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Do Tortoises Get Along with Dogs?

Last Updated on October 6, 2023 by Samantha Harris

Tortoises are timid creatures, while dogs are usually friendly and welcoming to humans. However, these two animal species have vastly different body language, behaviors, and instincts.

While exceptions exist, tortoises and dogs seldom get along well.

Dogs are loud, energetic, fast-moving, and playful, which can scare or stress tortoises. Tortoises are slow-paced and interestingly shaped, making dogs think they’re toys. Dogs bite, threaten, or kill tortoises.

To introduce tortoises and dogs, use a dummy tortoise, teaching the dog to avoid biting, picking up, and tossing it. Keep the tortoise in a secure enclosure, allowing them to smell each other from afar.

Do Tortoises Get On with Dogs?

Tortoises and dogs aren’t natural enemies but seldom like each other. As intimated, they have different temperaments, body language, and scents, which makes forging an understanding difficult.

There’s no cross-over in their social habits, and they’re not friends in the wild. The best you can hope for is that the dog and tortoise will ignore or tolerate each other.

Supervision allows a tortoise and a dog to spend time in the same room together. However, they can’t safely play together, as the dog will likely get too excited, which will stress the tortoise.

However, you can train a dog and tortoise to tolerate each other. According to Animal Behaviour, non-social tortoises can learn to use social cues, improving their interaction with other animals.

A tortoise can sometimes make adjustments to how a dog acts. It may be able to learn its body language and interpret specific actions as harmless, not scary.

Are Tortoises Scared of Dogs?

Most tortoises are frightened by dogs, especially if it’s the first time they’ve encountered one. Tortoises are prey animals and naturally feel wary of animals bigger than them.

A creature that bounces around, barks, or invades its space to smell it will be alarming. In response, most tortoises hide in their shells or burrow into their substrate.

Continuous interactions with dogs can make your tortoise stressed or depressed. So, a tortoise may hide for hours or refuse to drink or eat meals.

can tortoise and dogs live together?

Can A Dog Kill A Tortoise?

Although tortoises have strong protective shells, a fatal wound can be inflicted on a tortoise’s exposed face, neck, and legs.

This could happen before the tortoise has time to retreat into its shell. Many dogs have a strong bite force that can cut or crack the shell, even if it successfully hides.

A dog may be able to fit a small tortoise in its mouth. Unfortunately, a dog could mistake the tortoise for a toy and chew or toss it around while playing.

A dog bite could tear through the shell, puncture the internal organs, or cut into the limbs.

Do Dogs Like Tortoises?

There are many videos online of dogs curiously sniffing at tortoises.

They may rest in the sun together or engage in playful chasing. This proves that some dogs find tortoises interesting and enjoy being around them.

However, this level of affection is unlikely, so things will likely get out of hand.

First Impressions

Dogs may like tortoises as toys or prey, not as friends or companions. Also, a dog may find the tortoise scary and refuse to be around them.

Th dog’s age, temperament, and breed will determine whether it likes a new tortoise. Puppies and juvenile dogs are easier to train than older dogs, which are more set in their ways.


Depending on upbringing, treatment, and environmental factors, dogs have various personalities.

According to Applied Animal Behaviour Science, dogs adopted from animal shelters tend to be more suspicious or aggressive toward humans and other family pets.


Genetic factors can influence whether a dog will like a tortoise. Certain breeds, like pit bull terriers, rottweilers, and Dobermans, can be overly playful or aggressive toward smaller animals.

Salmonella Risk

Salmonella is carried in the digestive tracts of most tortoises and is shed in their feces, and it can be transmitted to dogs via contaminated surfaces, food, and water.

Dogs that come into contact with a tortoise could become infected through their mouth, nose, or eyes.

  • Always keep reptiles out of food preparation areas.
  • Wash your hands with an antibacterial cleaner after handling a tortoise.
  • Don’t let a dog and tortoise share a room. If the dog licks the tort, it could get infected.
  • If you wash a dog in a bathtub or kitchen sink, avoid using it to bathe a tortoise.

The Salmonella bacteria can’t be removed from a reptile’s intestinal tract, but the above safety precautions will minimize the risk of a tortoise giving a dog salmonella.

Can Tortoises And Dogs Live Together?

Tortoises and dogs can live together, but only in separate rooms. They should never be allowed to free-roam unless you’re present and within arm’s reach to step in when necessary.

Even then, you may be unable to intervene in time, and there’s a risk of salmonella.

Don’t let a dog access the tortoise’s enclosure. Likewise, don’t let a tortoise freely explore the backyard if the dog is present or has access to the yard.

No matter how calm and friendly your dog is, its natural predatory instincts can be triggered.

How To Introduce A Dog To A Tortoise

You can train a canine not to harm a tortoise.

According to the Journal of Veterinary Behavior, dogs are socially intelligent animals and can be taught new social and cognitive skills.

Here are some tips for introducing a dog to a tortoise:

how to introduce a dog to a tortoise

Use A Dummy

You can get a plastic tortoise and introduce it to a dog.

Don’t let the dog bite, play, or act aggressively with the toy. Teach it that an object of this shape and size is off-limits. That’ll ensure the dog reacts to a real tortoise with a similar response.

Keep The Tortoise in A Secure Area

Place the tortoise in a secure enclosure covered with mesh to allow the dog to see what’s inside. This can be a tank or travel carrier. The dog will attempt to access the tortoise out of curiosity.

The secure cage or tank will allow the dog to investigate without injuring or harming the tortoise. Both pets can smell, see, move, and get used to each other’s presence.

Reinforce Command Training

Ensure the dog is trained to obey and respond to basic commands like “sit,” “stay,” and “stop.” Reward the dog with treats for good and positive behaviors.

Keep Both Pets Are Calm

Before allowing interaction with a real tortoise, ensure both pets are calm and well-fed.

A well-fed dog is less likely to be aggressive. Allow the dog to move closer, but keep it on a leash so that you can control its actions, pulling it away in the event of an emergency.

If they can calmly investigate each other, you can let the two animals gradually move closer. Avoid letting them get nose to nose, as a sudden lunge can be dangerous or life-threatening.

Interaction Together

Once the two animals are familiar, you can let the dog and tortoise interact in the same room. The objective is acceptance and coexistence, not bonding and friendship.

Tortoises and dogs can live in the same house but are unlikely to be friends or play together. Instead, it would help if you kept them apart or aimed to get them to coexist under your supervision.