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How do I get my BC to not kill my new Bunny?


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#1 jasper7777

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Posted 25 May 2012 - 12:41 AM

I know a lot of people on this forum must have chickens, ducks, rabbits- how do you get your BCs not to chase and kill them?
I've gotten a new bunny rabbit. I don't dare let it out of the hutch because I'm afraid Sam my BC will kill it. When Sam looks at the bunny his eyes look like they are going to pop out of his head. He stares at the rabbit with his nose on the mesh of the cage for hours and hours, frozen on its every move, if the rabbit moves quickly or jumps—Sam goes nuts, runs around the cage and wines, and I have to put him outside. Does he want to kill it or herd it? I'm hoping if I just let Sam sit next to the cage and be with the rabbit he will eventually be desensitized to the rabbit and accept it as being a normal part of his life- not something to eat and kill. Will he ever accept the bunny and be friends with it? Sam doesn't kill my cats so I'm hoping he will treat the rabbit like a cat, and ignore it. I know BCs herd Ducks without killing them- but will a dog get used to a rabbit? Anyone got any advice on this?

#2 simba

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Posted 25 May 2012 - 02:56 AM

I know a lot of people on this forum must have chickens, ducks, rabbits- how do you get your BCs not to chase and kill them?
I've gotten a new bunny rabbit. I don't dare let it out of the hutch because I'm afraid Sam my BC will kill it. When Sam looks at the bunny his eyes look like they are going to pop out of his head. He stares at the rabbit with his nose on the mesh of the cage for hours and hours, frozen on its every move, if the rabbit moves quickly or jumps—Sam goes nuts, runs around the cage and wines, and I have to put him outside. Does he want to kill it or herd it? I'm hoping if I just let Sam sit next to the cage and be with the rabbit he will eventually be desensitized to the rabbit and accept it as being a normal part of his life- not something to eat and kill. Will he ever accept the bunny and be friends with it? Sam doesn't kill my cats so I'm hoping he will treat the rabbit like a cat, and ignore it. I know BCs herd Ducks without killing them- but will a dog get used to a rabbit? Anyone got any advice on this?


I would say don't let him focus on it and whine like that. Praise him for not focusing, if he starts focusing give out to him and bring him back inside.

How did you introduce him to the cats?

#3 jasper7777

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Posted 25 May 2012 - 05:15 AM

How did i introduce him to cats? I already had two cats when he was a puppy- they where almost his size so I didn't have to worry that he would kill them. I did actually pick Sam up, if he bothered the cats, and put the cats outside- so I guess Sam knew he wasn't going be allowed to hassle the cats. The cats, of course let him know as well.

#4 Sue R

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Posted 25 May 2012 - 06:05 AM

Sam's already developed an obsession/bad habit with regards to the rabbit.

We have had house rabbits along with Border Collies and Aussies. My advice is to keep your rabbit in a room/area that Sam can not access, and where he can't even see the rabbit.

I'm not sure there is much you can change at this point once it has apparently become an ingrained habit. If it's not, getting Sam to refocus his attention on you is one big step in diverting him from the rabbit.

When the rabbit is out of the hutch for his activity/playtime, Sam could be crated (in another room, out of sight) or loose in another room and out of sight.

Sorry, no time to say anything else. Best wishes!
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#5 waffles

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Posted 25 May 2012 - 07:02 AM

I definitely agree to not let him fixate on the rabbit for hours and hours (or anything else for that matter). You could try taking the rabbit out and holding it so Sam could sniff him. Sometimes it is just frustration (just like dogs going nuts at fences) because he can't 'meet' him in proper doggy fashion by sniffing. You may never be able to have the rabbit out with Sam and I don't see anything wrong with that. Keep the rabbit in a separate room where he can't see him. Like others have said, reward him for not fixating. I would bet he doesn't necessarily want to kill the rabbit but wants to chase and play with it but I wouldn't take that chance. Plus it isn't fair to the rabbit to be chased and harassed.

#6 aljones

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Posted 25 May 2012 - 07:21 AM

Based on my decade or so of experience with house rabbits and border collies, I second Sue's advice. The best strategy I found was to keep the species separate and only allow the rabbits out for exercise when the dogs were safely confined elsewhere.

I know that's not the answer you're looking for, but after seeing the damage my dogs did to a wild rabbit they captured in the yard, I was not willing to take a risk by allowing the dogs and the rabbits to interact.

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#7 border_collie_crazy

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Posted 25 May 2012 - 08:44 AM

my BCs have no intention of causing my rabbits any harm whatsoever, but they are very fixated on them and follow them around staring intently, jumping when they run. they have been doing this for many many years, but have never layed a tooth on any rabbit I have ever owned/ actulally they are helpful, because if the rabbits go somehwere they are not supposed for if they hide somewhere I cant find them, all I have to do is ask the BCs, they will stare right at the spot the bunny is hiding.

that said, my rabbits are used to this and dont get upset by it..actually the one is SO used to it they she gets upset if one of the BCs ISNT following her around staring intently! you also need to train them to leave it when you ask, I dont care about staring, as long as when I ask them to stop, they do.

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and of course Prairie Clan Gerbils, Jenny and Peepers the bunnies, Toivo, Marley and Silver the 'tiels, Miami and Moriba the snakes and Creamsicle the Hamster


#8 arf2184

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Posted 25 May 2012 - 11:46 AM

Redirect him when he fixates on the bunny. That is not something he should be allowed to do.
The safest thing is not to allow the animals to have access to each other while bunny is not safely in his cage. But accidents/escapes can happen so I think I'd work on teaching him how to behave around bunny (taking safety precautions to make sure nothing bad happens).

Meg is wonderful around cats and chickens. However, I have chinchillas and she will fixate on them (in their cages) if allowed. She was carefully introduced to them outside the cage a couple times to see how she would react and she did try to put her mouth on one. I won't ever trust her with chinchillas but keeping her out of the room where the chinchillas live is not an option. I would like to know that if there is ever an escape, she'll listen to me and not focus solely on the rodents. So I worked with her on one side of an x-pen with loose chinchilla(s) on the other. We made good progress. I started out by clicking or saying 'yes' when she looked away from the chinchillas and at me. Now I can send her across the room to lie down and she'll stay there without focusing much on the chinchillas.

There is still an x-pen that has a permanent place around the cages so she can't bump them with her nose and she's not in the same room as them unless I'm there, but now I can open cage doors long enough to feed with her in the room without worrying much about someone deciding to hop out.

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#9 Karynne

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Posted 25 May 2012 - 03:22 PM

I definitely second what everyone else is saying, don't let him fixate on the rabbit . It's teaching your dog a bad habit, and scaring your rabbit.

I'm still new to BCs so this post is primarily from a rabbit person's perspective, but hopefully there will be something of use to you...

The key to safe dog-rabbit introductions is taking baby steps. It's your job to make sure your rabbit feels safe and comfortable, which means progressing at your rabbit's pace, not just your dog's. If you haven't already, I suggest checking out rabbit.org. Its a great free resource and can help you learn how to properly interpret your rabbit's body language, which will be extremely important during the introduction process.

If you recently adopted your rabbit, I'd recommend working on building your human/rabbit bond before even bringing the dog into it. Once your rabbit knows and trusts you, it will be a lot easier for him to acclimate to the dog.

I volunteer with my local shelter's rabbit program, and when counseling new adopters that have dogs, I like to start with a little empathy exercise into why letting the dog stare at the rabbit cage is a bad idea. Imagine you are locked in a barred room, and there is a very hungry tiger sitting just outside of it, staring intently at you, licking its lips, etc. Now imagine you don't have the reasoning skills necessary to gage whether or not those bars would keep you safe should the tiger decide to attack. All you know is: YOU can't escape, and the tiger wants to EAT you. Any one in their right mind would be terrified, and it's no different for rabbits. It sounds stupid at face value, but if you actually close your eyes and really think about it, it's pretty enlightening.

The first thing I would do is establish your rabbit's cage as his safe zone. Don't let your dog anywhere near the rabbit's cage at this point. There are a lot of parallels to crate training a dog in doing this. Never use the cage as punishment, and make sure he has positive experiences when confined to it. When possible, don't pick him up to get him in and out of the cage either. If the cage is up high, you can build a ramp to make this easier. Open the door, and let him come out when he feels ready. Then when it's time to put him back in, lure him with a tasty (healthy) treat. Our bunnies know the word "bedtime", and as soon as I say it they come rushing to their cages for their nightly salads. It takes some practice, but as long as you stick to a consistent routine, he'll catch on quickly.

Because of the size similarity, cat-dog and rabbit-dog introductions are often treated as the same process. From the dog training end of things it pretty much is, but when you factor in the differences between a cat and a rabbit, it changes a bit. For one thing, cats are predators, rabbits are prey. Their mentalities are totally different, and their reactions will be too. Cats have quite a few defense mechanisms, claws, teeth, climbing ability, and vocal sounds at their disposal. It's a rare occasion that a rabbit will actually stand up to a dog (although I have seen a three pound dwarf take a chunk out of a curious Labrador's nose), which leaves running. Which is pretty much the worst thing they could do, as it just triggers the dog's instinct to chase. It's of paramount importance that you don't give your dog the opportunity to chase or corner your rabbit. This means utilizing physical boundaries (baby gates, crates, leash, etc.), until you're absolutely sure he can be trusted without them. Not all dogs can adjust to living with a rabbit that they aren't allowed to chase or kill, so be prepared for the possibility that they may never be friends.

To desensitize your dog to the rabbit's movements, i would try using a sturdy gate to separate them (rabbit in one room, you and the dog in another). One with bars or mesh is best, so they can see what the other is doing. Give your dog something to play with, either his favorite toy, a stuffed kong, anything that he finds interesting. Then let the rabbit out of his cage to explore the room, making sure he has access to comfortable hiding places. If your dog starts fixating on the rabbit, redirect his attention to you, and reward the dog for ignoring the rabbit (clicker training works well for this). Every rabbit is different, so what he does next depends on his personality. He might hop around for a while and eventually work up the courage to say hi, or he might keep a safe distance the whole time. Once you're able to gage his reaction, you'll have a better idea of how to progress. I'd keep doing that daily until your rabbit is comfortable with the dog's presence (grooming himself, stretching out, and doing binkies are all signs that he's relaxed), and your dog is consistently responding to your redirection efforts, and ignoring the rabbit.

If all parties feel like they're ready for the next step move onto the same protocol just with the dog crated in the room that the rabbit is out exploring. Again, give your dog something interesting, and reward him whenever he focuses on you instead of the rabbit. If that goes well, move on to the dog being on leash next to you, and the rabbit loose. If your dog is extremely reliable with ignoring the rabbit, and not lunging at it when it runs, then you can try letting go of the leash. It's always wise to err on the side of caution, so I would keep the dog leashed around the rabbit for a good long while, before taking it off. Even if the dog has progressed to the point where he's reliable even when you aren't holding the leash, I'd let him drag it around so you can quickly grab it if he starts to take off after the bunny.

It should go without saying that even when perfectly trained, the dog and rabbit should never be in the same room unsupervised, even if the rabbit is caged. That means if you go to the bathroom or take the trash out, separate them before leaving. It only takes a second for a fatal accident to occur, and it's important to never lose sight of the fact that your dog is a predator, and your rabbit is its natural prey. Maybe I'm overly cautious, but my rabbits lives aren't something I take lightly, so I'd rather not chance it.

This is just how I make the dog/rabbit introductions, and how my friends have done it successfully, so I'm not an expert or anything. I have two house rabbits of my own, and am planning on adding a BC to the family, so I'm eager to hear other people's experiences!
~ Karynne

#10 Gloria Atwater

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Posted 25 May 2012 - 04:49 PM

Sam will never get used to your bunny. Staring at the rabbit is self-gratifying. Further, he's developed a dangerous fixation with the rabbit.

Listen, it's not often realistic to expect a predator to co-exist with prey, especially something as soft and easy as a rabbit. Cats can defend themselves and chickens can also seem alarming, but rabbits ... everything about them triggers Sam's wolfish instincts. A friend of mine has a bunny in a hutch, and my dogs will act the very same way. I've no doubt whatsoever they would attack it, if they found it loose.

My recommendation to you is keep him away from the rabbit, period. Don't let him stare at it, fence or X-pen the bunny's area off, even hang something to shield it from his sight.

Personally, I don't think it's realistic or even logical to expect a dog with his level of fixation to somehow change. Look, if a wild cottontail hops out in front of your Sam, he's probably going to give chase. It's not fair to him to expect him to change his entire psyche for your pet rabbit. Not at this late date, when his fixation is so firmly entrenched. Keep them apart, don't let him stare, and avoid any chance of tragedy.

Respectfully submitted,

Gloria
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#11 Karynne

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Posted 25 May 2012 - 05:17 PM

After rereading your original post, I'm inclined to agree with Gloria. If he's already been allowed to fixate for "hours and hours", the normal introduction procedures aren't going to work for you. Unless there is a reason they NEED to be introduced, it's better to not bother. It's not a natural relationship for them, and it goes against all their instincts to get along.

I've had good success with the above process, and my friends have as well. But all those introductions involved non BCs that had no prior experience with rabbits (so they hadn't had a chance to develop bad habits), and the rabbits were indoor pets that were there before the dog.
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#12 geonni banner

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Posted 25 May 2012 - 05:36 PM

I'll go a step further. I'd say rehome the rabbit. He's already obsessing on it, and even if you can manage a bloodless introduction, I'd say the chances of a bad ending are high. A sudden move by the rabbit when the dog is already excited about something else, and wham. I wouldn't risk it. I don't think a different rabbit would make any difference. Rabbit smells like rabbit.


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#13 terrecar

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Posted 25 May 2012 - 05:49 PM

I wouldn't be so presumptuous, not knowing your situation, as to suggest you rehome your rabbit, necessarily. However, if you decide that is the necessary solution and you cannot find a home, you might try contacting the House Rabbit Society

#14 Sue R

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Posted 25 May 2012 - 05:52 PM

Rabbits are pretty fragile and stress alone can kill them. I think that you must provide a totally separate environment for the rabbit and the young dog, if you want to be concerned about your rabbit's welfare and future.

We had one or more house rabbits for years, and the last one preceded Celt's arrival as a 7-week-old pup. He would lie for hours watching Delbin, who had been raised in the presence of an Australian Shepherd (MacLeod) who was the friend and protector of all things small and furry.

Delbin was totally relaxed around any dog and so had no fear response to a dog. And Celt simply stared, whether Delbin was in his crate or out loose, although Delbin was never loose without supervision (or, we put Celt up in his crate, in a separate room).

But Megan, who totally ignored Delbin when he was in his crate, was fixated on him when he was out, even if he was very still - and I could tell by her expression that should Delbin go bouncing around, she would probably give chase. So she was never in the same room with him when he was out. Again, she was crated in a different room when he was having his "out" time.

You can have both animals with thoughtful, careful, and consistent management - but that's going to require separate living arrangements since your young dog has already fixated on your rabbit. Separate living arrangements (and safe "out" time for your bunny) is going to be in the best interests of both of them. And it will be essential for your rabbit's future.

Good luck!
Sue Rayburn - Cleverly disguised as a responsible adult, but not the brightest firefly in the jar.

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#15 Karynne

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Posted 25 May 2012 - 06:00 PM

^This!
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#16 terrecar

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Posted 25 May 2012 - 06:10 PM

^This!


I second that. Sue, that was a well thought out, considerate, all around damned good post. I think you've offered good advice.

#17 Gloria Atwater

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Posted 25 May 2012 - 10:48 PM

What Sue said. :)

My instinct in replying was simply to abandon any romantic, Disney notions of bunnies and dogs living together, but she framed it in logic and practical reality. They need to be separate. It's only fair to the bunny to preserve him from that kind of stress and threat, and only fair to the dog to keep him from the chance of doing something horribly wrong.

Thanks, Sue, for speaking up with your practical knowledge. :)

~ Gloria
You ask of my companions. Hills, sir, and the sundown, and a dog as large as myself that my father bought me. They are better than human beings, because they know but do not tell. ~ Emily Dickinson

To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring - it was peace. ~ Milan Kundera

#18 Karynne

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Posted 25 May 2012 - 11:14 PM

As I'm writing this my four pound rabbit is tearing around my apartment at top speed and ricocheting off my bed. From a dog's perspective I'm sure they'd be convinced she is the most amazing toy ever invented. She runs, bounces, zigs and zags, and tastes good too. What more could a dog want? This thread has me questioning (now more than ever) if my dream of adding a border collie to the family is just that, a dream.
~ Karynne

#19 urge to herd

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Posted 26 May 2012 - 10:58 AM

Sue,

Thanks for pointing out that stress can and does kill rabbits. Dogs are predators, rabbits are prey. The stress of being stared at for hours on end by something that will kill you is already hard on your rabbit.

Please follow the advice of others and keep them separated.

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#20 border_collie_crazy

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Posted 26 May 2012 - 12:37 PM

wow, ok dogs and rabbits most certainly CAN live perfectly fine together without stress, even with dogs that fixate. I have 8 dogs and 2 FREE RANGE rabbits, and they all live peacefully together. rabbits they are used to dogs are suprisingly tough.

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guarding her domain..she is 2 lbs and the dogs dont mess with her.
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teach the dog how to behave.. put the dog on a leash and let the rabbit out, do nothing when the dog stares, correct if the dog reacts to the bunny and treat everytime the dog breaks eye contact with the bunny.

Shayna + Happy the BC, Paisley the Aussie, and Gem and Gyp the Heeler x's 

DSC_0066sm_zps340ac22d.jpg

and of course Prairie Clan Gerbils, Jenny and Peepers the bunnies, Toivo, Marley and Silver the 'tiels, Miami and Moriba the snakes and Creamsicle the Hamster



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