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Is Your Dog Really “Protective” of Your Baby?

November 24, 2014

 Is Your Dog Really “Protective” of Your Baby?

Even though I'm deeply immersed in the world of motherhood, I find it almost impossible to take off my dog trainer goggles.  That means that I’m seeing the interactions of dogs and babies through a lens that doesn't always lend itself to “cute”, or “sweet”.  In fact, for some reason, the cuter the behaviour seems to the average mom or  parent, the scarier it often is to me!

Of all the phrases I hear the one that crops up the most often is “he’s really protective of my baby”.  Most moms feel a twinge of pride in fact.  They love that their dog seems so engaged with the baby and they feel reassured by the fact that the dog isn’t going to let any ol’ stranger near that precious bundle.  It makes PERFECT sense that moms would want that! After all, who better to look after your fragile little babe than a loyal bestie armed with sharp teeth? The real problem is that what  most moms see as “protective” behaviour can actually be a demonstration of insecurity around the baby, or in worse cases, a demonstration of aggression.  It’s worth a look at some behaviours that may be misinterpreted as “protective” or “affectionate” so that moms don’t find themselves with a problem down the road!

My dog loves licking my baby.

This is often seen as a sign of affection.  How could a dog not absolutely love something if he’s constantly trying to kiss it after all? What you may not realize is that excessive licking can often be a sign of anxiety.  You know how sometimes when you get nervous, you bite your nails? Dogs are known to soothe themselves as well using “pacifying” behaviours.  If the licking goes beyond the occasional greeting or an attempt to slurp up that milk you missed earlier then it’s worth interrupting.  You may need to consider that your dog isn’t as comfortable with the baby as you first thought.

My dog always wants to know where my baby is.

Have you ever been in the same room (or the same vicinity) with something that you’re scared of? Sometimes when I go camping I’ll hear strange noises in the bushes and you know what? I can’t take my eyes off the bushes.  For people that I’ve spoken to that have serious phobias of dogs, snakes, cats, etc, they will often say they feel ok as long as they can SEE the scary thing.  While it may seem like your dog just can’t get enough of your baby’s company it could be that he just doesn’t want to let that scary thing out of his sight! If you’re seeing a lot of pacing, scanning the room, and constant checking in it might be time to speak to a professional.

My dog barks at people that try to come near my baby because he loves her.

Dogs love their stuff.  They love their bones, their beds, their toys, and even their owners!  That’s not a problem in and of itself.  It becomes a problem when they no longer want to share their stuff with you.  Have you ever stopped to think about that fact that when your dog is “protecting” your baby from others that he may actually be guarding your baby as a highly valued resource? Yikes.  The last thing I want is my dog to view my baby as one of his prized possessions.  There are reams and reams of videos and photos on the internet that depict images of dogs guarding babies, and they truly make the hair on my neck stand up when I see them.  If this is something you’re noticing, speak to a professional immediately.  It’s not worth the risk.

I always feel a twinge when I write these types of blogs because I don’t want the dog and baby experience (which is most often lovely and special) to seem like it’s nothing but doom and gloom.  My feeling is that it’s always better to KNOW and educate ourselves so that we can avoid the scary headlines.  While we love our dogs to pieces, we’re not doing them any favours by misunderstanding what they’re actually trying to say to us.  If my baby was even half as scary to my dog as he was to me when he first arrived then I can’t imagine how difficult that transition must have been…it’s my job to help make it easier:)

Written By

Danielle Hodges, CPDT-KA

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