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My Pet World: Dogs have natural prey drive and shouldn't be punished for it

By Cathy M. Rosenthal, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Cathy,

My friend's dachshund killed a baby rabbit yesterday. My friend is heartbroken and is angry with the dog. I don't like to have dead baby bunnies any more than the next guy, but I also understand that the dog is not a "murderer" and that her behavior is a natural prey drive. Is there something we can do to dampen her bunny-killing instincts?

I can't seem to convince my friend that acting mad at the dog is not productive.

- Lucille, Monticello, Indiana

Dear Lucille, Your friend should know that dachshunds were bred to scent and flush out burrowing animals, and no one should be mad, hold a grudge or punish a dog for this behavior. The dog was acting on instinct and doesn't know she has done something wrong.

There are a few basic ways your friend can address this problem and protect the baby bunnies.

 

First, bunnies are in their nests for only three weeks. The mother rabbit digs a shallow hole in the ground and covers it with grass or other natural debris to hide the nest. When your friend knows there are nests in the yard, he or she can walk the dog on a leash during that three-week period.

Second, your friend may monitor his or her dog off-leash if the dog is well-trained to "leave it" for when the dog finds a nest or "drop it" if the dog grabs a bunny. (Injured bunnies need to go to a local wildlife rescue for care.)

Finally, your friend can use temporary fencing around or over the nest to keep the dog away, such as chicken wire or dog kennel (anything well ventilated). U-shaped wire spikes can secure these barriers to the ground. Tell him or her to make sure there is a ground-level opening large enough for the mother rabbit to get through to her babies.

Dear Cathy, I read your column, "Fireworks can have negative impact on pets and people." Like so many pet columnists you forget that cats even exist. The headline says, "pets," but all you talk about are dogs -- nine times in fact. Not once do you mention the effect fireworks have on cats.

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