Dogs and Rabbits: Will Your Shih Tzu and Rabbit Get Along?

BY MOLLY | EVERYTHINGSHIHTZU.COM
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Whether you're an avid animal lover or have kids who want every pet under the sun, you might find yourself with multiple species under one roof.

Many households have multiple pets that are not natural companions, like dogs and cats. But when it comes to the highly affectionate and loving Shih Tzu, will this little lion dog get along with your pet rabbit?

Shih Tzu dog and rabbit

Generally, Shih Tzu are good with rabbits and other small animals. However, they also possess an instinctual prey drive and love to chase things, including small animals.

And since rabbits are aware they are generally the prey, they may become easily frightened and stressed by a dog's attention, even when playful.

So, if you plan to have a Shih Tzu and a rabbit, plan on extensive training and introduce your pets properly.

Plus, you may also want to consider a larger breed rabbit. This can help decrease the likelihood of your dog hurting your bunny accidentally.

Tips for Introducing a Shih Tzu to a Rabbit

If you take the time to train your dog and introduce them to your rabbit, a Shih Tzu might be perfectly willing to accept the long-eared addition to the family.

First, however, it's critical to recognize that Shih Tzu does have a reasonably strong prey drive despite their affectionate nature.

Primarily, they love to chase things, from toys to small animals.

What your pup would do with the rabbit once they caught up with it could be a bit unpredictable, depending on your Shih Tzu's disposition.

Therefore, don't assume that your rabbit is safe just because Shih Tzu are smaller dogs.

You still need to go through the proper steps to introduce your dog to your rabbit.

  • It all starts before you even bring your rabbit home. Training is critical, even if you aren't getting a rabbit. Take some time to work with your Shih Tzu on basic obedience commands as well as the "leave it" command and how to walk appropriately on a leash. 
  • Practice the commands with your pup in a variety of settings. Don't even consider bringing home a rabbit until your dog obeys the "leave it" command 100% of the time and anywhere you are. This command helps teach your dog impulse control, so your pup will be less likely to chase your rabbit.
  • Place the rabbit in a carrier in a room and bring your dog in on a leash.
  • Assess how your dog reacts. If they are calm, you can proceed, but if they start to tug or lunge, despite their training, it's time to stop and try again later.
  • If your Shih Tzu is calm when you bring them into the room, walk them over to the carrier (on a leash) and let them investigate and sniff.
  • Then, have your dog "lie down" and "stay" while you open the carrier. Don't take the rabbit out; you never want to force an introduction. Instead, just sit and wait for your bunny to come out at its own pace.
  • The goal is for your dog to stay in a down position while the rabbit investigates. If your dog gets up without permission, remove them from the room. However, if they stay down, make sure to give plenty of praise. Let your pup sniff the rabbit, and give your dog a treat when they stay calm.
  • Then, leave the room with your pup. Repeat the whole process the next day and the next, etc., until you're confident that your dog can stay calm around your rabbit. Likewise, you also want to ensure that your rabbit stays calm around your dog.

Larger Rabbit Breeds Might Work Better with a Shih Tzu

Once you've gone through the necessary prep work, you're one step closer to a doggy-rabbit friendship. However, a few precautions are still worth noting.

For example, your pup might sometimes recognize your pet bunny as a friend and simply want to play.

The problem is that overly eager dogs can unintentionally end up hurting a small rabbit when trying to play. Plus, your rabbit won't understand your dog's intentions are innocent and can become extremely nervous.

However, since your Shih Tzu isn't a large dog, choosing a larger rabbit can help even things out a bit.

Believe it or not, some rabbits could even be bigger than your dog.

Still, many larger rabbits tend to be more docile and less skittish than their smaller counterparts.

Therefore, check out the specifics and decide which one measures up the best for your Shih Tzu.

Here are five breeds of rabbits that tend to be on the larger side and make wonderful pets.

Flemish Giant

You can find Flemish Giant rabbits weighing 13 pounds and higher, making it one of the largest rabbit breeds. Many even exceed 20 pounds, yet this breed is considered a "gentle giant" thanks to its overall docile nature. 

Continental Giant

Although not recognized by the American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA), the British Rabbit Council recognizes these bunnies. They can cost you between $300 and $500, but this rabbit will likely be larger than your Shih Tzu, potentially weighing 25 pounds and reaching three feet long. 

French Lop

With its precious floppy ears, the French Lop is the only lop-eared bunny among the giant breeds. They weigh roughly 11 pounds and are a friendly breed that loves to cuddle. So if you plan to have a Shih Tzu and a French Lop, be prepared to dole out lots of love to your fur babies.

Giant Chinchilla

This bunny is one of only a few breeds initially developed in the United States. Giant Chinchilla rabbits weigh about 13 to 14 pounds at full maturity, typically maxing out around 16 pounds. They're also a gentle breed that make excellent pets.

Checkered Giant

These rabbits are typically about 11 pounds and up, and they usually are a good match for homes with children. They're gentle, although they don't require constant attention, which could be a good balance for the overly affectionate Shih Tzu.

However, these bunnies are very active and love to run, so pairing them up with a pup that likes to chase may not be the best match. But, it all comes down to how you handle your dog and rabbit interactions.

Extra Considerations for Owning a Rabbit and a Shih Tzu

Tan and white Shih Tzu playing with a small white rabbit with blue eyes

Once you've become the proud parent of a Shih Tzu and a rabbit and introduced them properly, it's still wise to be diligent.

So, even if your furry friends get along swimmingly, keep these tips in mind to ensure continued success:

  • Never leave your dog and rabbit alone together, no matter what. Even if your dog adores your pet bunny, your dog still has instincts. So play it safe and keep them separated when you're not home. Furthermore, ensure your rabbit is secure and that your dog can't get to it.
  • You can get a rabbit harness and leash for your bunny and take your Shih Tzu and rabbit for walks together. This is an excellent way for them to bond, but ensure you do it somewhere without other dogs around.

The most vital thing to remember if you plan to get a rabbit is that Shih Tzu have a high prey drive.

Also, there are never any guarantees when it comes to dogs and rabbits, so always be hyper-aware and vigilant when your pets are around each other.

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