Your family might be brimming with multiple pets and helping them get along could be quite a task, let alone a time-consuming one!
Making friends can be challenging, especially when you wish to create a bond between animals that have predatory and prey natures. A lot goes into getting them to become friends peacefully so that they get along even when they are not under your watchful eye.
Pet parents need to be aware of both the rabbits, and dogs’ right breed, personality traits, obedience training, and effective introduction techniques to ensure a budding and harmless friendship.
Read on to find out how to keep them both happy and friendly!
Why The Rift?
Well, the answer to the question lies in nature itself. Certain dog species are known to hunt smaller animals like rabbits which might spark a cold relationship between the two.
Breeds like Terriers, Greyhounds, Labradors, and Golden Retrievers are usually bred to hunt rabbits, and hence this sort of pairing is best avoided.
The predator/prey nature might also result in your bunnies being easily scared by your dog’s barks despite your canine’s intentions being harmless. And hence the slightest aggressive behavior from your pups should be monitored – given that rabbits can literally die of fright!
If you notice signs of stress from the rabbit, like fast breathing, kicking, or trying to escape, remove the dog from the room. If the rabbit doesn’t move or seems frozen this might also show a reluctance to befriend your dog.
Matured and trained dogs who are known and have shown the qualities to get along well with the other small animals can be a good choice for these sorts of pairings. Try puppy training before you commit to a new rabbit.
You can also research other species of dogs that could be less harmful and easier to train around your bunnies.
Instances like first-time interactions with canines can lead to your rabbit’s flight instincts kicking in since these instincts are present in rabbits regardless of having them at home as pets. Further befriending sessions should be held considering that rabbits too can have a mind of their own and their relationship with your dogs might depend on that.
How to establish a friendship between the two?
Initially, it is important to ensure that your bunny is comfortable in their new home. It is highly advisable to not introduce your pup to the rabbit right away as doing so can scare or overwhelm them.
It will be best to leave the rabbit in their hutch for 24 hours (or more if required) to ensure that they are familiar with the sounds and smells of their surroundings. If your rabbit tends to be in its pen for a longer period of time, consider opting for an exercise pen. If your rabbit still seems scared, make sure that you give it enough time and delay the meeting until it is calm enough to be introduced.
Considering your dog’s behavior and history can also help in adopting efficient techniques.
Try to answer the following question with regards to your dog’s behavior –
- Does your dog scare small animals?
- How does it interact with animals from other species?
- Does it have a history of preying on smaller animals?
- How can it be controlled once it gets excited or displays excessive energy?
Establishing a good relationship between the two can be quite tricky if your dog is prone to engaging in the first three behaviors. Answering these questions in depth can help you put a finger on the problematic areas of your dog’s personality and determine where changes need to be made.
For a clearer analysis, we have broken up the steps into chunks, so befriending the two can be done smoothly.
Step 1 –
Firstly it is important to get both your pets checked by a vet, since either of them may carry transmittable bacteria.
As a pet parent, remember that the first introductions shouldn’t be sudden. Let the rabbit be in its cage where they feel safer and are not intimidated by the sight and smell of your dog. Make sure to keep their cage occupied with toys so they are always engaged in their favorite activities and form comforting associations early on.
Keeping in mind that your dog can easily be excited at the sight of a smaller animal, secure them with a fixed leash before entering the space, in case you need to control them.
They should be well fed which can help them calm down before they meet their new friend. You might even consider a pet reiki session to calm them down before the introduction! Reward them if they meet the rabbits calmly and if that does not happen instantly, lead them away from the hutch.
The second step can be attempted with your bunny on your lap so that the dog can see it at their eye level making both of them feel like they are equals. They might lick or sniff each other if they get along well. If they don’t immediately move them away from each other.
Continue to pet both the animals and repeat the procedure at certain intervals to make sure they are comfortable with each other by being aware of their smell.
Once both your pets are comfortable with each other, you can let your rabbit free in the house in a neutral space so there are no territorial issues.
Needless to say, it does require surveillance on your part in case either of the pets’ instincts is triggered. Offer treats and pets to the dog for behaving well. Repeat this method with the rabbit to ensure that both the pets are happy and calm with each other and keep up the cordial behavior.
We hope you don’t need this step, but read on just in case!
In case your bunny still has issues loosening up and trusting the dog completely, repeat step 3 but only with strict surveillance to ensure nothing goes wrong when both of them are set free. As pet parents, make sure your pup listens to your commands to back off, in case it gets excited and tries to jump on the rabbit.
You should also consider whether the place is conducive for hiding in case your rabbit feels threatened. Since getting the two of your pets to be friends can be a tedious task, have an extra set of hands to assist you or an extra pair of eyes to monitor them. Initially, you might want to keep these sessions to shorter periods and you may gradually increase the time they spend together as they befriend each other.
In a nutshell
As important as it is to befriend the two, it is also important to ensure that the relationship between your dog and rabbit is maintained for longer periods of time.
It is important to keep the friendship going with steps like having separate feeding areas to avoid any conflicts on the surface.
photo credit: https://unsplash.com/photos/-kYTZwojDd8
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