Are Dogs Aware Of Human Babies?

Dogs have lived alongside humans for thousands of years, so it’s no surprise that they have developed an innate understanding of human behavior and emotions. As highly perceptive animals, dogs are surprisingly aware when there is a new baby in the house. Their keen senses allow them to detect subtle sounds, smells, and movements that alert them to an infant’s presence.

In this article, we will explore the evidence that dogs comprehend babies are infants and not just small humans. We’ll cover dogs’ reactions and behaviors around babies, including protectiveness, gentleness, and even jealousy. Understanding if and how dogs perceive babies can help owners know what to expect and how to manage the dog-baby relationship safely and positively.

Dogs’ Senses and Instincts

Dogs have a remarkably strong sense of smell, with up to 300 million scent receptors compared to humans’ 5 million. According to one study, their sense of smell is 10,000 to 100,000 times more acute than humans’ (source: This allows them to detect subtle changes in human scents that indicate pregnancy.

Some signs a dog can sense pregnancy before the owner knows include: becoming more alert or protective of the pregnant woman, sniffing or nuzzling the woman’s belly, following the woman more closely, or lying closer by her side. According to AKC, “there is some evidence to back this up. Mostly, though, this has to do with dogs’ keen senses of smell and hearing being able to pick up on changes — physical and emotional — in their human companions” (source:

While the evidence is largely anecdotal, many dog owners report noticeable behavior changes in their dogs as early as when the woman becomes pregnant or starts ovulating. Their advanced sense of smell allows them to detect hormones and other biochemical changes that indicate pregnancy before visible signs appear.

Dogs’ Reactions to Babies

Dogs often exhibit gentle and protective behaviors around human babies. Many dogs seem innately aware that babies are fragile and need to be handled with care. When a new baby is brought home, dogs usually approach cautiously and smell the baby all over. This allows them to gather information about the new, unfamiliar human. After the initial introduction, dogs will often remain close to monitor the baby, but not crowd them. They tend to move slowly and avoid sudden loud noises or jarring movements that could startle an infant.

According to the ASPCA, dogs can form strong connections with babies through constant contact and interaction. As babies become toddlers, dogs seem to understand the difference and adjust their play and behavior appropriately [1]. For example, dogs may bring a baby their favorite toy, but refrain from mouthing as they do when playing with adults. They tend to be very gentle with babies when taking treats or toys. Some dogs even mimic babies by crawling on the floor alongside them.

However, dogs that are not socialized properly can react to babies with fear or aggression. Careful supervision is always recommended when dogs and babies interact. Owners should watch for signs of jealousy, anxiety, or stress in their dogs and address any problematic behaviors right away through training. With proper introductions and ongoing positive training, dogs can develop wonderful bonds with human babies.

Protective Behaviors

Dogs have strong protective instincts, especially for vulnerable young puppies and human babies. According to the American Kennel Club, when a dog has a strong pack drive and is tightly bonded with his family, it’s only natural that he becomes protective of a new baby when he or she arrives (source).

Dogs may guard the baby by lying close by when the baby sleeps or following the baby as he or she crawls around the house. Some dogs become extra alert and reactive to noises or strangers approaching when a new baby is in the home, acting as an alert system to any potential danger (source).

While these protective behaviors demonstrate the dog’s acceptance of the baby as part of the family pack, it’s important for owners to provide proper training and supervision to ensure safety. Owners should reward calm, gentle behavior around the baby and correct any overzealous guarding or herding.

Being Gentle

Dogs seem to instinctively know to be gentle with babies, even if they have not been around infants before. According to Applaws, dogs are very aware of babies through their heightened senses of smell and hearing, and they pick up on the baby’s fragility ( They can smell the difference between adults and infants. Additionally, dogs read human body language and verbal cues that indicate how to properly interact with a baby. The AKC notes that with positive conditioning from their human owners, dogs learn to moderate their strength and be very gentle with infants.

Most normal, non-abused dogs that are gently introduced to infants have an innate understanding that babies are fragile and harmless. As PetHelpful explains, dogs seem to recognize the difference between a baby’s size and mannerisms versus those of older children and adults. Their protective instincts kick in, and they know to be calm and gentle, not rough or jumpy ( Of course, supervision is still critical, but dogs generally have an awareness to tread lightly around human babies.


Some dogs can exhibit jealous behaviors when a new baby arrives in the home. This is often because they are suddenly receiving less attention from their owners than they are accustomed to. Research shows that some dogs act out when they feel jealous of the amount of care and affection given to a new baby.

Dogs that are used to being the “center of attention” may start demanding more attention when a baby arrives by barking, whining or pushing the baby away. They may even act aggressively if they feel too neglected. It’s important for owners to make sure their dog still feels loved when a new baby joins the family.

Setting aside special one-on-one time for the dog, keeping up with their usual exercise and play routines, and showing affection while holding the baby can help prevent jealousy. Making sure the dog understands some basic commands like “place” to give them their own space can also be useful.

Training Considerations

With a baby entering the household, it’s important to start training dogs early to prepare them for this big change. Some key considerations are:

Getting your dog accustomed to baby sounds. Play recordings of babies crying, gurgling, etc. so these noises aren’t alarming later on. Give your dog treats and praise when they remain calm around the sounds.

Working on obedience training. Reinforce commands like “sit,” “stay,” and “leave it.” A well-trained dog will be easier to control around a baby.

Training your dog not to jump on you when holding the baby. Instead, teach them to sit calmly next to you to get attention.

Practicing walking on a leash. Take your dog on more walks to tire them out and make sure they don’t pull excessively on the leash.

Testing your dog around baby items. Let them check out a baby doll, stroller, etc. to get familiar with these new objects.


Safety Precautions

It’s crucial to supervise all interactions between dogs and babies. According to DogGoneSafe, “Never leave your dog alone with your baby…Your dog should not have access to the baby if you’re not right there to supervise.”

The AKC also advises, “Never leave your baby and dog alone together.” When supervising, stay close and watch for any signs of distress in the dog, such as stiffening, growling, or biting. Be ready to intervene immediately if the dog seems annoyed, scared, or overstimulated.

Additionally, avoid physically punishing or scolding the dog around the baby, as this can create negative associations. The key is positive reinforcement and providing plenty of exercise, stimulation, and rest for the dog when separated from the baby.

Benefits of Dogs and Babies

Having a dog can provide many benefits for babies and young children. Dogs can help babies learn important social skills through companionship and interaction. Studies show that babies who grow up with a dog tend to be more socially adept and have higher self-esteem.

The companionship of a dog provides constant interaction for babies and children. Dogs are always excited to engage in play and be by a child’s side [1]. This gives babies and children the opportunity to learn how to be gentle, read body language and cues, and develop empathy. The friendship and loyalty of a dog gives children a sense of responsibility and boosts their self-confidence.

Having a dog can also teach children about caring for others. Simple tasks like helping feed, brush and walk the dog allow kids to learn responsibility from an early age [2]. Taking care of a pet together strengthens the bond between children and dogs.

Additionally, studies show growing up with a dog may provide health benefits for babies and children, such as decreased risk of allergies and improved cardiovascular fitness [3]. The social support of a dog can also reduce stress and anxiety in children.


In summary, dogs have strong sensory abilities and instincts that allow them to detect and react to human babies. Their advanced sense of smell enables them to pick up on a baby’s scent, and their sharp hearing can detect a baby’s cries and noises. While dogs may not fully comprehend what a human baby is, they seem capable of modifying their behavior by acting gently and exhibiting protective tendencies.

Dogs often appear less excitable and calmer around human babies. They tend to play more gently by inhibiting their strength and mouthing behaviors. Many dogs also display guarding and nurturing instincts by staying close to babies and licking or comforting them. However, dogs still require training and supervision to interact safely with babies.

With proper precautions and preparation, there are many social and emotional benefits to growing up with a canine companion. Overall, dogs demonstrate an innate empathy and gentleness with babies, likely rooted in their pack instincts.

Scroll to Top