Dogs and rabbits can live together -- sometimes. It all depends on Doggie's personality and partially on genetics. Some breeds -- like terriers and greyhounds -- have an innate instinct to run after -- and hunt -- small mammals. Larger and heavier breeds, though gently, could hurt a little bunny just by stepping on him by accident! But if your dog is mellow and you have the patience to make the introductions right, he and Bunny could share a long friendship.
Step - 1 - Establish limits immediately, especially if you have a young pup. Doggie needs to learn very early on that bunnies are not toys and that they can get hurt easily. During the initial meeting, keep Doggie on a leash. Bring him close to the bunny's cage -- with Bunny safely tucked inside -- and let him get used to the smell. If he barks or goes crazy, say "no" and move him away. Repeat this for several days until Doggie calms down and the novelty wears off.
Step - 2 - Let Bunny out once you feel more confident. Keep Doggie on a short leash and under tight control at all times and let Bunny explore and get close if he wants to. Even if all feels nice and well, don't let Doggie go -- it takes just a quick snap or a wrong move for disaster to strike. Take as long as necessary with this step -- a month or even three months.
Step - 3 - Work on Doggie's training on the side. He needs to learn what "no" and "leave it" mean long before you let go of his leash. The better trained he is, the more control you'll have over him. If things get a little rough when he's around the bunny, you need to know that you can get him to stop. Use positive reinforcement too. When he behaves properly -- no chasing, no barking, not playing too rough -- say "good dog" so he knows what's acceptable.
Step - 4 - Allow them some off-leash time once you feel confident that Doggie is not going to go into hunting mode. Keep close supervision for some time -- how long depends on the reactions you see. Even when things feel comfortable and you're sure a friendship has been born, DO NOT leave them alone at any time. When you go out, put Bunny in his cage or lock him in a separate room.
By Tammy Dray
House Rabbit Society: When Fido Met Thumper (Dogs and Rabbits)
Wisconsin House Rabbit Society: Bunnies and Dogs - Together?
House Rabbit Network: Can Dogs & Rabbits Live Together Happily Ever After?
About the Author
Tammy Dray has been writing since 1996. She specializes in health, wellness and travel topics and has credits in various publications including Woman's Day, Marie Claire, Adirondack Life and Self. She is also a seasoned independent traveler and a certified personal trainer and nutrition consultant. Dray is pursuing a criminal justice degree at Penn Foster College.