First Encounters

On our second night with Buffy, Elliott and I determined that she was ready to come downstairs on-leash to see the buns inside their pen. This would also give the buns an opportunity to see and hear Buffy and for us to gauge their reaction. Elliott's father came over a few months ago with his senior dog, to whom the bunnies reacted very nonchalantly, and we feel that Buffy has a similar energy. Again, Buffy is a very friendly and calm girl – I don’t think that a visual introduction with the bunnies would be possible this early on if that wasn’t the case.
First, I took her for a nice walk in order to get her as tuckered out and relaxed as possible. After she’d had some water and cooled off from the trek, we reattached her leash. With the buns secured inside their pen, I walked downstairs first and commenced the bunnies’ lettuce buffet. Elliott came down afterward with Buffy (on-leash) and sat with her at the other end of the room. She was definitely interested in what was going on inside the pen - while it wasn't aggressive posturing, it wasn't tail-wagging either, so Elliott would correct her and instead praise her when she sat calmly and laid down. The buns could see Buffy, but they were relaxed enough to keep eating. Athena had a large “hairy eyeball” trained right at Buffy, but she chowed down nonetheless. Buffy wouldn't stay seated for long, and would get up and prick her ears forward, but we repeated the process of having her sit and lay, followed by praise, a few more times.
...after about 4 or 5 minutes, we brought Buffy back upstairs, praised her enthusiastically, and then fed her dinner. We got tips on this technique from the writers of this very blog: show the dog that the bunnies are important members of our pack, that they are getting dinner first, and that doggy is rewarded for calm and friendly or indifferent behavior near the bunnies – then doggy gets dinner!
We did this again the second night, except that we added a new element - I reached in and spent some time petting the bunnies while they ate. Buffy started wagging her tail at this, and eventually laid down, wagging her tail and starting to whimper. Elliott corrected the whimpering, but we think that she may have been a little envious of my giving attention to the bunnies. Her energy was positive, however, sort of like she wanted to be part of the petting fest too. Afterwards, we took her upstairs, praised her and gave her dinner.
Elliott and I were so impressed by her nature during these dinnertime encounters that last night we took another small step toward pack bonding...
We brought her down together at the end of the evening (our schedules didn’t accommodate us being home at the same time when everyone in the fuzzy pack needed their dinners), with the goal of chillin’ out together for a decent chunk of time. I walked down first, followed by Elliott with the Buff on-leash. Buns were in their pen. As soon as we all sat down on the carpet, Buffy started wagging her tail and kept on wagging for almost the entire visit. She was so gentle and well-mannered, that we let her get a little closer to the pen and do some sniffin’ around it. The entire time we praised her for being such a nice and gentle girl and I petted the bunnies too. LaFeet and Athena were never startled or disturbed, and went about their business eating hay and chewing cardboard. The buns got some raisins as treats and then we gave Buffy a treat for sitting and laying with us humans. After sitting for a while near the pen, we turned on the TV and kept relaxing. After a bit, Buffy started whimpering and doing some yawning while she was laying near the bunny pen. Her tail had also stopped wagging. We sensed that she beginning to feel frustrated that she wasn't allowed to be inside with the bunnies, so we calmly called her back to the foot of the stairs, had her sit for a small treat, and then brought her upstairs and gave her praise and another small treat for a job well-done.
Buffy’s energy seemed friendly and calm during the visit (more than 10, less than 15 minutes), with the exception of her whining near the end (which meant that it was time to back upstairs!). We think that her whining near the end was her wanting to be “in” with the buns. Of course no one is ready for that, so we’ll keep bringing her down on-leash for longer and longer periods of pack relaxation time.
If anyone has any advice at this point, by the way, we are all ears! We are new to having a dog in our family, and while we've studied up (and are very fortunate to have found a great girl like Buffy), we want to keep learning from more experienced doggy/bunny bonders.
Stay tuned for next updates, and thanks for reading!


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