Rabbits have many natural predators that like to chase, hunt, and potentially eat them. Certain dog breeds, like terriers, have a strong prey drive that will cause them to chase rabbits. Many neighborhood and pet dogs cannot distinguish between wild rabbits and pet rabbits, potentially targeting your pets.
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While a dog will most likely not eat a rabbit, it may chase and kill your rabbit. It is essential to keep your rabbit well protected outdoors and in your home, especially if you also have a pet dog. Rabbits can die from a dog bite or fright caused by a dog in pursuit, barking, and growling.
What Threat Do Dogs Pose to Rabbits?
Some dog breeds, like terriers, are bred to hunt small game animals like rabbits. Even though the dog may be kept as a pet, some instinctive prey drive will exist in the dog, posing a real threat to rabbits. Dogs pose an immediate threat to rabbits because they can attack small animals. Dogs are much larger, more powerful, and more aggressive than rabbits. A bite from a dog can be severe, if not fatal.
Further, dogs can also chase rabbits. Although a rabbit is fast, reaching speeds of 30 mph, they are also prone to fright and stress-induced cardiac arrest. If chased for too long, a rabbit could suffer a heart attack and die.
Lastly, dogs can carry disease in their urine. Although a dog may not be visibly sick, certain bacteria can stay in the dog’s urine, which can be harmful to a rabbit. Neighborhood dogs, or even pet dogs, that urinate near an outdoor rabbit hutch could inadvertently pass dangerous diseases to the rabbit.
How Can I Safely Protect My Rabbit Inside My Home?
Keeping your pet rabbit safe at home can be a challenge if you also have a pet dog. By nature, some dogs may want to attack or chase a pet rabbit, so it is essential always to use supervision when the animals are with each other. You’ll want to ensure that your rabbit has a safe enclosure and a place to hide when it feels threatened. Never give your dog access to your rabbit hutch.
Accidents can happen, so it is important to train your dog to be gentle and kind to rabbits. Training your dog not to attack your pet rabbit could end up saving a life. When your rabbit first encounters a family dog, it may begin to shake. Eventually, it might be possible to keep a dog and rabbit together with good training. This is most likely to happen if the animals are raised together when young.
The most important command to teach your dog is the “leave it.” This command teaches your dog to leave, or drop, whatever they go after. It is much easier to train a younger dog, but it is still possible to train adult dogs to follow this command. Start by teaching your dog to leave a favorite toy, followed by a treat. You can try rubbing your dog’s toy on the rabbit’s cage to get your dog accustomed to the rabbit’s scent. Always be sure to use positive reinforcement when training your dog, giving plenty of praise and treats for a job well done.
How Can I Protect My Rabbit Outside My Home?
Many rabbit owners choose to keep their rabbits housed outside in a hutch. Giving your rabbit an outdoor space can help your rabbit naturally forage and enjoy some time stretching its legs. Be sure to keep your rabbit in a safe enclosure that is predator-proof. Having thick wire mesh and solid wood construction can help prevent an attack from a dog.
Further, you’ll want to ensure that you keep neighborhood dogs away from your rabbit hutch. Rabbits can die from fright, suffering a stress-induced heart attack. If neighborhood dogs are left to wander into your yard and bark at your rabbit, it could quickly kill it.
Install a fence around your yard to keep dogs away from your rabbit if possible. You’ll want to install some chicken wire below the fence into the ground to prevent a dog from digging under the fence to reach your rabbits. A fence can also prevent dogs from urinating near your rabbit hutch, potentially spreading disease. Lastly, some dogs do not like the smell of vinegar. Spraying some undiluted vinegar around your yard’s perimeter could help deter dogs from entering your yard.
What Hutch Is Safe For a Rabbit?
Your rabbit needs a quality hutch to stay safe and well protected. Not only does your rabbit need room to eat, sleep, and exercise, but your rabbit should feel safe from predators. Rabbits can be kept indoors or outdoor, pending you take the proper precautions with a sturdy and well-protected hutch.
Many families choose to keep their rabbits indoors in a hutch. If you have cats or dogs at home, it is vital to ensure your rabbit is protected from a potential attack and protected from escape.
If possible, try to find a solid metal cage that is made of stainless steel bars. The grating should be narrow enough to prevent escape but wide enough to provide good ventilation. The cage should be solid so that the rabbit cannot escape, and a dog cannot potentially chew through the cage. Although popular, try to avoid indoor rabbit hutches with a plastic base.
Ensure the latch keeping the door of the hutch closed is secure. Assume that if a small child can figure out how to open the latch, a crafty rabbit will also be able to figure it out. You’ll want to provide your rabbit with a hide, usually made of kiln-dried pine, to give your rabbit a safe and quiet space to sleep and relax.
Keeping your rabbit outdoors presents a new host of concerns besides a neighborhood dog. Rabbits kept in the yard are subject to changing weather conditions and possible wild animal attacks. A rabbit hutch kept outside should be far sturdier and more secure than an indoor rabbit hutch.
At a minimum, you’ll want a hutch made of solid wood. The hutch should be raised off the ground and protected from too much sunlight, rain, or wind. The hutch should also include an exercise run where your rabbit can exercise and stretch its legs. Be sure to use thick chain-link mesh or fencing to secure your rabbit hutch. Chicken wire will not be thick enough to prevent predators from potentially breaking into the hutch and attacking your rabbits.
Be sure to reinforce the latches and bolts on the outdoor hutch. You’ll want a secure locking mechanism to prevent your rabbit from escaping. Rabbits are also known to dig, so be sure to put metal mesh into the ground surrounding your rabbit’s outdoor hutch to prevent escape. Wire mesh will also prevent predators, like dogs, from digging into your rabbit’s safe enclosure.
What Should I Do In Case of an Emergency?
Unfortunately, sometimes even with the best precautions, accidents can still happen. If a dog has attacked your rabbit, and you notice an injury, be sure to call your veterinarian immediately. These small animals can degrade rapidly, so time is of the essence to administer prompt and accurate treatment. If you cannot reach your veterinarian, call the ASPCA. Their phone line and their website have valuable information about how to administer safe emergency treatment. Fast action on your part will help increase the odds of survival.
In the wild, rabbits are prey to several animals, including dogs. A dog, especially a breed designed to hunt small animals, will not differentiate between a wild rabbit and a pet rabbit. Care should always be taken when keeping a rabbit and dog together. Although a pet dog is unlikely to eat a rabbit, there is a strong likelihood that a dog will chase, hunt, and potentially kill a small rabbit.