Prairie Dogs are special and so are the people who love them. Indeed life with a prairie dog becomes a mutual addiction. Of all the exotic animals currently kept as pets worldwide, the prairie dog is one of the ultimate companions. A lost prairie dog does not “revert to the wild” as do so many exotic pets. Instead it will search for its owner or beg for help from the first human it meets. If it encounters his former owner years later, its happiness knows no bounds. - Lynda Watson
Prairie Dog Care and Facts:
Average Lifespan: 10-12 years in captivity
Diet: We feed our PDs Janda Prairie Dog Pellets, Timothy Hay Cubes, vegetables and a small amount of fruit. Available on the Pet Supplies Page
Size at Adulthood: about 2 pounds, about the size of a guinea pig.
Minimum Cage size: They need a cage at least 2'x2'x4'. Bar spacing should be no more than 1/2" wide. A large safe wheel in the cage is a good idea and a nice comfy nest area for them to sleep.
Bonding: It is imperative that you receive a young, hand raised baby before the age of 10 weeks. Under 10 weeks is optimal, as it allows approriate bonding time for your new baby. You will need to spend a considerable amount of time with your new baby for the first few weeks of their life and thereafter.
What is a Prairie Dog?
Prairie Dogs are small rodents that are native to parts of the United States. They are diurnal (awake during the day) and live in very large colonies. Even in the wild a prairie dog will spend much of its youth playing with others as a social bonding technique.
PDs can be affectionate and loving pets if cared for properly and acquired at the right age. Hand feedings and daily handling is crucial in the first few weeks after you receive them to ensure proper bonding. It is relatively easy to bond with a new baby but is very challenging if you receive an older adult who is not bonded to you. Each PD can have their own personality but generally they are attention seekers and affectionate with their humans.
"PDs are so intelligent that behavioralists have yet to devise tests to determine just how brigh tthey are. Your pet will come when called and will understand many words and phrases. PDs frequently live ten to twelve years in capitivity and they bond to theirs owners so strongly that they will love you above life itself. A PD will fling itself on a pitbull in your defense. " Bringing a Prairie Dog Pup into Your Home, 2001
Do they bite?
My answer to this question is simple, anything with teeth can bite. A prairie dog pup handled from a young age and generally domesticated and treated as a pet more than likely will not bite. I would rate PDs as 90% bite free.
Prairie dogs must be spayed or neutered prior to the age of 9 months to avoid going into sexual maturity and becoming violent. Unaltered PD's can unexpectedly and without warning attack their owners and strangers. If you are considering owning a PD you must find a vet who is capable of spaying/neutering before you get a baby.
Costs for a Prairie Dog:
Spay or neuter....$50-$200
*Bringing a Prairie Dog Pup into your Home Book ...$30
Baby Formula ingredients………………$12
Wire cage and accessories…………$45-$250 (www.martinscages.com)
*Bag of food………………………….…...$15
Solid (not wire) wheel…………….………$12
Misc. toys & accessories……………….…..$15
*Items available in our Pet Products Page
Preparing for a Prairie Dog
Before you bring your PD home, you should have its habitat ready, you should also baby proof your house if you plan on letting them have free range at times. They will chew on electrical wire, please keep them away from these. Make the bathroom off limits to your PD, you will thank me for not having to clean up an entire roll of toilet paper or saving your baby from drowning in the toilet.
When you first bring your baby home, house them in a 15 gallon aquarium or plastic tote with a vented lid. Use your old cotton t-shorts as the bedding with some grassy hay. Feed them timothy hay, PD pellets, dry puppy kibble and formula with a syringe.
Remember to locate a vet experienced with exotics and that is willing to see your baby BEFORE you get your baby. Before the big day, schedule an appointment for your baby be seen within 72 hours for our health warranty. Have your vet give a general examination and let them get familiar with you and your baby in case of an emergency or routine visits in the future. You should take your baby in yearly for annual checkups.
How much time does a Prairie Dog require?
The first few weeks are critical, and you must spend as much time as possible with your baby to bond with it. Several hours a day of holding is required the first 2-3 weeks. After bonding is achieved, it would still be best to spend as much time as possible but at least an hour every day would be best. They are very playful, social and time consuming. This is not the type of pet to leave in a cage alone all day long.
Bonding is a very special characteristic of the Prairie Dog. Bonding occurs during the first few weeks of ownership and can last for the life of your pup. Begin the bonding process by gaining your baby’s trust. Hand-feeding the babies will make them very sweet and love to be around you. Spend alot of time with your baby and gain their trust. This will let your baby become familiar with your smell and voice.
Should I get one Prairie Dog or two?
Prairie dogs are extremely social animals and do much better in pairs. In the wild, they live in very large colonies sleeping, eating and playing together all day & all night long. I highly recommend getting two babies, they seem to have much more outgoing personalities. Some people are concerned with the babies only bonding to each other and not to them, this is untrue unless you do not spend time with your babies. They WANT to be with their people.
What sex(es) should I get?
All pet prairie dogs should be spayed or neutered the first fall season to prevent territorial and marking behaviors. Since the babies are spayed or neutered the differences in behaviors are not determined by the sex. Each baby has a very distinct personality that is generally determined by the environment it is raised in. Sex does not make a difference in the pet quality of a prairie dog.
Spaying or Neutering babies
Babies should be spayed or neutered in the fall of thier first year. Consult a vet before getting a baby to find one who is able to safely complete the surgery. This is not an option for keeping pet prairie dogs. During mating season PD's will become territorial and very agressive.
Prairie Dog Diet
When you first receive your PD baby they will be eating 50% dry puppy food mixed with 50% Janda PD Pellets, hay cubes, raw sliced sweet potatoes as well as taking hand feedings 2-3 times per day by syringe.
After approximately 2 weeks they should be weaned off the formula and the puppy food and their adult diet should consist of Janda PD Pellets, Timothy Hay Cubes, Vegetables and small amounts of fruit (or similar diet).
PDs are well behaved enough to let them run free in your room, apartment or house. This will let them run around and burn off some energy. This is best done when you are semi-paying attention, not while you are in the shower.
Living with a Prairie Dog:
Having a prairie dog is like having a super affectionate puppy that never grows up. They have cute antics and individual personalities, they also have a WIDE variety of vocal sounds that they will use to communicate with you.
We recommend getting two PDs because they are extremely social and can get lonely which can lead to behavior problems. This is not a requirement, we have many clients with only one pup that lives happy and healthy.
Overall they make excellent pets who can be handled and cared for by the whole family.
Prairie Dogs as pets- REAL owners perspectives and stories:
Ashley Duncan- In 1998 I was able to keep a baby prairie dog from that years spring litters. I picked a sweet baby boy and named him Pedro. He lived with me for many years, even into college. My experiences with him were wonderful, I especially miss the yahoo after I would sneeze or cough. Pedro was out of his cage most of the day and spent his time playing with my dog or searching for me. He enjoyed sleeping in my lap while I was on the couch or sitting at my computer. He did not like strangers or anyone new investigating him and he did bite my 7 year old nephew after he stuck his finger in Pedro's cage.
Negative aspects of owning a PD:
As I said before, they can bite and if they do it will more than likely be a blood-drawing one. They have large teeth and can bite pretty hard if they do.
It may be difficult to find a vet who is able to spay/neuter your baby. Fortunately in the "Bringing a Prairie Dog Into Your Home" book (available on the Pet Supplies page) there is an entire chapter, with actual pictures, written by a vet that outlines step by step instructions on spaying/neutering PDs.
If you do not have time for one baby, you should have two to keep each other company.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Q:Do they have scent glands or a smell?
A: They do have scent glands, which are not used unless they are in season- it is very important to spay or neuter your baby before they reach 7-9 months old.
Q: Do they require any vaccinations?
A: No vaccinations are needed.
Q: What is their general personality?
A: Very affectionate, curious, loves attention and to play
Q: How are they with other pets?
A: I would only introduce a PD to another PD, they are small and could be hurt by larger animals. They are not aggressive and generally would play nice with small animals such as a dog, cat or rabbit.
Q: Can I take my pup outside?
A: They can be leash trained, you must use your best judgement in this. I personally would only let my babies out in a secure enclosure, if your baby is scared by a strange sound they may run off and will not come back.
Q: Should I get two, so my PD wont be lonely?
A: PDs do very well with two since they naturally are colony animals and need a companon. However, it is not imperative to get two.
Q: If I get two will they bond with me less?
A: No. The pups will bond with each other and you. There’s plenty of bonding to go around!
Q: How do I make my PD bond to me?
A: Our baby PDs are generally sent to their new homes at 6-8 weeks of age, and they will require 1-2 daily hand feedings until they are about 10 weeks old. Hand feeding is imperative for the bonding and socialization of your baby. It is also very important that you spend more than 1 hour a day with your baby by either letting it sleep in your pocket or in a bonding pouch and getting it out to play. This will occur for the weeks that you are hand feeding it. After the baby is fully weaned, it should be bonded very deeply to you. It will enjoy it when you get it out to play and when you let it run around.
Q: Will my PD bond only to one person?
A: Generally the PD will bond with everyone in the house that handles it regularly. However it can become agitated by strangers.
Q: Can I let my PD run free in my home?
A: As long as you have properly secured your home and baby proofed it so that there is no harmful things they can get into.
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