Bunnies and Other Pets Part 2: Can Rabbits and Dogs Live Together?

introducing rabbits and dogs

In the previous post, I talked about rabbits living together with cats and how they can be a surprisingly good pairing of pets. Now it’s time to tackle the other pet that a lot of you have in your home, dogs.

Unlike cats, rabbits and dogs are pretty tricky to keep together as pets. While both cats and dogs are predators, most cats will not hunt animals that are as big as rabbits. Many dogs, on the other hand, have been specifically bred throughout history to hunt rabbits. Based on the size and predator instincts of dogs, it can often be quite dangerous for them to live with rabbits.

However, there are plenty of examples of dogs and rabbits who are able to get past their species stereotypes and get along. Gentle dogs and dogs that are herding dogs rather than hunting dogs can live peacefully with rabbits.

However, even in the best case scenarios with well behaved dogs, you want to be extremely careful when introducing them to your rabbit. They are natural enemies in the wild, so the prey and predator instincts of your pets can become a problem even for otherwise well-behaved animals.

Does your rabbit and dog have compatible personalities?

Before you can allow your pets any time near each other, you have to determine if they even have a chance of being compatible. You’ll have the best chance for success if you try to bring together a confident rabbit and a calm dog. It’s also best to avoid breeds of dogs that were traditionally bred to chase after rabbits.

This means dogs that don’t constantly chase after birds, squirrels, and other little critters outside. Many rabbits can also be extremely anxious and stressed around the smell of a dog. You’ll generally want to find a rabbit that is more curious than frightened so that they don’t end up living in fear and never feeling safe at home.

While it’s less common, you will also want to make sure the rabbit is not too aggressive. It may seem silly to think about, but rabbits are also perfectly capable of biting or scratching a dog and causing injury. It’s important to pay attention to both animals and how they react to each other.

You may also want to consider getting a larger rabbit breed (they can weigh more than 10 pounds), since they are less likely to be injured or chased as prey than small dwarf rabbits.

dog and rabbit
When you introduce a dog and a rabbit, keep the dog on a leash and make sure they will obey commands.

How to safely introduce a rabbit and a dog to each other

Before you introduce a rabbit and dog to each other, you need to make sure your dog is trained. This way you can call your dog back to you if you start to see even a glimmer of aggressive behavior or even playful rough-housing that could end up injuring the rabbit. Always supervise any interaction between your rabbit and dog!

  1. When you first introduce a rabbit and dog, make sure there is a barrier between them. This can be your rabbit’s cage or a fence of some sort that your rabbit is enclosed in. Keep your dog on the leash and bring them into the same room as the rabbit. 
  2. Watch to see how the animals react to each other. Does your dog lunge for the rabbit immediately? Does the rabbit panic and hide? If this happens, quickly lead your dog back out of the room to reduce the amount of stress the two animals are experiencing. If not, stick around for a couple minutes to give them a little bit of time to get acclimated.
  3. Try this again for the next few days and see if the animals have calmer reactions to each other. If they do, you can allow them to sniff each other through the bars of the enclosure. Continue this same routine for a few weeks and watch the two carefully to make sure there is no aggression and your rabbit is not continuing to show excessive fear.
  4. If your rabbit and dog are comfortable with each other, you can attempt an in-person interaction. Keep the dog on the leash at all times and make sure he will sit and stay on command. Ensure your rabbit has a place to run and hide, so they never feel cornered by the dog. 
  5. With your dog on a leash, allow the two animals to hang out in the same room together. Let them approach and curiously sniff each other, but watch very closely for any signs of aggression. You also want to make sure your dog doesn’t get too excited, since there is also a chance for accidental injury if the dog tries to play with the rabbit. If there is even a hint of stress for either animal, end the interaction and try again another time. 
  6. If the pets behave well, allow them to interact with each other more longer periods. Always supervise them and always be ready to end the interaction if you need to. Over the next few weeks, give them a number of these short interactions to allow them to get used to each other. 

If all goes well, you can eventually allow your dog and rabbit to interact off-leash. But you should never let these two pets interact without supervision. It would be very easy for a dog to accidentally hurt a rabbit, so even if they do successfully become friends, you want to be very careful and make sure your rabbit has an enclosure to stay in when you’re away from home or sleeping.

How to keep your rabbit and dog separate if they can’t get along

In many cases, rabbits and dogs simply won’t be able to get along. It’s not their fault, this is just due to the genetics of the two different species. But if they can’t safely live together, you will need to keep them housed separately.

Typically, this will involve giving the rabbit a room in the house where the dog is not allowed so that your rabbit won’t feel stressed and anxious. Consider installing a doggy gate on the door to the room or section-off areas of the house.

You want to be sure your rabbit still has enough space to come out and play without getting into the dog’s part of the house, giving some territory to your rabbit and some to your dog.

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Recommended Products and Brands

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Amy Pratt

Amy Pratt is a lifelong rabbit owner who has been specializing with rabbits at the Humane Rescue Alliance. She helps to socialize the rabbits and educate volunteers on the care and behavior of these small mammals.

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