Are you thinking of rescuing a dog or bringing a fluffy-tailed bunny into your life? If the answer’s yes and you already have an animal of the opposite species in your household, you may have some doubts or concerns. Namely, you might be wondering whether these two pets can live together in harmony – or whether you’re doomed from the start!
Well, don’t despair – here are a few tips that you can use to make sure that your two favourite furry pals get along and live happily in the same space.
A slow introduction is ideal
Anyone worried that their dog will chase after their rabbit or the rabbit will run away from the dog the moment they are introduced has good reason to be. After all, it’s entirely natural that your dog will be curious and playful *boisterous* and your rabbit’s prey drive will kick into action and he or she will think they’re toast.
What you need to do is introduce the two of them slowly. Naturally, these two kinds of animals will assume roles as predator and prey. Even domesticated dogs have that predatory instinct, but you can fight against those built-in instincts by controlling the initial meeting or meetings. Make sure both of the animals are restrained and put them in close vicinity to one another. For example, keep your pooch on a tight leash or in a dog crate with his favourite toys and blanket – this is vital if you have a large or giant breed of dog – and put your bunny down a metre or so away so he or she can check your pooch out. Gauge their reactions and see if they need some extra space. Give them time to sniff one another out and see that the other can be friendly and calm.
Take action if there is a problem
If you see your rabbit or dog start to react violently, then you need to separate them immediately. Don’t let them engage with one another if the rabbit is shaking or the dog is overly playful. You need them to have control of their emotions. Your dog may be excited to meet a new buddy and your rabbit may be twitchy, but mild emotional responses are fine. If both of them are being restrained at the initial meetings, then you have everything under control. What you are hoping to do is to get the two of them to be relaxed around one another, and that will not happen if one of them starts to bolt.
You want to teach your rabbit that there is nothing to fear from the dog and teach the dog that the rabbit is a friend and not food. You do this over time, in a controlled environment, as you keep the emotional outbursts in check. They will not get used to each other if the rabbit is running in fear and the dog is allowed to run wild.
Over time, they will get used to each other
Animals tend to react unexpectedly around new scents. They are not always sure what they should do when they smell a new animal. They are curious and may be sporadic in their behaviour. Once they get used to the scent of each other, they will become calmer around one another and less likely to bolt or scram. They will feel at ease, but this may be a slow and gradual process. Even if the two animals seem like they are natural enemies at first, once they grow accustomed to the scent of the other one, that isn’t likely to be the case.
Create personal spaces
Even when the two pets start to get along, they will still need time alone away from each other. Dog will need and really value their own space where their predator instincts are not being engaged by the scent and movement of the rabbit. This is vital for their mental health and happiness. Similarly, your rabbit will need a safe space where he or she can feel secure from the predatory glances of your dog.
Top tip: You should also feed the two of your pets away from one another and let them sleep away from one another – at least initially, until they get used to the other.
Consider the breed when you choose a pet
If you don’t have a dog yet, just a rabbit, you may want to consider the breed of dog. Some dogs are natural protectors and naturally friendly to smaller animals. Other dogs are more likely to be temperamental, aggressive or overly playful and rough. Rabbit breeds are all similar in manner and temperament, but you can talk to your local rabbit shelter or veterinarian to find out which breeds they recommend for introducing into a home with the other pet present.
In some cases, unfortunately, you may want to reconsider bringing a rabbit into a home with a dog or vice versa. If the dog’s temperament is simply not conducive to a smaller pet, you may need to hold off for the rabbit’s health and happiness. Conversely, if you find a rescue rabbit that has been traumatised due to abuse, it may not be the best idea to bring him or her into a home with a playful pup.
The pairing can usually work
These are just a few quick tips and suggestions for you, but you should know that rabbits and dogs can usually live together peacefully. You just have to put in some effort to help them become lifelong friends.