22 answers

Getting Dog to Accept Baby into the Family

Please help me! Our dog, a Labrador retriever, had always coexisted fine with our son, Nathan. We introduced him to him when we brought him home and let him smell the baby. For a while he was curious about Nathan and eventually pretty much ignored him. But, now our son is almost 9 months old and recently started crawling. Since he became mobile, the dog hasn't wanted Nathan to touch him. For example, if the baby were to reach to touch the dog’s fur, the dog would back away almost as if he was afraid of the baby. I have tried to keep Nathan away from the dog since the dog was obviously unsure about it. Well, tonight the baby got too close for comfort and when he grabbed at the dog, the dog growled and snapped at the baby. Needless to say, we are all freaked out. My initial reaction was to think that we must get rid of the dog right away. But, my husband thinks that he can be trained to understand that the baby is more dominant in the family. Can anyone share their experiences of what, if anything, has worked to help a dog understand their new place in the family? thanks alot for your help!

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So What Happened?™

Thank you so much for all the great suggestions (Besides the ones that suggested that I am a terrible mother for even considering keeping the dog). We have already started training the dog that he is not to be around the baby without permission. Other suggestions we plan to use are holding the dog down in a submissive position and allowing the baby to touch him, holding the baby while we feed the dog, and taking walks with the baby walking ahead of the dog. In the past when we take walks my husband and the dog have walked ahead of me and the baby. We never thought twice about this conveying the order of the pack to the dog. Thanks for the good pieces of advice!

More Answers

If the dog thinks he is "boss" (alpha), you cannot get him to change his behavior. You have to establish yourself as the alpha in the pack.

You might want to consider, therefore, any time the dog tries to assert his dominance, pushing his shoulders to the floor and pinning him on the floor until he licks his lips. This is a way of communicating to him that you, not he, is the alpha, and that he needs to submit to you. When he licks his lips, he is indicating that he is willing to concede that you are the alpha and is willing to submit to you.

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hello sara, I actually just got through with this stage with our 2 bigs dogs, one is a lab/rautwiler (spelling?) and the other is a big mix of other dogs. but they are both big dogs and for so long I was so worried about our now 17 month old daughter and them, our oldest dog is about 7ish so he is kind of an onry old man and trained to be a watch dog from the getgo, the other we had for about two years before we had our daughter. So I know what you are going through and it is very good to be cautious, and if the dog is part of the family like ours are it is hard to think about givng them away, but is what we did is of course we never let Kayla (our daughter) climb on the dogs and when she would get close to the dogs one of us would get down there with her and pet the dog so that they would understand that it is ok. you don't want to shoo the dog away because then they are being replaced and they will never get used to your children. an I must say when she was crawling was the worst time because she is little and kind of a foriegn object/prey like to the dogs. We also had a problem with the oldest dog growling as he walked away from Kayla when this would happen I would disiplin Thor and let him know that it was not tollorable. When she started walking things got much better and easier because she looked and acted more like a human being and now she is part of the 'pack'. Thor our oldest dog is still a grumpy old man but he knows that she is here to stay and one of us. We actually had a problem with our old niegbors dog and our youngest dog Rily, the little dog came barking toward my MIL and Kayla while on a walk, and needless to say we ended up paying a vet bill for a deceased dog =/. So your dog will eventually get it but I wouldn't trust him until he does understand. It took me until about 3-4 months ago before I started trusting my dogs with my daughter but now I know there is not a worry, although when you start having other children come over keep an eye on them and the dog because he may not like the OTHER children to touch him. O sorry for the long response but when Kayla was in her high chair eating and she would feed the dogs a little as it fell on the floor and of course her finger foods when she was done with them, I think that it also helped because they are not going to bite the hands that feeds them, right? good luck and I promise if you have patience there is a light at the end of the tunnel.=)

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Hi S., We successfully introduced two children to our family dog. I was told that you need to teach your dog that they are the lowest member of the pack (family). As long as they know they are loved they won't mind moving to the lowest member. One suggestion I remember and it sounds really silly, but worked was to have your child play in the dog food before the dog eats. Now, I did not want to teach my son to play in the dog food so I would hold him in my arms and he sort of "danced" with his feet in the dry dog food while our dog had to sit and wait until our son was done. I know it sounds silly! We made the mistake though of not setting limits with our son and the dog. When our son was able to walk, he would try and jump on the dog and that just wasn't fair to the dog. Even though our daughter is only six months we have started to tell her to be gentle with the dog.
I am glad we put the effort in- our son is in love with his doggie! I would even say they are best friends1

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You need to make sure that your dog knows who's boss, it sounds like he thinks he is the alpha dog in your home, the fact that you say that he is protective of you and your husband is acctually a very bad trait. Anytime he even looks at your baby funny you need to instantly punish him in wahtever way you deem best, a stern word or even physical punishment is useful in teaching him that he is never allowed to harm the baby. When he is not acting scared or aggressive to the baby and they are co-exisitng in the room peacefully, reward your dog with kind words and treats. Behavior modification for dogs is really simple. Oh, and if he does seems scared of the baby, the WORST thing you can do is try to comfort the dog, then you are teaching him that he is right to be fearful and fear will quickly turn into aggressivness.

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Put the dog into a submissive pose....lying on his back or side, take your baby over to the dog, and while you are there, have your baby climb on, the touch, and dominate the dog. YOu will have to do this often, to make your dog understand that he is supposed to let the baby touch him. jUst like potty training, and obedience training, it takes a lot of repetion. Also, whe nthe baby gets a lottle bit bigger, let him help you feed the dog.

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Scroll down to "Dogs and babies - preventing dogs from biting babies"

It tells how to get the dog to know the baby is dominant. This is a website from a professional dog trainer. Right now, he would tell you to crate your dog whenever the baby is around. You should freak out if he is growling, because the next step is to bite. Our dog growled at, then started barking, and then bit our toddler 3 times. We got rid of the dog, before waiting for a more severe bite. It only takes one second for a dog to bite a baby, and they usually go for the face or neck if they do bite, and they can easily bite the eye out.

BE CAREFUL!!!! My dog bit my toddler right in front of my both times! First on her hand, then on her mouth. The 2nd bite was unprovoked!



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I know this sounds silly, but I highly recommend you watch "The Dog Whisperer" on The National Geographic channel. I have seen him solve this problem easily and safely many times. In short, you and your husband need to become the dominant ones. Always walk the dog with him along side and slightly behind you and do this if you can, while walking the Stroller and baby so the baby becomes more dominant as well. I think it is too soon to be getting rid of the dog. The baby probably makes him nervous and you can really change that for him. Best of Luck!


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I agree that you need to watch them closely. I agree that you need to use dominance skills to make sure doggy knows your boss (I've used the strategy of looking down, straight into his eyes, close proximity - its another sign of dominance).

I'm surprised nobody mentioned kennel training. If he isn't already, kennel train your dog right away. (The kennel is a dog crate big enough to be comfortable for the dog, that you can close him in.) Then put is food and bed in the kennel and make sure it is off-limits to your little boy. Dogs get most aggressive over food and bed, so this helps avoid probalems. If the dog wants to get away, he will know that he can go to his kennel. If he misbehaves, he also is sent to the kennel. Contact the human society about info for kennel training - I believe I got the info from there (or maybe a local animal shelter).

But do make sure that you always watch dog and son when they're in the same room.

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Obviously, you need to keep a very close eye on everyone and do what's best for your family, but I think that shelters are full of pets waiting to be euthanized because they were thrown away by people who were not willing to make a strategy. I suggest you talk with your vet. When I was pregnant with our first son (now we have three) we had a Great Dane (who has since passed away) who was really our first child. I worried a lot about jealousy issues and such, and our vet gave me the best suggestion. He said I should give the dog treats while I was standing and holding the baby. I should even ask the dog to go through his commands (sit, shake, etc.) while holding the baby higher than the dog and also give him treats for following commands. This would make my dominance transfer to the baby, so the dog would understand that even though the baby was a smaller, more recent addition, he "outranked" the dog, and the dog was expected to be OK with that. He said endless reasurrance of the dog when there was a moment of tension would only reinforce any inappropriate grumpiness. Also, if you hold the baby and give the dog treats, he can associate being near the baby with happy things and not be so tense.
If there's any sign of food agression, you can try feeding the dog with his dish in your lap and the baby in your arms and giving him one or to crunchies at a time, so he understands that it's OK for his dominant people to mess with his food, and he will still get fed without being agressive and protective of his dish. My babies have enjoyed giving the pets treats (supervised, of course); their first chore is to learn to scoop crunchies into a dish for the pets. I think it's good for everyone. My Dane understood pretty quick that the toddler was in charge of his dinner, so he was a friend. Between that and all the yummy things spilling off the high chair, the children and dog have had a great relationship.
Be aware of any physical problems to make sure the baby does not really hurt the dog, even unintentionally. Does your dog have arthritis or some other health problem? I'm not excusing the snapping, it's just important to be fair because a hurting dog is always going to be a grumpy, unpredictable dog regardless of training or socialization. Also, is your dog getting enough exercise? Going for a nice long walk with your baby in a sling or stroller might also give him a positive association and reduce any resentment about lost attention and outings. A tired dog is a good dog. If you consult with your vet and/or a reliable trainer and things are still touchy, then it would be time to consider if your dog has genuine temperament problems. But I really believe there's an oppotunity to settle everyone in safely if you keep an eagle eye and are consistent.
Good luck!

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Hi S., we introduced our new babies to our dog long after they were home. We kept the dog away to show the dog that she was second. Then when they got a little older (a couple months) we forced our dog to submission to allow the baby to touch her. She had a hard time with the baby touching behind her, past the mid-back so we encourage the baby to pet the head and face of the dog. It took mediation when the baby and dog had an encounter but it didn't take long for the dog to learn she was the bottom of the Alpha order. She is now wonderful with our kids and great with stranger kids (kids at a park always want to pet the dog). Your dog is behaving normal. He/She believes this "intruder" is below him/her and therefore letting your baby know their place.

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It is too risky to keep a dog who is aggressive to your baby - one bite and it will be too late.

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First step is to always make your dogs experience with your child positive. For instance your child only have contact with your dog when you are in control of the situation. Your child should never be able to pull, pinch, or poke your dog. I have 2 dogs(labrador retreiver and border collie x) and 2 kids(19 month old and 4yr old). My 19 month old loves to touch the labs face and feet and bless his heart he is ok with that. The border collie x is less tolerant. I would do it in baby steps:
1-take about a week and have your child offer treats in situations where you can keep it positive. Lots of praise!
2-the next week work having your dog sit or lay down, have your child pet nicely and then finish with a treat. Praise!
3-very important to be teaching your child to respect your dog.
4-Once you see trust building between your dog and child and you think your child is old enough to work on commands with your dog or even help put his food in his bowl that will help with the "pack" dominance your husband referred to.

My 4 yr old gets our labs food bowl and he has to sit and wait until she puts it down and says ok.

Your dog is still pretty young and my guess is you just need to do some basic groundwork to build some trust. Kids are often not very gentle with dogs and dogs aren't people, they react as they know how to. I am sure if you show your dog positive experiences coincide with your son it will get better. I think my dog was ok as long as either of my girls were not mobile. It adds another dimension when they can be approached at any time from such an unstable being. Good luck-I hope it helps.

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We have 2 dogs. One loves our son and the other wants nothing to do with him. The Boulder Human Society has great trainers that can come to your house and help you. I highly recommend them. The most important thing is to give your dog a safe zone. A place where he can still be around the family but he knows the baby isn't going to crawl over. You might need to use some sort of play yard system until you son is old enough to understand that if the dog is in "his spot" then he must leave the dog alone. The most important thing is to respect the dogs space and keep the baby away. The dog is showing signs of being uncomfortable and the only way to help is to put the dog at ease.

I can't tell you what to do with a dog, but what we did with our cats is rub baby oil onto the tops of their heads. They had to smell the baby smell on them which made them get used to our kids. Now they are so very patient and tolerant of our kids.

Love dogs. Love kids.
My mom's 5 yr old dog, who was always sweet, around a lot of kids, did not like my baby. I was always worried around her because she had snapped at her a couple of times but we kept them apart. When my daughter was 10 months, I took her out of her high chair (at my Mom's ) and sat her on the floor while I took the tray to the sink and the dog bit a huge chunk out of her cheek. It was a nightmare week in the hospital. My point is this: If there is ANY, ANY chance AT ALL the dog does not like the baby-GET RID OF THE DOG. Why would you take this chance and live nervously, you can't be between them every second, especially when your baby is mobile!
How is the dog going to be trained to know the baby is "more dominant"?
Trying to spare anyone of what we went through. My daughter is scarred for life.

Frist of all, if there is a chance this dog could hurt your baby, find the dog a new home. Secondly, try giving the dog praise when you are holding the baby. Make sure the baby is always taller than the dog. Give the dog treats, when you are holding the baby. Do positive things with the dog when the baby is with you so the dog sees the baby as a positve thing and not negative. I would also try contacting a trainer and discussing this. It may be that the baby was at eye level with the dog and so he/she say the baby as being agressive. Call a trainer and get the dog some training. Also, when you explain the situation and when the trainer sees the dog with the baby she/he will be able to tell you if they think the dog will be agressive to he baby. Good luck!

Your initial reaction was correct -- you need to get rid of the dog, now!

Hi S.! I know this is a really tough one, and I don't mean to be a downer, but my son was attacked by my brother's dog and as a family it changed our perspctive on life in general. He was playing with the dog and we were commenting on how great he was doing with our son and then a minute later he turned and had our 2 year old pinned to the floor biting his face. It was one of the sacriest and most unexpected moments in my life. The thing we all forget is that they are animals with animal insticts. They can be unpredictable no matter how they are trained. We now have 4 kids and 2 golden retrievers. I trust our dogs with our kids because we got them as puppies so they're used to being sat on and having ears pulled, but I still have flashbacks and still get nervous at times. No one can tell you what to do, but after my experience no animal is worth the life of my child. My brother and sister in law had a 1yr old at the time of the attack and they imediately dissmissed the dog from their family. It was very sad, but had to be done. May the Lord give you wisdom! Aj

I don't agree with most people's replies here. I have 2 dogs and 2 cats and have had them way before my son. When my son started getting mobile he would pinch the dogs and the cats with his little fists and of course the animals would let him know that it hurt with a little sound. When he would go up to the animals I would be right there and try to teach him to be nice but if the animals felt hurt them I would tell them to move, if my son pinched them I would say "Git" and they would get up and go. Teaching the animals that if he comes and hurts them to get up and move. The animals have been taught from day one in my house that I am the boss, they move out of MY way, among other dominance training. I know animals and children can co-exist, I have no fear of my animals hurting my son (or anyone elses) because they know they are not dominant and are not trying to be dominant in my house.
On the other hand if your dog runs your house and is the dominant animal then a personal trainer would be my advice. Don't just resort to the easiest option of getting rid of the dog. Try for the sake of the whole family to train him and baby that respect for each other is above all.

I hate to break it to you but as your son gets older the rowdiness towards your dog will get worse not better.
Your son will be able to chase him, grab him more, take away the dog toys and it is just natural for young kids to be curious about a pet.

***WEIRD, after replying first to this post, the woman I babysit for called to say her son will be late as he is 3 and thier pug bit him in the face. He had to go get stitches and be on antibiotics! This happened last night! So it won't get better if the dog has these tendancies. She said the dog never liked the little boy much and would growl but last night when he went to pick her up, she flipped around and bit him on the cheek right below his eye......that is so wild to get this call right after I posted a reply. Thankfully the dog missed the little boy's eye.

I was super worried about our older dog. We had a 13 year old dog (she has since passed) that had arthritis, she did not ever growl at either of my kids, she was patient and if they annoyed her she just went in another room. That is what a dog should do.

If he snapped, the chances are your son is going to get bit at some point unless you lock the dog up when your son is on the floor.
You don't want to have to confine your dog either as it wouldn't be fair, he would see the baby as a reason he is being punished. Some dogs just are not baby material even if they are the best dogs in the world. Pulling on your dogs ears, grabbing his paws are ways to get him used to what is to come, submissive play so it is called. You can try and do things he isn't used to, not hurting but what a child would do to see how he acts even with you doing this.

Labs are very family oriented so I am a little surprised at his behavior, typically their breed is very happy go lucky.
Call your local humane societies and even trainers, talk to them about the situation. They can gauge whether this behavior is something that can change.

You have to show your son how to interact with a pet and be gentle, get the dog comfortable but I would really be worried that the dog has already snapped and growled.
Good luck, I hope it all works out where you can keep your dog.

Get rid of the dog. It's hard to see from where you are right now, but it's a dog versus your child. Your primary role as mom is to provide a loving and SAFE envorinment for your children to grow. It's not really fair for the dog either. You expect them to resign their position as Alpha to this newcomer?

The stakes are too high and you'd never forgive yourself if something happened.

Hi S., I'm an animal communicator and I know of a company in Niwot that makes flower essence remedies for pets. The web address is PegasusProducts.com. Look for the animal elixirs part. These remedies are magical in critters. The ones I'd suggest are boundaries and jealousy. New patterns might make sense too. Animals are as sensitive as we are so helping the pooch will soften everybodys fear right now. Your dog will feel completely left out of the family until this situation is cleared up. Good luck. J.

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