Why Do Dogs Protect Babies? (Guarding & Defending Behavior)

why do dogs protect babies

We share an amazing bond with man’s best friend. Their loyalty, devotion, and love of being close to us results in a friendship that really is without comparison. In fact, so close is the bond, that some pet owners report that their dogs protect babies.

In fact, there have been multiple media reports down the years where dogs defended and guarded babies. It sounds like it could be something that comes naturally to them.

I decided to look into it a bit deeper, starting off with the initial question over why dogs protect babies, followed by a more detailed analysis.

Why do dogs protect babies? Dogs will often protect human babies due to the bond they have developed with the family. Dogs have a pack mentality behavior as well as some herding instincts. This can mean they guard and defend human babies in the pack.

But it’s not always the case, and not all dogs will naturally defend babies in your family home. In fact, there are frequent cases where dogs will become jealous of human babies and can sometimes even kill them – do not leave your baby alone with a dog.

However, many dogs will show an adorable instinct to protect your baby, so let’s take a closer look at why that could be.

dogs protecting babies
Dogs can be very protective to babies if they believe the child to be part of their pack.

Why do dogs protect human babies?

Humans and dogs have an amazing bond. Scientists have found that by us being with them, our bodies will release the hormones serotonin and dopamine, both of which are associated with feeling relaxed and a positive mood.

We trust dogs, and dogs trust us.

And there are also instinctive elements of their behavior which accounts to why dogs protect babies (in some cases).

This includes elements such as:

  • Dogs have a pack mentality: As you will already know, dog ancestors roamed around in packs. Domestics dogs still wish to identify with a pack today, but instead of other dogs, we humans are their family pack. When a new baby arrives, it can be a defenceless part of the gang, so a dog’s instinct will be to protect it.
  • Dogs have herding instincts: Breeds such as sheepdogs can be very protective of human babies. It’s almost like they want to herd and protect them into a safe space, but you should look out for any nipping behavior.
  • Dogs mimic our behavior: People are happy when new babies arrive so it could be that the dog sees the baby as something valuable that needs cherishing and protecting.

Many dogs are very adaptive to newcomers to our families. So, when the new baby arrives in the home and introductions are carried out with care, this little human becomes another source of curiosity, attention, and food!

Just as our dogs are likely to protect us, the baby can quickly become another person that our four-legged friends take under their wing. However, this doesn’t mean that dogs can smell family members as I recently discovered.

Why are dogs protective of human babies
Please don’t assume your dog will be protective of your child though – he might be jealous. (Image licensed via Storyblocks.com)

Why do some dogs protect babies but others not?

Many dogs do like babies, but that’s not always the case.

For those dogs that do, that affection probably comes from all the positive experiences they have around the new-born.

If you think about it, when the baby first arrives, everyone is happy and celebrating this new life. And those associations rub off on our dogs, so that means baby equals happy people. It’s no surprise that many of our dogs like to be around this happiness inspiring creature!

Handy Hint: There’s some debate on whether dogs even understand what human babies are, here’s what I think.

For dogs who find the new arrival more challenging to cope with, it might be that they are already a little suspicious of new things.

Think of how a baby changes everything in the home, new routines, weird-smelling things, both baby and all their cleaning products, and then those new noises.

Some dogs may have never heard a baby scream before, and with their sensitive hearing, it can be a bit of a shock to the system for them.

Happily, most dogs do soon get used to this little human being in their home, along with all their weird smells and noises, but we can also help to prepare them for this new way of life.

News reports of dogs protecting babies

When researching why are dogs protective of human babies I found lots of examples where it has been the case. Whilst I can’t say it always comes naturally to them, there are plenty of times when they have shown it to be the case.

For example, one of the more recent reports I found of dogs protecting babies was an article on DogTime.com. It recounts a case where a couple’s dog alerted them to their babysitter being abusive to their child.

The reports states:

“Whenever Khan entered the Jordan’s house, Killian would growl and stand between her and little Finn, seemingly defending the baby from his babysitter. Benjamin believes if it weren’t for Killian, Finn might have lost his young life at the hands of his violent babysitter.”

On the popular People.com website there was a story about a Pit Bull dog protecting a baby of toddler age.

“A loyal pit bull is being hailed a hero for protecting his lost owner until rescuers showed up. Buddy the dog stood on guard and helped police locate a missing 3-year-old boy who had wandered off into the woods on Tuesday, according to the Suwannee County Sheriff’s Office.”

There was also an account where a dog defended a baby from a rattlesnake. As you will have guessed, dogs can die from rattlesnake bites. That didn’t put this guy of though according to a report on this Salt Lake City news website.

“The Deluca family rescued Haus the German Shepherd from a Florida animal shelter. Now, he’s returned the favor. The family is calling the recently adopted 2-year-old dog a hero after he saved their 7-year-old daughter, Molly, from a possible bite from a venomous Eastern Diamondback rattlesnake.”

Not all of these stories about dogs protecting human babies have complete happy endings though. In this account on ABC7 news, a dog made the ultimate sacrifice to save an 8-month-old baby’s life during a house fire.

“A beloved pet dog in Maryland made the ultimate sacrifice last August when it died shielding an 8-month-old girl from a raging house fire. Firefighters found the dog, Polo, lying on top of the baby to protect her from flames.”

Dogs can kill babies instead of protecting them

However, just because there have been accounts reported of dogs protecting babies, it doesn’t mean you should take it for granted that this will happen with your dog.

Every year there are news reports where dogs have attacked and maimed babies, sometimes even killing them. Here are just a few examples from just the month of October 2020.

“A newborn baby who was left in a critical condition after being savagely mauled by a dog has died in hospital. The baby, believed to have been just one-day-old, was rushed to hospital after being attacked by the animal at a home in the Hamilton suburb of Enderley on New Zealand’s north island on Sunday night.” As reported by MailOnline.

“Police in Virginia say a 2-month-old baby girl was been killed by a German shepherd. The newborn baby girl had been sleeping in an electronic swing. The 2-month-old had been fatally wounded by their mixed-breed German Shepherd dog, which was still milling around nearby.” As reported by the Toronto Sun.

“Witnesses to the dog attack which killed a 12-day-old baby in Doncaster said the animal was so powerful it needed three police officers to bring it under control. The boy was badly mauled by the family pet on Sunday afternoon and later died in hospital from his injuries.” As reported by The Independent.

Conclusion

Whilst there are multiple stories online about dogs protecting babies there are also reports every years of dog’s attacking, and sometimes even killing babies.

The main take out from any of this is that you should never completely trust a dog to be very near to, or alone with a baby.

Obviously, that will change as the child gets older. The two of them will become great friends once the child is taller and strong enough to defend themselves. Plus, the child should by then know not to tease the dog or play around with the dog’s toys or food and water dish.

You might also like…

Dogs exhibit the strangest of behaviors. Here’s some of what that could mean.

Image in header licensed via Storyblocks.com.

Marc Aaron

I write about the things I've learned about owning a dog, the adventures we have, and any advice and tips I've picked up along the way.

Recent Posts