You know that feeling when you have a baby and all of the sudden your dog starts acting like an overprotective dad? I don’t know about you, but I love it! They always seem to be doing their best to protect my baby from everyone.
When we had a guest over, my dog would make sure to station himself under the baby’s high chair. He would stare at the guest waiting for someone to try anything funny and then he would give me this look like, “I’ve got your back, buddy.” It was the best!
Anyway, I’m sure you’re wondering why dogs suddenly become so protective of babies. It turns out, there are a few reasons for this. I’m going to talk about a few of them in this article.
1. Dogs May See Babies as Members of Their Pack
Dogs are derived from wolves and as a result, they have pack instincts.
This means that they see themselves as part of a group and have a strong instinct to protect the youngest and the weakest members of that group.
When a baby is brought into a home, the dog may see it as its new pack, and seeing how vulnerable the baby is, the dog might decide it’s their mission to protect the child from any and all danger.
New people or their fellow pets in the house may set off the dog’s protective instincts.
While it may seem nice that your dog is always trying to protect your child, in some cases, it can be a little too much, such as when you’re trying to show off your little one to your Uncle Jim.
This is why as a dog owner, you should always be aware of your dog’s tendencies and make sure that their behavior doesn’t cross the line.
Here are a few tips on how to do that.
Have them practice “sit” and “stay” commands
If your dog has a tendency to bark or growl at guests, have them practice “sit” and “stay” commands until they are obedient.
This will help to calm them down and make sure that they don’t get too excited when guests come over.
Correct Bad Behavior
If your dog jumps on guests or displays any other bad behaviors, make sure to correct them.
Do this by swiftly and firmly saying “NO” and providing an alternative behavior, such as asking them to sit or lie down.
This will help to train your dog to know what is expected of them and make sure that they are on their best behavior when guests come over.
Put Your Dog on a Leash
If you’re ever worried that your dog might be too protective of your baby or if you know they have a history of bad behavior around guests, it may be a good idea to put them on a leash.
This will help to keep them under control and make sure that everything stays safe.
2. They Are Mimicking Your Behavior
When you become a parent, your dog may start to mimic some of your behaviors. Dogs are very observant and they will often watch and learn from their owners.
This means that if you start to become more protective of your child, your dog may start to do the same.
Many dogs will also start to mimic the way that their parents interact with them. If you are a calm and assertive owner, your dog is likely to be calmer and more obedient.
However, if you are a more excitable or emotional owner, your dog is likely to be more overprotective with your child.
The protective instinct to some degree is a good thing, but you don’t want it to be so overwhelming that it leads to aggressive behavior, which will set a whole new set of problems.
This is why it’s important for dog owners to be aware of how they are acting around their pets, as their behavior can have a direct impact on their dog’s behavior.
3. Some Breeds Have Strong Protective Instincts
Some breeds of dogs have stronger protective instincts than others.
For example, sheepdogs such as the German Shepherd Dog were bred to be protective of their flock and will often take on ANYTHING that they perceive as a threat.
Other breeds, such as the Rottweiler, were bred to be guard dogs and have a natural instinct to protect their family and home.
If you have one of these breeds of dogs, it’s important to make sure that you nurture their protective instincts and look out for any warning signs that they may be getting too aggressive.
Here are some other dogs that are known for their protective instincts:
- Belgian Malinois
- Doberman Pinscher
- Giant Schnauzer
- Rhodesian Ridgeback
- Cane Corso
I would recommend consulting with a professional dog trainer or animal behaviorist if your dog is one of these breeds and they display aggressive or protective behavior around your child.
4. They Want to Please Their Owners
You might never have realized it, but dogs can have a strong desire to please their owners.
This means that if you act in a way that is protective of your child, your dog is likely to want to please you by being protective as well even without you rewarding them.
In other words, you can say they’re trying to get into your good book.
I know this may seem a little bit strange, but it’s actually a very powerful motivator for dogs.
This is because dogs are pack animals and when they see you as the pack leader, they want to please you in order to fit into the pack. In the wild, dogs who were not able to please their pack leader were often kicked out of the pack or even killed.
When you combine this with their natural protective instincts, you can start to understand why dogs can be so protective of your baby.
5. You Have Probably Rewarded Their Behavior in the Past
It’s also important to note that many dog owners inadvertently reward their dogs for being protective of their babies.
This can happen in a number of different ways, but one of the most common is by giving them attention.
When a dog sees that they are getting attention (positive or negative) for their protective behavior, they are likely to continue doing it.
The challenge is how to reward them without reinforcing the bad behavior.
One way to do this is by providing positive reinforcement in the form of treats or verbal praise when they are behaving appropriately around the baby.
It’s also important to avoid yelling at your dog or punishing them, as this can make them harbor an ill-feeling towards the baby and may even lead to further aggression.
Why Do Some Dogs Protect Babies with Such Fierceness While Others Couldn’t Care Less?
Most dogs naturally want to protect babies, but that’s not always the case.
Some dogs might become afraid of the baby and could potentially bite or harm them. Just take a look at some of these articles:
- Reuben McNulty: Killer dog may have thought baby was a squeaky toy
- Never EVER trust a dog with a child: As yet another baby is mauled to death
These stories are tragic, but they do happen. Once again, I have to stress the importance of being proactive and always supervising your dog when they are around your child.
There are several reasons why this might happen:
1. They May Not Have Been Properly Socialized
If a dog hasn’t been properly socialized from a young age, they may not know how to act around other humans, especially babies.
This is often the case with rescue dogs who may have been abused or neglected in their previous home.
2. They May Be Afraid of Loud Noises
Many babies make a lot of noise, which can scare some dogs.
This is often the case with dogs who have a low threshold for noise or who are easily frightened.
3. They May Be Jealous of the Baby
Some dogs may become jealous of the baby as they start to take up more and more of their owner’s time.
This can often lead to them becoming aggressive towards the baby.
5 Tips to Introduce a Dog and a Baby Safely
If you are thinking about getting a dog or already have one and are expecting a baby, here are a few tips to help introduce them safely:
1. Start off Slow
Don’t introduce the dog and baby to each other all at once. Instead, take things slowly and let the dog get used to the baby’s scent. You can do this by letting the dog sniff a blanket that the baby has been wrapped in or even by letting them lick the baby’s clothes.
2. Let Them Meet Face-to-face
Once the dog is used to the baby’s scent, you can start to let them meet face-to-face. Make sure that you are there to supervise at all times and stop if either of them shows any signs of aggression.
3. Reward Good Behavior
As with anything, you should reward the dog for good behavior around the baby. This can include threats or verbal praise.
4. Use a Baby Gate
If you are worried about the dog getting too close to the baby, you can use a baby gate to keep them separated or move the baby’s crib into a room where the dog can’t get to it.
5. Don’t Neglect Your Dog
Don’t forget that the dog is a part of your family, too. Make sure to give them plenty of attention and exercise, even if the baby is taking up most of your time.
It’s important to know how your dog will react before you bring a baby into the picture. If they seem too aggressive or scared, it may be best for them not to interact with the child at all (or only under supervision).
On the other hand, if your dog is well-behaved and seems to love being around your baby, there’s no reason why they can’t be best friends. Just make sure to always be vigilant and take steps to ensure their safety.