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How to stop a Lab from chasing wild rabbits
Labs are powerful, intelligent, and driven dogs, so it can be very challenging to keep them from chasing rabbits when they are determined. Here are a few tips that you can try to prevent your Labrador from chasing rabbits:
- Socialize them to rabbits from an early age. Labrador Retrievers that are socialized to rabbits and taught not to chase them as puppies will be less likely to look at rabbits as targets of chasing when they are adults.
- Practice a good recall. Labs that are taught to come when they are called are more likely to come back instead of continuing to chase rabbits. Give your Lab tasty rewards for coming when called and always enforce every recall by going to get your dog if they don’t come back.
- Use a secure collar and leash. If your Lab has pulled the leash out of your hand or slipped out of the harness or collar, it may be time to upgrade your equipment to a martingale collar and a leash that can be attached to your waist.
Training your Lab to love your pet rabbit
If you have pet rabbits, especially if you want them to be able to free-range in your home, you may want to teach your Lab to have a very positive relationship with your rabbit. Here’s how:
- Start at an early age. The younger your Lab is when you begin training them to accept your rabbit, the more likely it will be that they will have a positive relationship. That said, even older Labs can learn to get along well with rabbits, but training may be more challenging.
- Establish a barrier. To begin acclimating your dog and rabbit, but a barrier between them that they won't be able to get past but which they can smell and see each other through.
- Reward positive interactions. Whenever your rabbit and dog interact positively, whether they're sniffing noses or just lying calmly near each other on either side of the barrier, give them both highly desirable trading rewards.
- Look for social relationships. Watch for signs that your rabbit and dog are communicating. If your dog play bows and backs away when the rabbit seems aggressive or uncomfortable, it's a good sign that they're developing the right kind of relationship.
- Supervised interactions. Once you can see a positive relationship developing between rabbit and dog, you may feel confident enough to begin removing the barrier. Keep your dog on a leash and carefully supervise all interactions until they have developed a strong positive relationship.
Consider an online training program
I highly recommend taking your Lab through a professional training program if you haven't already done so. Developing the fundamental training techniques will prove to be useful throughout your Lab's life.
I was hesitant to get professional training with my first dog, but that was mostly due to cost and convenience. This was back before online training programs were as accessible as they are now.
My Lab just ran after a rabbit! Now what?
Your Labrador may find it very fun to run after a rabbit, but that action could be very dangerous. While most often it would be for play, they certainly are capable of killing rabbits out of instinct.
Your Labrador could be hit by a car, or be mistaken for a deer by hunters. If your Lab has just run away, here are a few steps that you can do to get them back:
- Scream and run away. Your dog may come back to you if they think you are in danger. Running away from your dog is more likely to cause them to run after you.
- Post online and put up flyers. If your dog has run out of your sight, alert everyone in your area. Hang flyers and post on social media sites.
- Keep calling. Your Labrador will eventually give up the chase and start trying to find their way back. Many dogs become disoriented. Keep calling and whistling for your dog in case they come back within range.
- Put out things that smell like you. If nightfall comes and you still haven't found your Labrador, put out lots of things that smell like you. Place them around the house and in the area near the house. Your dog may be able to follow the scent back to you if they wander back into the area.
Invest in a GPS tracking device
What to do if your Lab brings you baby rabbits
Labs have a strong instinct to bring things to their owners. They also have a soft mouth, which is an instinct not to hurt things that they are carrying in their mouth.
It isn’t uncommon for Labradors to find baby animals and bring them back unharmed. Here's what to do if this happens to you:
- Look for the nest. Most rabbits have their young in a nest in tall grass. If you walk carefully around the area, you may be able to find the nest. Putting your Labrador on a leash and walking them may encourage them to bring you to the nest.
- Cover the nest. You can protect the baby bunnies from your dog by putting a large storage container with a hole in it just big enough for the mother over the nest. Put something heavy on it so your dog won’t knock it over.
It's very natural for Labradors to chase rabbits if they haven't been socialized or trained not to. However, Labradors are intelligent and highly trainable dogs that can learn how to ignore rabbits, or even to live with them as companions.