A household with one pet is likely to get more. That’s why many owners keep chinchillas and dogs, or chinchillas and other pets together. But is that safe?
Can you keep chinchillas and dogs together? Dogs are predators while chinchillas are prey animals, so they don’t get along. Dogs have a ‘prey drive’ which makes them stalk, chase and kill small animals like chinchillas so it’s not safe to keep them together. If you must keep both chinchillas and dogs, keep your chinchillas in a room the dog can’t access.
The guide below details how dangerous dogs are if you keep chinchillas too. But if you must have both, e.g. if you take in a rescue chinchilla, then we also offer tips on how to keep dogs and chinchillas as safely as possible.
Can You Keep Both Chinchillas and Dogs?
The short answer is that dogs are predator animals, while chinchillas are prey animals. So… No.
While that doesn’t mean your dog will immediately attack your chinchilla, it does mean that the risk will always be present. That applies to any dog, no matter how well behaved they typically are. As such, we don’t recommend keeping both chinchillas and dogs.
The problem is that dogs have instincts. These instincts may not be immediately obvious, but can spring into action despite years of training. If your chinchilla saw your dog and tried to run from it, for example, that quick running motion away could trigger your dog’s chasing instinct. When the dog catches the chinchilla, it could kill it. This is called the prey drive.
Despite these risks many owners do keep both chinchillas and dogs. It can be done safely as long as you are knowledgeable about dogs, and keep your pets separated at all times.
Do Chinchillas and Dogs Get Along?
Chinchillas and dogs don’t naturally get along.
Your dog will likely view your chinchilla with initial interest. Most dogs won’t immediately attack your chinchilla, although that would be a risk. Some dogs aren’t as brave and might even be scared of your chin. Other dogs will ignore them completely: all of these responses are natural, although no matter what your dog’s response, its prey drive could kick in if the chinchillas are let loose.
It’s chinchillas, though, that especially don’t like dogs. Chinchillas have learned to avoid predator animals entirely; the moment they see one in the wild, they run away and hide as quickly as possible. Seeing a dog so close would cause the chinchilla an enormous amount of stress.
Different Dog Breeds & Chinchillas
All that being said, some dog breeds aren’t as problematic as others. Some, like rat terriers, have a deep-seated instinct to hunt for small animals like chinchillas. Even the best-trained rat terrier will still have these instincts, even if it doesn’t show them, and all it would take is one momentary slip or accident for them to resurface. For these breeds, it takes less for the drive to kick in.
Other breeds are more docile, or have different instincts entirely. There are reports from some owners that collie dogs are protective over chinchillas, although you shouldn’t rely on your dog having this same response. Here’s a list detailing which dogs are worst, and which are best:
- Pit bulls: bad, because they’re highly active.
- Terriers: bad, because they have a high prey drive for small animals like chinchillas.
- Collies: better, because they can display protective qualities.
- Labradors: better, because like collies they can be protective.
For other breeds, gauge your individual dog’s behavior: is it highly active, even hyperactive? The more so, the worse it will be around your chinchillas. Was it bred for hunting? If so, it would be dangerous to introduce it.
How to Safely Keep Chinchillas and Dogs Apart
While we recommend that you don’t keep chinchillas in the same house as other animals, we do also recognize that you’re going to do what you think is best. And in certain circumstances (e.g. if you have to take in a surrendered chinchilla) you may feel like you have no choice but to keep them even if you already have a dog.
If that’s the case, then you should make the situation as safe as possible. Here are a set of easy to follow rules that will minimize risk and stress in your home.
1) Have a Chinchilla-Only Room
It’s common practise to leave a room, or a whole floor of your house, out of bounds for your dog. This stops them tracking mud and dirt around, stops your room getting covered in fur, or prevents your dog stinking up places you don’t want it to stink up.
If you do have both a chinchilla and a dog, it’s essential that your chinchilla has a room to itself. This should be a room that the dog/s aren’t allowed in, no matter what. It has to be completely out of bounds.
This is partly about the potential danger the dog poses to your chinchilla. You don’t want it pestering your chinchilla in its cage when you aren’t around. But just as important, your chinchilla needs to feel safe in its cage. If there’s a big dog sniffing around the room, it will be stressed and unhappy.
That doesn’t mean you need a room with nothing but your chinchilla’s cage in it. Put the cage in your room or the basement, and stop your dog from going there. You can do that with a gate or a locked door.
2) How Do You Introduce a Dog to a Chinchilla?
This is a tricky point to answer. Ideally you should never introduce your chinchilla and your dog. It’s best that they’re kept apart. But if your dog hears your chinchillas squeaking or running around, it won’t know what’s going on, and could get agitated or start barking. That’s just the nature of dogs.
So, how do you introduce them dogs and chinchillas if you absolutely have to? Follow these guidelines:
- Your chinchilla should be in its cage during the introduction. It’s safest.
- Only ever introduce your dog to your chinchillas after it’s been for a walk or has exercised. This will stop it from being too overactive during the introduction.
- Keep your dog on a leash/lead during the introduction. You need to be in control of the situation.
Once you have introduced your dog/s to your chinchillas, don’t assume that they will then be safe in the same room. All you’re doing is letting your dog know that the chinchillas are there, not building up some bond of friendship, as this is impossible.
3) Can Chinchillas Play with Dogs?
Your dog might want to play with your chinchilla. Dogs can be naturally playful and enjoy chasing or frolicking with people, other dogs, and other pets.
But chinchillas can’t play with dogs. Even if your dog is the best-behaved in the world, your chinchilla won’t want to play with it. To your chinchilla, the dog is a potential predator. It won’t spend a second longer around your dog than it needs to, let alone play with it.
Plus, if your dog tries to play with your chinchilla (e.g. by jumping around it excitedly) your chinchilla won’t know that it’s playing. It will think that the dog wants to attack it, and it will become stressed and frightened.
Whether it’s for the purpose of playing or not, never let your chinchillas loose in the same room as a dog (or any other pet, for that matter).
4) Puppies Are Better than Adult Dogs
The earlier in a dog’s life you start training it, the better. As such, if you want to have both a dog and a chinchilla, get a puppy. The puppy stands a better chance of getting used to the chinchillas and learning not to pester them.
When training any dog, gauge its reaction. You don’t want your dog to sit and stare at the chinchilla, make whining noises while watching them, or bark at your chinchillas either. These behaviors must be corrected.
5) Block Off The Chinchilla’s Cage
If you can’t give the chinchilla its own room, you should make it difficult for the dog to physically access them. You can do this by placing a pen around the cage. A determined dog can try and get around it, but putting a pen there is better than not having one.
You also need to block direct access in some way because the dog might lick the cage. A dog’s mouth is dirty and you don’t want those germs in your chinchilla’s cage, which you ideally want to keep clean.
Remember, though, this setup is not ideal. That’s because your chinchillas will be stressed by being in the same room as your dog. So even if your dog is well behaved, your chinchillas won’t be happy.
6) Dogs Eating Chinchilla Poop: Toxic or Not?
One final point: dogs love to eat poop. It’s a habit that we wish we could train them out of, but no matter how much you scold your pet, it will do it anyway. This leads some dogs to eating chinchilla poop if any falls out of the cage, or if your chinchilla was recently loose in a room.
As disgusting as it might be, there’s no problem with your dog doing this. Chinchilla poop isn’t toxic. The only problem is if your chinchillas have intestinal parasites, in which case they’ll pass on to your dog.
To finish, we want to emphasize that we believe keeping dogs and chinchillas in the same home to be a bad idea without exceptions. But if you feel that you must, or you’re going to anyway, at least do it safely by following the guidelines above.