Both turtles and dogs make wonderful pets, but our canine companions can hurt their reptilian housemates when left unsupervised with them. While it's not impossible to keep both types of pets in your home, you need to provide your turtle with a suitable habitat that Fido can't access and teach your pooch some basic manners to prevent him from using Shelley as a chew toy.
Dogs and Turtles
All dogs, even the most docile ones, have a natural prey drive and a hefty dose of curiosity about new things. When Fido sees your pet turtle, who is likely no larger than around 12 inches in size, that little reptile may appear to be a moving toy or potential prey to him. Even if he doesn't mean to hurt Shelley, he could try to pick her up in his mouth to play with her, which can damage her shell or body. Dogs can cause serious and even fatal damage to your turtle and should never be left alone with them, even if they have never shown any signs of aggression toward one, warns the Turtle Rescue of Long Island.
Teaching Fido Manners
Before allowing Fido around a turtle even with supervision, you'll need to teach him some basic commands to keep him from harming his reptilian companion. Train Fido to "Sit," "Stay" and most importantly "Leave it" reliably on command. With these basics, you can keep Fido next to you and away from Shelley if he attempts to harm or harass your turtle. Even if he doesn't try to bite or paw at your turtle, if he's constantly sniffing, following, barking or popping out at her, it could cause your turtle stress, warns the Ornate Bird Garden. Stress is harmful to turtles, whose immune systems can be compromised by it, resulting in infections and illness, advises ReptileChannel.com.
Keep 'Em Separated
The best way to prevent problems between Shelley and Fido is to create a habitat for your turtle that your dog simply can't access. Fully enclose outdoor habitats and sunning spots with secure fencing and screens that are sturdy enough to stand up to Fido's gnawing or pawing. Create a separate dog run in your yard to further keep your two types of pets apart. For aquatic turtles, keep them in glass enclosures with a secure top in a room of your home that Fido doesn't have access to. When you are gone, either keep the door to the room containing your turtles shut or crate Fido.
Not only can Fido harm Shelley, but she can inadvertently harm him too by transferring salmonella bacteria to him, which could make your pup very sick. Turtles and other reptiles carry salmonella and shed it in their feces, which can get on their shell and skin, warns the Washington Post. If Fido licks or bites your turtle, he could get the bacteria. Never allow Shelley to nibble from Fido's dish because some turtles will eat dog food and this too might transfer salmonella to your pup. Clean any areas frequented by your turtle regularly and wash your hands before handling your dog after handling your turtle.
- Tortoise Trust: Turtle/Tortoise Frequently asked Questions
- Turtle Rescue of Long Island: Family Dog/Cat Dangers
- Gulf Coast Turtle and Tortoise Society: Outdoor Enclosures
- County of Los Angeles Public Health: What Should You Do to Prevent Salmonellosis?
- Ornate Bird Garden: The Best Outdoor Home for Your Turtle
- Marietta College: Box Turtle Frequently Asked Questions
- VeterinaryPartner.com: Introducing Your Dog to Other Animals
Based in Las Vegas, Susan Paretts has been writing since 1998. She writes about many subjects including pets, finances, crafts, food, home improvement, shopping and going green. Her articles, short stories and reviews have appeared on City National Bank's website and on The Noseprint. Paretts holds a Master of Professional Writing from the University of Southern California.