By Emma Williams
If you want your dog and rabbit to be good friends, you’ll have to work with them. It’s probably not something that will happen naturally, since dogs are predators and rabbits are prey.
While you look at your bunny as a cute pet, your dog sees something to chase or snack on, so you’ve got to find a way to keep the peace. Here’s our top dog and rabbit socialization tips.
Dog and rabbit compatibility and socialization tips
The worst thing you can do with two different kinds of pets that don’t know each other is to just let them loose in the house or yard together. The bigger one will probably terrorize the smaller one, maybe even attacking or even causing injury.
Instead, introduce them slowly to each other. Keep your rabbit contained in a hutch and your pup on a tight leash or in a dog crate as you introduce them and let them give each other the once over Your dog will be curious and will want to sniff your rabbit. Your rabbit will also benefit from sniffing your pooch. Once they are used to one another’s scents, they are more likely to get along.
How long will it take them to adjust to one another? We’re All About Pets says it could take weeks for new pets to get used to one another. Three weeks is plenty of time for most pets to adjust to each other and learn to accept one another as housemates!
1. Give them separate, safe spaces
As well as keeping your dog and rabbit apart initially, you also want to give them a place where they can go to in order to feel safe and have time to themselves.
Your rabbit definitely needs space away from your four-legged friend, where it can get its heart rate back to normal if the dog is feeling extra energetic and playful! Your dog also needs time and space where he or she can be alone as well and not smell the tantalizing scent of rabbit in the house. You will want to give them both personal space away from each other, and you can do that by setting up their food dishes, bedding and toys in an area of the house that is secluded and away from the other pet.
2. Spay and neuter
In many cases, the reason for dog and rabbit mutual dislike is hormone-related. You may have two pets that get along splendidly most of the time and then wonder why your dog randomly gets set off and goes a little crazy. In these cases, it’s likely that their hormones are getting out of control, which you can remedy through spaying or neutering your dog. The SPCA says that both rabbits and dogs benefit from spaying and neutering because it helps them to be less territorial and less likely to get into fights with each other.
3. Remember playfulness can be dangerous
You have to be careful with a dog that is very playful. You might think that your dog would not possibly harm another creature, but it is actually pretty easy for a big dog to harm a small rabbit just through play. It wouldn’t take much for your rabbit to be injured because your dog was overly enthusiastic when saying hello.
You need to work with your dog and train him to play gently with the rabbit. This may mean giving punishment when they go out of control and play too rough but then rewarding them when they treat the rabbit delicately. Your dog wants your approval, so be sure to let your dog know what is acceptable and what isn’t.
Your dog may also have a strong prey drive, which can turn playfulness into hunting quickly. Some breeds have stronger prey drives than others, and you should pay close attention to how your dog interacts with the rabbit and whether he seems to treat the rabbit as food or family.
4. Give your dog plenty of toys
Sometimes, dogs play with other animals roughly because they want something to chew on or interact with. You can satisfy those urges by giving them appropriate toys. Provide your dog with chew toys, puzzle toys and savory bones to keep him occupied and to fulfill his or her animal needs. You may need to try a few different kinds of toys until you get something that your dog is happy with and that will keep him off your fluffy friend!
5. Keep the peace!
You won’t need to worry so much about the safety of your pets at home if you take the time to work with them, ensuring their needs are being met and that they have a safe space to retreat to. And with a little training, who knows, your dog and rabbit may even become good friends.
About the Author:
Emma is a professional writer and blogger, with two furry friends and a lot of pet behavioral and pet health knowledge to share. She has written for numerous big animal magazines and health sites, and is a regular contributor to The Catington Post.