Are Golden Retrievers Good With Rabbits?

Some Golden Retrievers are good with rabbits – but that’s not to say that you should just throw the two animals together. It depends on the personality of your Golden Retriever, if they’ve been trained and socialised, and the prey drive of the dog.

On the opposite hand, you need to consider if the rabbits are comfortable being around a dog – which is also dependent on their personality and upbringing. They both need to have compatible personalities for it to work.

Keep reading to find out tips for introducing your Golden Retriever to rabbits, signs to look out for that it isn’t going well, and more.

Why You Should Try to Bond Your Golden Retriever With Your Rabbits

It’s extremely important that your Golden Retriever forms a strong bond with your rabbits. Once they regard each other as family, they’ll be loyal and loving to each other.

Once a Goldie and rabbit have bonded, you’ll see your Golden:

  1. Acting protective over your rabbit, rather than hunting them.
  2. Realise that the rabbit isn’t a toy or prey animal – but instead a member of the pack (or family).
  3. Acting differently. They might be more reserved than usual, aware of their training and that they need to be gentle.

Though accidents can still happen, they’re less likely if the dog and rabbit have bonded. Check out the next section for how to introduce the two!

How to Introduce My Golden Retriever to My Rabbit

Introducing your Golden Retriever to your rabbit should be a slow process. Following these steps is the start of the bond building:

  1. Before you introduce your Golden Retriever to your rabbit, make sure that they are fully trained. This means that your Golden will obey commands without hesitation – so if you tell them to sit or come to you, then you know they will without fail. Out of the two, the dog is more reliable to train and respond to commands.
  1. When you’re confident in your Goldie’s recall, the first meeting can take place. Ideally, you’ll have someone else present, so you can focus on your Golden, and they can focus on the rabbit. 
  1. Keep your Golden Retriever close to your side (on a leash if you’re worried) and keep your rabbit in a pet carrier. For the first meeting, you just want the two to smell each other. If possible, let the rabbit approach the Golden at their own pace, but make sure that you’re in control of both animals.
  1. If your Golden isn’t barking or lunging, reward them for good behaviour. If they are acting aggressively or even just over-excited, separate them and try again another day.
  1. At the same time, monitor the rabbit’s stress – if they are panicking then separate them and try again another day. If this is a repeated occurrence, it might not be possible to put your Golden Retriever and rabbits together. 
  1. After the first meeting when they smell each other, repeat it a few times over the next two weeks. At this point, keep the meetings short (e.g. 10 minutes). Don’t be tempted to extend the time if things are going well, both animals have limits.
  1. After a couple of weeks of good behaviour, you can let them spend longer around each other. It’s up to you how long – but don’t jump from 30 minutes to 12 hours in one go, keep it gradual.
  1. The next step is to have your Golden Retriever lie down with their head down (in a submissive position). Then, open the door for your rabbit to come out and explore – but don’t force your rabbit out until they’re ready.
  1. When both parties are calm and comfortable, you can let your Golden off the leash and away from your side (but stay close!) Leave your rabbit’s door open so they can come and go as they wish.
  1. Eventually, you should reach a point where your Golden Retriever and rabbit have bonded and feel comfortable around each other. Around this time, they’ll relax and do their own things without watching each other constantly. Make sure you’re always there to keep an eye on them though.

Top Tips for Introducing a Golden Retriever to Rabbits

It’s a tricky process to reach a point where the two are bonded, so keep these tips in mind to help the process run as smoothly as possible:

  • Make sure that you go slowly, and always supervise your dog and rabbits when they’re together.
  • Ensure that both animals have a private safe space that they can retreat to if they feel the need. 
  • Discourage behaviour like chasing and nipping. Though maybe intended to be playful, a big Golden might get over-excited or play too rough with the smaller, more fragile rabbit.
  • Your Golden and rabbit will need to form a bond to live comfortably together. This takes time, so you’ll have to be patient and support them both until they reach this stage.

With time and training, your Goldie and rabbits should be able to live together and get along fine. If this doesn’t happen, don’t be discouraged – some animals’ personalities aren’t wired for being social.

How to Tell if Your Golden Retriever and Rabbit Have Bonded

If you’ve introduced your Golden Retriever and rabbit and spent the time to get them used to each other, you might be wondering, what now? Are they bonded?

There are a couple of things you should see if they’ve bonded but it’ll depend on the individuals so you might see one of these, all of them, or none:

  • Indifference: Surprisingly, this is one of the biggest signs of comfort. If they can live their lives without being on guard and wary, then they trust the other one to behave and are confident in their own right.
  • Sleeping together: This is when they’re most vulnerable as they’re sleeping and not scanning their environment. To sleep together is to truly trust each other.
  • Behaviour: Your Goldie should be calm, quiet, and submissive, while the rabbit shouldn’t be fleeing, hiding, or thumping around your dog.

And if they aren’t there yet, keep going! Bonding comes in many forms, and your Golden Retriever and rabbit’s bond might look different to someone else.

Signs That Golden Retriever and Rabbits Aren’t Getting Along

If you’re worried that your Golden Retriever and rabbit aren’t getting along, look out for these signs that indicate that there’s a problem:

  • Your rabbit is thumping: This is when they stomp their foot to express displeasure. It’s also a warning to other nearby rabbits.
  • Your Golden isn’t listening to you: If they’re too intent on the rabbit and not listening to commands, there’s a risk of them getting out of control.
  • Your Golden is acting aggressively: Nipping, barking, lunging, growling, and stalking the rabbit. 
  • Your rabbit is scared: If they’re sprinting away and hiding then they mustn’t feel comfortable. The opposite is when they’re frozen in fear – both are signs that they’re extremely scared.

In this case, you don’t want any fear or aggression from either your Golden Retriever or your rabbit. Whether they’re openly affectionate or not, the main thing we want here is that they both feel safe and comfortable.

Related Questions

Would Golden Retrievers and Rabbits Get On in the Wild?

Dogs and rabbits probably wouldn’t be friends in the wild. Without being trained and introduced by their owners, they’d be more likely to give in to the predator/prey drive. A startled rabbit will run away, and it’s a dog’s instinct to chase after them.

Are There Better Breeds Than Golden Retrievers to Get Along With Rabbits?

As one of the friendliest breeds of dogs, Golden Retrievers typically get along well with other animals. Some breeds might be better suited to get along with rabbits, but this comes down to a variety of factors like their personality, training, and experience with other animals.

Other breeds that get on well with Golden Retrievers include Labrador Retrievers, Basset Hound, Bernese Mountain Dog, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, and Bichon Frise.

What Are the Worst Dog Breeds to Get Along With Rabbits?

There are plenty of breeds that won’t get along with rabbits as well as Golden Retrievers do. Dogs like German Shepherds, Jack Russell Terriers, and dogs bred to hunt will instinctively want to chase and catch the rabbits. 

Though these breeds can be trained to get along and share their home with a rabbit, it’ll be significantly harder than with a breed like Golden Retrievers.

Why Do Golden Retrievers Get On so Well With Other People and Animals?

Golden Retrievers are patient, loving, intelligent dogs. They’re easy to train and have laid-back personalities. This combination makes them ideal companions in all sorts of circumstances. 

Typically, Golden Retrievers get on great with kids (and in families), with cats, other dogs, and a lot of other animals.

Do Golden Retrievers Kill or Eat Rabbits?

Domesticated Golden Retrievers wouldn’t usually eat a rabbit – if anything they’d try and catch and bring it back to their owners. They wouldn’t intentionally kill either – though accidents could easily happen. 

Some Goldens that have been trained as hunting dogs would be exceptions to this rule, but their instinct is not usually to attack to kill. Instead, a Golden is more likely to want to play and chase the rabbits, but being significantly bigger and stronger, this can lead to fatality.

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