bonding lessons #8 (aka a lesson about boundaries)

I’ve probably already mentioned that the bunnies are currently going through a bit of a humping stage in their bonding process.

Believe it or not, humping isn’t just about mating – we have two boys so that would be pretty impossible. Humping, especially during bonding, is all about determining the hierarchy. One day one bunny may be trying to be top-bunny, the next it can be the other. It goes back and forth until they determine where they each stand in the relationship.

At times, the humping has been challenging for us, the guardians on watch keeping the bunnies safe.

It was fine when it started, and the bonding pen totaled six panels. At that size, it was easy for us to dash around the pen, making sure we quickly stopped any negative behaviour associated with the humping, such as chasing or circling.

However, as the pen has been slowly and gradually expanding (because we thought the humping had finished or, at least, calmed down) it has proved more and more difficult for us to run around trying to intervene when things turned negative.

Yes, we have learned and initiated a few new tricks that has reduced the amount of humping. However, it still happens. And bunnies aren’t known to run in straight lines. So trying to intervene when they’re running zigzag all over the place has meant that, more times than we would have liked, we haven’t been able to step in quickly.

However, that in itself, brought a change to the dynamics between the bunnies. It meant that the bunnies couldn’t rely on us always stepping in to help. So they had to try to take control themselves.

It has been little Olaf, our newly adopted cream-coloured bunny, who seemed to be able to stop the humping, both when he was the one doing the humping, and when he was the one being humped.

We watched a number of times as he was being chased by Bobo, that he quickly did an about turn and gave Bobo stared at Bobo. The stare was enough to stop Bobo.

In behaving this way, Olaf was making it very clear to Bobo that he had overstepped the mark and he was teaching Bobo what he was open to accept and what he wasn’t. Olaf was very cleverly and very clearly setting his boundaries.

And, for the most part, Bobo has respected them and has been slowly learning, though sometimes, like in life, he still makes mistakes.

It was a really interesting dynamic. And it encouraged me to begin setting boundaries with the bunnies too, letting them know how they could and could not behave towards each other.

When I saw body language from either bunny that indicated that humping might be starting, I stood up and moved over to where the bunnies were lying. Most of the time, my presence standing over them, stopped the humping from starting. However, on the occasion that one of the bunny’s took a few more steps towards humping, I’d reach down, touch them and gently push them aside while saying “Ah! Ah! Ah!” quite firmly.

I was setting their boundaries and letting them know that the behaviour wasn’t acceptable.

With both Olaf taking control and me setting boundaries also, the humping has really calmed down and only happens occasionally now.

Here’s the moral, I guess you could call it, to this tale (or should I say ‘cottontail’). Whilst humping is important for establishing hierarchy, constant and excessive humping becomes frustrating and could lead to fights.

So, to prevent it escalating, boundaries need to be put in place. Until the boundaries are communicated, a humping bunny will not know what is and is not acceptable. If the chasing isn’t stopped, if a boundary isn’t attached to that, for example, then the humping bunny will continue to chase because they don’t know and haven’t been taught that that is crossing the line.

And it’s exactly the same in life. If we do not establish and communicate our boundaries clearly with those around us, how will they know when they’re crossing the line?

It’s thanks to this experience with the bunnies that my eyes were opened to the lack of boundaries I had been communicating in my life.

Because I wasn’t communicating my boundaries to those around them, they didn’t know when they were crossing them. I did. And I was becoming increasingly frustrated as a result.

They weren’t intentionally crossing my boundaries, they weren’t intentionally annoying me. They simply didn’t know the boundaries existed and where they were.

Once I realised this and began to better communicate my boundaries, they respected them and no longer crossed them.

It got me thinking. I know I’m not alone in the challenge of communicating my boundaries to those around me. And, so, I decided to pose the question to the angels.

Viv xx