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Bonding impass after a month

Hello, I am currently bonding two 4 year old bunnies and I am struggling because I can't seem to stop the occasional fur pulling. I am looking for advice as the rescue where I adopted from has not been responsive or helpful, so I am trying posting online about it as I have read lots of useful advice on this forum.

I have added some context below.

Stuttgart is a 4 year old neutered and recently widowed lionhead, he is the dominant one and free roams in our living room.
Berlin is a 4 year old spayed mini lop who had never had a companion before.

We bonded them in our bathroom, a neutral space, and gradually increased the space over a week. They immediately groomed and there was very little aggressive behaviour, just the usual humping to decide who's boss.

As the bathroom had no natural light we moved their enclosure to our living room, again starting small and after a deep clean to remove all previous odours with vinegar and water.

It has now been 3 weeks since we moved to the living room, gradually increasing the size of the pen with ideally going back to free roam in a month. The bunnies groom each other and themselves, they eat and binky and flop, and eat lots of hay together and alone.

Unfortunately Stuttgart still bites off bits of Berlin's fur - two or three times a day, particularly around early morning. I suspect he still sees the room as his territory and maybe he gets frustrated if she explores around? Or could it be that he is trying to groom her behind but she won't let him, out of fear? After the fur pulling she retreats to the litterbox and he generally goes to groom her. She reciprocates.

I don't have any other neutral spaces in my flat, and I feel we reached an impass. I don't feel confident leaving them to free roam if there is still fur pulling, but I have no idea what realistic solution I have.

I regularly use pet calming sprays, and both bunnies share food and treats without problems before or after the pulling.

Has this happened to any one? Any solutions?
 
What is going on immediately prior to the fur pulling, by which I mean what was each rabbit doing? When it happens do you intervene in any way ? Unless there’s risk of real injury intervening can perpetuate the behaviour. Is Berlin showing any sign of being stressed by Stuttgart’s fur pulling behaviour or does she just hop off ? The fact that Berlin will groom Stuttgart after the fur pulling is good as it indicates she is accepting she is to be submissive to him. Shown by grooming him back. The behaviour should eventually stop. You might find it does so once they have the full room, but of course it could go the other way and get worse. You won’t know until you try. If there has been no sign of aggression and Berlin continues to exhibit submissive behaviour and isn’t showing any signs of stress then I wouldn’t be too concerned. A full bond with no chasing/fur pulling at all can take several months. Sometimes some bonds will always feature occasional displays of dominance from the ‘top Rabbit’ .
 
What is going on immediately prior to the fur pulling, by which I mean what was each rabbit doing? When it happens do you intervene in any way ? Unless there’s risk of real injury intervening can perpetuate the behaviour. Is Berlin showing any sign of being stressed by Stuttgart’s fur pulling behaviour or does she just hop off ? The fact that Berlin will groom Stuttgart after the fur pulling is good as it indicates she is accepting she is to be submissive to him. Shown by grooming him back. The behaviour should eventually stop. You might find it does so once they have the full room, but of course it could go the other way and get worse. You won’t know until you try. If there has been no sign of aggression and Berlin continues to exhibit submissive behaviour and isn’t showing any signs of stress then I wouldn’t be too concerned. A full bond with no chasing/fur pulling at all can take several months. Sometimes some bonds will always feature occasional displays of dominance from the ‘top Rabbit’ .
Thanks for the reply!

Immediately prior to the fur pulling I've noticed two scenarios:
1) Berlin is exploring a territory new to her but where he or his previous pal used to rest and he lounges towards her or chased her after she runs away. His ears are always facing the front tho, never back.
2) Berlin is sitting and he is getting close to her bottom to groom her, if she runs he chases her.

I don't intervene, but I do check for bites afterwards. It never lasts more than 3 or 4 seconds.

She runs away - usually towards the litterbox , but almost immediately splots or relaxes. As I type they are both sleeping next to one another in mermaid position! This is what drives me mad at times, they seem so loving and warm to one another!

I will try adding some space, maybe he will relax once he is allowed to free roam again, but I fear doing so might break the bond.
 
Hello, what brilliant names your bunnies have ❤️

I agree with IM, that Berlin is clearly accepting the current situation. It sounds as though Stuttgart is feeling a bit territorial about areas, which previously he or his previous partner were in. Success in bonding rabbits is usually achieved after the rabbits begin to trust each other and are happy with the heirarchy situation. I, too, think the behaviour of fur pulling will stop in time and it might take some time for you to feel completely reassured about their bond. As long as Berlin feels that she has somewhere to run to/escape to, when she feels upset by Stuttgart's behaviour towards her, I think that all will be well and I wouldn't be too concerned.
 
Thank you so much to both, I feel very reassured.

As a first time bonding, I have relied a lot on the experiences shared on this forum, and it's also thank to those that I have been able to bond my bunnies with minimal stress for them (and for us hahaha). I will keep an eye on things and hope for the best.

Here they are smooching on the bed, blissfully ignorant of my anxieties!
 

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Thank you so much to both, I feel very reassured.

As a first time bonding, I have relied a lot on the experiences shared on this forum, and it's also thank to those that I have been able to bond my bunnies with minimal stress for them (and for us hahaha). I will keep an eye on things and hope for the best.

Here they are smooching on the bed, blissfully ignorant of my anxieties!
Berlin seems to be performing her duties towards Stuttgart perfectly ❤️

Keep us updated as to how it develops.
 
Little update! We have given them more time, and I have also removed the perplex panels to allow some free roaming (I decided to sleep on the sofa for the first 48 hours to supervise in case of little accidents).

The frequency of fur pulling has dropped to zero, and although there is still some chasing particularly before or after meals, both seem a lot more relaxed in general. I have also stopped the petcalm valerian spray. This morning they melted my heart, this is how I found them after breakfast.

Thanks to everyone for your reassurance and advice, it's made all the difference!
 

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Little update! We have given them more time, and I have also removed the perplex panels to allow some free roaming (I decided to sleep on the sofa for the first 48 hours to supervise in case of little accidents).

The frequency of fur pulling has dropped to zero, and although there is still some chasing particularly before or after meals, both seem a lot more relaxed in general. I have also stopped the petcalm valerian spray. This morning they melted my heart, this is how I found them after breakfast.

Thanks to everyone for your reassurance and advice, it's made all the difference!
I'm really so pleased to read your lovely update ❤️ Thank you also for letting us know.
 
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