dog with high prey drive + rabbit

Discussion in 'Nutrition and Behavior' started by aaustin15, Mar 22, 2013.

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  1. Mar 22, 2013 #1

    aaustin15

    aaustin15

    aaustin15

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    Hello!
    I have a husky/shepherd mix that loves to chase squirrels (very high prey drive in general). She is a rescue and was never socialized with small animals until she went to her foster home. There she lived with a cat and was making A LOT of progress (could be in the same room and not chase it) before we adopted her. Since then she has never been around small animals in our house.

    My dog is currently at my parents house and my bunny lives with me at college, but over the summer I am moving back home. It wouldn't be a problem keeping them separated at my house, it would be ideal if they could learn to get along -at least when the rabbit it in its cage- because i want them both to move with me to my apartment next semester.

    Has anyone ever been able to train their dog that their rabbit is part of the family, not food? I read some tips online about it (apparently it can be done), but I was just curious if anyone has had an experience with this. I'm honestly extremely hesitant to even try.

    thanks in advance!:brownbunny
     
  2. Mar 22, 2013 #2

    Blue eyes

    Blue eyes

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    I have a labradoodle that loves to chase the jackrabbits by our home. However, he knows that our indoor bunnies are part of the family. He knows how to interact with them. A dog understands that pack mentality. So he just needs to learn that your rabbit is part of your family "pack."
    I need to get a better video, but this one shows how our labradoodle is fine with the rabbits:
    [ame]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KilMcF7QQXA[/ame]

    I sometimes answer yahoo questions, and I wrote this up to explain how I do introduction of dog to bunny. Perhaps it will help...

    The way to begin introductions is through the cage. The dog is permitted to come up to the rabbit's cage and sniff around. Usually, curious bunny will come nose-to-nose with the dog while separated by cage. Doggy is not permitted to bark.

    [FONT=&quot]You talk to doggy to let him know to be "gentle." As you monitor his behavior, you'll know when to take the next step. You can sit by your dog while you let the bunny out, making sure he stays down allowing the buns to approach as they desire. By down, I mean that he is laying completely submissive on his side with his head also on its side on the floor.

    [/FONT][FONT=&quot]Again, keep a close eye and keep doggy down during this phase. Eventually, you allow him to be in a sitting position, then gradually he can stand. You will know by your dog’s reaction and the bunny how things are progressing. These photos are with our current lab/ poodle mix. When we're gone, our dog lays near the bunnies' closed cage and keeps them company. Our previous dog (Newfoundland) got along just wonderfully with our previous bunnies. (last photo)

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  3. Mar 22, 2013 #3

    Kimmerre

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    Don't think this will be easy! I have trained both my dogs to be around my rabbit.

    First I got Maci, a rescue dog who spent the first year of her life in a cage with a hoarder. I worked with her and my bunny everyday...for months. I would let my bunny run around, and keep her on a leash with me. Anytime she would lunge at the bunny, I would jerk her leash and tell her No. It was probably about 2 months of this before I would let her be off a leash (with me in the room) and have my bunny out of her cage. It wasn't until about 8 months to where I'd actually feel comfortable leaving the room for a few minutes. It's been about 2 years now and Maci knows that she can go up and sniff the bunny, but she can't play rough. I still have to yell at her here and there but I do trust her.

    6 months ago I got a puppy from the pound. Little terrier mix and he definitely wants to chase. Luckily with him it was a bit easier because I got to train him when he was still really young. He still has his moments where he wants to play with my bunny, but as soon as I tell him no he will stop.

    What has also helped in all of this is my bunny has a "safe spot" that she can run too if she's scared to get away, and always has access to jump back into her cage. So if she does feel threatened, she will run to her cardboard boxes in the corner of the room. She also smacks them in the face which helps get the dogs away too. :)

    Don't give up! It is possible, but it will take lots of time and work. If you are ever not comfortable leaving them alone....don't risk it.

    Kim
     
  4. Mar 22, 2013 #4

    aaustin15

    aaustin15

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    thanks for the support and advice guys! Glad to hear some people managed to train their pups, at least now i know it really is possible. I'm sure it will take her a very long time, but I'm definitely committed to getting them to accept each other. i probably won't ever let them alone together, but i would like to be able to have both of them out during my rabbit's play time.
     
  5. Mar 22, 2013 #5

    cheezling

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    It might take a long time but I don't think it's impossible.
    I know a dog who would always go chasing after the neighborhood cats yet he would never bother the cats of his household and they were best pals. However, bunnies are not cats. Being prey animals means that they are really prone to stressing out and going into shock so I would be VERY careful.
    Also, many people advise against the animals being left alone unattended even when they do seem like best of friends because disasters do happen.
     
  6. Mar 22, 2013 #6

    PaGal

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    I would definitely keep the dog on leash when first introducing and until you know without a doubt that your dog will listen to you while the bun is out.

    Also, since no one else brought it up you could use a muzzle. I was thinking of one of the cloth muzzles. At least at first if there could be any change of injury to the bun. It doesn't take much.
     
  7. Mar 22, 2013 #7

    linsssey

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    I have a shepherd mix and she allows my rabbit to play with her. She has a very high prey drive, she has even killed one of our chickens as a pup and still finds mice and moles and other things to hunt.

    It is going to take sometime to get them okay with each other, but it is possible. One thing that is very helpful is to be able to read your dog and bunnies. If the dog gets too excited or the rabbit too stressed out, make sure to remove them from the situation. I find that giving my dog positive reinforcement works really well too. When I was first introducing her to small animals (it was chickens and guinea pigs, not a rabbit initially) I gave her a treat every few minutes when she was doing what she was supposed to. I would also remove her from the situation completely any time she started to get excited, whined, or barked. Even know I watch her with my bunny and if she seems to concentrated in watching him, i redirect her attention to me.

    Good luck! My rabbit and dog both live at school with me and it is an absolute joy!
     
  8. Mar 23, 2013 #8

    Blue eyes

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    I am willing to be contradicted here, but I don't think using a taut leash or holding a dog back by the collar is advisable when introducing him to a bunny. Holding a dog back like that is, from my understanding, the very same method that trainers use to encourage the "chase" mentality. It's like a tease to the dog to get him all excited about the object of interest.

    Of course, any dog should be reasonably well-trained before attempting a bunny to dog introduction. I just think it is more productive to have the dog lay down in a submissive posture and keeping him submissive as bunny approaches to investigate.

    Having a loose leash for extra caution may be fine, just not taut and teasing.
     
  9. Mar 23, 2013 #9

    weta

    weta

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    I lost my first two bunnies to a Husky.
     
  10. Mar 23, 2013 #10

    Azerane

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    I agree that using a taught leash is a bad idea, however personally would definitely have a leash on my dog as a preventative measure, you don't want everything seeming fine and then suddenly your dog simply lunging for your rabbit. I would introduce them through barriers first, a glass door so they can see each other but can't touch/smell, a gate so they can see and smell but can't touch etc. Also, if you end up using a muzzle on your dog like someone else suggested, you should first train the dog to be used to the muzzle, otherwise if you introduce both the muzzle and rabbit at the same time, you're going to have an uncomfortable and prey driven dog who probably won't listen because he's too focused on the muzzle and rabbit.

    I'm not sure if it's the right way to go about it, but instead of introducing them so that they're paying attention to each other, I would have it be that you have the dog completely focused on you to sit etc for treats, and just let your bunny wander around as he feels comfortable to do. That way, the rabbit can be confident around the dog, and you are teaching your dog to ignore your rabbit.
     
  11. Mar 23, 2013 #11

    ladysown

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    do realize that the combination of husky-shepherd will make your job a WHOLE LOT more difficult.

    You should get to the point fairly easily that your caged bunny is safe, though if you have the standard plastic bottom/wire top you might want to think about upgrading it to a stronger wired dog kennel. I would not ever choose, even with hard work and time, to leave a high prey drive husky/shepherd alone with a rabbit or any other small animal.
     
  12. Mar 23, 2013 #12

    Blue eyes

    Blue eyes

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    ^^^^ agreed.

    Breed type can make a big difference. Some genetics can't just be "trained away."

    I have had it easy with my Newfoundland (a very docile breed). Both labs and poodles can be hunting dogs, but my labradoodle has also been relatively easy to train with my bunnies.
     
  13. Apr 3, 2013 #13

    aaustin15

    aaustin15

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    oh yes, they wouldn't ever be alone together. My dog is kenneled when I'm not home and my bunny is in his cage when I'm not home. all i want is for her to not pester him while he's in his cage. Luckily my husky/shepherd/whatever is very well-trained. she's a squirrel crack head, yet because of her training, i give her a command and she's not even allowed to look at squirrels and she doesn't. She's been to basic obedience and off-leash training. and a leash will not be used, she has a shock collar which is much more effective 0:) (and no, i don't shock her brains out, it vibrates for small corrections, only if she tries doing something REALLY stupid, for example chase a bunny, does she get shocked. i can't even remember the last time i had to shock her.)
     

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