There’s nothing more “aw” than seeing a baby and puppy cuddling, and I know this because I can spend hours watching videos of doggy-baby friendships. Your heart can’t help but melt when you see the two most adorable creatures on earth come together, but if it is your own pet or baby, safety should always be a priority. Even the calmest dogs can get anxious around the unpredictable behavior of a baby, so it’s important to pay close attention to the subtle signs that your dog is stressed out by your baby.
Every dog is different, and depending on the breed and their training, they will react differently in unpredictable situations, but there are certain behaviors that you can look for. Professional dog trainer and owner of D'Andrea Professional Dog Services, Frank D'Andrea, tells Romper that it’s really important to carefully watch the interactions between your baby and your dog, especially if it’s a puppy, because if your child injures the pup accidentally, he may respond by lashing out or biting. With older dogs, D’Andrea suggested trying gradual socialization and showing kindness so that your dog's interaction with your baby becomes second nature.
In the meantime, if your baby and pup are having a playdate, keep an eye out for these signs that could tell you that your dog needs some space.
1. They're Giving You Some Serious Whale Eye
Whale eye is like a dog’s version of side-eye, and it’s a sign that your dog is beginning to freak out a little. Dog Training Excellence explained that when your dog is afraid or feels threatened, he may turn his head away while his eyes stay on you. You’ll also notice the white of his eyes are more prevalent, which is why it is called whale eye.
2. They're Flicking Their Tongue
If you see your dog excessively flicking his tongue or licking his lips while playing with your baby and there’s no food around, it may be a sign that he is feeling uncomfortable, explained K9 Aggression, and it might be time to give him some space.
3. They're Shedding
If you notice that your dog is shedding more than usual, it may mean they are feeling anxious, noted VCA Hospitals, so use that as an indicator that your pup needs some time and space to relax.
4. They're Avoiding The Situation
Babies will naturally want to stick their fingers in your dog’s eyes, ears, or mouth, but if your dog feels uncomfortable he might try to avoid the child altogether. VCA Hospitals explained that when your dog is stressed or in fear, he may exhibit avoidance behaviors by focusing on something else, sniffing the ground, licking themselves, or just turning away and ignoring the situation. Some dogs, the article noted, may even try to hide or escape to get out of the stressful situation. If you see your dog exhibiting this displacement behavior, it’s a good idea to cut your playdates short.
5. They're Nervous Pacing
When humans are anxious, they pace, and dogs are no different. While playing with your baby, if you notice your dog pacing back-and-forth or in a circle, Wag Walking explained that it could be a sign that your dog is anxious or agitated and they are pacing in order to relieve their anxiety.
6. They're Panting Heavily
Dogs often pant, but it can also be a sign of stress. Healthy Pets explained that sometimes dogs who are stressed out, either physically or by noise, will exhibit “behavioral panting” as a sign of their discomfort. The article noted that when your dog pants due to stress, their breaths will be faster and shallower than usual.
7. They're Yawning, But Not Sleepy
It may look like he’s tired, but if he’s around your baby, yawning may be a sign that your dog is stressed. VCA Hospitals noted that unlike their sleepy yawns, a dog’s stress yawn is more prolonged and intense, and they can be accompanied by drool as well.
8. They're Super Alert
If you see your dog’s ears prop up, while his body gets tight or tense, it may be a sign of anxiety, explained Care 2. This stress can also be vocalized with a growl, bark, or whimper, and you may even see his mouth tensed shut in preparation to snap or bite. Pay attention to your dog’s body language, and if it looks more tense than usual, or if he is standing with one paw off the ground, it may indicate he is too stressed to be around the baby.
9. They Can't Hold Their Pee
In stressful situations, your dog might end up peeing in small amounts, noted Vet Info. Often, unexpected noises or the presence of a new baby can cause this “stress incontinence" because dogs aren’t able to control their bladder muscles when they are stressed.
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