Can dogs and rabbits get along?

Nothing is quite as cute as seeing different animals forging friendships and one of my old collies, (despite having very low regard for other dogs), had a nice little friendship going with a rabbit we owned at the same time.  The feeling was mutual too, as the rabbit appeared to enjoy the company of the dog – so much so she would even – ahem; attempt to hump said dog from time to time!

However, it shouldn’t be taken as a rule of thumb that dogs can get along with small furries, even if they are introduced at an early age.  Generally speaking, dogs and smaller pets should be carefully monitored at all times.  That said, it can work, but it depends on the dog and the rabbit!  Holidays4Dogs explores whether dogs and rabbits can get along and provides some hints on how to make it work.

When dogs, especially puppies, are introduced to a new animal they have not met before, they can behave in different ways.  A dog’s breed and temperament will be a good indicator as to how well they are likely to accept living in the same house as a rabbit, particularly if the rabbit is used to free ranging in the house or garden, as many pet rabbits are.

Sight hounds and terriers are probably the least likely breeds to get along with rabbits because of their high prey drive and chase instinct.  Likewise, spaniel and hound breeds may find the temptation of small quarry living in the house too much of a temptation!

It is important to understand the body language of your dog when it comes to introducing him to a rabbit.  Licking of lips, freezing, (pointing in some breeds) and pawing are all indications that the dog has a strong instinct to chase, so care must be taken.  It is a little more difficult to ascertain the body language of a rabbit, but generally speaking if they are frightened they will attempt to run away or may freeze completely – some male rabbits will ‘growl’.

One thing is certain that before introducing dogs and rabbits, the dog needs to understand various commands, such as sit and stay, which will provide you with a little more control.  Always make sure there is plenty of distance when introducing a dog to a rabbit and initially have the dog on the lead, so that you have full control of the situation.  Teach your dog through positive reinforcement to be calm around the rabbit, as well as the rabbit’s pen or hutch.  It would be inappropriate to allow a dog to pester a rabbit when it is in its hutch as this is both frustrating for the dog and very unsettling for the rabbit that has no means of escape.

While it is possible for dogs and rabbits to get along – and we see plenty of evidence for this when we watch cute videos on the television or internet – this should never be taken for granted.  Dogs and rabbit should never be left alone together and always supervised.  Rabbits should be provided with a safe place which is totally dog proof and if your rabbit appears to show signs of fear, it is probably advisable that the two are always kept separate.