By Caroline Charland
Many people come to the Bunny Bunch adoption center that I founded wanting to adopt a rabbit. One of the most common questions I am asked is: Can rabbits and dogs live together?
There is not a yes or no answer to this question. I know many people, including myself, who have rabbits and dogs living together. However, I have heard many horrible stories over the years of rabbits being killed or injured by the family dog.
Would A Rabbit And Dog Be A Good Match Or A Bad Match?
Follow these steps to get an idea if it is possible to have a rabbit and a dog living together in your home.
1. Evaluate Personality
There are some dogs that are just too high-strung to ever be around a rabbit. Some dogs naturally have a high prey drive. Breed can play a part in this, but it really comes down to the individual dog and the person who cares for the dog.
2. Control Hormones
Both the rabbit and the dog must be spayed or neutered. Rabbits who are not spayed or neutered are very hormonal and will often hump the family dog. Dogs who are not spayed or neutered have a higher prey drive and are much more likely to go after a rabbit.
3. Test Their Reactions
When someone wants to adopt a rabbit from the Bunny Bunch and a dog already lives in their home, we test to see how the dog reacts to the rabbit and how the rabbit reacts to the dog. This is a very controlled situation, and the rabbit and dog never come in contact with each other.
We set up an exercise pen in a room and put the rabbit in the pen with a hidey-box. Then the owner of the dog walks by with the dog on leash, just as if they were going for a walk. We have the owner walk past the rabbit about 10 feet away in a straight line. We then have them walk back and forth getting a little closer each time. Some dogs on the first walk by will start pulling the leash to get over to the rabbit and will not stop. This is not a good sign. Some dogs show a little interest and look and smell in the rabbit’s direction but keep walking by, and some dogs will not even notice the rabbit.
If a dog shows a lot of interest and pulls to get to the rabbit, we do not allow a rabbit to be adopted into that home. If a dog shows some interest or no interest, we have the dog come closer to the pen the rabbit is in and see how the dog reacts. Sometimes the dog is too eager when he gets that close and just wants to get to the rabbit. This means it’s not a good match for a rabbit and dog to live in the same home.
But, we often find dogs who show a little interest in the rabbit, but then just sit, lie down and do their own thing. Some dogs are actually scared of the rabbit and start shaking.
4. Test More Than Once
Of course it takes more than one meeting to see if a rabbit will be safe in a home with a dog.
5. Know Your Dog
I find a lot of how a dog reacts has to do with how the owner of the dog treats the dog. Some dogs are allowed to do anything they please and are out of control. Other dogs are very well behaved and do as their owner says. Dogs who live outside seem to have a higher prey drive toward other animals than dogs who live indoors.
6. Don’t Make Assumptions Based On Looks
The size of a dog doesn’t really matter. People often think big dogs are the dangerous ones and small dogs are not, but it really depends on the individual dog and how he has been raised in the home. No matter how well you think your dog will do with a rabbit, I suggest never leaving them alone together.
7. Playful Dogs Can Be As Dangerous As Aggressive Dogs
Some dogs want to play not meaning harm, but playing can also be deadly to a rabbit.
8. Consider The Personality Of The Rabbit
If you have a rabbit who is generally nervous and scared of noises and movement, then I suggest not mixing a rabbit and dog in the same home. Rabbits can die just from being scared.
Rabbit Safety With Dogs
Keep the following tips in mind if you want to have a home with both a dog and a rabbit.
- Puppies just want to play with toys and might consider a rabbit a toy. Whereas older dogs are mellower and like to sleep a lot, so an older dog is usually preferred.
- Some dog organizations will let you foster a dog to see how the dog behaves in your home with your rabbit. Try the dog test as suggested above before you foster a dog. When fostering, keep the dog and rabbit in separate rooms that are totally closed off from each other. Then come together to do introductions in the home.
- One good way for a dog and rabbit to meet is to have your dog on a leash in the living room with the leash being held by someone sitting in a chair. Then have someone holding the rabbit sit on a chair or couch in the room out of the dog’s reach. This way the dog cannot get to the rabbit but knows there is a rabbit in the home.
- No matter what, always be very careful and never let a mistake happen. How will you house your rabbit and ensure he is 100 percent protected from your dog? Rabbits can jump pens and baby gates. So never put your rabbit in a situation where he could get out, or where your dog could get to your rabbit when you are not around.
- There are households were rabbits and dogs live loose in the home. This can happen, but I can’t stress enough that you cannot just allow them to interact at will. It’s a very long process to allow rabbits and dogs to roam loose in a home — it can take years.
I always stress it’s best to be on the safe side and have your rabbit in a room where your dog does not go when you are not home. Even when you are home things can happen, so be sure to play it safe.