NotABully.org is reader-supported. We may earn a small commission through products purchased using links on this page.
You might consider your dog your baby, but what happens when they meet a human baby? Does your dog lick the baby’s face? Do they calm down and act interested in the baby?
Many people have noticed that dogs, while they can be a little hesitant toward other human adults, they are generally more gentle and less nervous around human babies. It may even look like there is a special bond between the two!
So, why are dogs gentle with babies?
Dogs can be gentle with babies because they can sense that babies are harmless and vulnerable, so they will act protective. Dogs will also mimic their owners and act in a parental way toward the baby. Dogs that were raised or lived most of their life around babies will also be more gentle.
These are only a few of the many reasons why dogs are gentle with babies. Let’s explore these reasons along with a few more to better understand why some dogs seem to know to be gentle with babies.
How Do Dogs Know To Be Gentle With Babies?
It’s important to note that not all dogs will have a gentle predisposition towards babies, some can even act out because they feel jealous. That’s why it’s important to prepare your pooch for the arrival of your baby and teach them from the very beginning to be gentle around the little human.
Of course, some dogs are more “natural” when it comes to parenting your baby, so let’s see why some dogs can be gentle with babies!
Reason 1: Dogs Want To Protect Their Pack
If your dog has been a part of your family for a while, they most likely consider you a part of their pack. Everyone they live with might be considered a member of their pack as well!
Some dogs might know to be gentle with babies because they want to protect their pack.
Dogs are descendants of wolves. Wolves are natural pack animals and are protective of those that are a part of their pack. Your dog is a part of your family and they see you as a part of their pack. Your dog might see the baby as a member of the pack and your dog might feel protective and more gentle toward them.
Interestingly, being protective of family members is not the only sign that dogs still have their wolf instincts. Dog owners might also notice that their dogs do other things relating to staying near their owners such as laying on them.
Reason 2: Babies Are Harmless
House dogs, are not violent for no reason, especially towards humans. If you’re not bothering a dog. they will usually not bother you back.
Dogs might notice that human babies are not aggressive and are generally very helpless. Realizing that babies are harmless could be the reason why your pooch is gentle with babies.
Dogs are also very good at reading body language. If the baby is not being aggressive towards them, they will not see them as a threat and will let their own guard down. Even the biggest dogs can be gentle with babies because they do not see them as a threat. Babies are also small and look like they are not strong enough to be a threat. Your dog and baby might even become best friends!
However, it is important to be careful when an energetic pup meets a little baby. The pup might not realize their own strength and might accidentally bother the baby!
Check out this video of a German shepherd playing with a baby:
Reason 3: Some Dogs Have A Motherly Instinct
If you have a female dog that has had puppies in the past, they could act like a natural mother!
When a mother dog gives birth to puppies, she gives the puppies all of her care and attention. She makes sure to meet all their needs. It can be amazing to see a mother pup take care of her puppies in such a caring manner and they can remind us that mothers in many different species show similar love to their offspring!
If your pup had puppies in the past, you may want to observe her and see if she is doing things similar to what she did with her puppies. If she is acting similar to how she was when she raised her pups, it is likely that she is using her motherly instincts on the baby as well.
Don’t forget that dogs watch for our body language. If your female dog thinks that your baby is like a puppy, their maternal instincts could kick in.
Watch this short heartwarming clip of an older dog showing motherly instincts and tucking a baby in:
Reason 4: Babies Smell Different
If you have ever held a baby, you probably noticed that babies have a specific scent compared to others. So, it’s quite possible that dogs are gentle with babies because babies have a different scent.
Dogs have a very strong sense of smell. They can smell over 1,000 times better than humans! Their sense of smell is their way of navigating through the world and exploring new things.
When a dog smells a newborn, they realize that they are more than just a small human. Their sense of smell can tell them that babies are the offspring of another animal and that they should be gentle with the baby.
The scent of every person is different, so a dog smelling a baby is their way of familiarizing themselves with the baby and learning that the baby is harmless and should be handled gently.
Reason 5: Dogs Have Emotional Intelligence
While our dogs can show their goofy side many times throughout the day, they are a lot smarter than they seem!
Dogs might know to be gentle with babies because they have emotional intelligence.
According to Dr. Coren, a canine psychologist, dogs have mental abilities similar to human kids of around 2 to 2.5 years old. Behaviorists and researchers hypothesize that dogs might be able to feel emotions such as happiness, fear, sadness, and anger. However, it is uncertain whether dogs can feel these emotions and more complex emotions and feelings such as empathy.
It is also thought that dogs are able to sense their owners’ emotions. They can use a mix of observing their owner’s body language and sounds to determine how their owner feels.
Dogs might notice that grown humans are treating a baby with more care and are calmer around the baby. They might be able to tell that their owners are happier when they are being more gentle with the baby and will continue to do so to keep both the baby and their owner happy.
Reason 6: Dogs Mimic Their Owners
Dogs can copy their owners’ actions in different ways. While there are many funny videos online of dogs mimicking their owners who have an injured leg by limping, dogs might also cross their paws when seeing their owner or other people crossing their legs.
In the same manner, they can see that their owner acts overly protective and gentle towards the new little human, and so they will adapt the same behavior.
Reason 7: Some Dogs Are Used To Being Around Babies
When a dog grows up around babies and children and is used to the routine of having one around, then a new baby in their life might just be the norm!
Some dogs may be gentle with babies because they have been around and are used to being around babies. According to a study from Oregon State University, dogs seem to get along with children so much so that they seem to get in sync with kids much better than they do with adults.
Since a family dog can easily synchronize their behavior to a child or baby of that family then it can be a great explanation as to why your pooch is gentle with your baby.
Being desensitized to children also helps, since babies can be loud and unpredictable in the eyes of a dog. If a dog is constantly exposed to the cries, laughs, and tantrums of a baby, then a new addition to the family is less likely to stress them out or surprise them.
Reason 8: It Can Depend On Their Breed
Dogs have been bred for many different purposes. They each have a job that they were meant to do. Sometimes those instincts kick in at what may seem like random times.
Dogs might be gentle with babies because it is a characteristic of their breed. While it is not a specific instinct to be gentle with babies, some dog breeds have instincts that might translate to being gentle with babies.
Herding dogs such as border collies, Australian shepherds, and Australian cattle dogs were bred to help with herding. While many herding dogs today are not being used for herding, they still have the instinct to herd.
If you have a dog with herding background, you might also notice that they have high levels of energy. They might use that energy to herd kids in the house and be gentle with them as if they were sheep as a way to release their instinct to herd.
Guard dogs such as German shepherds, Rottweilers, and Dobermann pinschers were bred to guard buildings and families. These dogs can still show their instincts to be guard dogs by being protective of their families. They may be gentle with the babies in the family because they realize that they are a new member of the family and should also be protected.
Different dogs have different instincts. There are many ways in which their instincts can translate into being gentle with babies.
But no matter what breed your pooch is, preparing your dog for the baby’s arrival, by training them will help their stress levels and most importantly it will help them reveal their gentle side toward your newborn.
Dogs are amazing creatures and are a lot smarter than people think. They know when to be cautious and when to be a little more gentle just like when they are with babies. Dogs can also show signs of emotional intelligence.
Observing dogs’ behaviors is one way of better understanding and communicating with them. While many of the actions our own dogs do may seem strange or for no reason, there is always a purpose behind their actions. Dogs can do the unexpected such as holding an egg without breaking it or being more gentle with babies!