Poodles are beautiful dogs that get distinctive haircuts and make sure every other dog knows that they are the better breed. They are prim and proper making anyone that sees them stop to take notice while secretly wishing they could touch their soft fur. But with these good looks, are they safe around your smaller pets?
Do poodles get along with rabbits? No, unless they are trained to control their prey instinct, poodles do not get along with rabbits. Poodles have a prey drive that biologically causes them to chase smaller animals such as rabbits, squirrels, and cats.
There may be something that can be done about this if you are set on bringing a rabbit and poodle together in the same home. Understanding why poodles have a prey drive will help you know how to train them to leave Bugs Bunny alone.
Do all Poodles Have a Strong Prey Drive?
When you see a poodle it is hard to imagine this breed of dog as a rugged hunting dog, a dog out there early in the morning running through the pond to scoop up the freshly shot duck in their mouths, but that is exactly what they were bred for. There are three different types of poodles that need to be considered when talking about prey drive:
The original poodle, which is the standard poodle, was meant to be a water retrieval dog and in some countries, they are still used as hunting dogs. Because of this genetic predisposition, Standard poodles are not safe to be around small animals without supervision or proper training.
Miniature poodles are far more common than the standard poodle as pets in the United States. They are rarely used as hunting dogs anymore and because of this pet owners tend to forget that they were bred with a high prey drive. This does not become a problem until someone brings home a kitten or rabbit and they are chased or injured by their miniature poodle.
As with any breed of dog, big or small, it is important to always remember that they have biological instincts that are bred into them. Before adding any new pet to your family make sure you do adequate research to ensure the home dynamic will work.
The smallest and cutest of the poodles is also the most unassuming. They are looked upon as adorable little dogs that could never hurt anything. This is not an accurate assumption. These tiny dogs pack a big punch so don’t let their size full you. Toy Poodles still have the standard poodle hunting instincts that will be very dangerous to the family rabbit.
Even though the toy poodle is close to the size of a rabbit, maybe slightly larger depending on the breed of rabbit, don’t be lulled into a false sense of security and leave them unattended. Doing this could end badly for the rabbit and leave you not trusting your beloved family dog.
Can a Poodle Be Trained to Get Along With Rabbits?
All hope is not lost though. Even with the prey instinct being strong with these beautiful dogs bred to be hunters, it can be remedied. With time and patience on the part of the owner, a training regimen can be used to help curb the poodle’s desire to hunt small animals. Keep in mind the results will be different if your dog happens to be older since training new behaviors can take longer.
How to Tame the Prey Instinct
Poodles, of all sizes, are incredibly smart. On top of their intelligence, they are also eager to please their humans and are one of the few breeds that are able to bond with every member of the family. This is great for training purposes. There are some tried and true methods that will help curb this instinct.
- Basic Obedience Training is the foundation of taming the prey drive in your poodle. Start there to help put your pup on the path to success. Basic obedience training includes commands such as the following that will be helpful when keeping your rabbit safe.
- Come is an important command to teach your dog in general but when your new pet rabbit is involved, it is imperative that they obey. If your poodle starts to go after your rabbit, you need to be confident that they will stop and come when you call.
- Sit is handy for the initial introduction. Have them sit before you bring the rabbit in. Make sure that in training they can hold this until you release them.
- Stay command teaches them to stay where they are until you say they can go. This will be important for your poodle to master.
- Leave it will protect your rabbit if your dog happens to try and pick it up in its mouth. Leave it tells your dog to leave whatever they are after alone. It is off-limits. Drop it would be a good extension of this command to add an extra layer of protection and control.
These commands need to be obeyed 100 percent of the time before you should feel comfortable letting your poodle around your rabbit. Doing one training session will not be enough to know for sure that your dog will be well behaved around the bunny. You need to have full confidence that your pup will heed your commands if the initial meeting doesn’t go well.
Watch this video to see these tips, and some more advanced tips, in action:
- Exercise sounds simple and like there is no way this would help, but running is a great way to keep extra energy under control. A dog of any breed with excessive energy will be very difficult to train and manage their behavior. Take your poodle for a short run before training or allowing them around the rabbit. If you have a miniature poodle, you can learn how to properly exercise him here.
Introducing a rabbit to your poodle
When you are fully confident in the training you have given your poodle, it is time to introduce your rabbit to your dog. Even if training has gone better than you expected, don’t just let your dog off-leash during the first meeting. This is a great time to test the training. Give commands in the presence of the rabbit while your poodle is on a leash and see how that goes. Do this several times a day for close to a week.
At the end of that first week, try the meeting with no leash. If you have any hesitation or concerns about the behavior your poodle exhibits around your rabbit, then put them back on the leash and continue the training. If it is at all possible, the best time to introduce a poodle to a rabbit is when they are a puppy. However, this may not be possible. If that is the case then consistent training is the best way to go.
Best Rabbits For Poodle Families
If you already have a poodle and are going to add a rabbit to your home, there are rabbit breeds that are better than others. Rabbits are prey animals but some are heartier than others. The larger meat breeds will not scare as easily and can grow to the size of a small dog.
- Flemish Giants
- California Giants
- Checkered Giants
Getting one of these listed breeds, even though they are great for dog families, does not guarantee that they will not be scared or injured by your dog. Don’t make the mistake of defaulting to a large rabbit and skip training the prey instinct in your dog. This will spell doom for your rabbit.