Hedgehogs and dogs: These are two different species that seem quite opposite to each other. One is soft and the other is spiny; one is tiny and the other is large (usually); one sleeps all night and the other sleeps all day. So, is it at all possible for a dog and hedgehog to get along?
There isn’t a solid answer here, as it depends on the dog and how well both species have been socialized. But it is technically possible.
Here, we discuss methods that you can use to introduce your animals to each other and a few tips on keeping both your pets safe.
Hedgehog Temperament and Behavior
The African Pygmy hedgehog is the most common and popular domesticated breed. It’s also known as the four-toed hedgehog and is typically between 6 and 8 inches long. These are solitary and quiet animals that don’t generally seek out people or other pets for companionship.
They are nocturnal animals and are more active at night, so they might be up and ready for action at dinnertime and ready for bed when you’re getting up in the morning. They don’t tend to bite because they are covered in quills, which is their best defense.
Temperament depends on the individual hedgie. Just like people, some will be friendly and social, and others might be a little on the grumpy side. They are curious and intelligent animals and will enjoy zipping around your place. It’s thought that the females might be more social than the males.
Dog Temperament and Behavior
It’s tougher to pinpoint a dog’s behavior and temperament because there are so many breeds and variables for each individual dog.
If your dog is social and friendly and tends to make friends quite easily with everyone and everything, chances are that making friends with a hedgehog won’t be much of a problem. Regardless of how sweet your dog is, though, introductions should still be slow and careful.
It can also work if your dog has a more easygoing and laidback temperament and might not really care about the hedgehog.
However, if your dog has a high prey drive and tends to chase after smaller animals, like squirrels, this might not be a good match. Many hound dogs and terriers were bred to chase down and eliminate small animals, so bear this in mind.
Signs of a Stressed Hedgehog
It’s usually obvious when dogs are stressed or upset, but since hedgies are still comparatively new as domestic pets, we are not as familiar with the signs of a stressed hedgehog.
First, it does take time for a hedgehog to become used to being handled, and you need to earn its trust. Second, you need to get into the habit of washing your hands before and after handling your hedgie.
When a hedgehog is truly frightened, it will tuck in its legs, head, and tail into its bellies and form a spiky ball. This is full-on hedgie protection mode.
Introducing the Dog and Hedgehog
Safety is the first and most crucial part of introducing your two pets. You should also be aware that since hedgehogs are solitary animals, they won’t necessarily form a friendship or want to hang out with a dog. But your pets should be familiar with each other nonetheless.
Before introducing your hedgie to your dog, your hedgie must be comfortable with you first. You must work on forming a bond with your hedgehog so it will be at ease with you before the big introduction. It would also help if you had another person to help you with this process, as they can help restrain your dog if necessary.
Start by holding your hedgehog when you first introduce them to your dog for their initial meetings.
These interactions should occur when your dog is calm and receptive. Of course, your pup will be curious, and due to the hedgehog’s natural defense of sharp quills, your dog will learn quickly about treating it with respect.
Try tiring out your dog before the introduction — go for a long walk or throw a ball around for a while. If your dog has less energy, that reduces the chance of them wanting to use your hedgie like a toy.
The moment that your dog starts to become overeager and hyper or your hedgie seems stressed, the meeting is done.
First, if your dog is hyper and particularly boisterous, you’ll want to supervise all interactions between the two, even when your dog is calm. While most dogs might be careful about touching a hedgehog because of the quills, if your dog is large and excitable, the quills might not matter. A hedgehog could be injured during rough play.
In general, if you know that your dog has a high prey drive or they’re rough during playtime, you should either avoid having any other, smaller animals around or keep them completely separate. It’s usually best to not have smaller pets with high prey-drive dogs.
If your hedgie never seems entirely at ease around your pet, particularly if it always curls into a ball or defecates or urinates in their presence, you’ll need to avoid contact between them until you can figure out your next step. Your dog shouldn’t be able to bother your hedgehog, whether it’s inside or outside of its cage.
Finally, if your dog is the one terrified by your hedgie, this is another reason to keep them apart. You don’t want to cause your dog any undue stress.
Socialization Is Key
When your pets are spending time together, pick a small room to allow them to safely become used to each other. Be sure to keep an eye on them both.
In the beginning stages, you’ll want to only allow a few minutes of playtime each day so they’ll slowly become familiar with each other. If you do this consistently and limit their time together, it will go a long way toward socializing them both.
This is key for your hedgie because it’s so solitary, and long periods of time spent socializing might be too much.
Bringing a dog and hedgehog together can be hit or miss. It comes down to your dog’s and hedgie’s personalities and temperaments. Remember that slow and steady wins the race. Try to bring in someone to help, so you can hold your hedgie, and they can hold your dog for the first few meetings.
Keep socialization times short, and always keep an eye on them both. Your hedgehog is quite capable of injuring your dog, almost as much as your dog can potentially injure your hedgie.
If you are only thinking about getting a hedgehog, do your research first. They make wonderful pets but aren’t necessarily suited to everyone. If you’re already an experienced owner, socializing your hedgie with any pets that you have but giving it time to decompress afterward should keep your hedgehog happy.
Featured Image Credit: Vyacheslav Saltayev, Shutterstock