How to Train Your Dog to Not Lick the Baby

How to Train Your Dog to Not Lick the Baby
Medium difficulty iconMedium
Time icon1-3 Weeks
Behavior training category iconBehavior

Introduction

You’ve just had a baby--congratulations! You are so happy to bring your new little one home and hope your dog will love your new addition as much as you do. You have spent hours getting your pup accustomed to baby sounds and a doll, beforehand in an effort to get her ready for the introduction to the new baby. The introduction goes well, no stress, no fuss. In fact, your dog seems to love the new baby, constantly licking her face, feet, and hands. That means she loves her, right? 

Wait a minute, maybe not!  

There are lots of reasons dogs lick, and they are not necessarily to show affection. Dogs lick because they are nervous, to show dominance, or just because something, or someone, tastes good. None of these are reasons to encourage or condone your dog licking your baby. In addition, there are health hazards associated with your dog's baby-licking behavior. Dogs can carry bacteria, viruses, and parasites that are transmissible to humans through saliva and licking behavior. These are absolutely the last things you want your dog sharing with your baby.

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Defining Tasks

You want to encourage positive interaction between your dog and your baby, but remember: dogs do not think or form relationships with the same perspective that people do. Dogs have packs and pack members, and view other pack members as part of a hierarchy that they belong to. You want your dog to recognize your child as a member of his pack, but not a subordinate one! To do that you will need to ensure that your dog respects your child and provides personal space that includes not licking your baby. This does not mean the dog cannot show the child affection, but do not interpret interactions from your perspective--ask yourself what the dog is communicating with their behavior towards your child. Licking may be a sign of dominance or nervousness that should not be encouraged but corrected. Also, germs and diseases can be spread by licking that can be a danger to your child or others in the home. Teach your dog that licking any person in the household is unacceptable, and provide other behaviors your dog can perform to get attention and affection so that your dog has a more positive means of interaction. Dogs should approach you or your baby and lie down quietly next to your child, or perform a behavior in order to get attention from the baby and you.

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Getting Started

You will need lots of treats to reinforce appropriate behavior.  Invest some time observing and supervising your baby and your dog to catch unwanted licking behaviors. Dogs and babies should never be left together unsupervised, so practicing constant supervision to prevent licking and other unwanted behaviors is a necessary habit to establish. You will want to stop your dog licking, not just of the baby, but of everyone. All members of the household will have to be on board, including guests, in extinguishing licking behaviors.

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The Leave It Method

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1

Present treat

Teach your dog to leave a treat that is presented to him. Put your hand around a treat, command 'leave it' and when your dog ceases investigating, say 'leave it' again and provide another treat to your dog.

2

Leave treats on floor

When this becomes established, leave teats on the floor and command your dog to 'leave it'. When your dog complies, provide another, higher-value, treat to your dog.

3

Practice various places

Practice 'leave it' on walks and other times around your home. Have treats available to reward periodically for compliance.

4

Apply to licking the baby

When your dog approaches your baby, observe closely. The minute your dog starts to lick, command 'leave it'.

5

Vary reward

When your dog retreats, provide a treat and lots of praise and affection. Repeat until established and just praise can be provided as a reward for not licking the baby.

The Extinguish Licking Method

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1

Ignore licking

Have everyone in the household, including guests to your home, aware of desired behavior change. When your dog licks anyone in the home, ignore until the dog leaves.

2

Reinforce not licking

When the dog has stopped licking and moved on to another behavior, reward him.

3

Remove dog from the baby

When the dog licks the baby, remove the dog from the baby's area by blocking him or directing him to a mat.

4

Reward not licking the baby

When the dog sits quietly next to the baby, or is on his mat, provide a treat.

5

Be consistent

Consistently remove opportunities to lick people. Reward non-licking behavior until licking is extinguished.

The Alternate Behavior Method

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Teach alternate behavior

Teach your dog a behavior incompatible with licking, such as 'down-stay', or 'roll over'. Provide treats for the behavior and establish consistently.

2

Supervise

When your dog approaches your baby, supervise carefully.

3

Distract from licking

If your dog appears about to lick you baby, make a noise to get his attention and distract him.

4

Command alternate behavior

Provide the command for 'down-stay', or other behavior and treat your dog for performing.

5

Continue

Continue supervising, distracting, and commanding alternate behavior. Your dog will come to associate the baby with performing an alternate behavior for a reward and not licking.

By Laurie Haggart

Published: 12/07/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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dexter

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Jack Russell Terrier

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2 Years

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Question

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we have a new born baby, dexter is always very excited to see her and constantly trying to lick her, how can I stop this please

April 11, 2022

dexter's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Jamie, I would teach Leave It, Out - which mean move away, and desensitize pup. Out - which means leave the area: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Leave It method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Check out this video on desensitizing to greetings. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bpzvqN9JNUA Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

April 12, 2022

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Rainbow

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Saluki

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2 Years

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Question

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My 2 year old saluki has started barking aggressively at dogs on leads. If she spots a dog on a lead in the park she will run across the park to bark at it. She will also aggressively bark at dogs walking past her on the streets, when they are both on leads This is new behaviour of the last month or so and seems to have come out of nowhere with no trigger we can think of. She is very well socialised and has been since a puppy. She goes to doggy daycare twice a week and is used to young children and all their noise (and friends) as lives with a 4 year old and a 6 year old. I have just had another baby though so I am not sure if that is connected? Any insight is greatly appreciated, as it is concerning

April 8, 2022

Rainbow's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Holly, There are a few reasons for a dog barking at other dogs on a walk. Pup may be nervous and fearful, in which case the underlying lack of confidence and fearful association with other dogs also needs to be addressed. This is generally done using counter conditioning. Check out the video I have linked below for how to do that. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JY7JrteQBOQ Another reason for the barking is pup becoming overly aroused, which is generally addressed with structured obedience to help pup learn self-control and to condition a calmer response, and respect building for you. Check out the following resources for commands and structure to work on with pup. Thresholds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-w28C2g68M Heel article - The turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Heel Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OTiKVc4ZZWo Reactive dog - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XY8s_MlqDNE Severely aggressive dog – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vfiDe0GNnLQ&t=259s Building respect at home may also help in this case too, especially with the new changes. Check out the article I have linked below and the Working method. Give the other methods a read over too. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-to-listen-to-you A third reason why pup may be barking would simply be that pup find the act of barking itself fun. Barking is a self-rewarding behavior due the chemicals released in a dog's brain while they bark, that can make the dog feel a certain way and feed into even more barking. When pup is barking for the fun of barking and getting aroused, I recommend interrupting the barking, while rewarding quiet instead. First, you need a way to communicate with her so I suggest teaching the Quiet command from the Quiet method in the article I have linked below - don't expect this alone to work but it will be part of the puzzle for what I will suggest next. Regardless of which reason pup is barking, I would actually teach pup Quiet in general, simply to increase the communication between you and pup. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark Next, once pup understands what Quiet means you will choose an interrupter - neither too harsh nor ineffective. A Pet Convincer is one example of an interrupter. A pet convincer is a small canister of pressurized, unscented air that you can spray a quick puff of at the dog's side to surprise them enough to help them calm back down. (Don't use citronella and avoid spraying in the face!). In situations where you know pup will bark or is already barking (catch them before they bark if you can), command "Quiet". If they obey, reward with a treat and very calm praise. If they bark anyway or continue to bark, say "Ah Ah" firmly but calmly and give a brief correction. Repeat the correction each time they bark until you get a brief pause in the barking. When they pause, praise and reward then. The combination of communication, correction, and rewarding - with the "Ah Ah" and praise to mark their good and bad behavior with the right timing, is very important. Once pup is calmer in general after the initial training, practice exposing her a lot to the things that trigger the barking normally (make a list - even if it's long). Whenever she DOESN'T bark around something that she normally would have, calmly praise and reward her to continue the desensitization process. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

April 8, 2022


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