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Why Do Dogs Act Different Around Babies?

 

Why Do Dogs Act Different Around Babies? So the big day has arrived, you are bringing your baby home from the hospital and you’re eager to let your dog meet the baby for the first time, but things don’t work well as you expected. Instead of being happy, your dog acts weird, almost as if your baby was some odd being coming from a different planet! Well, turns out that in a certain way, babies can be quite different from a dog’s perspective. It’s therefore not unusual for dogs to react in an abnormal way when exposed to a baby, especially the very first time. Whether your dog has just met your baby or a baby of a friend, being aware of why dogs act weird around babies can help you implement safety precautions so that you can keep your baby and dog safe.

Baby noises can be scary to dogs
Baby noises can be scary to dogs

Scary Baby Sounds 

Even if your dog has a history of accepting children, consider that babies are still considered different. Babies make totally different sounds that can be overwhelming and scary to a dog who has never been exposed to a baby before. Laughing,  cooing, gurgling, crying and even those much dreaded temper tantrums are all news sounds from a dog’s perspective. This is the main reason why many dog behavior professionals recommend playing CDs of baby sounds weeks or even months ahead so that Rover is given the opportunity to acclimate to such sounds. Giving the dog dog plenty of  attention and rewards under the form of toys, food, praise and petting, as the CD is being played, can help create positive associations.




Odd Baby Movements

Dogs are used to see babies crawling
Dogs may not used to see babies crawling.

Has your dog ever seen you crawl? Most likely not! If so, it shouldn’t be surprising if a dog has a hard time accepting that babies crawl. Many dogs do just fine up to the day when babies become mobile. Never let an unknown baby crawl up to your dog, even if your dog has a history of doing fine with children or other babies. Crawling up to a dog puts a baby’s face very close to a dog’s face putting the baby right at the dog’s eye level, something many dogs don’t like. Also, babies tend to make sudden startling movements and high-pitched sounds that can be unnerving to dogs. Some dogs, even the friendly, nonaggressive ones can perceive a newborn in the same way as they would a squeaky toy or a squirrel, warns board-certified veterinary behaviorist, Lisa Radosta.  However, while prey drive can trigger dogs to bite small infants, the most common cause of bites to youngsters is actually fear, according to late veterinary behaviorist Dr. Sophia Yin.

Providing a blanket that smells like the baby is helpful.
Providing a blanket that smells like the baby is helpful.

New Baby Smell

Dogs rely heavily on their sense of smell, there’s no bones about it, so a new baby will also smell different from a canine’s standpoint. Not only, there are many other new smells your dog will be exposed to when meeting a new baby such as baby lotion, baby powder and soiled diapers. Because dogs are such olfactory beings, it’s commonly recommended for new parents  to bring home a blanket or piece of clothing that smells like the baby before bringing the baby home. This gives the dog the opportunity to get used to baby smells.

Changes in Routine

Dogs are animals that like to have routines and with a new baby come many changes.  You may have to walk your dog around different times of the day, you may end up feeding your dog earlier or later, you may have different sleeping cycles and you may end up waking up your dog in the middle of the night. All these changes can be stressful on even the most well-tempered dogs and may cause them to act differently than they usually do. On top of all that, dogs are likely to get less attention when the baby arrives home which can also be upsetting and may trigger a dog to misbehave.  Getting the dog used to  all these changes gradually, prior to the baby’s arrival, can be very helpful.

Putting All Together

Slow introductions work best.
Slow introductions work best.

As seen, dogs have their own reasons for acting weird around babies. By understanding them and seeing the world through their eyes, ears and noses, we can take steps to make the introduction to babies less stressful. Often this entails advanced preparation such as playing CDs withs baby noises, carrying around a baby sized doll and exposing the dog to the baby’s smell prior to the baby’s arrival. Once the baby is home, it’s important to create positive associations, by teaching the dog that great things happen when the baby is around. There are many resourceful websites with loads of tips for expecting mothers and families with new babies such as Dog Gone Safe, Family Paws Parent Education and the Dogs and Storks’ program. If your baby is already home and your dog is acting differently, please play it safe and consult with a dog behavior professional for guidelines.

Did you know? According to Family Paws Parent Education, there are 5 different types of supervision parents engage in when supervising the interactions between children and dogs:  absent supervision, passive supervision, reactive supervision, proactive supervision and active supervision, which is what most parents should be doing at all times.