I once said my dogs would never understand why I don’t want them to chase bunnies.
I might have been wrong.
As mentioned previously on this blog, bunnies frequent my back yard. They’re not by any stretch the only critters passing through. We get raccoons, opossums, an occasional hawk, migratory birds, an endless stream of squirrels that irritate the bejeezus out of the dogs, neighborhood cats, and I don’t know what else. All but the birds typically give my dogs fits.
But I love the bunnies. I actually plant extra lettuce and herbs for them. They gnaw my crocuses and spring foliage down to stumps every year, and it makes me sad, but not as sad as the absence of bunnies.
I’ve never really expected the dogs to share that sentiment. After all, dogs are dogs. They’re predators. Bunnies are…well, prey.
But I think my dogs are picking up on the idea that I don’t want them going after the bunnies. Twice in the last two days, Tank, my hound dog, has tried to approach a bunny without giving chase. The first incident, reported to me by my husband, saw him carefully get within a couple feet of a rabbit—not once, but twice—and stare right at it for a minute or so, apparently trying to figure out what the heck. For its part, the rabbit stared back. My husband managed to coax Tank away from the rabbit and back into the house.
I figured that rabbit had made a good decision to freeze rather than run, as running would trigger the dog’s prey instinct, and the chase would be on. The rabbit can outrun this dog, but the other dog also was out in the yard and knows how to triangulate. The advantage still goes to the rabbit, but there are no guarantees.
Today, though, we had another peaceful incident. Tank saw a rabbit and tried to get close. He was excited and interested, but not chasing—let’s say hurrying. This time, the bunny did not freeze; it scampered. Tank followed. Bunny hops a few feet; Tank scampers toward it. Bunny hops a few feet more; Tank runs around to the other side of the child’s fort structure to get a better look. At this point, the rabbit has had enough and takes off hopping across the yard. Amazingly, Tank decides not to give chase.
Rolo, the herding dog, was not involved directly in either of these incidents. She was in the yard, but it’s not clear whether she saw what was going on. She has, however, noticed a bunny sitting in the yard some distance away more than once in the last couple of weeks and chosen not to chase it. She has yet to ignore a moving rabbit, but she seems to have become willing to co-exist with them in her yard.
I’m not sure where this will go. I don’t really want my dogs playing with the wildlife, so I’ll continue to call them into the house to keep them away. But with Easter only a day away, they seem to be coming to terms with the bunnies.