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Border Mix and Rabbit Problem

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A couple of my friends (MC and JG) are roommates and they are looking to figure out how to teach their dog and rabbit to get along with each other.


The dog is names Grover and around a year old and best guess is a Border Collie/Jack Russel mix. He was a stray that showed up in MC's mom's neighborhood and MC took him in. For a stray he is remarkably well-mannered in the apartment and on walks. He gets along great will all other types of dogs, I'm not sure about cats.


JG has a rabbit that doesn't live full-time with them now, but will in the fall. Currently when Fiona (the rabbit) comes to stay Grover constantly tries to get into JG's room and will do his best to squeeze in anytime someone opens the door. They've not tried introducing them yet (and I've not seen the behavior myself) so they don't know if he's just really stimulated by Fiona or if he would possibly harm her. He is also highly distracted by rabbits he sees on walks and it could be possible that he had to hunt rabbits while he was a stray, there's no way of knowing.


Basically they want a way to manage the situation. JG and MC aren't ever going to leave them together and unsupervised. They just basically want Grover to ignore Fiona so he's not constantly trying to get to her. Before this came up I had been working with Grover on basic obedience and self-control exercises (sit-stays mostly). Mostly, I just wanted to pick your all's brains and see if you have similar experiences in introducing BC's or any dog to small family pets like cats and rabbits. I want to figure out a safe way to introduce them and I was thinking about working on a LAT or even leave it command for Grover so he wouldn't bother Fiona.



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My JRT has caught and killed snakes that were easily 3 times her size. She grabs them behind the head and shakes them until they are dead. She would do that to a rabbit in a heartbeat.


We like snakes and have endangered ones here that are good as far as keeping bad snakes away, so we would NEVER want her to hurt one , but she is that fast!! Hunting is her number one favorite thing to do, it's number two and three too.


Kathy is completely right. You will have to work at making sure that they never get together.

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I'll take a slightly different viewpoint and say that it could *possibly* work, but everyone would have to be super vigilant, and you know how generally impossible that is. My biggest concern would be stress for the rabbit as a prey species constantly being frightened/concerned by the presence of the dog. I think it would be easier to manage them if you just gave each separate "out" time in the house. When the rabbit is out, the dog should be crated and vice versa. This would be the most foolproof way of preventing an unfortunate accident. If the rabbit has one particular room as its own, then you might want to put a baby gate behind the closed door so that when people go in and out it won't be so easy for the dog to also slip in.



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I have taught a terrier to leave prey animals alone before, it was ages ago so I can't quite remember how. I doubt it was anything complex.


I think it started off with teaching the dog not to eat or focus on food until it was allowed to, and then we worked up to not chasing the tennis ball when told not to, and then the same commands were used for the animal. It was mostly teaching impulse control around prey-like things and teaching the dog that those commands would be enforced. We worked on the most exciting non-living stimuli that I could think up, until perfect, before even thinking of starting with the living animal.


They never regarded the rabbits as 'not food', but they recognised that the rabbits weren't to be eaten without permission. When the rabbits were picked up the dog would do tricks like you'd just opened the cookie jar.


But that was only one dog, and one instance, so I don't know whether it would help at all with your situation. I've known a few dogs who had to be rehomed because they couldn't learn that lesson, and not for any lack of effort on the owner's part (though perhaps someone more experienced could have handled it). It was a haphazard solution even though it worked, you'd be better off getting expert advice.



Edit: they weren't left together unsupervised or anything like that. It was more for those incidents when the dog happens to be out when you think it's in, or the rabbit escapes or whatever.

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I agree with those who have said you cannot leave them unsupervised together [ETA and I'm glad to see your friends have no intention of doing that]. You can have a dog that seems fine with small pets while you are there, but who will, when left to its own devices, resort to predatory behavior. This rises exponentially if there is more than one dog present. So, the main point here is that you need to manage the situation so that the dog cannot slip in and harass the (presumably caged) rabbit, increasing the rabbit's stress and the dog's excitement.


Also, I notice a distinct difference between Hannah, my BC mix, and the terriers I had in terms of this. Hannah was not raised with cats, but it was not difficult at all for me to use a "leave it" with Hannah outside with the landlord's cat, and I was later able to introduce them with no problem. I would not have used the same strategy with any of my smooths.


I don't think I would give (or take) advice on how to introduce a dog to a prey animal without knowing more about the relationship of the person with the dog, the intensity of the individual dog's prey drive et. al.

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I think it's already been said. Border collies and Jack Russells are both breeds with very high reactivity to motion and movement, and the JRT was bred specifically for hunting varmints. Unless everyone - and I mean everyone - around and near that dog is completely vigilant, completely consistant and completely on the same page about training that dog to ignore the bunny, I think you're facing a very hard and potentially impossible thing.

Getting a dog like that to switch off a basic instinct, for which half of its bloodline was bred, is pretty hard, especially when that instinct was to attack and kill other small animals. And even more so, if he may have already killed and eaten rabbits when he was a stray. You can't unplug something like that.

And also as has been said, it's not fair to the rabbit to have it subjected to this dog's intent and intensity.

My recommendation is to simply keep them separated. Don't bring the bunny where the dog is, and don't bring the dog where the bunny is. You may be able to train him to stay out of the room in which the rabbit stays. That should be do-able, but again, everyone must be consistant and vigilant. Make that room totally off-limits to the dog. And don't trust him to miss a chance if someone is not looking.

I venture to say that this dog may very well harm or kill that rabbit, from the behavior you describe. That he was once a stray of unknown province could make it even more likely.

Keep them separate. Teach him the rabbit's room is off limits. I think that sounds like the surest and safest thing.
Respectfully submitted,


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We have a Border Collie / Beagle mix and when she sees a rabbit she wants to chase them but we have her on a leash outside since our yard is not fenced in. She even tried to pull on the leash to chase after deer once. Even birds flying high in the sky gets her attention.

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Thanks for all the input everyone.


I totally didn't even think about Jack Russells beings bred for varmit hunting. I should've thought of that. Granted we don't know that he's part JR, but that's our best guess. I've included a picture of him, what do you all think?


They'll be in a two bedroom apartment so it definitely won't be a problem to keep them completely separated. Also JG never lets Fiona out in her room if she's not there. They were just looking for some ideas to teach Grover to ignore Fiona so he won't be so obsessed with getting into the room. I will give them the ideas of teaching JG's room to be off limits and and work on impulse control and 'leave it'. Also the idea of putting the cage up high is really good idea so if he were to get in her wouldn't scare Fiona too much.


Again, thanks for all of the input.



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Dittos, I'd say some sort of terrier in the mix, too. What a cutie! That's one clever, bright little face. :)

I'm glad the bunny will have a separate room to live in. Separation will definitely be the best policy, with *any* sort of terrier in the mix. All terriers are varmint hunters, and since you mentioned he was also a stray ... well, I won't repeat myself. Best of luck and best wishes! He sure is a cutie pie. :)

~ Gloria

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