Can Dogs Live With Rabbits?

Can dogs live with rabbits?
Photo by Francis Delapena on Unsplash

You love your dog and you also love your rabbit. You may be beginning to wonder if they can live in peace together and coexist as the beloved family pets they are.

Dogs can jump at the sight of rabbits, squirrels, and other woodland creatures in the wild, but will they be in your home? There is no definitive yes or no answer to this question, as it depends on your dog’s prey drive. Since each dog and each rabbit are individual, their needs and wants will vary. The last thing you want is an accident.

Here’s everything you need to know about whether or not your dog can live with your rabbit.

History of the Domesticated Dog

To understand if dogs and rabbits can be friends, we must understand their biological upbringing in society. Dogs are known for their outgoing, loving, and social natures.

According to Animal Corner, dogs have played an integral role in human civilization and have long been our companions for over 15,000 years. Of those 15,000 years, dogs have spent 12,000 of them alongside humans as hunting companions. Dogs are considered the first domesticated animal with their roots going back to East Asia. They were initially bred as protectors, hunting companions, and friends. Over time, dogs have evolved to ‘man’s best friend’ and aren’t expected to go out and hunt with their owner’s thanks to the modern world.

Dogs are omnivorous creatures that instinctively possess what’s known as a prey drive.

According to The Bark, a prey drive can be defined as a dog’s excitement or desire to engage in chasing or capturing what it perceives as prey. Prey drive varies from dog to dog. You may have a Chihuahua that wants to chase squirrels on its daily walks or a Pitbull that couldn’t care less. Prey drive is entirely individual to the dog at hand and biologically dates back to the earliest days of their domestication from wolves.

History of the Domesticated Rabbit

If you think dogs have a long-running history of being domesticated animals, it might surprise you that the earliest recorded instances of rabbits being domesticated occurred in Ancient Rome! Romans were the first to use hutches for rabbits, according to Dr. Greger Larson, Director of the Palaeogenomics & Bio-Archaeology Research Network at the University of Oxford. Though there is no set time or date for when rabbits were domesticated, it’s believed that the idea of rabbits becoming pets was more of a snowball effect than anything else. With their cute button noses, soft coats, and stubby tails, rabbits wiggled their way into their owner’s hearts over time.

Rabbits are loved for their intelligent, social, and affectionate natures, much like dogs. They’re much like toddlers. When upset, they can become destructive and stubborn. They are strong-willed with equally strong personalities. Don’t let that cute face fool you, they have wants, needs, and desires like any other living creature. The rabbit is a herbivore with zero prey drive. A pet rabbit’s ideal day is munching on vegetables, minding their business, and occasionally coming over to you for love. Rabbits are easily startled and on high alert, and though this varies from rabbit to rabbit, it may be harder for your dog to win your rabbit’s trust.

Can Dogs and Rabbits Exist In The Same House Hold?

While there is no definitive yes or no answer, it’s important to assess their individual personalities. In the animal kingdom, it’s unlikely that these two drastically different animals would find camaraderie in one another. However, in the domesticated world, it’s much more likely!

When assessing whether or not your dog and rabbit can live together, you’re first going to want to assess your dog’s prey drive. The best way to start with this is to take them to an outdoor area with lots of wild creatures like squirrels, birds, and even wild rabbits. If they begin getting overly excited and lunging, this could be a sign that your dog has a high prey drive. If your dog is indifferent or simply observant, chances are they’ll be okay with your rabbit. Pay attention to your dog’s body language and watch for their tail or hair sticking up. If their body language signifies that they’re far too interested, it’s probably best to keep them separated.

Since rabbits are highly intelligent, you can start by playing the sounds of dogs on the internet for them and observe the way they react. If they shut down or become scared, your rabbit might need to take it slow with your dog.

How to Introduce Your Dog and Rabbit

When introducing your dog and rabbit, it’s important to make them both feel safe.

You can begin by setting up a baby gate to the room where the rabbit is kept safely and let your dog see them from a distance. Pay attention to their body language and your rabbit’s. If your dog seems okay, let them enter the room securely on a leash and let them sniff around.

Sniffing is your dog’s way of assessing what’s going on.

Pay attention to your dog’s body language here too. If your rabbit continues on about their business, it can be a sign that they feel comfortable. Slowly approach your rabbit’s habitat with your dog but don’t let them get too close. As long as your dog isn’t overly excited, their body language is okay, and your rabbit isn’t scared, you can repeat this process until you feel more comfortable.

How to Train Your Dog to Live With a Rabbit

If you have any other animals in the house, like cats, then chances are your dog will probably be fine living with a rabbit.

Keep up a secure baby gate that your dog can’t breach and let your dog and rabbit get to know each other over time with barriers in place. Avoid engaging your dog’s prey drive with play or exercise, as this can trigger it and result in your dog and rabbit not getting along. Keep play and exercise fun and light.

Soon enough, your dog and rabbit will be best friends!

Frequently asked questions

Are rabbits scared of dogs?

Rabbits are very fragile creatures and have been known to die of fright, so if they become too scared, they may go into a state of shock and this could result in death. So, if you do plan on introducing a dog into your household, it’s super important to ensure that they are introduced in a safe and pleasant manner so they don’t overwhelm your rabbit, or even consider not introducing a dog at all if you are concerned. 

What does it mean when my dog licks my rabbit?

This is a positive sign that your dog likes your rabbit, licking is a dog’s way of showing their affection towards another, and they could be reassuring them that they aren’t a danger.

How do I know if my rabbit likes my dog?

There are lots of signs to suggest that your dog likes your rabbit, such as your dog licking your rabbit, cuddles, sleeping together, nibbles, demanding head rubs and lying down together. These are all positive signs that your dog gets along with your rabbit.

How do I know if my dog doesn’t like my rabbit?

If your dog doesn’t like your rabbit they will show signs of aggression, such as: physically harming your rabbit, barking, showing their teeth, growling and trying to bite them. If you notice any of these signs you should immediately take your dog away from your rabbit, and either review the situation or train them to get along with your new companion. Some dogs can be trained to live with rabbits, however, the majority of the time, it can be very a very difficult training process.

Could my dog eat my rabbit?

It’s very possible yes, in fact, eating a rabbit is a healthy food choice for dogs, as they contain lots of protein, but it’s not the healthiest food and some rabbits can transmit disease to a dog, so it’s best to avoid. So, it’s no joke, if your dog isn’t trained correctly, they could kill and eat your rabbit, so be very careful when you first introduce them to one another. 

If you have any concerns that your dog doesn’t get along with your rabbit, you shouldn’t leave them alone together, or alternatively, don’t home them together at all.

Will rabbit poop hurt my dog?

Dogs have a tendency to not only eat their own poop but to eat other animals poop, too. So, it wouldn’t be uncommon for your dog to eat your rabbit’s poop if it comes in close proximity to it. Dogs love tasty food and poop is an attractive odour for most dogs, so if they like the smell, they’ll eat your rabbit’s poo. 

Most of the time rabbit poop is harmless, however, not all rabbit poop is safe, as it may contain parasites and this will result in diarrhoea and sickness. As a rule of thumb, you should avoid letting your dog eat your rabbit’s poop, and if you see some, pick it up and dispose of it before your dog is able to eat it.

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