wikiHow to Buy Prairie Dogs

Prairie dogs are a type of ground squirrel that is native to the North American grasslands. They get their name for their dog-like bark when communicating with each other. Like many other rodents, people began collecting them as pets. They can be complicated animals to keep, because they require specific grasses and hay for their diet. There are also varying laws about keeping prairie dogs as pets, so it's important to find out if they are legal in your area before trying to obtain this pet. Learn how to buy or adopt prairie dogs.


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    Check your state and city's exotic pet laws. Prairie dogs have faced many bans all over the United States, Canada and Europe. Go to to research pet laws in your state.
    • In 2003, the US Center for Disease Control (CDC) banned the import of all African prairie dogs because of an outbreak of Monkeypox. This disease has been eradicated, according to the CDC, and the ban was rescinded in 2008.
    • Laws may differ for Gunnison prairie dogs, Black tail prairie dogs, White tail prairie dogs and Utah prairie dogs. Make sure you know what type of prairie dog you are looking at before you adopt or buy it. The Black Tailed prairie dog is the most common pet choice, because it is often taken from its home in the wild.
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    Assess your ability to care for a prairie dog. You should not buy a prairie dog unless you are able to care for it for its entire life. The following are basic prairie dog needs:
    • You should be able to provide a daily diet of Timothy, grass hay and rabbit pellets. The prairie dog should always have an abundance of Timothy and grass hay, whereas rabbit pellets should be rationed carefully at approximately 1/4 to 1/3 cup. You can consult a veterinarian who can suggest other ways to supplement their diet occasionally.
    • Construct a wire or stainless steel cage for maximum ventilation. Some plastic or glass enclosures can be used; however, you should aim to have as much ventilation as possible. You can leave an enclosure open at the top if it is at least 10 inches (25 cm) high. Place the cage in a quiet place away from direct sunlight or temperature changes.
    • Prairie dogs have claws and are easily agitated, especially when taken from the wild. When handled carefully and frequently they can become docile; however, newly domesticated prairie dogs are not suitable to be around children and may pose risks to adults.
    • Provide a solid floor, made of something other than wood, and deep bedding. Bedding of shredded paper, wood shavings or commercial pellets, will allow your prairie dog to burrow. A burrow is its natural home in the wild.
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    Find a veterinarian in your area who is willing to do regular checkups on your prairie dog. Like any pet, prairie dogs are susceptible to diseases and conditions that can prove deadly very quickly in such a small animal. It may take a fair amount of research to find a vet that is knowledgeable about rodents like prairie dogs.
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    Consider buying more than 1 prairie dog. These animals are very social. You can keep 2 prairie dogs safely in a large cage.
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    Call your local animal shelters once you have determined that prairie dogs are legal in your locale. You can obtain a prairie dog very cheaply by taking in an animal that someone has left at the shelter. You may be required to provide documentation proving that you can take care of an animal.
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    Go to to search for shelters or businesses that allow you to adopt prairie dogs. This site will give you numbers to call about adoption.
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    Research and call local wildlife rescues. You may be able to find prairie dogs that cannot be released back into the wild.
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    Attend an exotic pet show. Research these shows online. You can travel to the location to buy and take home your prairie dog.
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    Search online for local prairie dog breeders. Visit the breeding location to ensure that it is a respectable establishment.
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    Call exotic pet stores in your state. They may be able to obtain prairie dogs for you.


  • Prairie dogs require a large amount of attention to make them docile enough to keep as pets. Make sure you are able to give it attention for up to 10 years.


  • Never use cedar shavings for prairie dog bedding. This can cause liver damage in many rodents.
  • Never buy a prairie dog if it is illegal in your state. Many state laws require that they are exterminated by animal control if they are found to be harbored as pets.
  • Never give a prairie dog alfalfa hay. Its calcium to phosphorus ratio causes metabolic problems in this species.

Things You'll Need

  • State/city exotic animal laws
  • Veterinarian
  • Cage
  • Bedding
  • Timothy, grass hay and rabbit pellets
  • Exotic pet shop
  • Exotic animal show
  • Prairie dog breeder
  • Animal shelter
  • Wildlife rescue

Article Info

Categories: Wildlife