This post may contain links to products/services. Please assume all such links are affiliate links which may result in my earning commissions and fees. and As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.This will not incur additional cost to you.
We’ve all seen those adorable videos of dogs sleeping beside newborn babies and watching them playing in their little bouncy chairs.
But what is it that makes dogs behave this way?
After all, it is a human baby, not a puppy, so what benefit does the dog get?
Why Dogs Protect Babies
Domesticated dogs were bred from wolves and still retain some of their pack instincts. Dogs still have a social hierarchy within their family unit.
Young children and babies are generally seen as weaker members of the group and so many dogs will naturally respond to the urge to protect them.
This could be a simple behaviour such as comforting the baby when they cry, to more protective behaviours such as preventing certain people coming near the baby.
This can be a potentially dangerous situation, especially if the dog decides the person is a threat. You could easily end up with a dog bite or worse.
Although it is cute to watch your dog helping your toddler learn to crawl, encouraging this kind of protective behavior is not always a good idea.
It could lead to your dog taking this responsibility too seriously and developing aggression towards other family members or guests.
Related Article : Are French bulldog good with Children and other dogs ?
Dog Behaviour With New Babies
You just had a baby and now you are looking forward to getting home and introducing your new bundle of joy to your dog.
How will they react?
Well, just like other animals, every dog is unique and has its own personality.
Nervous dogs tend to be cautious when meeting new-borns for the first time.
It is quite common for timid dogs not to approach for the first few hours.
It is not that they do not like the baby, but they are using this time to get used to the new smells and sounds.
Quiet encouragement from you will help, but you should never force a dog to greet a baby. You must let them do it on their own terms.
Placid dogs are more likely to have a quick sniff and then simply go and settle in their usual spot so they can watch from a quiet place.
They are not uninterested, but calm dogs tend to be less affected by the change.
You may find that your dog would rather investigate your hospital bag or the baby’s new crib.
These things have unusual smells, but also smell like you, so they will not be nervous.
Introducing a baby to an excitable dog requires a little more planning.
No doubt they will come bounding over to greet you, then want to shove their nose all over this new little person.
Dogs with this type of boisterous personality will be intrigued by the baby, new smells on your clothes, the nursery furniture, all of it!
Your dog may be so torn trying to decide which to investigate first, that he will probably just end of bouncing around in circles.
Whichever type of dog you have, the French Bulldog is certainly not an exception, the most important thing is to remain calm and set clear boundaries for your dog.
Teaching them early on how they should behave, will make things a lot easier as your baby grows and becomes more mobile.
Do dogs understand what babies are?
There is no concrete factual evidence to prove if dogs understand babies, but the facts we do have show that they understand certain aspects of the social and emotional changes when a baby arrives.
So, what do dogs understand?
- This tiny little human smells like the adult humans, but doesn’t behave the same.
- Babies make a lot of noise, which many dogs find distressing or confusing.
- Dogs will try to help when a baby cries, but they don’t always know how. Some will howl or cry, other will lick at the baby or nudge them with their nose. Some dogs just flat out ignore them!
- Dogs notice that babies take up a lot of attention.
- Additionally, their adult humans are now tired and grumpy.
- Babies mean lots of visitors, which means extra attention for the dog.
- Dogs notice that babies taste good and love to lick them, but this is not always ok.
Do dogs get jealous of babies?
Dogs are highly attuned to our emotional state, so they notice when things change. New babies can make us very tired and irritable, which affects our behavior.
Dogs tend to be cuddlier at this stage as they are trying to comfort you.
Dogs also notice that this new human requires a lot of attention, meaning the poor dog will get considerably less attention than he is used to.
This can make a dog act in a way we would say is jealousy. Whether dogs can feel jealousy as an emotion is not clear, but it is certainly true that dogs see our attention as a valuable resource.
Once a baby arrives, they are taking some of this resource, so it is a natural instinct for our dogs to try and regain our attention.
They may not always go about this the best way, but they are not behaving badly on purpose.
Dogs simply to not think that way.
We can make the transition much easier for dogs by praising them when they are calm or encouraging them to sit beside us with the baby, so they feel included.
As we mentioned earlier, dogs have a clear social hierarchy. If they feel the baby has displaced them, this can lead to certain behavioral issues developing.
Ensuring your dog is included in these changes is important to maintain balance and harmony within the home.
Another important thing to watch out for as your baby grows is that they do not get too grabby with your dog.
Some dogs are more tolerant than others, but all dogs have their limit.
They do not appreciate having their ears pulled or to have a small child bouncing on their back.
There is never a situation when you can genuinely say “my dog will never bite my child”.
If a child is not taught the signs of a dog feeling uncomfortable, then a dog can easily snap at a child.
Signals before your dog decide to snap a baby.
- Turning their head away
- Looking to the side, so the white of their eyes show
- Curling of the lips
- Lip licking
- Trying to move away
These are all very clear warning signs that a dog is not happy with the situation.
All children should be taught to watch their dog’s body language.
If a dog is pushed too far, they will snap or bite, which unfortunately ends with the dog being unnecessarily euthanized.
This could easily be avoided if parents teach their children how to behave properly with their dog.
Do Dogs Know Babies Are Fragile?
The simple answer is no.
Dogs learn each other’s boundaries through play.
This usually includes mouthing and wrestling. If one dog goes too far, the other dog will squeal to say “that’s too rough” and play will stop.
The first dog has learned to play gentler with this dog and will not be as rough in future play sessions.
Dogs do not understand that human babies don’t work the same way.
They will often feel confused when they try to play with a baby but are then shouted at by their adult humans.
For dogs, this type of play is normal behavior and they don’t realize that babies are much more fragile and cannot communicate.
Teaching your dog from day one that he must be gentle around the baby will eliminate the risk of accidental injury.
You should always supervise your baby and dog together, no matter how calm your dog is.
Small children can be unpredictable and even the most placid dog can lash out if they are startled.
It is clear that dogs are aware that babies are human, but it is not clear if they understand that babies are the human equivalent of puppies.
They learn a baby’s importance within the family group by watching the interactions between the baby and the adults.
This is how most dogs develop protective behaviors because they come to realize that the baby is socially important and so needs to be kept safe.
This, however, depends on the personality of the individual dog.
Some dogs may understand that babies have a high social value, but they may not feel it necessary to change their behavior.
Other dogs feel uncomfortable around babies, especially when they are crying. Nervous dogs are particularly affected by loud noises, so it is understandable that they would not be tolerant of babies.
Every dog is different, just as every baby is different. Preparing your dog for your baby’s arrival can certainly help, but you should have no expectations of your dog’s reaction.
Jalongo, M.R., Astorino, T. and Bomboy, N., 2004. Canine visitors: The influence of therapy dogs on young children’s learning and well-being in classrooms and hospitals. Early Childhood Education Journal, 32(1), pp.9-16.
Mader, B., Hart, L.A. and Bergin, B., 1989. Social acknowledgments for children with disabilities: Effects of service dogs. Child development, pp.1529-1534.
Thomas, E.M., 2010. The hidden life of dogs. HMH.
Woolston, C., Babies and Dogs.