ring at the top to clip a lead on.

Some examples on Amazon:

Most vest and or coat type harnesses close with velcro fasteners at the neck and the waist. Two layers of velcro is best. Keep the velcro clean for maximum security. Some are made with buttons or snaps. Check buttons often, and remember how a button can pop off a shirt. If snaps become loose, discard this type of harness.[3]

Shoulder harness

Shoulder Harness

Shoulder harnesses are popular in the rabbit agility community. However, these will not be found in the regular pet store and must be custom ordered. One strap of the shoulder harness goes around the chest, and another goes around the belly.

The thought behind this model is to put the pressure of a rabbit's weight across the shoulder instead of the throat. Because of the minimal strangling sensation of the shoulder harness compared to the H-harness, rabbits that pull will tend to like a shoulder harness better.[4]

Rabbitdotse. (2011). How to put the shoulder harness on (www.rabb-it.se)

Unsafe harnesses

There are options out there that are not safe for most rabbits to use listed below.

Figure 8 harness

A figure 8 harness is shaped as it is named and made out of one piece of fabric. The 8 makes openings with one fitting over a rabbit's head and one over the rabbit's waist. It has a single buckle that buckles over the back of a rabbit. Because it is made out of one piece, if a rabbit panics and gets the harness caught on something, the harness can easily tighten like a noose.

Rope Harness

Rope harnesses are a figure 8 harness with a lead made in one piece. The design adjusts and buckles over the back of the rabbit. While this is one of the lighter harnesses that can be fitted for a rabbit, the inherent danger with a panicking rabbit as stated with the figure 8 harness makes it not an optimal option. Additionally, the thinner a harness is, the more it can hurt a rabbit if pulled at.[1]

Accepting a harness

Most rabbits will need to be trained to accept a harness, but some will not be bothered at all by a harness.

If a rabbit tries to nibble at a harness, distract him with food.

The following are some resources on how to train a rabbit to accept its harness:

Birdchick. (2012). Bunny Leash Training

See Training a rabbit for more tips on how to train a rabbit.

Pet strollers

An enclosed pet stroller can be a good option when taking a rabbit outside. However, please note that walking your rabbit outside is mostly for the benefit of the owner rather than the rabbit. Most rabbits will be most comfortable at home on familiar turf. Rabbit eyes do not see well like cats or dogs.

With a soft stroller, please be mindful that your rabbit does not quickly chew their way out and escape. Additionally, please be wary about uncontrolled dogs in public areas that may be extremely interested in your rabbit.

Daisy in her stroller.
KeithB. out and about with Nelson.
KeithB., Blueberry, Buster, and Benji waiting for a train, on their way to Bunfest 2015.

Further reading

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Rabbit Jumping UK. (2012). Harnesses. Retrieved 17 Feb 2017 from https://web.archive.org/web/20121230015008/http://www.rjuk.moonfruit.com/harnesses/4548178681
  2. iowahopping. (n.d.). The H-style Harness. Retrieved 17 Feb 2017 from https://sites.google.com/site/iowahopping/getting-started-hopping-1
  3. Rabbit Agility. (2006). About Harnesses. Retrieved 17 Feb 2017 from https://sites.google.com/site/iowahopping/getting-started-hopping-1
  4. Rabb-it. (n.d.). Choosing the right type of harness. Retrieved 17 Feb 2017 from http://www.rabb-it.se/eng/choosing-model.html