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Do Dogs Like Babies & Understand What They Are? Vet-Reviewed Facts

Written by: Genevieve Dugal

Last Updated on May 10, 2024 by Dogster Team

baby and a doberman dog

Do Dogs Like Babies & Understand What They Are? Vet-Reviewed Facts

VET APPROVED

Dr. Paola Cuevas Photo

REVIEWED & FACT-CHECKED BY

Dr. Paola Cuevas

Veterinarian, MVZ

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

In general, dogs react differently when they are around babies. Most dogs become more protective, playful, docile, or downright smitten when introduced to a tiny human. Some dogs even develop a deep bond with the child and seem to treat them with special care, as if they understand their fragility. But do dogs really know what babies are?

This is quite a difficult question to answer. In fact, experts agree that dogs seem to understand that there is a difference between adult humans and babies or young children, just as they understand the difference between an adult animal and a baby. Their peculiar smell and harmless appearance are probably the main reasons that make dogs behave differently towards babies.

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Most Dogs Show Great Interest in Babies

Dogs seem to take a special interest in babies, although the exact nature of this relationship still seems a mystery to science. Indeed, some studies have looked at how dogs perceive humans, but there is a lack of evidence on how dogs perceive babies.1 In fact, the majority of research shows that growing up with a canine companion has several health benefits for young children. However, it is very difficult to demonstrate whether dogs understand what babies are.

A cute puppy beside a cute baby
Image By: SarahRichterArt, Pixabay

Noting Your Dog’s Body Language Around a Baby

Nevertheless, by paying attention to the body language of our four-legged best friend, we can see signs of the dog’s interest in a baby. For example, your dog may wag their tail in the presence of the little human, cover the toddler’s face with wet kisses, or prick up their ears when a child cries.

Other dogs may, on the contrary, be less tolerant in the presence of babies. They may growl, flatten their ears, show their teeth, and be restless and impatient. It depends a lot on their socialization: a dog that has often been in contact with young children during his education will tend to be more tolerant.

But whatever the reason dogs are interested in babies, it’s the owner’s responsibility to keep the child safe, never assuming that their dog will never bite a little human.

This is why it is essential that you always monitor all interactions closely.

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How to Take Advantage of a Good Relationship Between Dogs and Babies

A young child does not necessarily understand that having a dog means taking care of it. For him, an animal is an object of curiosity and a playmate. But he can acquire a sense of responsibility by taking care of his new friend. Obviously, parents will have to get involved by setting an example and giving their child certain tasks, such as feeding the dog, brushing his coat, taking short walks, etc. The presence of the dog can also calm the child and help him develop his personality.

Indeed, a child will have to:
  • Learn to be calmer so as not to transmit nervousness to the animal.
  • Be patient with the four-legged friend.
  • Never be violent towards the dog.

The friendship between the small child and the dog can have several positive consequences. Indeed, the young puppy can also learn many things thanks to the young human. His protective instinct will develop over time and he will learn to react differently depending on the situation. For example, he will be playful and affectionate in the presence of the child but will be less conciliatory in front of a stranger.

girl hug and kissing a corgi dog
Image By: JeannieR, Shutterstock

The Importance of Setting Clear Boundaries

Dogs and humans occupy different places in the hierarchy of the house even if they are the best friends in the world. The parents will obviously be the leaders at home. Next comes the child and finally the dog. The animal should never feel superior or worse, consider your child as a toy. He must be docile and obedient to his owners, but he also has the right to his privacy.

Thus, strict rules must be established:
  • If the dog returns to his personal space (his cage, bed, or cushion), it is because he wants to be quiet. Your child should therefore not insist on continuing to play with your dog and should respect his desire to be alone.
  • The dog should not eat directly from the child’s plate, nor attempt to steal his toys or food.
  • A strong relationship is built on mutual respect. And it is through the education instilled in everyone (child and dog) that this respect is acquired. This requires infinite patience which will be wonderfully rewarded.

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Final Thoughts

The special bond that seems to unite dogs and babies is fascinating. Although experts can now show that having a dog has health benefits for young children, the exact nature of the relationship between those tiny humans and their canine companions is still a mystery. However, it is essential to always keep a watchful eye on the interactions between a dog and a young toddler and to teach respect to both parties.


Featured Image Credit: Nik Tsvetkov, Shutterstock

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