There’s nothing more entertaining than seeing two unlikely furry friends playing together! Cats cuddling up to chickens, hamsters making friends with lizards, dogs playing with rabbits–you’ll see it all on social media!
You’d never see a dog and a rabbit relaxing together in the wild. So, how realistic is it for rabbits and dogs to live together?
This article will take you through everything you need to know before introducing your dog and rabbit.
Do Dogs and Rabbits Get Along?
Rabbits are prey animals, and dogs are natural predators. Dogs and rabbits can sometimes get along, but it depends on the dog’s prey drive. While friendship is possible, often the most realistic goal is to have your rabbit and dog living in the same house while being indifferent to one another.
Rabbits and Dogs: What You Need to Know
Before you decide to introduce your dog and bunny, there are some basics you need to think about.
Traits That Matter
Personality and Prey Drive
Two of the main things you need to take into account are your dog’s prey drive and the personalities of both animals.
Does your dog chase anything that moves? Does your dog intensely watch birds and other small animals outside your living room window? If so, it’s probably best not to introduce it to your bunny.
Is your dog more interested in playing than chasing other animals? If your dog is fairly calm and gentle by nature, that’s a great start! These are all excellent signs that it may become friends with your bunny.
Your rabbit’s personality matters too. If your bunny is relaxed and reasonably outgoing, it might get on well with a dog. However, if your rabbit is very skittish, it will probably be scared of your dog.
One of my small-breed dogs and my rabbit got on incredibly well together. My Pomeranian didn’t have a strong prey drive. She was incredibly playful yet also gentle and patient. My bunny was very confident and quite fearless for a rabbit! The combination of personalities meant they were curious about each other and eager to spend time together right from the start.
I would never introduce my Spaniel or Chihuahua to a rabbit or any other small animal. My Spaniel comes from a line of working dogs and has a very high prey drive. My Chihuahua is a rescue and has a complex history, so I wouldn’t take the risk.
Be really honest with yourself about your dog’s personality traits and prey drive. They’re still predators even if you love them and they’re your babies. There’s no shame in saying it would be too risky to introduce them to a rabbit!
Spaying and Neutering
It’s best if both your dog and rabbit are spayed or neutered. Neutering reduces sexual hormones and can help to tackle problematic behaviors like humping or attempted dominance. Introductions are more likely to run smoothly with two desexed animals.
Before you introduce your dog to your rabbit, your dog should be well trained. Does your dog know all their basic commands? Do your dog ‘leave it’ when instructed? Can it pay attention to you when asked? If not, it’s best to work on training first.
Some people feel that the relationship may be more successful if a rabbit and a dog are roughly the same sizes. I agree that a bunny and a dog being a similar size can reduce the risk of injury, especially to the rabbit.
However, in my experience, bigger dogs are often far more gentle and relaxed than smaller breeds. Personality is the most important factor in a successful interspecies relationship.
Dogs That Are Good With Rabbits
Every dog is an individual. I’ve known a working Terrier who was best friends with a pet bird and a Greyhound who lived happily with guinea pigs!
However, in general, herding and non-sporting breeds are good choices to be around bunnies. They’re not bred to hunt small animals like many sporting breeds. Herding breeds, like Collies, are highly trainable and are bred to work around other species without harming them.
Some small breed dogs can be gentle around rabbits, but this depends on whether they are well-trained and calm-natured. High-strung small dogs are unlikely to get along with a bunny.
Dog breeds that may get along with rabbits include:
- Golden Retrievers
- Bichon Frises
- French Bulldogs
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniels
- Great Pyrenees
Working dogs that are highly trained, like service dogs, are an excellent choice to introduce to a rabbit. They already have the training and temperament needed to stay calm and be gentle around other animals.
Dog Breeds That Might Kill Rabbits
I know it’s not a nice thought, but there is a chance that a dog might kill a rabbit. Breeds with a high prey drive who were bred to hunt are most likely to kill a bunny.
The following breeds are more likely to be a danger to your rabbit:
- Any other sighthounds
- Basset Hounds
- Irish Wolfhounds
Puppies and Rabbits
There are mixed opinions on whether it’s better to introduce a puppy or an adult dog to a rabbit. On the one hand, a puppy is more likely to be accepting of another species that they grow up around.
On the other hand, puppies are loud, mischievous, and playful. Puppies are not trained yet and are unpredictable. Your puppy might accidentally hurt or frighten your rabbit. For these reasons, I recommend only introducing a calm, adult dog to a rabbit.
The biggest risk is your dog attacking your rabbit. Even a dog with a low prey drive could see your furry little rabbit running past them and follow their instincts to chase and catch them.
Even though bunnies are small and cute, they can be aggressive too! If they are scared, they could attack your dog to defend themselves.
Most dogs are bigger than rabbits. Even if they’re friendly and mean well, they could accidentally hurt your bunny during play.
Being around a predator (even if it’s your adorable puppy) can make a rabbit very frightened.
Stress can cause a lot of health issues for rabbits and, in severe cases, can even be fatal.
Introducing Your Dog and Rabbit
If you’ve decided to go ahead and introduce your dog and rabbit, you need to do so slowly and carefully. Never just allow a dog and bunny to meet face-to-face for the first time! It’s crucial you keep your rabbit safe.
The first introduction is the riskiest, but it will also give you the most insight into whether the relationship can be successful. Your rabbit’s safety is most important at this stage.
Having a barrier, such as a pet gate or pen, between your dog and rabbit helps to prevent any injuries. This Amazon Basics pen is a great option. Make sure the pen is too high for your rabbit to jump over!
I wouldn’t recommend having your rabbit in a cage with your dog freely wandering around, as this would be very stressful for your rabbit. Instead, have your dog on a leash so that you’re in control of their movement.
It’s best to introduce your dog and bunny when your dog is tired, so they’ll be in a calm mindset. First, take your dog for a good walk to burn off any excess energy.
Using their leash, bring your dog into the same room as your rabbit. Keep them on the opposite side of the room to your bunny.
Ask your dog to sit or lie down. Keep a close eye on their body language and reward them for calm behavior.
If both animals stay calm and curious, allow them to spend around five minutes in the same room. Keep them at a distance for now.
Watching Body Language
Take your dog out of the room if they display any excited or overstimulated behavior such as intense staring, a tense body, whining, barking, or lunging. Don’t punish them but instead, simply try again another day.
Likewise, keep an eye on your rabbit’s body language. If they display signs of stress or fear, lead your dog away.
Increasing Time Together
Continue these training sessions every day or so. If things go well, you can gradually move your dog closer to the barrier over time.
Don’t rush things. Continue to praise your dog for calm behavior and remove them from the room when they get over-excited.
Eventually, you can allow your dog and rabbit to sniff each other through the bars. If you’re happy with how that goes, you can remove your dog’s leash.
For some owners, this is as far as they will want the interaction to go. Having your dog and rabbit be in the same room together without fear or aggression is a big win!
If things are going really well, you can remove the barrier and allow your bunny and dog to interact face-to-face. If you do so, be ready to intervene quickly if they start to display worrying behavior.
Your rabbit and dog should never be left unsupervised when they’re in the same room, even if there’s a barrier present.
An Ongoing Friendship
Once you’re happy that your dog and rabbit are getting along well, you can relax and enjoy their friendship. The following tips can help you keep the relationship between your animals positive:
- Always have places available where your rabbit can hide.
- Always have escape routes available for both your dog and rabbit.
- Feed your dog and rabbit separately at all times.
- Never let your dog chase your rabbit, even in play (this will scare your bunny and could trigger your dog’s prey drive).
- Keep a close eye on your pets’ body language for signs of trouble.
- Don’t be afraid to go back a few steps in the introduction process at any time if needed.
- Don’t force your dog and bunny to interact more, even if it’s cute!
Supervise their interactions, and don’t forget to have your phone handy to take some adorable pictures!
Try not to be too disappointed if the friendship doesn’t look like you pictured it. Some bunnies and dogs might play and snuggle together. Others may simply exist in the same room and mostly ignore one another. As long as there’s no tense body language or aggression, you’ve done a great job!
What If It Goes Wrong?
There’s nothing wrong with admitting that your dog isn’t safe to be around small animals. It doesn’t make them a ‘bad dog’ or you a ‘bad owner’. It’s just their instincts!
If you decide not to proceed or something goes wrong in the introduction process, don’t panic! Deal with any injuries immediately and take your pet to the vet.
Even if your dog and rabbit can’t be friends, they can still live in the same home with some safety measures in place. Keep your rabbit in a separate room with the door closed. Alternatively, you can keep your rabbit outdoors in an appropriate enclosure.
Always ensure your dog is at a distance from you whenever you enter your bunny’s room, so there’s no chance of them pushing past you.
If you do need to keep your bunny in a single room, you must spend plenty of time with it. Bunnies are intelligent, affectionate animals and shouldn’t be left shut away in a room alone. Rabbits need plenty of space to move around and time out of their enclosure.
Despite not being natural companions, rabbits and dogs can live peacefully together. Your dog’s personality is the most important thing to consider before introducing your dog and rabbit.
With careful supervision and appropriate safety precautions, you might find a beautiful friendship grows!
Have you had a dog and rabbit who became best friends? We’d love to hear about your experience! Did you find this article interesting? If so, please share it with your friends.