How To Save Baby Bunnies from Dogs

The sight of a gentle dog chasing a tiny baby bunny, motivated by pure instinct. The cry of the frightened rabbit kit as the dog’s jaw closes on it. This dramatic life and death scene plays out in backyards everywhere that dogs and wild rabbits share space. As much as we love both creatures, dogs pose a serious threat to the vulnerable baby bunnies that show up in our yards uninvited. Is peaceful coexistence possible? Absolutely. With knowledge of our dogs’ motivations, proactive management, and a little planning, we can allow both beloved pets and adorable wild rabbits to safely occupy our properties. This article will explore why dogs attack baby bunnies and provide humane, effective solutions to prevent these tragic encounters. Get ready to peacefully resolve the age-old battle between dog and rabbit!

Why Do Dogs Kill Baby Rabbits?

Dogs have a strong natural instinct to chase and catch small prey animals like rabbits. This behavior originates from their wolf ancestors, who had to hunt to survive. Although our pet dogs no longer need to hunt for food, the instinct remains deeply ingrained in their DNA.

When a dog encounters a baby bunny, its predatory drive kicks in. The rabbit's small size, rapid movements, and high-pitched squeals can trigger the dog's chase response. To your pet, the baby bunny appears to be an exciting toy that is meant for chasing and capturing. Dogs do not understand that killing baby rabbits is wrong or cruel; they are simply following their natural instincts.

Some specific reasons dogs may kill baby bunnies include:

  • Predatory instinct and drive. Chasing and catching small, fast prey is deeply rewarding for dogs. They gain mental stimulation and satisfaction from the hunt.

  • Boredom or frustration. Dogs left alone in backyards for long periods can attack rabbits out of boredom, stress, or excess energy. Giving dogs enough exercise and mental activities can prevent this.

  • Scavenging. In some cases, dogs may not directly kill bunnies, but will scavenge their bodies if they die from other causes. Their powerful scavenging instinct drives them to investigate and consume dead animals.

  • Sport. Certain breeds like terriers are bred specifically to hunt vermin. Even if well-fed, they may still chase and kill small prey simply for sport. Their high prey drive makes them prone to attacking rabbits.

  • Protection. Dogs may attack baby bunnies to protect their territory. Viewing the nest or warren as an intrusion, they try to scare away the bunnies by killing them.

  • Teaching their young. Adult dogs may catch and kill baby rabbits to bring back and demonstrate hunting skills to their puppies.

  • Misdirected mothering instinct. Female dogs may seemingly try to nurse, cuddle, or play with baby rabbits like they would their own puppies. But rabbits are too fragile for rough dog play and handling.

  • Safety concerns. Dogs may kill baby rabbits to try eliminating a potential pest that could overpopulate and cause damage. Chasing rabbits out of their gardens prevents further destruction.

While the reasons make sense within the canine world, humans must take steps to protect vulnerable baby bunnies from our predatory pets. Understanding their motivations allows us to take preventive measures.

Why Do Dogs Like to Chase Bunnies?

Dogs retain their innate predatory drive to chase rabbits even though they no longer need to hunt for food. Here are some of the key reasons dogs tend to love chasing bunnies:

  • For sport. Dogs get immense mental and physical stimulation from chasing rabbits. The hunt satisfies their primal need for activity and diversion. Many dogs relish rabbit chasing as a fun recreational pastime.

  • Natural instinct. Chasing rabbits allows dogs to practice the stalking and catching skills bred into them over generations. The behavior releases their pent-up predatory energies.

  • Excitement of the chase. Rabbits trigger a dog's chase response by running away. Dogs aredrawn to the movement and stimulation of a fleeing bunny. High-speed chasing provides an adrenaline rush.

  • Mental exercise. Outsmarting rabbits requires intelligence, problem-solving skills, and quick reflexes from dogs. Outwitting speedy prey gives dogs a mental workout.

  • Social bonding. When dogs chase rabbits together, it strengthens the social bond between them. Shared rabbit chasing provides an interactive group activity.

  • For rewards. Dogs know that successfully catching a rabbit will bring praise and treats from their owners. They associate rabbit chasing with being rewarded.

  • Boredom relief. Dogs confined to backyards often attack rabbits out of under-stimulation and boredom. Chasing bunnies gives them an outlet for their pent-up energy.

  • Territorial instincts. Dogs may view rabbits near their homes as intruders encroaching on their space. Chasing the bunnies satisfies their protective territorial impulses.

  • Prey drive instincts. Certain breeds like sighthounds and terriers have an exceptionally strong genetic predisposition to chase small furry creatures. It's a deeply ingrained part of their nature.

Satisfying these natural instincts in safer, more positive ways will allow dogs to enjoy rabbit chasing without harming any real rabbits. Providing puzzles, training, and interactive toys curbs unwanted chasing behaviors.

How to Prevent Dogs from Eating Baby Rabbits?

Dogs have a natural instinct to hunt and consume rabbits. But preventing your dog from attacking and eating vulnerable baby bunnies is essential. Here are some effective ways to stop dogs from killing and eating wild baby rabbits:


  • Start indoors. Let your dog sniff a toy rabbit and get used to it without reacting. Reward calm behavior.

  • Move outdoors. Let your dog approach an empty rabbit hutch or nest while on a leash. Praise and treat relaxed reactions.

  • Add stimuli. Place a toy rabbit in the hutch and supervise your dog's response. Continue rewarding calminvestigation and disinterest.

  • Use feeding time. When feeding your dog outdoors, place them on a long lead. Position a toy rabbit in view and reward your dog for ignoring it while eating.

  • Remove excitement. Do not shout, point, or chase a real rabbit when your dog is present. This can trigger their predatory arousal. Act bored yourself.

  • Avoid punishment. Yelling at or physically punishing a dog for chasing rabbits can increase their prey drive. Make it a boring, unrewarding experience instead.

With patient counterconditioning, dogs can learn to be indifferent toward rabbits instead of viewing them as exciting prey.

Prevent Chasing

  • Supervise outdoors. When your dog is in the yard, watch them closely for signs of interest in nearby bunnies. Distract and redirect before chasing starts.

  • Secure fences. Check that garden fences have no gaps where rabbits could enter and attract your dog's attention. A solid barrier will deter interest.

  • Leash walks. Keeping your dog on a leash prevents impulsive chasing during walks. Having control allows you to interrupt and redirect.

  • Remove attractants. Eliminate tempting triggers like rabbit hutches, dens, or food sources from your yard. Minimize intriguing scents that spark curiosity.

  • Avoid boredom. Make sure your dog gets adequate physical and mental exercise every day. Bored dogs left alone outside are more likely to attack rabbits.

  • Review obedience training. Solid skills like 'Leave it' and 'Come' will give you control if your dog suddenly decides to bolt after a rabbit. Practice these regularly.

Stopping the chase instinct before it happens is the most effective approach. Careful management of your dog's environment goes a long way.


If your dog is already fixated on chasing a baby rabbit, active distraction may be necessary:

  • Noise interruption. Use a whistle, shake a can, or clap your hands loudly to interrupt your dog's focus. Call their name to get attention back on you.

  • Squeaky toy. The high-pitched sound of a squeaky toy can replace the rabbit's distress squeals while also redirecting your dog's prey drive. Reward them for taking and playing with the toy instead.

  • Treat lure. Tempt your dog away from the baby rabbit using irresistible treats like chicken, hot dogs, liver, or cheese. Lure them back indoors if needed.

  • Obedience cues. Issue a known cue like 'Sit', 'Down', or 'Come' to break your dog's fixation on the rabbit. Praise and reward compliance.

  • Block and redirect. Physically intervene by placing yourself between your dog and the rabbit, blocking their access. Call them away and redirect their attention positively.

  • Remove the rabbit. If possible, safely and quietly herd the baby rabbit out of the area and into protective cover like brush or hedges. Then redirect your dog inside with an engaging game or chew.

With experience, you will be able to recognize your dog's body language when they become focused on rabbits. Timely distraction is your best tool to avoid disastrous outcomes for baby bunnies.

How to Protect a Bunny Nest from Dogs

Female domestic rabbits build nests filled with their young, called kittens or bunnies. Keeping these important nursery sites safe from predators like dogs requires proactive measures:

  • Identify nest sites. Search your yard carefully for shallow scrapes filled with grass and fur lining that indicate a nest. Baby rabbits will be very hard to spot. Mark nest locations.

  • Avoid disturbances. Do not approach, move, or disturb active rabbit nests in any way. The mother rabbit will likely abandon the babies if your scent or activities alter the nest.

  • Monitor from afar. Keep watch on nests from an upstairs window or through binoculars. Make note of when the mother rabbit returns to nurse so you avoid those times.

  • Set up barriers. Use wooden boards, chicken wire, fencing, thorny brush, or other impromptu barriers to block potential dog access paths to the nest.

  • Use repellents. Sprinkle predator urine, hot pepper powder, or other natural deterrents around the nest vicinity to keep dogs away from the area.

  • Allow natural cover. Refrain from mowing, weed whacking, or removing protective vegetation surrounding rabbit nests. Allow the mother to choose the best concealed sites.

  • Keep dogs inside. When baby rabbits are approximately 1-2 weeks old, they will begin exploring outside the nest. At this vulnerable stage, keep dogs indoors or on leashes to avoid deadly encounters.

  • Relocate nests. If the nest is in an area of high dog traffic, wear gloves and carefully move the entire intact nest to a safer sheltered spot. The mother will continue caring for the babies.

With some planning and effort, you can allow wild rabbits to raise their young on your property safely. Dogs can coexist with bunnies with supervision.

Dogs Breeds Most Likely to Attack Baby Rabbits

Certain breeds of dogs are more prone to injuring or killing baby rabbits due to their high prey drives. Breeds to be especially cautious with include:

Cairn Terrier

Originally bred to hunt vermin in Scottish Highlands, cairn terriers retain a strong drive to chase down small fuzzy creatures like rabbits. Their agility and tenacity make them relentless pursuers. They also have powerful jaws capable of inflicting lethal wounds.


Lurchers are sighthound crosses bred specifically to serve as hunting dogs. With excellent eyesight and speed, they are able to spot bunnies and swiftly run them down over open ground before the rabbit can escape to safety.


Beagles were created to track small game like rabbits based on scent. If they pick up the scent trail of a nest of baby bunnies, they are likely to follow it relentlessly right to the source. Their robust prey drive coupled with determination makes them a significant threat.

Siberian Husky

Huskies were bred to persistently chase and catch fast-moving prey while pulling sleds across the Arctic tundra. Small fuzzy things that dart away from them can trigger high-intensity chasing behaviors that are very difficult to interrupt. They often injure or kill baby bunnies without meaning to.

Miniature Dachshund

Dachshunds were originally bred to hunt badgers and other small burrowing prey. If let loose in your yard, they will eagerly burrow into any rabbit nests they locate and kill the vulnerable young inside. It's difficult to call them off once their hunting drive kicks in.

While many breeds are capable of attacking baby bunnies, these dogs have an especially strong genetic predisposition to hunt small furry prey. Extra precautions should be taken if you have any of these breeds and wild rabbits are present in your area. With proper management and training, coexistence is possible.


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