This is exactly the question I asked myself as I brought Jazz, a 70lb boxer, home from the Animal Rescue League of Boston. I hadn’t intended to adopt a dog anytime soon but I had given a great deal of thought to what type of dog might fit into my family. It wasn’t just me after all. I had Rocky, Savannah, Scout, and Bear, my four rescue buns, to look out for and they are my priority.
I knew I would want an adult dog. Puppies are still developing their personalities and figuring out their fast growing awkward bodies. I knew we’d need a dog who was well behaved and eager to learn. He’d have to understand to be gentle with the buns and that they are NOT toys. Most importantly we’d need a dog with a low prey drive who’d be able to accept the buns as family and not as prey.
Jazz was 1.5 years old when he was surrendered to the ARL. Before choosing to adopt him, we spent as much time as possible together. I knew he was a young adult and so past much of the puppy energy. He proved to listen reasonably well and was eager to learn and willing to earn a place in our pack. Jazz also got along great with the small shelter dogs and he showed no interest at all in the cats even when I showed him their kennels. Two weeks later he was on his way to our home. Admittedly I was tentative, nervous, and even scared. I’d never had a dog before and I had four buns to look after including a playful 2lb bun who would barely be a snack for this dog!
Introductions went slowly, very slowly. At first Jazz wasn’t allowed near the bunny space. After several days, I would bring him on leash by their condo. He showed little to no interest in them and my nerves started to subside. All the while I was very strict with Jazz’s training. He needed to sit when I said sit, down when I said down, stay when I said stay, and not even think for one second that he might be able to touch it when I said leave it. All this I taught and he eagerly learned with purely positive methods.
A week later and I trusted Jazz enough to securely leash him to an immobile object, place him in a down-stay, and let my eager little bun out of his kennel. Little 2lb Rocky hopped right over to his new playmate and said, “hello”. I had both my hands covering Jazz’s face as my heart raced but Jazz simply sniffed him back, got bored, and relaxed on his side. Slowly over the next days and weeks I let each of the buns meet Jazz. Rocky continued to think of him as a new playmate, Savannah and Bear showed no real interest in him, and Scout was the biggest surprise. Until that point, Scout had shown no interest in anything. I was barely worthy of a glance even armed with every yummy treat in the world, but Jazz? Jazz he adored. As I worked up the nerve to give them closely supervised (still securely leashed) space, Scout and Jazz started relaxing together. The only time I’ve seen Scout relax enough to flop was when he was tucked securely against Jazz’s belly.
It was a solid month or more before I loosened the leash. Still, I was a hawk waiting for the slightest movement I didn’t like from Jazz. It never happened. Two and a half years later, Jazz and the buns are best buds. Even now I would never leave them together unsupervised. I know that Jazz would never intend to hurt his buns but an accidental paw placement could irreparably harm them. The buns doze happily when Jazz barks like a maniac at the mail man knowing that he’s there to keep them safe. Jazz even pinned a friend’s dog when he got closer to the bunny condo than Jazz liked.
So the short answer to the question “Can dogs and rabbits live together happily ever after?” is positively yes and absolutely no. It depends entirely on the dog, the bun, and your patience. It is possible as these pictures show, but it isn’t for every dog or every bun. Always remember that your primary goal is to keep everyone safe.
If you choose to introduce a dog to your warren here are a few things to keep in mind.
Copyright 2007 Jessica Dufrene
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