There are many irritants that can make dogs aggressive towards babies. Dogs generally find them suspicious because babies:
- Have a strong smell that dogs find strange and irritating
- Move around erratically, thus scaring or exciting the dog
- Make loud, high pitched noises
- Stare for prolonged periods of time without blinking
- Are something new and strange to the dog
Why Are Dogs Aggressive Towards Babies?
Every now and then I see or hear a disturbing news story about a baby attacked by the family dog. What is even more worrying is the fact that many of those accidents have a fatal ending for the infant. That made me wonder what exactly makes dogs aggressive towards babies, and if there is something that can be done about it.
While we all love our dogs, we must keep in mind that they are animals and can be quite unpredictable. In this article, I will outline the most likely causes for dogs finding babies scary or even considering them as a threat. Also, I will delve into what precautionary measures we must take in order to avoid accidents.
While the information I am going to provide is factual and true, one must be mindful. If our dog is extremely aggressive towards our child, we need to isolate our pet immediately and seek the help of a dog behaviorist.
What Makes Dogs Aggressive Towards Babies?
It is universally known that dogs do not know that babies are … well, babies. This is especially true for dogs who are encountering an infant for the first time. For that reason, many dogs get nervous or confused when seeing a baby, or hearing them cry. Some dogs, however, might be triggered in a worse way, and actually start viewing the baby as a threat. That would often result in aggressive behavior, such as growling, barking, and even attempts at attacking the infant.
When we get down to it, there are plenty of factors that make dogs view babies as suspicious, at the least. Let’s delve deeper and explore some things that make dogs aggressive towards babies.
Babies Have a Strong Smell
Everyone is aware that a dog’s sense of smell is around ten thousand times stronger than that of the average human. A dog would normally have up to 300 million olfactory receptors in their nose — those are the receptors responsible for the sense of smell. As a result, dogs are extremely sensitive to any weird smells, since they feel like a straight-up attack on their senses.
Babies, on the other hand, have a strong and distinct smell. Humans might not be able to feel it, but dogs certainly are. This unknown, powerful smell can be unnerving, if not outright upsetting for a dog. Sometimes that is all it takes to trigger a defensive or even aggressive behavior in our pet.
Sudden & Erratic Movement
Toddlers are anything but predictable. They run around aimlessly, make sudden dashes, wave their arms around, and keep on screaming while doing it. It is quite possible that our dog can misinterpret the intentions of the child and take a defensive stance towards them. When it comes to dog attacks on children, data shows that most of them occur because of the kids’ behavior. However, you cannot blame a toddler for acting inappropriately — after all, that is what they do.
In the end, harmony between dogs and kids is a two-way street. Children should be taught how to behave around dogs, and dogs need to learn to remain calm in the presence of children. Since both can easily misinterpret the intentions of the other side, we must never let them play together without supervision.
Babies Tend to be Rather Loud
In addition to an excellent sense of smell, dogs also have extraordinary hearing. Humans can hear sounds with a frequency between 20 and 20,000 Hz, while the dog range is from 40 to 60,000 Hz. As a result, they are quite sensitive to high-pitched sounds, such as a baby crying or screaming at the top of their lungs.
Our dog can be scared or agitated by the noises a baby makes. Alternatively, squeaking and crying might trigger their hunting instinct. Whether our dog finds the noises unnerving or exciting, both scenarios could have unfortunate outcomes. We would be wise to isolate our dog in a separate room if our infant is throwing a fit. Loud noises like crying are among the main things that make dogs aggressive towards babies.
Children Like to Stare a Lot
Canines in the wild generally avoid looking at each other in the eye. The only time when dogs would be staring at each other is during a confrontation. Domesticated dogs have not forgotten their origins, and sometimes their primal instincts kick in. Babies love to stare at things for long periods of time, and they rarely blink when they do it. Our dog might consider that a challenge.
If a dog is stared down by someone who doesn’t share an emotional bond with them, they can feel threatened. When we factor in everything else that a dog finds weird about babies, we can see how prolonged eye contact between a baby and a dog can be a recipe for trouble.
The Dog Might Be Jealous of the Baby
There is a common belief that dogs might become jealous of all the attention the baby is getting and look to settle the score. This theory is not confirmed by science, as relatively little research has been done on the subject. We still do not know if dogs feel jealousy as we people do. However, it is known that they can detect preferential treatment and respond to that.
Perhaps our dog simply wants to get the same amount of attention as the baby. A sense of unfair treatment can also be a factor that makes dogs aggressive towards babies.
Another theory suggests that dogs might respond to their hierarchical instincts. Bringing a baby home equals a great shift in group dynamics. The dog might be looking to establish dominance and assert themselves in this new situation.
Our Dog Might Just be Curious
As we already established, dogs find babies particularly peculiar. The combination of unknown smells, sounds, and behavior is usually enough to make the dog curious about this strange new creature. One thing that both dogs and babies have in common is that they investigate using their mouths. A dog that discovers something new tends to grab it, shake it around, and play with it to see what properties it has. It is not hard to imagine a dog attempting to do that exact same thing with the newly arrived baby.
However, unlike a toy, a baby can become severely injured if a dog decides to investigate them thoroughly. To avoid such a situation, it is essential to keep the dog away from the infant initially. We never know what might be going on in our dog’s head, so we need to be extra careful.
Taking the Necessary Precautions
It is important to keep the following in mind — every dog has the potential to hurt a baby. All dogs can become curious, get agitated, and eventually, bite. As responsible parents, we need to always be vigilant and take the necessary measures to minimize the risk of an accident happening. We must keep in mind that many factors can make dogs aggressive towards babies. Below, I have outlined a few essential pieces of advice you might find useful.
The biggest mistake we can make is to assume that just because our dog is friendly, nothing bad can happen. We must never, under any circumstance, leave the dog unsupervised around the baby. Infants do not know how they should behave around dogs, so we must be there if the situation escalates for some reason.
Monitoring the Dog’s Behavior
Almost all aggression in dogs is based on fear and anxiety. We know our dog, and we should watch if they are exhibiting any signs of nervousness or stress around the baby. Before attacking, dogs generally give out a warning sign. We must learn to recognize this behavior and act appropriately.
Teaching the Kid How to Treat Dogs
As soon as the baby is able to comprehend the world, we must begin teaching them the rules when it comes to interacting with our dog. For example, they must know never to disturb the dog while they are eating or sleeping. We must also get them to understand when it is appropriate to play with the dog, and when they should leave it alone.
If the Problem Persist, We Should Call a Professional
Every dog owner knows their pet. If we notice extreme, unusual levels of hostility and aggression towards the baby, we must not take any chances. After all, we are better off safe than sorry. The first thing we should do is completely isolate the dog from the baby. Next, we should get in touch with a professional dog behaviorist. If the problematic behavior is addressed early on, it is possible that it can be fixed with proper training and conditioning.
As you can see, there are plenty of things that make dogs aggressive towards babies. If we are in a situation where we have to deal with this problem, we need to be very diligent and dedicated to it. The constant horrendous news stories are proof of the seriousness of the situation. We need to define what makes our dog nervous and aggressive towards the child, and then work on the issue. If our efforts are not successful, professional help is the only way to go.
No one wants to have to choose between a beloved pet and their child. We must take all precautionary measures we can to avoid accidents, and always keep an eye on the relationship between the baby and the dog. With some effort and determination, our dog can overcome the issue and bond with the kid, just as they did with us.
I hope you found this information on what makes dogs aggressive towards babies useful. For more interesting articles on dog care, make sure you browse through the rest of my blog. See you at the next one!