Bringing a new dog into the mix with a home that already has birds, rabbits, or guinea pigs can be quite a challenge. Dogs’ natural hunting instincts tend to take over when confronted with these animals, putting the smaller animals in severe danger if care isn’t taken to properly prepare the dog for the meeting. Despite the challenge, it can be done, and with training and patience everyone in the household can eventually learn to get along.
The trick is to start slowly. A dog in the wild is a natural predator and as such rabbits, birds, and guinea pigs will all be considered food at first sight. Even small placid dogs such as Cavoodles can have a hunter hidden inside – with the poor little guinea pig seriously outmatched no matter the breed – so care needs to be taken with every type of dog. As you gradually introduce the dog to the other pets start very slowly, giving them brief periods of contact over a couple of weeks so they learn to be comfortable with each other. At no stage should you rush these encounters as this may become life threatening to the smaller animals.
Most animals are territorial so find an area of the house which both animals will consider neutral. Birds will be most comfortable away from the room their cage is kept, or a room which they normally don’t spend any time in. A bathroom, or little used spare room may be good choices as these are areas of the house most animals spend very little time in.
Keep your dog restrained
To start, the dog should remain leashed and the birds, guinea pigs, and rabbits should remain safely in their cage. Keep the leash on until you see that the animals are becoming comfortable with one another. Before you start the introductions make sure you have plenty of treats for all parties. Birds and dogs, in particular, are easy to bribe with food so make sure to reward any good behaviour with a tasty treat.
As you notice your dog becoming comfortable with the other animals it’s time to start allowing the dog off the leash. If the dog starts to misbehave and becomes aggressive reattach the leash until they settle down again. After a while you may become comfortable enough with your dog’s behaviour to take the other animals out of their cages for a little closer contact.
There will come a time when you will feel it safe to allow your dogs and other pets to mingle with each other but it’s important to closely supervise them at all times when they are together. Accidents happen and dogs can succumb to their instincts at any time despite their best intentions. To play it safe simply keep the smaller animals in their cages whenever the dog is around.