How we bonded our dogs with our bunnies.
Luckily we got Bailey when she was 11 weeks old and Bo when he was 8 weeks old so it was quite a bit easier to train them to do well with our buns. Bailey honestly was just so natural and took to the bunnies with very little correction. She has such a sweet demeanor. Puppies also sleep for like 18 hours a day and during their long 4 hour naps I would put bunnies in with them. The bunnies wouldn't really wake them up ever but they would hop on them and lay next to them and I think this helped Bailey and Bo get used to the buns scent. I also think it just helped get used to them and eventually it just became the norm to have bunnies around all the time. Bo took a little more work to get him to stop biting the bunnies when he was a pup. When I say bite, I don't mean he was super aggressive but puppies are curious and like to bite and chew on anything especially if it moves. When Bo would try to bite at the bunnies I would just pull him back and tell him no. This was pretty constant and when he would do it multiple times in a row I would just pull his face to mine while holding his mouth and look into his eyes and tell him no very sternly. If he still didn't listen then he would have to get down and away from the bunnies. I would put him in the kitchen with a baby gate up so he could see us playing but he wasn't aloud in. Eventually he just learned and caught on to not munch on the bunnies or he knew he would have to go to the kitchen. Bo is two now and although he doesn't chew on the bunnies, if he is acting too crazy in the same room with the buns I tell him "do you want to go to the kitchen?", and he knows that means he has to go away and he corrects his behavior right away! He is such a good boy. Also Bailey doesn't let him get crazy and she corrects him most of the time. It's quite hilarious! This is just my experience and it worked for my boxer dogs.
Introducing a new rabbit vs. a new dog to the home.
If you already have a dog in your home and are considering getting a house rabbit, it may be very easy to bond them or it could be tricky depending on personalities. Also depends on where you get your bunny from. I would say it's more important to find a very social bun who has been raised around dogs because they are the prey animal in this relationship. If you can't find a reputable breeder that socializes their rabbits with dogs, then just be sure to find someone who really spend time socializing their buns. Rabbits that have been raised around dogs tend to be more bold and fearless. If your dog has never interacted with a rabbit before don't worry, there are ways you can introduce them to see how they react to each other. That part is coming up soon!
If you do have a pretty social bun then you can start slowly introducing your dog to your bun within the first few days of bringing them home. It's good to let your rabbit take a few days to adjust to their new environment first though. If you have a very timid bun that is scared of almost everything then you will want to give them a lot more time to adjust to you first before introducing them to your dog. Trust is absolutely everything in a relationship with a rabbit. If they feel safe around you then they will interact more with you. Same goes for your dog. Your rabbit will feel comfortable being around your dog if they feel safe around them. One thing to remember is never, and I mean NEVER leave your rabbit by themselves with your dog. I trust my dogs so much and I'll admit sometimes I do leave the room to go grab something but it's for only about a minute or so. No matter how bonded your rabbit and dog are, animals can always be unpredictable when you least expect it. So always supervise them!
If you already have a bun in the home and are wanting to get a dog, it's best to find a dog that has been exposed to other small prey animals in their lifetime. This of course would be ideal but I know it's not always going to be the case especially if you are wanting to adopt from a place that doesn't have very much info on their dogs such as a shelter or rescue. I don't discourage you from adopting from either of those places because you could still potentially get a dog that will do great. The odds just most likely lessen. Even if you found a dog that has lived with cats before is a great option. As long as the dog has had some kind of interaction with different kinds of small animals and had good behavior, it makes the chances of them bonding with a rabbit much higher. Breed also plays some kind of a roll as well so try to find a friendly breed. Of course I'm biased for boxers! Sometimes buying a puppy could be your best bet because you can train them from such a young age to live and share space with your bun. If you do get a puppy, try the bonding methods I first talked about in the start of this blog.
Different ways to socialize your dog & bun.
One way to introduce them is to sit on your couch with your rabbit on your lap. Let your dog come up and sniff or lick your rabbit gently. Just keep an eye on how your rabbit is responding. If they start to freak out and scratch trying to get away, then it's best to end that session. The goal is to make sure your rabbit feels safe during the interaction time with your dog.
Another way to slowly introduce them is to try is the pen method. Set up a pen area for your rabbit to live in part time. You are welcome to have a free range rabbit but if you get a baby bun starting out, you will especially want to confine them in a smaller space to start out with to work on or continue potty training habits. Here is a great pen that is very reasonably priced --> Rabbit pen .
Even if you adopt an older rabbit who is potty trained, you should still mark off a section of your house for them to get used to before beginning to free range. You are welcome to order two of the pens linked above for a larger space as well. They are 16 sq ft each and I would recommend the height of the pen to at least be 30 inches high. 36 inches is most ideal as some rabbits eventually could learn to jump a 30 inch pen. Also it may help keep your dog on the outside of the pen the higher you go.
So when you bring your bun home, you'll want to let them get used to their pen for a few days and then let your dog in the same room so they can go up to the pen and sniff it but not go inside. If your rabbit feels nervous at all which is completely normal, they should have something in the pen to be able to hide or go to a different side. It's also good to place your pen in a corner that way your dog can't run around the whole pen scaring your rabbit. I also recommend having some kind of toy or bed that your rabbit can hide in so they feel safe if they get nervous. Just keep an eye out each day to see how they are doing together. Some dogs will be a little too crazy and pace the pen back and forth. This is ok as long as your rabbit is ok with it and not too scared. As the days or weeks go by, if your dog is showing less interest or is just calmer in general when coming near the pen, than this is a good sign and you can start slowly introducing them. The pen method is a slower approach to bonding but it's also more effective because it allows them to get used to each other living in the same vicinity while keeping safer boundaries.
If your dog is constantly aggressively trying to get into the pen or chasing your rabbit after a good amount of time goes by, then it may just not work out. Not all dogs will be able to bond to rabbits and you don't want to keep pushing and forcing the relationship because it could cause a lot of trauma and stress to a rabbit that is not used to dogs. You may have to keep them separate forever or years before they get used to each other.
Hope this blog was helpful! Happy bonding to you all!