Does a Dog presence alone keep rabbits away?

JohnMc98075May 24, 2012

This is my second year growing a garden. It's relatively small; 4 raised beds in a typical suburban, partially fenced, backyard. Last year I had problems with rabbits eating crops to the point of completely decimating several vegetable types (peas, beans, brocolli, etc...)

This year I had planned on building a fence, but I'm behind in doing so. However, I have not seen any evidence of rabbits in the garden this year. Nothing has been touched.

What I'm thinking is that we got a dog over the winter and he's now keeping them away. I've of course seen many posts on dogs solving rabbit problems, but always interpreted the posts as the dog chasing rabbits away. Our dog is an inside dog and to my knowledge has never even seen a rabbit in our yard. My question: Will a dogs presence alone, and the resulting bodily wastes, keep rabbits away? I'd rather not build a fence if I don't have to.


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We live in a rural area and have a large dog who spends most of his time outside when the weather is suitable. We've got two stray cats who have adopted us, too. I've never seen a rabbit on our eight-acre property, never mind in the garden. Deer are also a rare sight in the yard.

Our neighbour across the road (estimating 1500 feet or so between our houses) has a booming population of rabbits and deer regularly in her yard. She does not have any pets at all.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 3:36PM
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My neighbor has a large toothy dog that spends plenty of time outside, attempting in futility to get at the rabbits that live happily under their deck.

What gets rid of them are the coyotes.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 5:11PM
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No, unless the dog catches the rabbits. I have a 2 acre yard and 2 German Shorthairs which are housed outside in kennels. I let them run thru the yard for at least 1/2 hour a day and they spend quite a bit of the time around (sometimes in) the garden. So far this Spring I have live trapped 4 adult rabbits. This winter I did not see any rabbit tracks, only fox tracks so not sure where the rabbits came from but the dogs do not keep them away!

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 6:25PM
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Not in the slightest. I live out in the woods, the neighbor has a bit pit bull that roams free. I can't pull out of my driveway after twilight without scaring at least 2-3 bunnies out of my front yard.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 7:03PM
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susan2010(6 Massachusetts)

If you get a dog for (partly) this purpose, you may want a terrier of sone sort. There is a long genetic history for hunting (and killing - I hope you are not sqeamish) vermin.

OTOH, very few dogs should be out on their own for any length of time. Most dogs, especially terriers but most others when they are bored, will dig. That may become another problem.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 7:22PM
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You dog might have been enough, but you won't know until your crops are eaten. Maybe there is enough out there right now the rabbits aren't coming to your garden, but when there is less vegetation left elsewhere they'll come back...

I suggest you complete the fence & also install hardware cloth or other small wire to keep the rabbits out of your yard. You can chance it to see if the dog has scared them off, but if you leave for a vacation they might venture back.

Some years there are more than others. I think predators move through and the population reduces, but then the next year builds again.

Various repellants on perimeters have been tried such as dog or human hair, strong scented soaps, dog urine, cayenne, black pepper, etc. -- may work for a time, but nothing is 100%. They will come eat their favorites. If you plant more than you need you might still have a harvest.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2012 at 1:16PM
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jollyrd(Richmond VA)

I don't think rabbits completely go away just because of the dog presence. We have two outdoor dogs that roam around the yard freely 24/7. There are plenty of rabbits in the area, along with other wild life. I know some wild life creature comes to our compost bins and eats what they can get -- because the dogs are not able to get close to the bins. It could not be a rabbit b/c whoever it is -- they can get up 3 ft on top of the bin.

But none of them come close to the garden or house - no closer than the dogs' territory is. We have seen few rabbit droppings in the back yard, close to the garden beds; but we don't experience any damage to the crop. My guess is that rabbit(s) get very limited chances to spend in the garden, when the dogs are taking a nap or chasing squirrels. And if they can find engough food somewhere else, then they don't need to risk an encounter with dogs.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2012 at 1:34PM
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We have two Shih Tzus. I thing the dogs are more afraid of the rabbits than the rabbits are of them! The rabbits have no fear of coming up on the deck, nevermind the garden! Granted they are not "outdoor dogs", but they do go out everyday.

I do take the doggies up to the garden with me (the garden is about 150' away from the house, uphill). The garden is fenced in. Despite my best efforts with the fence, if the rabbits are small enough they can find spots to sneak under the fence. We do have woods on 2 sides of our house which does NOT help the rabbit and deer situation.

I think a terrier or some sort of hunting dog may create a bigger better presence.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2012 at 2:07PM
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I had a shepard and still have a hound. They were inside dogs but got to run around the back yard for as many non sleeping hours as they wished. They would occasionally catch rabbits so obviously the rabbits were spending time in the back yard. Perhaps I could say that the dogs slowed them down a little.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2012 at 8:40PM
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I have a chihueagle (half chihuahua, half beagle) who keeps the rabbits,deer etc. at bay when she is in the yard.
The fence around the garden works better, because it stays put. I dont have to chase the fence over into the next county like I do that dog when she gets on the scent. Meanwhile, the rabbits just circle back around....

    Bookmark   May 26, 2012 at 4:38AM
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vtguitargirl(Z4b VT)

I'm not sure about rabbits, but I know that for many years my parents had a dog that would catch woodchucks. Squirrels & chipmunks were seldom seen in the yard. After that dog died, the chipmunks & squirrels reappeared in the yard. Their next dog loved to be outside too. No varmints. Now that those dogs are gone they have critters (inc wild turkeys) in the yard again.

I don't remember them ever having bunnies, but tt seems like a dog with a strong prey drive that is able to spend time outdoors would deter the bunnies.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2012 at 9:11AM
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t-bird(Chicago 5/6)

terriers are particularly watchful, so idk if the mere presence is enough.

If our mr pup sees one he will give chase, and he won't let up, acting crazy for about 5 mins after it is gone. At some point, the rabbit must think it is better to forage somewhere else than risk life and limb in mr mcgregors garden.

I would also think they would not choose that area to nest in either.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2012 at 11:29AM
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Despite the regular presence of the garden cat, one rabbit was stupid enough to dig two nests out there last year - one in the potatoes, one in the strawberries. She tried to get back at me by girdling my new Fuji apple tree.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2012 at 11:36AM
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Well, funnily enough one day this week my two terriers went outside in our yard and walked right past a rabbit, (within 5 feet), hung out in the yard for awhile and then walked right past the rabbit again on the way back to the porch without blinking an eye. I was sure the bunny would quickly run through the nearby fence and the dogs would be frustratedly barking and jumping. But the rabbit stood stone still and my dogs were never the wiser! Pretty funny to see. I guess they wouldn't make it as vermin chasers!

    Bookmark   May 27, 2012 at 1:29PM
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t-bird(Chicago 5/6)

macgregor - the wind must have been in it's favor!

I notice that I see something sometimes, and the pup is oblivious. At other times we are walking and his ears prick up.....he doens't know where it is but can smell it....

    Bookmark   May 27, 2012 at 2:38PM
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The rabbits love my yard and garden. See them everyday. My dog is very aware of them and very athletic, loves to look out the window at the rabbits. So just having the presence of a dog does not bother the rabbits much, and they just run under the fence when we go outside.

The groundhog seemsd to cause much more damage.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2012 at 7:12PM
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ifraser25(z11 Brazil)

Jack Russells will keep away just about any other critter not bigger than them - and some of them also !

    Bookmark   May 27, 2012 at 8:30PM
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My two dogs, a Greyhound mix and a Black Lab mix, go after rabbits and kill them, rip them up even (yuck I know.) But they are not out there at all hours so rabbits do come when they are not around, and they can cause damage pretty quick.
I protect the plants that rabbits love with wire fencing around them.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2012 at 10:44PM
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My great pyrenesee dogs only go for predators, they like cats, chickens .... and rabbits. I've never seen them bother with a rabbit, but the coyotes keep away from the chickens.

I agree with Susan. Dogs love to dig in the garden. Their favorite place to sleep is in the bathtub where I had planted potatos. Chickens are even worse maybe than rabbits, because they will go to higher places to cause damage. They learned to love tomatos and cucumbers, and today they feasted on the first sizeable cuc that my mouth had been watering for. I had to lay down a wire over ground beds that are not fenced to try to minimize the scratching from the dogs and chicks. After all, they need to grow something for the rabbits to eat.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2012 at 11:07PM
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tishtoshnm Zone 6/NM

At my house, dog presence is not enough. Coyotes are not enough either. My Akita has killed many a rabbit (even found one kill on easter morning). We definitely have coyotes in the area too but the rabbits breed like....

    Bookmark   May 27, 2012 at 11:21PM
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Stellabee(7, Atlanta)

We have a lot of rabbits in my neighborhood. Most other gardeners here complain about rabbits as well as squirrels eating their lettuce and tomatoes. I don't usually have the problem, and I attribute it to my Foxy Claude:-) He chases them away when he sees them, plus I believe his urine marks the territory. I think so b/c my sister does not have a dog and has to buy fox urine to keep the rabbits away. I never have to...

    Bookmark   June 10, 2012 at 8:48AM
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