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Dog being overprotective of rabbit? - December 20th 2014, 08:34 PM

A few weeks ago I got a rabbit as an early birthday present, which I named Bella. She's so cute and I love her, but I'm having a couple problems with her and I'm not sure how to fix them.

First problem, and the biggest, is my dog, Cocoa, has started getting really protective of Bella in the last week or two. If someone, even me, tries to pick up Bella or comes near her to pet her Cocoa starts growling and sometimes tries to bite. She's also getting way too intense and hyper when they are playing. How do I get this corrected before it gets really out of control?

Second problem is when Bella is out playing on my bed she likes to try and eat my hair. When she does get a hold of it she ends up pulling some out. How do I get her to stop eating my hair?
   
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Re: Dog being overprotective of rabbit? - December 20th 2014, 10:39 PM

Hey there.

I've never had a dog and a rabbit simultaneously, but let's see if I can help at all. I'll cover it issue by issue just to keep it all distinct.

So, first, Cocoa being overprotective.
  • If Cocoa has a place you send her to when she's getting too excited - such as her bed or a mat - then get her to wait there while you start interacting with Bella.
  • Praise Cocoa when she does stay, and only when she's calm should you allow her to approach you and Bella.
  • Make it clear that you're in charge and you're allowing Cocoa to be near Bella, and you can revoke that right at any time.
  • If Cocoa is calm and on good behaviour she's allowed to stay near Bella, but the second she starts acting up - growling or otherwise becoming protective - send her away, back to her bed/mat/wherever she goes.
  • That way she'll learn that if she wants to be with Bella, she has to behave herself.

As for Cocoa being too excited when playing with Bella, it's the same kind of thing.
  • If she does start getting too exuberant, send her to some kind of 'time-out' zone (for example my dog gets sent to her chair, and my friend's dog has a special mat she goes to).
  • Let her stay there just long enough to calm down, and then allow her to approach again.
  • Praise her when she's behaving herself, but send her to time-out if she gets overexcited.
  • That way you make it clear that she can play with Bella as long as she's gentle, but the game stops as soon as she acts up.
  • Keep repeating this and hopefully she'll learn the lesson. Interspecies friendships are difficult because they have to learn their limits with each other - Cocoa is probably playing with Bella as she would with a dog, not realising that Bella is somewhat more fragile. So it's your job to facilitate their interactions, at least until they get the hang of it.

Finally, Bella biting your hair while she's playing.
  • It might be that you can't teach her not to, since rabbits aren't quite as open to commands as dogs are.
  • You could try gently picking her up and moving her away every time she does, kind of like Cocoa's time-out, or making a loud startled noise (as if you're in pain) so that she associates biting your hair with something unpleasant.
  • I haven't used anything like this, but there are products out there designed to stop pets from chewing. If you found one that was safe for your hair you could potentially try that; if she gets an unpleasant taste every time she bites you hair, she might stop doing it.

Anyway. I hope this helped a bit, and I hope the issues get resolved soon!


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