Wag! for Pet Parents

Five starsFive starsFive starsFive starsFive stars

43k+ reviews

Install

pet-parent-illustration

Pet Parent

Find Pet Caregivers on Wag!

Sign up

Already have an account?

Sign in

pet-parent-illustration

Pet Caregiver

Find pet care jobs on Wag!

Approved Caregiver?

Get the app

How to Train Your Dog to Not Kill Rabbits

How to Train Your Dog to Not Kill Rabbits
Hard difficulty iconHard
Time icon1-6 Months
General training category iconGeneral

Introduction

Do you live in dread of the dog hurting the family's pet rabbit? With some dogs, this is a very real possibility, because of their natural hunting instinct. This is especially true in terriers, since they were originally bred to hunt down and kill vermin.

Training can overcome the hunting instinct, but the wise pet parent is cautious never to put temptation in the dog's path and to supervise them around small animals at all times. Indeed, successful training is the result, not of suppressing that hunting instinct (which will always be present), but of making the owner more interesting than the rabbit so the dog doesn't give chase.

arrow-up-icon

Top

Defining Tasks

It is never a good tactic to tell a dog they can't do something. This alone results in faulty learning, where the dog is inhibited in your presence but thinks it's okay to kill rabbits when you're not around.

Instead, it's best to teach the dog an appropriate way to behave around small furries, such as to sit patiently and wait for you. In addition, this technique relies on making the pet parent more interesting than the rabbit, by training a 'look' command, and rewarding the dog for focusing their attention on the owner.

In time, you can also teach the dog to be calm around rabbits, so the urge to chase is lessened. However, be aware that in terriers this prey drive is so strong that the dog may never be trustworthy enough to be left alone with potential prey species.

arrow-up-icon

Top

Getting Started

You need minimum equipment, mainly ultra-tasty treats and a leash. It is, however, hugely helpful to have a realistic toy rabbit, and perhaps a friend to slowly move the rabbit with a piece of string. Once the dog's training is sufficiently progressed, you can also introduce the dog to rabbits that are safely caged.

Start by teaching basic commands in a quiet environment. As the dog masters 'sit' and 'look', take the training outdoors. Ultimately, you'll introduce a stooge toy rabbit, to attract the dog's attention as you teach them self-control.

arrow-up-icon

Top

The Desensitize Method

Most Recommended

2 Votes

Ribbon icon

Most Recommended

2 Votes

Ribbon icon
Desensitize method for How to Train Your Dog to Not Kill Rabbits
1

Understand the idea

'Sit' and 'look' enable you to control an incendiary situation, but it would be even better if the dog ignored the rabbit in the first instance. To do this, use a stooge toy rabbit on a piece of string.

2

Rabbit at a distance

Have the dog on a leash and a toy rabbit in the same room. Have the dog at a sufficient distance that he ignores the rabbit. Reward him for paying it no heed.

3

Move a little closer

Now take a step closer, reward him for taking no notice. Watch the dog's body language closely and be alert for subtle clues that tell you the dog has taken an interest and is about to pounce on the rabbit. Distract him with the 'look' command, then reward him.

4

All eyes on you

Keeping the same distance from the rabbit, step to a new spot, and again get the dog's attention. Reward him and then step away from the rabbit and give the dog lots of praise. The aim is to break the link between rabbits and chasing, and instead focus on you.

5

Build tolerance

Eventually, the dog will tolerate being ever closer to the rabbit without reacting to it. Remember, however, it is never a good idea to leave dogs and rabbits unsupervised together.

The Rock Solid 'Sit' Method

Effective

1 Vote

Ribbon icon

Effective

1 Vote

Ribbon icon
Rock Solid 'Sit' method for How to Train Your Dog to Not Kill Rabbits
1

Understand the idea

Giving chase is utterly thrilling for a dog, indeed chasing is its own reward. In the short term, deny the dog this satisfaction by keeping them on a leash around rabbits, and in the long term teach a rock solid 'sit'. This enables you to stop the dog in his tracks at any time, should he spot a rabbit.

2

Use a treat to get his attention

Start in quiet place with few distractions. Hold a treat in your hand and lower your hand to the level of the dog's nose so they pick up the scent.

3

Lure the dog to sit

With the dog now sniffing your hand, raise it in a low arc up and over his head. As the dog's nose follows the treat, his butt will automatically drop to the floor. As soon as his rear hits the ground, say "sit", and let him have the treat.

4

Practice

Practice repeatedly until the dog anticipates the word "sit" and drops his butt when you say it. Now practice giving the sit command when the dog is not immediately in front of you. Slowly increase the amount of time he has to wait in a sitting position until he gets a reward.

5

Phase out the treat

Gradually increase the distance between you and the dog, while still expecting him to sit on command. Also, stop giving a treat every single time he sits, so that the dog works on 'earning' the treat rather than expecting it as a given.

The Teach 'Look' Method

Least Recommended

1 Vote

Ribbon icon

Least Recommended

1 Vote

Ribbon icon
Teach 'Look' method for How to Train Your Dog to Not Kill Rabbits
1

Understand the idea

When the dog looks at you, his attention is removed from the rabbits. This makes it a useful command to use once the dog is sitting. Teaching the 'look' command is simple.

2

Get the dog's attention

Show the dog a treat by holding it near his nose. Now stand up straight and travel the treat from the dog's nose up to the space between your eyes. Move the treat slowly so the dog follows it intently.

3

Hold the dog's attention

Hold the treat with a finger and thumb, at the bridge of your nose, while saying "look". The dog should now be staring up at your face. If he glances or looks away, repeat "look" to get his attention back on the treat and your face.

4

Reward the dog for 'look'

Once the dog is staring up at your face, say "Good" and reward the dog with the treat. Use a combination of a hand signal (your finger and thumb resting on the bridge of your nose) along with a spoken command.

5

Expect more

Once the dog has learned to follow and look, make them wait longer each time before rewarding with the treat. Eventually, the dog should be capable of sitting staring at you for several minutes, before getting a reward.

Written by Pippa Elliott

Veterinary reviewed by:

Published: 11/03/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

Have a question?

Training Questions and Answers

Dog nametag icon

Harley

Dog breed icon

Jack Russel

Dog age icon

8 Months

Question icon

Question

Thumbs up icon

0 found this helpful

Thumbs up icon

0 found this helpful

User generated photo

I just got two bunnies and she wants kill them and eat them, the bunnies are in a cage and she runs around the cage whining and scratching at the cage to get in how do I teach her that they are pet rabbits and she cant eat them..

March 10, 2022

Harley's Owner

Expert avatar

Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

Recommendation ribbon

1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Lilly, First, when you aren't directly supervising the animals together - even while caged, there needs to be a door in addition to the cage between the animals. Many small animals have died due to a dog figuring out how to break into the cage when unattended. Start teaching pup Place and Quiet and Leave it. Place: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O75dyWITP1s Quiet method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark Leave It: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Once pup is doing well, introduce the bunny from across the room with another person managing the bunny, while pup is back tied to something secure while on Place. Practice Place with the leash loose enough that pup won't feel it tug unless they try to leave Place, and commands like Watch Me, Down, Sit, ect... Reward pup for calm responses, ignoring the bunny, and/or obeying you. Once pup can calmly co-exist in the same room with the bunny while on Place, practice pup heeling around the room with you and rewarding pup for staying calm, focusing on you, and obeying. Eventually you can let the animals sniff for no longer than 3 second intervals, rewarding good responses, interrupting any fixating on the bunny or tensing up around the bunny. If pup is still highly aroused, I would desensitize to a basket muzzle and have pup do initial greetings with the muzzle on and leashed. Muzzle: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJTucFnmAbw You want to encourage manners, calmness, low arousal, and focus on you around the bunny from the get go. With good boundaries in place and a calm mindset, you can gradually relax things when you are certain both animals are completely comfortable and safe around each other. When you aren't actively training and supervising, keep them separate right now for safety reasons - make sure there is not just a hutch but also a closed door between them (many dogs have broken into hutches), but do slowly increase how often and how long you practice things like Place with the animals around each other. Check out the videos linked below for examples of obedience practice and desensitization around a cat - which is a similar process to the bunny. Mild cat issue - teaching impulse control: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IWF2Ohik8iM Moderate cat issue - teaching impulse control using corrections and rewards: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9dPIC3Jtn0E If pup appears to be prey driven around the bunny, reach out immediately for help because you will likely need additional safety measures and training methods for that level, more like the second two videos above, which I would work with a trained professional to do. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

March 10, 2022

Dog nametag icon

summit

Dog breed icon

Border Collie

Dog age icon

2 Years

Question icon

Question

Thumbs up icon

0 found this helpful

Thumbs up icon

0 found this helpful

User generated photo

he heards i need help

Jan. 12, 2022

summit's Owner

Expert avatar

Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

Recommendation ribbon

1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Wyatt, If Summit herding your rabbits specifically? I would start by teaching some commands, especially Out and Leave It. Out - which means leave the area: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Leave It method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Place command: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O75dyWITP1s Down-Stay: https://www.thelabradorsite.com/train-your-labrador-to-lie-down-and-stay/ Come - Reel in method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-whippet-to-recall Once pup knows at least Out and Leave It, I would use a long training leash to practice enforcing those commands around the rabbits. Also, check out these articles and the use of Place commands to teach pup to ignore the bunnies. Make sure the bunnies stay a safe distance out of pup's reach during interactions and practice right now though too, and you can utilize a back tie leash to tether pup to something secure nearby, so that if pup gets off place before you can intervene pup can't get close to the rabbits still. Give enough slack in the tether that pup will only feel it if he gets off place though, so he can practice staying on Place out of obedience and not just because he is held back. Mild cat issue - teaching impulse control: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IWF2Ohik8iM Moderate cat issue - teaching impulse control using corrections and rewards: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9dPIC3Jtn0E If pup is trying to harm or kill the rabbits and the isn't responding well enough to the above training, here are some additional resources. I would hire a professional trainer to help you with this type of training in person though. Look for someone who specifically has experience with these tools and prey based aggression, and comes well recommended by their previous clients for similar behavior issues. Severe cat issue: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_MLJV5PBh7Y More e-collar work with cats with the same dog: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v8lkbX0dhT0 Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Jan. 12, 2022


Wag! Specialist
Need training help?

Learn more in the Wag! app

Five starsFive starsFive starsFive starsFive stars

43k+ reviews

Install


© 2024 Wag Labs, Inc. All rights reserved.