An attempt at supressing instincts.
There is one – yes, only one – disadvantage to having a prey animal as a family member.
And it is made extremely clear when you attempt to bring home a predator.
Like, for example, this one:
Yes, that’s a cute puppy. And yes, that’s my laundry room.
You see, despite never having been much of a dog person, I’ve had this fantasy for awhile of having a dog. Why? For walks in the park, playing frisbee, exploring, that kinda stuff. I guess I could have just gotten a boyfriend, or a child, or park ranger, but for some reason a puppy seemed like less responsibility.
WRONG. (Ok except maybe the child part. I have no idea.)
But it did provide an excellent opportunity for a blog!
Now, I know there are many households out there where dogs and rabbits co-exist peacefully. I figured a puppy would be young and impressionable and able to learn that rabbits aren’t food pretty fast.
So I went on craigslist and found a puppy. She was an adorable 5 month old border collie and I named her Elena. Of course the moment I brought her home, my bunny, Ellis Jose, ran tearing off into his hiding place in the laundry room, immediately labeling himself as a really fun exciting toy to little Elena. Nice job, Ellis. Those instincts are really helping you out here. Stupid rabbit.
So Elena spent the night in a kennel, and Ellis spent the night huddled in a corner. Obviously, there were two very powerful instincts to overcome: a flee instinct, and a chase instinct. Bad combination.
On the second day, Ellis started to act relatively normal again, but poor Elena was cooped up in the bathroom all day while I was at work, which just made her even feistier and crazier when i let her out, and I couldn’t let her off the leash between the bathroom and the front door because she would immediately try to eat my rabbit.
I tried tying her up in the laundry room so she could hang out with me while I made dinner (it’s like the same room as my kitchen) but that also proved difficult for various reasons.
I’m sorry to say that I failed horribly at inter-species diplomacy and ended up giving her back on the third day. Ellis was freaked out and not eating very much, and I realized that if I gave Elena the proper time and training to be friends with a rabbit, the rabbit probably wouldn’t last that long.
I didn’t feel too bad giving her back because the nice woman I got her from had missed her and kind of wanted to keep her anyway. If I hadn’t already had a rabbit, Elena would have been a fantastic dog and I totally would’ve kept her. But, bunny wins. I like him better.
So unfortunately the only thing I can really give you out of this experience is a list of what not to do:
1. Don’t do crazy impulsive stuff like go out and randomly get a puppy after work one day. Plan it out a little!
2. Don’t get a big puppy. Knee-high is too high. If Elena had been too small to physically devour Ellis, I’m sure I could have given her a lot more time. Also, he might not have been so terrified of her.
3. Don’t bring home a dog that was bred to chase small animals. Border collie? Really? What was I thinking? Get something docile, and if it’s big, get one with three legs or no teeth or something. Don’t bring home a hunting dog or a herding dog unless it’s a little tiny baby. Or you have a yard or large extra room.
4. Don’t bring home a puppy who’s old enough to intimidate anyone. I’m pretty sure if Elena had been younger (and smaller) it would have worked out better.
5. Don’t experiment on a weekday. Wait until you have a long weekend or a vacation or get laid off to bring home a puppy. That way you have plenty of time to watch them and train them at a crucial phase. And make sure they don’t kill each other.
6. Don’t ignore your lease agreement. Have a yard. If you want to go the crazy impulsive route like I did and bring a puppy into your little one-bedroom apartment, all the other rules are about twenty times more important.
7. Don’t bring home a wild animal. Elena had been picked up two weeks earlier while chasing cars in the boonies. Try to make sure the dog is trained and well-behaved before you introduce it to your rabbit.
Now, I know this has worked for some people, but I haven’t found any success stories with happy endings online to use as examples, and the official SaveABunny guide merely says, “Slow, supervised introductions are a must.” Obviously. I do know that Marcy, the founder of SaveABunny, has a dog who does not eat any of the bunnies there. I think she’s a lab. But I would very much appreciate any readers who have tried this, or who have read a happy story of someone who tried this, to please share, so that I can make a “Do” list to accompany this “Don’t” list.
Also, if you think I got anything wrong, let us know!
UPDATE: After reading around a little, I learned that better results generally come with an older, well-trained dog than with starting with a puppy, no matter how young it is. So ignore #4 above. And I’m starting a DO list:
1. Get an older, well-trained dog. And get one from a shelter. They need you more than a cute puppy does anyway.
2. Lock up the rabbit while the dog is out. I was reluctant because, you know, Ellis was here first and he shouldn’t have to give up his hard-earned living room privileges. But in hindsight, he probably would have felt a lot safer with some nice wire bars between them, and he wouldn’t have provoked Elena’s chase instinct. A barking-at-small-animals instinct is a different story, unfortunately.