Rabbits & Dogs: Can the prey be safe around its predator?
April 8, 2020
Let’s discuss the challenges of owning rabbits and dogs today.
Despite which species of dog you have as a pet in your house, learning about the challenges will ease your problems.
I can’t say for sure, these two species will bond together, but there are techniques in this article that will ensure the safety of having rabbits and dogs together.
I will start by explaining the characteristics of these two animals first.
Skip to section
- Qualities of rabbits.
- Traits of dogs.
- Do rabbits and dogs get along?
- Are rabbits scared of dogs?
- How to train a dog not to attack rabbits?
- Do rabbits like to play with dogs?
- Rabbit friendly dogs.
- Rabbit safety with dogs.
Qualities of rabbits.
Rabbits are small, cuddly pets. They are delicate and get nervous quickly.
Rabbits belong at the bottom of the food chain. Being prey animals, they tend to be scared very easily.
Even a loud bang can scare a rabbit very much. Trying to pet a rabbit by raising your pet rabbits in the wrong way will escalate stress in rabbits.
Stress in rabbits contributes to deteriorating their health condition. If you own a rabbit for some time, you might already know a tiny change in their environment can cause a rabbit to become sick.
Traits of dogs.
Dogs are loving animals. The loyalty of dogs towards their keeper is unquestionable.
Loyalty in dogs has made them loving pets in most residential houses today.
Apart from that, dogs are predators. Belonging at the top of the food chain, dogs have an instinct to attack danger in their territory. Not merely a threat, however, any prey animals that are smaller in size can bring out a dog’s natural ability. What is a dog’s instinct?
It is to protect, guard, and hunt. A dog will not hesitate to put itself in danger to protect the owner.
Although in the end, all traits of dogs rely on one point:
How his/her guardian raises a dog.
Do rabbits and dogs get along?
Owning rabbits and dogs together is not a new thing. Many households have dogs and rabbits living together in harmony.
Nevertheless, every pet owner will answer you differently because everyone’s experiences are not alike.
There are multiple cases where a pet dog has severely injured a rabbit.
Although the pet dog was friendly with the rabbit somehow, the dog hurt the rabbit. It might have been an accident by the dog or perhaps intentional.
We, as guardians, can’t comprehend what has happened if we were not present in the scene.
On the contrary, some guardians own rabbits and dogs together, and for years, these two pets live together. In years rabbits and dogs being from two different species have created a strong bond for each other.
Thus the answer to the question you seek cannot be given by merely saying YES or NO.
The answer is a lot more complicated, and a responsible pet owner has to do his/her research before introducing these two pets.
Your experience might be different from others owning rabbits and dogs together.
I don’t know which animal you currently own, and which animal you are going to adopt. Although I don’t know what your intentions are precise, I will do my best to give you a proper answer.
I have mentioned early in this post that rabbits are prey animals and dogs belong to the predator’s species.
Accordingly, I believe you already understand that trying to bond these animals is not an easy task nor impossible.
Are rabbits scared of dogs?
It is a common question by dog owners willing to adopt rabbits. Understand the characteristics of both these animals before you bring a bunny in your dog’s territory.
Dogs are predators and territorial animals. It is typical for a dog to protect its guardian and its territory.
How about a rabbit’s character?
Belonging at the bottom of the food chain, a rabbit tends to keep them safe from predators. Rabbits like to relax in burrows where predators cannot reach. Similarly, rabbits get nervous quickly if they feel danger.
Thus it is reasonable to say a rabbit is certainly scared of dogs.
Hence, I can assure you this introducing a rabbit to a pet dog is dangerous.
The first bonding of dogs and rabbits is essential.
Imagine the consequence of introducing a dog to new rabbits without proper training.
Your dog will most certainly try to attack the rabbit. Though you keep your dog in a leash, the mere sight of an attacking predator is dangerous for rabbits.
It is common for rabbits to die from shock.
How to train a dog not to attack rabbits?
Training dogs to not attack rabbits is crucial. Without proper training and not following the steps for bonding these two animals can create a violent scene.
Bonding rabbits and pet dogs are the most complicated of all. Moreover, after you follow the bonding steps, I can’t say these two animals inevitably will create any bond.
If you fail to create any bond, it is best not to own these pets in your house together.
And if you insist on owning house rabbits after you own a dog, keeping them apart is the best option.
I will describe some necessary steps to follow before you continue with the bonding process.
Step 1: Evaluate the personality of your dog.
Many dog owners think adopting a rabbit will not be a problem as they own a dog which is a smaller breed.
Yet, the truth is the size of a dog doesn’t matter. Regardless of the scale, dogs are predators, and their typical behavior is to attack prey.
Hence, considering the size of your dog as a positive thing before adopting a bunny is a wrong concept.
Is your dog friendly? If your dog’s predatory drive is high, then it is a dangerous sign. A very active dog with unpredictable behavior is not the type of dog that will bond with rabbits.
Ultimately it all comes down to the rabbit guardian. If you have raised your dog as a guard dog, then the right thing is to avoid bonding such a dog with rabbits.
Ask yourself, how does your pet dog act when it sees an unwanted guest in the territory?
If your dog is old and not very active, then perhaps you can try to bond this animal with a domestic rabbit.
If your dog does not show any interest in other small animals because you have raised him like that, bonding such a dog is a good idea.
Those pets dogs which are very active outdoors can cause harm to pet rabbits because of their busy lifestyle.
STEP 2: Neutering and Spaying.
It is necessary to keep your dog’s predatory drive low by neutering/spaying before activating the bonding steps.
Willing to bond rabbits and dogs without desexing both parties is predetermined to fail.
Both of these animals are territorial. However, while bonding a prey and a predator, the likely victim is the prey animal.
Unneutered or unspayed pets are very hormonal. Having a high level of hormone in their body makes the animals aggressive. Territorial animals are more protective of their territory in this condition.
Thus bonding an aggressive predator with a territorial house rabbit is impossible.
None of the animals may give up their territory so quickly.
STEP 3: Test their reactions in front of each other.
If you have attended the first two steps and determine it is time to move on, then follow the instructions here.
It is time to test the reactions of the two animals when they see each other.
In the first two steps, the dog and the rabbit must not meet each other.
In step three, you can introduce the rabbit and the dog to recognize their reactions when they see one another.
Be very careful with rabbits, because rabbits get sensitive pretty quickly.
If your dog barks at the small pet and the rabbit is scared, then it will be traumatized.
If the rabbit is traumatized during the first introduction, then the rabbit will never consider the dog as a friend.
Likewise, if the dog’s reaction is predatory, it is wise not to continue further.
Any kind of interest in your dog towards the rabbit is dangerous.
Both spirited and rapacious drive by your dog is dangerous for a small pet like rabbits.
How to organize this first meeting of your dog and rabbit?
The first meeting of rabbits and dogs is a component of this third step.
You can organize the meet by placing your rabbits in a cage. The cage must also include a room where the rabbit can hide immediately sensing danger.
If you do not give a place for the rabbit to hide, then the rabbit will be critically stressed.
Next, leash your dog and walk by the cage. Do not walk with your dog so close to the cage.
Close enough so that the dog can smell the rabbit, far enough so that both these animals can see each other.
It is crucial at these steps to not scare the rabbit away. Maintain a distance that will make your rabbit feel safe enough, although it is inside the cage.
Perform this introduction in neutral territory like every bonding process.
Now, observe the behavior of both animals while they sense the existence of each other.
Especially observe your pet dog. Is the dog showing any kind of interest towards the rabbit in the cage?
If the dog is overly excited and tries to reach for the rabbit in the cage is a bad sign.
You may not comprehend why your dog is trying to reach for the rabbit. The reason for that may be good or bad.
The dog may want to play with the small pet or simply attack the rabbit.
On the contrary, if your pet dog doesn’t consider the existence of the rabbit in the house, it is a good sign. Lack of interest in the rabbit doesn’t ensure the safety of your pet rabbits ultimately.
Lack of any excitement means you can move on to the next step.
But you have only observed the behavior of your dog, how about your rabbit’s reaction?
I suppose you haven’t forgotten about your rabbit.
Observe your pet dog at the same time, witness your rabbit’s reaction.
If the rabbit is too nervous and runs for his hiding place, then the introduction is not working very well.
If your bunny is scared during the first meet, which is typical for a prey animal, then certainly moving on to the next step is not ideal.
Nevertheless, some pet rabbits are not bothered to see a dog immediately. They wait for the predator to react, and then they are ready to run.
In a scene where the rabbit’s first impression is not nervous, you can move on to the next step.
STEP 4: Test their reactions more than once.
You have already introduced your rabbits and dogs. Hopefully, you are satisfied with their first meet reactions.
If you are not satisfied, then do not proceed further.
By satisfying, I mean the rabbit and dog reacted as planned and not unexpected.
So once you have seen them reacting well in front of each other, you have to test their reaction several times.
Did you just think you completed the bonding stages? Not at all.
Step 3 was only the beginning. Step 4 is repeating step 3 numerous times.
It will help you to recognize any unpredictable behavior in both of these animals.
If the first meet was a success does not mean the next event will be successful.
Assuming after a few meets that it is safe to raise rabbits and dogs together can be very dangerous.
Terrible things may happen even when rabbits and dogs are friends for years in a household.
How much worse can it be if dogs and rabbits are only at the initial stage of their bonding?
Therefore assuming their relationship has grown enough will have adverse consequences.
To ensure safety, you have to repeat step 4 many times.
Are you willing to take all these troubles just to raise dogs and rabbits together?
If you are not enthusiastic to follow all the instructions, I suggest contacting a professional in your area who can conduct the pet training.
That way, you will ease your hassle, and both of these pets will be in safer hands.
Once you or your pet trainer is convinced, it is safe to allow these two pets to live in the same household.
But observation is essential. Just because it seems these two pets are friendly doesn’t necessarily mean the dog will not harm the rabbit.
A dog might kill the rabbit by mistake or by intention.
After all, the dog is a predator.
To strengthen rabbits’ and dogs’ relationship after step 5, you can often take them out for a walk together.
It all depends on how you have raised your dog. If your dog is developed as a friendly dog and thinks of the guardian as his/her alpha, then this task will be a lot less complicated for you.
First, you have to buy a rolling cage for your rabbit. It is available in pet stores, as well as you can purchase online.
Now that you have a rolling cage, you can walk your dog and rabbit at the same time.
When you will go out, leash your dog and place your rabbits in the rolling cage.
You might ask someone else’s help to move the rolling cage beside you while you walk the dog on a leash.
If you walk your dog and rabbits together often, the dog will start to believe that the rabbit is a member of the pack.
As you are the alpha for your dog, the dog follows you. As well as the rabbit walking alongside you, when the dog is walking, it will help create a positive image of the rabbit in the dog’s mind.
The dog will follow the alpha and will prevent itself from harming another member of the pack.
Do rabbits like to play with dogs?
Rabbits like to play with any creature they have a bond with. Suppose your rabbit has a friendship with a cat, then it will play with the cat.
If you succeed in building a friendship between a dog and a cat, they will enjoy each other’s companion.
However, unlike a dog, when a rabbit is happy, it will do bunny binkies. Rabbits like to groom other rabbits to show their affection.
Those are a few ways how rabbits prefer to play with their companions, which is different from dogs.
Now I do not think rabbits will groom dogs to show their affection.
Because dogs are predators, and dogs do not groom each other to show their affection.
Thus it is unlikely to see them playing with each other by grooming.
To our eyes, recognizing the signs of affection and playfulness between a dog and a rabbit might be unclear. Similarly, an over-friendly dog is dangerous to rabbits.
If a rabbit is very excited and likes to play often with the rabbit, that relationship needs observation from the guardian. A big friendly dog bonded with a small rabbit is dangerous.
A large dog that is playful and always excited might injure your pet rabbits only by showing affection. A dog’s way of devotion is different from rabbits and is not suitable for delicate pets.
Hence I do not suggest much about bonding rabbits and dogs.
If you fail to recognize their signs, whether they are playing or not, you will misunderstand their relationship too. Misunderstanding their relationship will result in more danger to the rabbits.
Rabbit friendly dogs.
There is nothing like rabbit friendly or unfriendly dogs. Everything comes down to how well their guardian raises a dog. We are speaking of bonding a prey with its predator.
Thus if the dog is not well trained or not well disciplined by its owner, it will probably kill the rabbit.
People may think larger breeds are unsafe around rabbits. However, even a smaller kind of dog can be dangerous for house rabbits. Unless the dog is smaller in size than your pet rabbits, I genuinely wonder how these two pets behave around each other.
It will be a lot easier to bond a mannered dog with a rabbit regardless of their size.
Dogs are unbelievable loyal pets, and rabbits are cuddly loving pets. They just require proper training to be each other’s friends.
Rabbit safety with dogs.
Ultimately I do not prefer bonding prey with its predator. However, some rabbit owners insist on raising dogs and rabbits together.
There might be many reasons why a family wants to adopt a dog.
Hence I have explained how much effort you must put into bond rabbits and dogs.
In many households today, these two animals live happily and without causing any trouble for their guardian.
Although, after you put a lot of effort into bonding rabbits and dogs, it is essential to follow safety measures forever.
I suggest always observing these two animals ensure safety.
I know a rabbit guardian can’t keep an eye on his/her pets twenty-four hours.
Therefore keep your rabbits most of the time separate from your dog. Let them have a good time together only when you are there.
When you are not there to observe, keep your bunnies in cages.
And indeed, this comes after you sincerely follow all the bonding steps I have mentioned above.
One other thing a rabbit guardian can do is to choose an older dog. Having older dogs around rabbits is safer than having a lively dog.
A lively dog may hurt a rabbit merely out of excitement.
On the contrary, older dogs are usually lazy and tired due to age. Thus they don’t show much interest in their surroundings. Keeping a rabbit in an older dog’s surroundings will not bother the dog much. An older dog has less predatory drive; likewise, it will not be very active around a rabbit out of mere excitement.
A rabbit guardian can follow these preparations to raise rabbits and dogs together by ensuring safety.
Want your rabbit to be happy and healthy?