How to help my dog with his "fear" of my baby

Pets Asked by conman on March 1, 2021

tl/dr: My dog seems spooked by my baby crawling around the house. The
dog runs away anytime the baby gets even remotely close to him. We
make sure that the baby never actually bother’s the dog, but I feel
bad everytime the dog "runs away" from the baby. Is there anything I
can do to help the dog be less jumpy around the baby?

My dog is a rescue that we’ve had for about a year and a half. He’s an elderly bulldog (~70 pounds or ~30 kg), and is a great family dog (he gets along wonderfully with our older kids, who range from 3-11).

Our baby is about 7 months old. He was perfectly fine with the baby when he was first born, and they first met when the baby was less than a day old. However, the baby has now started to crawl (enter dramatic music). This, I’m afraid, makes my dog very uncomfortable. In my dog’s defense, the baby would probably cause some pain if allowed to – the baby’s current MO when he crawls up to me is to grab a hold of whatever he can on me and try to pull himself up into a standing position. This can hurt if he gets hair/skin. My dog in particular has a large number of issues with joint pain and arthritis, so I’m sure he would not appreciate my baby manhandling him. This has never happened though – We’ve always been careful to make sure the baby doesn’t harass him.

Unfortunately this doesn’t stop my dog from fleeing the room if the baby comes within 10 feet of him. It makes me sad because sometimes my dog has a hard time getting up (due to joint issues), and I’d rather he not have to move around every time the baby comes near. Our house has a very open floor plan, so other than the bedrooms, it’s pretty much just one big room and the baby can get from one corner to any other pretty quickly these days.

Lately the dog isn’t even comfortable laying in "his" chair (more like a recliner than a chair) with the baby around, even though it is high enough that the baby can’t even remotely reach. Recently this resulted in him hastily jumping off the side of the chair (nearly landing on one of my other kids and walking away with a pronounced limp) because the baby came up to the front of it.

The dog has a couple bedrooms he can hide in that the baby isn’t allowed in, and he also spends a good chunk of the day outside. Also the baby only spends a small fraction of the day crawling around. As a result the dog is by no means being scared away all day long, but him "running away" from the baby happens at least a few times a day. The baby is not actually very interested in the dog, and so 95% of the time when the dog runs away, the baby is doing something completely unrelated and had no intention of bothering the dog.


  1. The dog doesn’t seem to be actually scared of the baby (based on my own hopefully correct understanding of his body language), but he clearly doesn’t want to be near the baby.
  2. I’m not worried about the dog hurting the baby. He has never shown any signs of aggression towards him. We don’t let the baby crawl around the house unsupervised, so we always have a close eye on the situation.


Is there anything I can do to help my dog be less jumpy around the baby? Again, we’ve never let the baby actually get a hold of the dog, so he has no specific reason to be afraid of the baby. I wish I could tell my dog that he has nothing to worry about (both because the baby isn’t actually very interested in him, and because we wouldn’t let the baby hurt him).

2 Answers

As I see it, the dog has a comfort zone and feels disturbed if the baby comes into it.

The baby is something difficult, not predictable for the dog. The dog want to avoid contact with it.

Maybe you could show the dog that he doesn't have to worry about this, because you have control about the situation and you will care for the dog, so he will not have contact with the baby.

I imagine something like stopping the baby if the dog shows signs of discomfort (the "second" before he is running away), so he learns to feels secure because you are watching over them. Maybe this leads to a more relaxed dog, because he know you are caring for him and you do not let the baby do whatever frightens him in contact with babies. In this case the comfort zone may be shrinking, because he waits for you to act and prevent the "terrible" situation.

Another thing I could imagine is this: maybe he had contact with a baby/toddler in former live (because you write he is a rescue) and was not allowed to get near it. So he turns around before he is causing bad reaction like shouting or such from the adults.

In my opinion it could not hurt to catch the baby if it gets near the dog. You wrote the dog has no problem with older kids, so the baby has possibility to get in contact later, when it is interested in dogs and running and playing with them.

Correct answer by Allerleirauh on March 1, 2021

This question was asked a while ago and the baby in question is probably walking by now. I'll add an answer anyway.

Dogs can indeed be worried by a crawling baby even if they are happy with toddlers and pre-crawling babies. The problem for them is that crawling doesn't look quite right to a dog - it is not the standard quadruped gait. Also babies are prone to making sudden accelerations.

This can lead to a dog snapping at the approaching baby's head. Usually no damage is done.

If the dog runs away, then make sure it has somewhere to run to. This is a fear reaction and fearful dogs shouldn't be backed into a corner.

Personally, if there is any sign of nervousness on the dog's part, I would keep them separated for the few months until the baby is consistently walking upright (and even then keep an eye on things).

How do I know this? Personal experience. My first Border Collie was concerned when the baby started crawling but - being a BC, they don't back down, they have to keep the 'sheep' under control. She snapped at the baby's head* and drew a tiny drop of blood. This happened while I was watching. Needless to say I made sure never to leave them alone together. In my case, the problem went away as soon as the child started walking.

*Note - with a well-mannered BC the snap is a warning to an errant animal, not an attack. However babies have delicate skin and aren't covered in a thick layer of wool like a sheep.

Answered by chasly - supports Monica on March 1, 2021

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