Help me find the right dog!
June 20, 2006 12:17 PM   Subscribe

What kind of dog should a bunny/bird owner consider getting?

My husband and I are moving out of our modest sized apartment into a very large (1300+ sq foot) apartment. It has a small front yard with a large dog park 2 blocks away, and a huge city park less than 2 miles away. The building is very dog-friendly. I have a flexible work schedule and am seldom away from home more than 4-5 hours a day. We currently have a miniature breed bunny (lion-headed) and a small conure-sized parrot. I understand that no dog will be completely safe around our animals, but I'm looking for breeds with temperments that are less likely to go after our other animals. Both our current pets enjoy large amounts of time out of the cage. We plan to continue doing this, though i'm not sure if we will have to baby gate them apart from our dog? Obviously, we know we don't want a hunting breed dog, but my husband also prefers not to get the really tiny toy dogs either. Is there something in between that might work. It would be preferably to get a dog that doesn't shed enormous amounts or bark constantly, but we'd be flexible for the right dog. Does anyone else have experience with this process?
posted by theantikitty to Pets & Animals (25 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You also probably don't want a herding dog, as herding behavior is a kind of modified prey drive. However, all dogs are individuals. How about a standard poodle?
posted by OmieWise at 12:34 PM on June 20, 2006

We had very similar concerns (though for a cat instead of a bird or rabbit) and we went with a standard poodle. He's pretty good with the cat, though they will occasionally get into a bit of a tiff. He doesn't shed at all, though he is a bit prone to barking. However, this emerged when we moved from a very quiet street to a very busy corner and has decreased with behavioral training.

Poodles come in a mini variety as well, which might be a good size compromise for you.
posted by handful of rain at 12:37 PM on June 20, 2006

Look for a breed and individual dog with a low prey drive. I think you are probably talking about a bulldog, or a similarly mellow dog, but I am no expert. I would take a visit to a local shelter and talk with someone knowledgeable.
It is possible to find a dog of any breed that would be fine with small animals and birds, that is why a shelter or rescue is a great place to look, they will know the dog's temperment and be able to place the right dog with you.
posted by bradn at 12:39 PM on June 20, 2006

For almost any breed, if you raise the dog from a puppy around your other pets, everyone will get on fine.

If you get an older dog you can do a trial run to see how she or he reacts. If it doesn't go well it's probably best to look for another dog instead of retraining.

Terriers chase small animals, and are more exciteable, so they are probably out. I would actually think that a herding dog would be ideal, they are breed to be protective.
posted by voidcontext at 12:44 PM on June 20, 2006

My parents have a Shih Tzu and the breed is known for *great* temperaments. I think the worst Al would do to a bunny is sniff it like crazy. My dad was a big-dog-only person (we used to have golden retreivers) and the only reason we got a Shih Tzu is because my aunt got one and my mom fell in love with it. However, Al was the cutest puppy ever and my dad soon became smitten. He takes the dog everywhere, even to work. I really think you're best with a smaller breed that is bred for docility and won't try to play rough with your other animals. Not a yappy Yorkie or anything, but a Bichon Frisee or a Shih Tzu, etc. See if you can find someone with a super-cute small dog that you can woo your hubby with.
posted by radioamy at 12:48 PM on June 20, 2006

I was concerned about this when I got my dog (a cattle dog -- middle sized herder) and she's done just fine with the cats. Herding dogs can be chasers and molesters, usually not intentional killers, so the biggest concern is freaking out an animal who can't stand up for themselves. With cats, I had no problem with them showing her why she shouldn't bug them and she learned by being scratched. Now, she ignores anything inside the house (even new cats I have introduced and an accidental baby bunny), although she will chase strange animals. The smarter the dog you get, the easier it will to teach them what creatures are family and not-to-bite, and most herding dogs are very smart. But then again, most herding dogs, and cattle dogs, shed. Poodles are a little short tempered - that might not be great with a bird. So anyway, to sum my thoughts, I would have no hesitation at recommending a clever cattle dog and a dyson vacuum cleaner, as long as you were available to lay down the law.
posted by dness2 at 12:59 PM on June 20, 2006

I have a rabbit and a French Bulldog. They get along fine, sometimes the dog even licks the rabbit's head and she lets him. I wouldn't say they're best friends or anything, but the rabbit will bonk him on the nose when he tries to sniff her butt, and he leaves her alone for a while.

Lazy ornamental breeds like frenchies are a great idea for a rabbit owner, I think. Pugs seems to have a similar temprement. There's probably plenty of great hybrid and mutts too.

You very much want to avoid beagles or terriers of any sort since they are bred specifically to hunt small animals.
posted by malphigian at 1:01 PM on June 20, 2006

I would advise you to stay away from Beagals. not because they are bad dogs.(I have one and he is cute as hell and lots of fun) but because they are bread for hunting rabbits and foxes. there is a new rabbit family liveing in the woods by my house and my dog got about 2 or 3 of them within 2 weeks. be he seemed to do well with our cat but that is probably because the cat is faster then him and hase sharper claws.
posted by The Boy at 1:06 PM on June 20, 2006

Your situation sounds very similar to mine. My girlfriend and I got a pug about a year and a half ago, and I don't think we could imagine life without her now. They're small (but not too small), friendly, loving and hilarious. When we leave Sally (our pug, not my girlfriend) alone during the day, she just flops down on to her bed and passes out.

Anyway, pugs are weird and they do have a few issues (there are a few online communities with a ton of helpful info, see Pug Village) but they're pretty much the best dogs ever.
posted by subclub at 1:20 PM on June 20, 2006

When I was a kid we had four parrots and a miniature schnauzer. The schnauzer came first and the parrots were introduced into its the house when the dog was middle-aged. The dog never once snapped at or got excited by the parrots. It pretty much ignored them, except when the African Grey learned the dog call. He would call the dog from the other room and the dog would run in excitedly to find it was only the bird that was calling her.
posted by honeyx at 1:31 PM on June 20, 2006

For almost any breed, if you raise the dog from a puppy around your other pets, everyone will get on fine.

Not so. My friend raised her Boxer around cats his entire life, but his prey drive is so strong that he'll quickly kill a cat that he's left alone with. He's OK if a person is in the room and can stop him, but just the smell of cat will get him very excited and he'll go into prey-stalk right away. Our Rhodesian is the same way... super-strong prey drive. (Hell, the Rhodesian puppy is beating up on the Great Danes she has at 11 weeks old...)

If you want a big dog, I can't reccomend Great Danes more. For big dogs, they're super couch potatoes, highly intelligent, very trainable and playful...
posted by SpecialK at 2:07 PM on June 20, 2006

This is timely, since we have two rabbits and are about to move, and are considering getting a basset hound. My husband is just in love with basset hounds. We were planning to get a puppy so the rabbits could kick his arse while he was still too little to really hurt them (our rabbits are bigger than the OP's), thereby teaching him to leave them alone. I really don't know if this is wise though.
posted by joannemerriam at 2:13 PM on June 20, 2006

Get a labrador, they get along with other animals great. This is mainly because they could care less about anything else that isn't a human or a dog! Of course, I'm sure this behavior is indvidual to the dog- I have seen a a lab once that couldn't resist chasing squirrels.

My black lab has lived just fine with 2 cats, a frog and a cock-roach. Our street is infested with wild rabbits and squirrels and he never is interested in them enough to watch them, let alone chase them. If anyone cames walking along with a dog, well that a whole nother story!
posted by gus at 2:25 PM on June 20, 2006

I'd say it's about the individual dog as much as anything, but definitely get one that has been brought up with bunnies and birds if possible. Our French Bulldog Fester loves our cats and even helps clean the kittens we foster, because he's been with cats since he was a pup. I'd imagine it would work the same way with bunnies and birds.
posted by baggers at 2:50 PM on June 20, 2006

We had a bichon who was absolutely best friends with our rabbit for about ten years. We had the bunny first, and he was going through a rather unfriendly adolescent period, so we were actually worried that he was going to traumatize our new puppy, rather than the other way around. But they became great friends. There's a lot of variation in bichons, but they are generally great dogs with other animals, don't shed, and come in sizes from small to medium.
posted by emyd at 3:47 PM on June 20, 2006

I second the black lab suggestion. We got our black lab as a puppy and he eventually got to the point where he could be left alone with the bunny all the time.
posted by savehomie at 5:12 PM on June 20, 2006

Golden Retrievers
German Shepherds (possibly)

All are generally low-maintenance, easy-going breeds, who are bred to protect and defend their territory and their pack, rather than hunt.

Of course, any breed will have its bad apples and examples of perfect dog-ness. So will mixed-breeds or mutts.

You might consider a rescue dog. Usually rescues have lived in a foster home for enough time that the foster owners can determine the animal's temperament and what other kinds of critters (including humans) that animal will fit best with. Check for local groups.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 5:19 PM on June 20, 2006

hmm- i got a lab puppy about the same time i had been given a bunny. They grew up together for months but I'm afraid play wrestling (that the bunny always instigated) got too rough.. And well now I have a dog and no more bunny.
posted by beccaj at 7:34 PM on June 20, 2006

Perhaps a big dog could be difficult to restrain during the initial training period?
posted by metaswell at 10:01 PM on June 20, 2006

Also had a big dog with a bunny when I was a tot. (Lab/retriever mix.) And play got too rough. And then we just had a dog.
posted by jeanmari at 10:18 PM on June 20, 2006

Response by poster: Wow! Thanks for all the helpful responses. I think part of the problem we're having is my husband is INSANELY picky. I've been given a "no smooshy face dog" mandate. After sitting down and looking at this thread with him, that includes the pug and the bulldog (both of which I thought were pretty cute). At first he was completely "no way" on the shih tzu too (as per no toy dog decree. i think this is a "manly man" thing), but i looked up some pics on google and i think i made a dent. Thanks for all your help.
posted by theantikitty at 6:34 AM on June 21, 2006

I know I'm coming in late on this, but I've been mulling it over since yesterday. I'm concerned that the challenges of adding a dog to a bunny household have been downplayed. I had many rabbits as a child, and am currently the owner of a Australian shepherd mix.

Mixing bunnies and dogs is NOT like mixing bunnies and cats. Rabbits can die of shock (technically, they stress themselves into having a heart attack, I think). They're more fragile than cats, plus they don't have sharp claws to bonk dogs on the nose with.

The House Rabbit Society has information about this topic. They don't believe that dogs and bunnies will get along better if they grow up together. Their conclusion that a calm, mature dog is the most likely to have a good interaction with a bunny.

Also, check out this blog. Good luck!
posted by bisesi at 12:05 PM on June 21, 2006

Response by poster: Yes bisesi, this is partly what I have been afraid of. Our bunny is pretty ballsy, but she's tiny. We're talking about an animal that's slightly larger than a guinea pig -- not the normal rabbit size. This is why I feel a much smaller dog is probably the best idea. I had hoped a toy breed would physically be less able to harm the bunny? I tried the adult dog route and apparently the husband has strong feelings about getting a puppy. thanks for the blog; i'll be watching it.
posted by theantikitty at 5:12 PM on June 21, 2006

dogs and cats! I meant to say that mixing bunnies and dogs is not like mixing dogs and cats. sorry.
posted by bisesi at 7:21 PM on June 21, 2006

In my experience, toy breeds and puppies of any breed are more aggressive than large breed adult dogs. Of course, this depends on the individual animal. (My experience is based on being tangentially involved in animal rescue.)

My next-door neighbors have a bunny. Their German shepherd (full-grown male) DOTES on the bunny, and on the Chihuahua that periodically visits. Nobody who is not a member of the immediate family can go near either the bunny or the Chihuahua when the big guy is babysitting.

And he will sit and let the family's children, bunny and Chihuahua visitor crawl over him, jump on him, hang on his tail or nose hairs, bark at him and cuddle next to him, and he stoically sits there, monitoring everything. He's a great dog.

My beagle puppy, on the other, recently caused the death of our family parakeet. How? We don't know for sure, but we think he scared her to death with his barking and curiosity.

Please please check into a rescue as I suggested above. Find a group that will tell you the personality and known history of the particular animal you are interested in, not just the breed's characteristics wrt to other animal species.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 9:01 AM on June 22, 2006

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