How to Bond Rabbits & Dogsby Kimberly Caines
"How about getting me a real bunny friend?"
Although rabbits are prey animals and dogs are considered predators to them, bonding the two is possible as long as you carefully plan and execute. Impulsively placing Floppy and Boomer in the same room in the hopes to rapidly bond them is a recipe for disaster. Your canine companion might treat Floppy as a toy, and the shock alone can be fatal to your rabbit. To prevent this, supervise and control both parties as you initiate meet-and-greets in a gradual manner.
If you own multiple rabbits or dogs, a one-on-one approach allows you to fully control the situation. If you wish, have a family member watch your rabbit while you control and watch your dog. Ideally, your dog is fully trained and obedient, and he looks to you the leader for guidance. For the initial meeting, set up neutral territory in the form of a room that your rabbit or dog rarely frequents. This way neither party will feel like his territory is being invaded.
Before putting Boomer in a room with Floppy, have the two get comfortable with each other's smells and sounds. Keep Floppy in a separate room with the door closed when Boomer is barking in the living room. Pet Floppy, give him his favorite treat and talk softly to him to calm him down. Then reverse the roles and confine Boomer to a room while Floppy explores the living room. Have the animals smell items that belong to the other party. Do this for about two weeks before moving on to a closer meeting.
The next step in the bonding process is to give both parties a visual of each other. Use the same scenario as before, but use a baby gate to confine the animals to a room. This way they can see each other but not get to each other. Watch Boomer closely; if he bows and sticks his rear in the air upon the sight of your rabbit, know that you're on the right track; praise and rewards are in order. If he displays aggressive behavior, interrupt him and take him out of Floppy's sight.
Once your pets are comfortable with each other's smells, sounds and sights, bring both animals into the neutral meeting room. Use a leash and muzzle on your dog for extra safety, and supervise closely. If you prefer, keep your rabbit in his cage for the first several meetings. Use treats and praise to reinforce your dog's good behavior, and keep the initial meetings short. With consistency, Boomer will associate the pleasant rewards with Floppy's presence and won't mind him being around.
Once the animals are comfortable with each other's presence, and meetings occur without the leash, muzzle and cage, gradually allow them more freedom to roam. Set up daily, supervised play dates so they develop a companionable partnership or at least start respecting each other's place in the family. You want them to go beyond their instinct and be comfortable around each other. Always supervise the duo to avoid unintentional accidents. Provide toys for them to play with, and when they're tired, have them rest in the same space. Also, continue to reward good behavior.
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