Dogs are friendly, loving creatures. Most dogs love most people. It's just a fact, right? But there are some dogs who seem to have an extra reserve of love in their hearts for a very special kind of human: babies.
If your dog is obsessed with babies and you've always wondered why, you've come to the right place. Here's everything you need to know about why some dogs are the biggest fans of the littlest humans.
Why do some dogs love babies?
There are a few things that could explain dogs' love for babies. The biggest factor might just be the same thing that made you connect with your best friend—they have a lot in common.
According to the American Kennel Club, part of the reason dogs and babies get along so well is because, well, they're pretty similar. Think about it: Dogs and babies are the only two things on earth who view the world with sincere awe and joy 99 percent of the time.
Per the AKC: "Both a baby and a dog, especially a young pup, have a common desire for a playmate and someone who will give them attention." This rule extends to young children, as well.
Getting a little more science-y about things, part of the appeal is probably right under your dog's nose. Smell plays a huge role in everything that dogs love because it's their primary sense for experiencing the world. As we've postulated before on Cuteness, it's possible that babies just smell differently to our dogs than human adults do, which may help them connect with babies on a special level.
Some dogs love all babies, but all baby-loving dogs love their own babies—not puppies, but the human babies who are members of their own family—the most. This comes down to basic dog biology. As Animal Planet explains, dogs, being the pack animals they are, have a strong sense of who their family is and get very protective of their owners. This, naturally, extends doubly to the humans they love who aren't big enough to protect themselves. Basically, dogs = heroes.
Why do babies love dogs?
When it comes to dogs loving babies, we have to guess and make assumptions and try to connect the dots ourselves. With babies, however, we have some real research. Okay, so we don't have research from actual infants, but the professionals have conducted studies about older kids and their love for dogs.
In 2017, Cambridge researchers released a study of 12-year-olds and their pets. The study examined kids and pups from 77 British households and researchers directly asked the kids about the quality of their relationships with their families—including their fur fam members. Specifically, the researchers gathered intel on four different aspects of the kids' relationships: Their satisfaction with the relationships, their feelings of companionship, communication in the relationships, and conflict in the relationships. The results? Pets won, hands down.
The kids in the study said they had less conflict with their pets than with other family members, like siblings. That's not surprising. Humans are terrible and dogs are great. The kids also reported feeling more satisfaction with their relationships with their pets and feeling more bonded to their pets than to siblings. Translation: Kids like their pets (specifically dogs, who beat cats in the study) more than they like their brothers and sisters. The love bond between kids and dogs is a natural, deeply-felt thing.
Not only do kids love dogs, dogs are demonstrably great for kids. Studies have shown that babies who are raised around dogs have stronger immune systems, for example. Other benefits of growing up around a dog include a lower risk of developing allergies and a lower risk of asthma.
The health benefits kids reap when they grow up around dogs aren't just physical, either. According to the AKC, kids who grow up with dogs in their home enjoy a range of mental health benefits, as well, including better self-esteem, increased compassion, improved cognitive skills, less stress, and a generally happier outlook on life. Is it possible that babies can sense that dogs are good for them and are drawn to them the same way we're drawn to edible things when we're hungry?
Why are some dogs naturally gentle with babies?
Dogs are extremely social creatures with a very high level of emotional intelligence, all things considered. As such, many of them are able to read the room, so to speak.
"Dog have feelings too, which enable them to pick up on different cues and subtleties," the American Kennel Club writes. "For example, they can sense that a baby is vulnerable and harmless."
Smart, right? According to the AKC, this goes even further with some dogs. In some cases, being around babies will actually activate a dog's protective parental instincts.
"You might see a dog sniff or lick a baby's face or rear end; don't let this behavior scare you as it's their way of checking the baby's health," the organization explains. "These are things a mother dog does with her pups."
And if your dog doesn't just naturally get the whole be-careful-with-the-baby thing? Well, then it's up to you to teach him. Dogs take their cues from the humans they live with, so it's vital to be calm and protective around babies yourself so that your dog understands, "Oh, this is how you act with the tiny humans. Got it."
Why are dogs extra protective of babies?
Given their deep love for and connection to babies, it's not a shocker that baby-loving dogs are also, by and large, baby-protecting dogs. As we've discussed already in this post, dogs are naturally protective of members of their packs, but some dogs take baby protection to the next level.
According to Animal Planet, dogs who have been bred with specific protective characteristics are generally inclined to go all out protecting our wee ones. Animal Planet uses herding dogs as an example, explaining that, "a herding dog knows to keep the pack together, no matter what. Such breeds are unlikely to ever let a child wander off or be taken." Lazy lapdogs, however, might not have the, um, instincts necessary to play Secret Service to a wandering toddler.