Can Dogs Tell the Difference Between Babies and Adults?

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Introduction

When you have a dog, it can be scary to have them around children and babies. It can be hard to know if your dog knows that babies are more fragile than adults. It is obvious that dogs can tell the difference between other adult dogs and puppies, however, so is it so farfetched to believe that dogs can tell the difference between adult and baby humans?

If dogs can tell the difference between adults and babies, how do they alter their behavior when interacting with people of different ages? Can dogs understand the gentleness they need to use around babies?

Signs Dogs are Interested in Babies

We all know that dogs can see and smell and hear babies. But, they can’t really understand babies in the same way that humans do. In fact, dogs may find babies to be a bit overwhelming to their senses, as babies are often loud and smelly. If you have noticed that your dog seems curious about babies that you are around, that is probably because they are very foreign to your pooch.

You may have noticed that your dog will stop and stare at a baby while you are out for your walk. Your pooch might sniff in the direction of babies, or their ears might perk up when a baby coos or cries nearby. You may notice that your dog wags at the sight of a stroller, because they have learned that there is something in those strollers that they see that they haven’t quite figured out yet.

It is important that you are careful with your dog around babies—especially if they are unfamiliar with babies. You will want to keep a close eye on your pooch to make sure that there are no issues. It is a good idea to watch for signs of agitation or aggression when your dog is around babies.

Body Language

Watch for the following body language signs to see if your dog is interested in babies:
  • Staring
  • Alert
  • Head tilting
  • Wag tail
  • Raise ears
  • Ears up

Other Signs

To avoid any potential problems, you should watch for the following signs that your dog is becoming irritated and aggressive around a baby:
  • Growling
  • Baring teeth
  • Snapping teeth
  • Tail between the legs

History of Dogs and Babies

Dogs have been brought into families for hundreds of years. While not all dogs are gentle or good with children, many dogs never have any problems being around small children and babies. In fact, throughout all the years that dogs and humans have lived together, there have been families that successfully own a dog and have a baby. It is probably really obvious to those who have been in that situation that dogs can, in fact, tell the difference between an adult and a baby.

Often, it is noted by pet owners that dogs tend to be gentler around babies than they are around adults. You may notice that dogs are even more protective of babies than they are their adult owners. It is hard to know just why dogs are more protective of babies, but they often like to stay close to their owners’ babies. Dogs can be much more patient with babies than they are with adults, too. This is good, because babies don’t know to be gentle toward a dog.

Humans haven’t quite figured out just how dogs seem to know that babies are different from adults, however.

Science Behind Dogs Being Good with Babies

Some people believe that dogs know the difference between adults and babies based on their size. While that may be true, it seems a little too simple. Others believe that scent has a lot to do with it. We all know that babies smell different than adults. This scent could clue your dog into the difference between adults and babies, but again, we can’t really say for sure what the real reason is.

No matter what the reason is, many people are absolutely convinced that their dog knows the difference between a baby and an adult, and their dog treats babies differently as well, which is fortunate for many pet owners.

Training Dogs to Live with Babies

It is important that you take the time to introduce your dog to a baby properly. You can help minimize the risk of incident by taking the proper measures. If you are pregnant, you will want to make sure that your dog at least gets some basic obedience training if that hasn’t already happened yet. If you can’t get your dog to listen to you with basic training, you may want to consider advanced training—especially if your dog has shown signs of aggression.

To introduce your dog to a baby, you need to allow your pup to become familiar with your baby without being over-stimulated. To do this, you can allow your dog numerous brief interactions with your baby. Your dog can see the baby, but never touch it during this period. If you notice that your dog is getting too excited, you need to calmly walk them out of the room. When your dog is calm around the baby, you should reward them with a treat. Whining, pulling on the leash, or any other bad behavior puts your dog in a timeout.

When you bring your baby into a room that your dog is in, you should command them to sit. Over time, the dog will learn that it isn’t the center of attention. You need to reward your dog when it sits with either a treat or a toy. You can allow your dog to approach the baby while you are holding it, but make sure that your dog doesn’t try to jump or climb on you, which could cause injury to the baby. Encourage all positive behavior to make sure that your dog understands what you want from it.

Safety Tips for Dogs Being Around Babies:

  • Never, ever leave your dog alone with a baby.
  • Encourage good behavior around a baby.
  • Don't allow your baby to pull on or hit your dog.

Share Your Experiences of Dogs with Babies!