Many dogs see infants as strange, unfamiliar creatures that are all of a sudden the center of attention. The new paradigm, including unfamiliar smells, sounds and actions that come with an infant, can be disconcerting to your dog. The change can make him behave in strange and unusual ways. He may jump, bark, whine, chase his tail or become aggressive -- growling, snarling or snapping. Your understanding and patience are vital to ensuring that your pup learns to develop a tolerant relationship with the infants he comes in contact with.
Sounds and Smells
Infants introduce all kinds of new and sometimes enticing smells to a dog's world. Their sounds and movements, too, are attractive to dogs, who can become energetically curious about what’s going on. Your dog may investigate the unfamiliar through attempts at smell, touch and vocalization and may express his enthusiasm and excitement by going crazy in the presence of an infant. An infant that responds with increased sounds or movement may only exacerbate the situation and continue the cycle.
Stress and Jealousy
Infants must be attended to continuously by adult humans, and this focus of attention on a newborn can incite jealousy and anxiety in dogs. This is especially likely if the infant is introduced as a permanent member of the family into a home that was previously dog-centered. Your pup may attempt to win your attention back by radical or excitable behaviors such as jumping, barking or even reverting to puppy behaviors like eliminating indoors, chewing on inappropriate items and otherwise seeking your attention.
Even once your dog gets accustomed to the idea of a baby becoming part of your household or social circle, he may continue to be excitable around the baby as a potential playmate. As they grow and develop, infants create a variety of new sounds; they become physically active, waving toys, throwing food and otherwise engage in behaviors that a dog might view as playful and inviting. Hearing a high squeal or the rattle of a toy may be enough to trigger your pup’s play instinct and encourage excitable behavior.
Keep Dog and Baby Safe
Parents and pet owners can safely and happily integrate dogs and babies into the same household by taking a few precautions. Never leave a dog -- even the most kind and gentle-natured pup -- alone with an infant. Supervise dogs and babies at all times. Never allow a dog to jump on or lick a small baby or a child, as there is the potential for a baby to be hurt by a dog or for a dog to be injured by a baby’s tactile curiosity. Give private, baby-free attention to your dog often to avoid any feelings of jealousy. Exercise and play with your dog often, and ask guests and other family members to do the same. If a dog becomes overly aggressive around an infant, separate them immediately.
Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.