While dog sales and dog adoptions have skyrocketed throughout lockdown, there has been a smaller but not insignificant rise in the number of people buying house rabbits. But can rabbits and dogs live together in harmony? The answer is yes, providing the right steps are taken.
If you’re desperate for a rabbit but you’re not sure if Fido will like it then check out our top tips for introducing a rabbit to a dog.
A step-by-step guide to introducing a rabbit to a dog
Dogs are amazing creatures, we all know that! If trained properly and with patience, they can make many new friends from different species. However, it is important to keep in mind that dogs are predators by nature and could sometimes see other pets as prey. Therefore, a rabbit could be seen as a prey to your dog. The introduction between a dog and a rabbit could take more time than expected and there is no guarantee it could work. But here, we give you 5 steps to help your dog get used to its new furry friend.
1. Find a safe space
Animals often have areas within the home where they most like to spend time. If your dog loves the sofa or your rabbit spends its days in the conservatory, consider making the first introduction in a more neutral space that neither animal feels is their territory.
2. Use a cage or crate for the rabbit and a leash for your pup
Place your rabbit in the cage and allow it to become used to the space it's in for an hour or two before you bring your dog into the space. Watch your rabbit for signs of distress and if it seems anxious, delay the meeting until it's more relaxed. If the rabbit seems relaxed then you can bring in your dog. But, ensure that the pup is on the lead when you bring him into the space.
3. Introduce them slowly
Make sure that the meeting is a calm and controlled one. Aim to do it a time of day when your dog has been fed, has been walked and is preferably a little sleepy. Allow your dog to sniff the cage and the rabbit to see one another. Ensure you have a tight hold of the lead and remove the pup if there are any signs of hostility or aggression. Repeat the process until the two seem comfortable around each other before moving on to step 4.
4. Remove the cage but keep the leash
Once you’re feeling confident that your dog and rabbit are getting used to each other, you can try the meeting without the use of the cage. As before, use a space that the dog doesn’t see as his territory and allow the rabbit to enter first. Keep your dog on a tight lead and only allow him to get close once you're confident that both animals are calm and comfortable.
5. Practice makes perfect
For the first few meetings, the time that the animals are together should be kept short. Always lookout for signs of distress from your rabbit and be prepared to remove the dog. Your pets may take a while to get used to each other but by repeating these steps and taking it at your rabbit’s pace, eventually the two animals should become comfortable and familiar with one another.
Additional tips for introducing a dog and a rabbit
As long as you are patient, you supervise every encounter between your rabbit and dog and you pay attention to signs of distress or aggressive behaviour, then it should all go smoothly. But here are a few extra tips to keep in mind when introducing your dog to your rabbit.
Ask a pal to help with the initial introduction
Invite a friend or relative to help assist when you introduce the pets for the first time. Both concentrate on one animal so you don’t miss any warning signs.
Never leave the animals together unattended
Be sure to supervise every interaction. Never leave them unattended so you can always monitor for signs of fear or aggression.
Give your dog and rabbit separate feeding areas
Aim to keep your dog and rabbit apart whenever food is around. Food can activate your dog's hunting instincts so it's best that they're separate at this time.
Do rabbits and dogs get along?
Rabbits are timid animals that can get easily frightened. They’re natural prey animals whereas dogs are predators which is why introductions need to be handled so carefully. If you have a hyperactive Spaniel that has been known to get loose from the leash and chase squirrels before, the combination may not work.
Which dog breeds will chase rabbits?
Dogs with a high prey drive (such as Greyhound, Husky, German Shepherds and Beagles) may not be suited to live with a house rabbit as they could see the rabbit as prey. But, whichever breed you have, if you’re confident that your pup is calm, well behaved and obedient to your commands then a very slow and gradual introduction with supervised contact, should mean the two can be friends.