Traditionally dogs are predators, rabbits are prey, and specifically, rabbits are prey for dogs. They are a natural food source for canines and their wild cousins. What if you have a pet rabbit and a pet dog? Is there any hope of your dog becoming “friends” with your rabbit? Will you be able to socialize them and let them loose together?
Many dogs and rabbits share homes together quite amicably. But whether your dog and rabbit will be able to be loose together and enjoy companionship depends on your dog and, to some degree, your rabbit. Dogs that are extremely prey motivated, or from breeds recently crossed with wild canine cousins, such as coyotes or wolves, are not good candidates as bunny buddies!
However, most dogs can be taught to respect their rabbit housemates. Even a Labrador cross farm dog, Bella, who would happily chase and kill a jackrabbit in her field, has been trained so that she carefully steps over her mistress’s pet bunny, sitting on the living room floor, and quietly goes to her bed in the corner, leaving the family bunny unmolested. Bella may be an exceptional case, as she will chase wild rabbits, but not her family's tame one. Most dogs cohabitating with rabbits are trained not to chase rabbits at all, and this is usually how best success occurs in establishing rabbit and dog roommates!
Before training your pet dog to get along with your pet rabbit, who is naturally a prey animal to your dog, it is important that your dog is obedient, that he listens well to your commands and responds to you, and that your dog recognizes you as the pack leader. Dogs perceive the world through their rigid social structure, which is hierarchical and includes a pack leader and pack members of varying ranks. You will want to establish that you're the pack leader and that your rabbit is a member of the pack, along with your dog, in order to be able to let your dog and rabbit safely in contact with each other.
You can start training your young dog to get along with your rabbit, but a puppy may have limited self-control. Although he may not be intentionally aggressive towards your rabbit, roughhousing and chewing can be difficult to control for a puppy and can injure your rabbit, so use caution with young dogs. An older dog may have more control over behavior. Also, using a confident bunny helps; a rabbit that always shows fear or runs away will not be useful at teaching your dog not to chase or view the rabbit as a prey object.
I’ve just got Debbie today and I’m trying to settle her in, my rabbits are inside and I don’t think Debbie has seen a rabbit before as soon as I brought her in the house she went straight to the cage trying to get in so I’ve put the rabbits outside while Debbie settles in ...what can I do x
Hello Abby, I suggest following the "Introduce Slowly" method and keeping the animals separated when you are not able to train - to prevent Debbie from bothering them, breaking into the cage, or increasing her aggression toward them - which would make training a lot harder. https://wagwalking.com/training/like-a-rabbit Be very careful and get Debbie used to wearing a basket muzzle while also on a leash, if needed. If you are not seeing some progress within two weeks doing the training, I suggest hiring a professional trainer to help you. This type of training can be delicate - especially with older sogs who were not raised with such animals. Be aware that there are some dogs who can never adjust due to a strong prey drive that would be too dangerous for the prey animals to always manage in the same household. A trainer should also be able to evaluate Debbie in that area, once the training begins based on how she is responding to the training and her body language around the rabbits. Do not trust her around the rabbits yet though. Left on her own right now she likely would kill them because they are still just prey to her. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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Hello, my Foxy is so sweet, and my rabbit, Yvonnie, likes to follow her around the house, interrupt her naps and play with her whenever I let her out. Sometimes they are nice together and lay together and play, but sometimes Foxy starts to get annoyed and growl, which doesn’t seem to bother the bunny at all! But it bothers my dog occasionally. What’s the best approach when she starts to get aggressive? She nips at Yvonnie but never bites. She paws her sometimes and I don’t want it to potentially go too far
Hello Quinn, I suggest treating the bunny like a puppy with an older dog. To help an older dog get along with a puppy it's important to advocate for the older dog and manage the interactions, so that the older dog doesn't feel overwhelmed and like they need to be the one to discipline and control the puppy. When you remove some of the stress of being constantly pestered, then many older dogs start to relax around puppies. Essentially, manage the interactions between Foxy and the bunny. When you notice that Foxy wants to be left alone, instead of waiting for her to start growling at your bunny or trying to escape, make the bunny leave the area where Foxy is. You may want to set up a comfortable area for Foxy where the bunny cannot follow or use a baby gate or exercise pen to keep the bunny away from her during these times. You can discipline the aggressive displays firmly but gently, but it sounds like the bunny is really the issue and Foxy simply needs her own space some times. If Foxy feels like she can depend on you to take care of things and protect her when she wants to be left alone, then she will likely feel less stressed about the bunny's presence and can enjoy her more when she feels like playing or spending time with her. Reducing the stress can help keep the aggression from escalating. You can also reward Foxy when the bunny enters the room initially and for being tolerant of the bunny's presence, so that the bunny is associated with good things in her mind. When the bunny leaves, stop the rewards. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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