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Can Dogs Live with Hamsters?
Families that love dogs often love having other pets in the home. It is not uncommon for family members to want their own pets to enjoy. Many people choose to have a dog and a hamster.
Why not? They are both such fun to play with and pet. Our dogs are affectionate, loving, and playful! What could go wrong? Who doesn't enjoy watching a hamster running on his wheel or traveling about his tubes?
It may be wise to pause to consider that your adorable, busy hamster might have a very different appeal to your curious canine. It may be that your perfect pooch is just being friendly, but a slap with a paw or an affectionate mouthing of the hamster could wind up in a fatal encounter for your hammie.
Signs Your Pooch is Too "Into" the Hamster
Your dog is very alert to his environment. With his amazing powers of sensation, your dog can smell and hear your little hamster, making this little furball an object of keen interest. When a dog is aroused by his senses, the focus will be on finding and interacting with the small animal.
It is important to remember that your dog has natural instincts to hunt for prey. The presence of a small hamster may stir those basic hunting instincts. You may find your dog in a state of arousal that may appear playful but is actually reflexively a hunter's orientation to seek and find the smaller creature.
Watch your dog's body language for the signs of his interest in your hamster. The best scenario would be one in which your dog is interested in your small pet but responding in ways that are non-aggressive. You will see that your dog is focused, often staring in the direction of your hamster.
As his senses of smell and hearing are aroused, you can watch him search out the hamster. Dogs perceive the world with their super-sensitive sense of smell. You will see your dog wiggling that wet nose as he sniffs out your hammie's location. His excitement at the presence of a small animal may be expressed by the wagging of his super friendly tail. He will be keeping an eye on your hamster by staring and following hammie's every movement.
There are signs you want to watch for that could signal that your dog is responding to your hamster as prey. Obvious signs of danger to the hamster would include growling and barking. Other signs of potential to pounce on your hamster would be panting and raised ears. Your dog may also be excitable and lunge toward the location of your little hamster. They may naturally go into a predator-prey behavior pattern. You may find your hamster responding by hiding and showing symptoms of stress, like shaking.
The History Behind Dogs Vs. Hamsters
Charles Darwin described the evolution of the dog, "Our domestic dogs are descended from wolves and jackals and though they may not have gained in cunning, and may have lost in wariness and suspicion, yet they have progressed in certain moral qualities, such as affection, trustworthiness, temper, and probably in general intelligence."
Perhaps it is out of this evolution of the dog to acquire human morality that we would even consider the likelihood of a dog and hamster in the same home. It is those qualities of trustworthiness and temperament that we have a faith that the dog will be able to coexist with helpless little creatures.
As one historian described dogs, they connect the wild with tame and they join nature and culture. It is a dog's natural instinct to hunt and to be a predator. The sight, smell and movements of small animals, such as a hamster, make them prey.
Your dog's basic instinct will be to hunt the hamster. Even though dogs have learned to live with humans, those basic instincts cannot be trusted. Some breeds, especially those of hunting dogs, will not be as trustworthy with other small animals in your home as they were bred to hunt prey. Other more passive companion breeds may be less openly aggressive but they still have that basic instinct to seek small creatures.
The Science Behind Dog and Hamster Interaction
All dogs have an innate prey drive along with the skills to act on that disposition. There are a number of factors that will impact your dog's prey drive. The science of predatory behavior includes consideration of the breed and disposition of the dog. Four main factors effect the likelihood your pooch will pounce. They are:
- Breed Some breeds are more likely to hunt.
- Learning Rewarding experiences makes it more likely the dog will want to hunt again.
- Opportunity This is the dog's freedom to act when prey is present.
- Social facilitation This translates into presence or absence of others to restrict or reinforce the predatory behavior.
The hunt has been described as occurring in two phases: The appetitive phase and the consumption phase. Going back to basic instincts, dogs hunt to eat! Dogs rely on their super sense of smell and memories to hunt their prey. In the wild, dogs would hunt in packs and surround their prey so it can not escape.
Similarly, your domesticated dog may corner small prey. Today's dogs may vary in their response to locating prey based on breeding and training experiences. For example, a pointer may point to the prey rather than proceed to eat it. A bird dog may mouth prey similarly to how the dog would pick up a bird in a trained hunt. Retrievers, Spaniels, Pointers and Setters are the breeds of dog with the keenest hunting instincts, making them less favorable candidates to live with hamsters and other small animals.
Training Your Dog to Be Calm Around Your Hamster
There are a number of things that you can do to enjoy having both a hamster and a dog in your home. You may hear accounts of dogs and hamsters being best buddies, but that is a potentially dangerous situation for your hamster. You will want to teach your dog to respect your hamster and protect your hammie from harm.
Veterinarians recommend that you do some planning for the health and well-being of both creatures. Begin by considering if your dog's disposition is suitable for keeping a small pet in the home. Next, you will want to check the health status of both animals to prevent the spread of infections or fleas.
When you introduce the animals to one another, it is best to proceed slowly. The first introduction may be allowing your dog to sniff the hamster's scent under the door. When you allow the dog to enter the hamster's room, keep him on a leash and keep your hamster in his safe and sturdy cage - that is located on a table above the dog's nose. Keep your dog about two feet away from the hamster for a few minutes then take your dog out of the room.
Repeat these short introductions and separate them as they start to lose interest in one another for about three to five minutes, two or three times a day. Reward your dog for remaining calm around the hamster. Always think about safety first. You do not want to place your hamster's cage in a place where it can be easily knocked over. Some hamsters are good escape artists, so you might keep the door to the hamster room closed just in case he gets out for an adventure.
By a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel lover Pat Drake
Published: 02/01/2018, edited: 04/06/2020
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