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.
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.
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.
Hi, we have recently purchased 2 Mini lop eared bunnies and are currently keeping lexi away from the bunnies as she has a strong hunter instinct. How are we best placed to help her overcome this as Lexi is also getting stressed ( panting and whining ) when we are in a different room with the bunnies out but she can see them. Concerned if we show her them without the door being shut her hunter instinct could take over. Please help?
Hello Sharon, I do suggest hiring a professional trainer who has worked with behavior issues like prey drive and cat or rabbit chasing, to help with this as well. Check out the videos linked below - the severity of the prey drive and guidance of a trainer who can evaluate and help manage pup's reaction in person will determine how to proceed most likely. These videos are about cats, but the prey drive and arousal in the dog is often the same with a cat and bunny. Mild cat issue example - teaching impulse control: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IWF2Ohik8iM Moderate cat issue example - teaching impulse control using corrections and rewards: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9dPIC3Jtn0E 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 Work on impulse control in general with pup, by teaching things that increase impulse control and calmness - such as a long, Place command around lots of distractions. Practicing the command until you get to the point where pup will stay on Place while you are working with a bunny in the same room. I highly recommend back-tying pup while they are on Place - connecting a long leash attached to pup to something very secure near the Place just in case pup were to try to get off Place before you could intervene. Make sure all connection points like the leash, collar/harness, and what it's tethered to are all secure and strong. This keeps bunnies safe while practicing and reinforces to pup that they can't get off the Place. The leash should be long enough that pup doesn't feel the leash while they are obediently staying on the Place because it has some slack in the leash. Place: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omg5DVPWIWo Below are some other commands in general you can practice to help pup develop better impulse skill/self-control - impulse control takes practice for a dog to gain the ability to control herself. Crate manners: https://thegooddog.net/training-videos/free-how-to-training-videos/learn-to-train-the-good-dog-way-the-crate/ Thresholds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-w28C2g68M Heel article - The turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Heel Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OTiKVc4ZZWo Down-Stay: https://www.thelabradorsite.com/train-your-labrador-to-lie-down-and-stay/ Leave It: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Out - which means leave the room: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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I haven’t actually got my puppy yet although I am looking into getting one my only worry is that he is a pointer and they are hunting dogs and I have rabbits and I’m wondering if a puppy will be too disobedient and playful and harm my rabbits? I am planning on taking him to obidence classes and also doggy day care to illuminate any possible long periods of time of him being alone at home looking for ‘fun’. But basically I’m wondering if the tutorial I’ve read on training them not too will work for younger dogs and be as effective for their whole life span?
Hello India, Puppies actually have the best chance of learning to get along with small animals, adult dogs are much harder to introduce later. When raised with them and taught not to pester the animals, puppies are more likely to view other animals as part of the family. Because puppies are rough and mouthy there does need to be constant supervision between them though and training to teach them to leave other animals alone. Unfortunately, even when raised with them there are some dogs who have too strong of a prey drive and don't adapt because prey drive is an instinct and not something you can change - only something you manage through training and supervision. Depending on what you are getting your dog for (hunting or companion), if not needing a hunting dog I would look for a breeder who does temperament evaluations for the puppies before sending them home and tests things like prey drive or birdiness, and picks a pup for you that seems to be less driven in that area. It's not a fool proof test, some pups could be late bloomers, but it does decrease the chance of getting a really driven puppy. Look for one that is pretty laid back and complacent in that area. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
I had a litter of puppies because I rescued the mom when she was pregnant the puppies was about 2 months old when I got my bunny I was scared to but to my surprise my puppies loved the bunny they all slept together and played you do have to watch and correct the puppies as sometimes they can get a little to rough but I never left them alone I use to walk to bunny and the puppies at the same time I think my bunny thought he was a dog but just keep an eye on them and keep him or her on a leash until you feel comfortable with letting your puppy off it around the rabbit good luck
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Cooper is catching and killing rabbits in our yard when we’re not outside. How do we get him to learn to leave them alone?
Hello Beth, You will need to teach an e-collar avoidance of rabbits that is not just associated with your presence. Check out James Penrith from TaketheLeadDogTraining. He has a Youtube channel. He works with dogs that chase and sometimes will kill livestock. To stop the killing you would need to pursue training like that, creating a strong avoidance of all rabbits. I suggest hiring a trainer who is very experienced with both fair corrections using the e-collar and positive reinforcement to help you implement the training. If you are will to spend a lot of time learning about the correct fitting, working level, and e-collar usage you may be able to do the training yourself also. Follow trainers like James Penrith from TaketheLead DogTraining, Jeff Gellman from Solidk9training, and Sean O'Shea from the Good Dog to on their Youtube channels to learn more about e-collar training. You will also need a caged rabbit for the training. Day 1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lgNbWCK9lFc Day 2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kpf5Bn-MNko&t=14s Day 3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xj3nMvvHhwQ Day 4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VxrGQ-AZylY Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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