Basic Prairie dog Information
Prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianos) make excellent pets if you can obtain one at a young age (6-8 weeks) or if you inherit one from an owner that acquired the Prairie dog at a young age.
Generally baby Prairie dogs become available in the United States between the months of April and July. This is the time of year Prairie dogs breed and the pups are collected from the South Western United States. Most Prairie dogs offered for sale in the United States are obtained this way; they arrive at livestock distributors facilities around the end of April each year, and get to the pet stores around the first week of May.
Prairie dogs are very affectionate creatures, it doesn't take long for a baby Prairie dog to bond to you and desire to be with you at all times. Prairie dogs require companionship, they need to be with either another Prairie dog or require much attention from you as its owner. Pet Prairie dogs are very clean animals. We have kept three Prairie dogs in a large cage in my office for many years and except for a once a week cleaning, have done little else to maintain these sweet creatures. They stay odor free and healthy.
The only thing we feed Prairie dogs is EXOTIC NUTRITION PRAIRIE DOG DIET, along with some PRAIRIE DOG BOOSTER Supplement sprinkled on the occasional treat of sweet potatoes or SUGAR BEET TREAT. This diet gives our Prairie dogs the high fiber that they need and the balanced nutrition they require. Baby Prairie dogs require a diet higher in protein than adult counterparts; we feed all our baby Prairie dogs EXOTIC NUTRITION PRAIRIE DOG 'PUP' DIET until they are 6 months of age then we switch them to the regular PRAIRIE DOG DIET.
Prairie dogs may be born to be wild, but they are also happy to be your house pet. Once bonded to you, and acclimated to your home, they are quite content there. They have no desire to go back to the wild or outdoors. Although Prairie dogs may be taken for a walk (with specially designed Prairie dog harnesses), they don't need to be walked. What they want to do is to stay right in their own little environment. This makes them good pets for those who don't get out much, for those with small houses or apartments, and for people who live in big cities, where it can be tough keeping a pet that needs to be out in the sunshine.
A Prairie dog is diurnal, which means they are active in the daylight hours. You will find them in the wild in short grass prairies and plateaus of Mexico, Canada, Montana, the Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, Utah, and Wyoming. Early settlers affectionately called them "sod poodles" due to their dog-like bark. The scientific name Cynomys in Greek is "mouse dog". A Prairie dog can run up to 35 miles per hour for short distances. They also are fascinating little builders. They build their burrows based on the Bernoulli Principle in Physics! One mound entrance is built higher than the other is and this guarantees fresh airflow throughout the burrow! They build a bathroom, bedrooms, nursery, and security room. The security room is close to the entrance so that the Prairie dog can listen for danger before venturing outside. Some humans believe that Prairie dogs are "pests" and try to eliminate them through Prairie dog hunts, toxins, trapping, etc.
The Prairie dog you obtain from a pet shop may either be a baby caught in the wild or from a breeder. Black-tail Prairie dogs are the ones you will commonly find in pet shops and offered by breeders or trappers. Although it isn't common, some places offer white-tail Prairie dogs for sale. DO NOT PURCHASE a white-tail Prairie dog since they are not as sociable as the black-tail and have special biological needs since they truly hibernate in the winter.
A rabbit water bottle hanging on the outside of the cage works well for a water supply, and a few large pieces of PVC plastic piping works great for tunneling (see cage accessory department). A minimum size cage would be 24"x24"x30" for one animal and 30"x24"x36" for two animals. Wire mesh should be ½"x1". Leash training can be a simple matter. Make sure you obtain a good quality figure-H harness for your pet. These harness usually have easy to adjust snaps to fit most Prairie dogs. When you first attach the harness to your Prairie dog give it a little time to get use to the harness. Attach it for a few hours each day when your Prairie dog is in his cage and keep watch on your animal so the harness doesn't get snagged. After a few days when the animal is comfortable with the harness on, take him out for his first walk.
Looking for more information on pet prairie dogs? Browse our achive of articles:
Breeding Prairie Dogs
Care of Baby Prairie Dogs
Hays ad Grasses
Keeping Your Prairie Dog Confined
Prairie Dog Ailments
Prairie Dog Feeding
Prairie Dog House Training