Dogs and Babies: Germs, Risks, Benefits
Pets have become an integral part of our society with dogs seeming to hold an especially valuable place among people. The saying about dog being man’s best friend has held true throughout the years and for many it goes deeper than friendship and their dogs are much more like family. There can be some conflict though when it comes to dogs and babies. Many parents are concerned about how their furry family members will react to and interact with their newest addition to the family. It’s understandable that parents may be concerned about having their baby around a dog. They may be worried about germs or other risks, but having dogs around babies can actually be very beneficial and some of the benefits may even surprise you.
One of the biggest things that people tend to worry about when it comes to dogs being around babies is the germs that the dog may expose the baby to. It makes sense that this would be a concern because we tend to feel like we must keep our babies in a germ-free bubble of cleanliness. However, over-sanitizing your baby’s environment can actually cause a lot more harm than good. In fact, if you do too good of a job at keeping your little one away from germs altogether, you can actually hinder the proper and healthy development of their immune systems.
As it turns out, dogs are unlikely to cause your baby to become sick and can actually provide your child with some health benefits. It actually works out really great because dogs do bring pathogens in and around your baby but usually it isn’t anything that will actually hurt your little one or make them sick. Instead, the exposure to these pathogens that your pets give to your baby helps their immune system to develop properly and learn how to effectively fight for when your baby comes into contact with something that could be genuinely threatening.
Of course, germs are not the only thing that parents worry about when it comes to bringing their baby around their dogs. There are certainly other things to be worried about as well. One of the main things to worry about when it comes to this interaction between babies and dogs is the risk of the baby getting hurt. It is not uncommon for people to be overly worried about this but it is also not uncommon for them to not be worried enough about it. If you are too careful or if you are too careless when it comes to interaction between your baby and your dog, it can have a negative impact on the situation.
There is definitely an important middle ground to stay in when it comes to caution with dogs and babies. First off, it is important to recognize that your dog, no matter how much you love them or consider them family, is still an animal. Animals are unpredictable and instinctual and even the sweetest, most calm-mannered dog can become dangerous under the right conditions. Being too relaxed and not taking appropriate precautions with your baby around your dog could lead to your little one being hurt. However, being too nervous could make your dog nervous and also lead to danger. It is also a bad idea to keep your little one from having any contact with your dog because they do need to learn to get used to each other and how to interact with each other appropriately.
You should make sure to train your dog as best as possible, preferably before your baby is ever born. This will help because a well-trained dog will listen and respect you better. Dogs are very intuitive and will more than likely recognize your new baby as your child and if they respect you as their alpha, they are much less likely to pose a threat to your child. However, you still need to take some precautions with your dog around your baby.
You should never leave your child alone with your dog and you should closely supervise all contact that they do have. Never allow your child to pull your dog’s ears, hair, or tail or do anything else similar such as hitting your dog. Your child may not do this to purposely hurt your dog, but your dog may defend themselves. Don’t allow this even if your dog seems to put up with it fine. It isn’t fair to the dog, it teaches the child bad habits, and even dogs have breaking points.
Finally, take the time to learn about the body language of dogs so that you can predict when things aren’t going well. Dogs act certain ways when they are nervous or uncomfortable just like people do. Unfortunately, unless you actually know about body language of dogs, it is easy to misinterpret it. A dog’s tail is one good way to get an idea of what your dog is feeling. If their tail is straight up, wagging or not, they are likely acting in a playful, hyper, and/or dominant mood. Whereas if their tail is down between their legs, they are scared, nervous, and likely defensive. Neither of these are ideal when having your dog interact with your baby. Ideally, your dog’s tail should be neutral when interacting with your little one.
The benefits of having a dog when you have a baby definitely outweigh any potential risk as long as you take some simple precautions. There are actually many wonderful benefits of raising your baby with a dog. Studies have shown that babies that grow up around dogs actually tend to get less sick. This is likely because of the way that being around a dog helps to boost your child’s immune system. Research also reveals that babies that are raised in a home with one or more dogs tend to have fewer allergies and a lower chance of having asthma. So, having a dog can actually be really great for your baby’s health.
Health benefits aren’t the only benefits of having a dog around your baby, though. Dogs also help to reduce stress and anxiety for both you and your baby. They even have service dogs specifically for these purposes in people with severe anxiety or other emotional disabilities. Less stress can lead to a happier and more relaxed day to day life. That, in turn, provides optimal conditions for healthy and proper development for your baby. Dogs also help with other important aspects of development such as socialization. Since dogs are very social animals, they help to encourage and bring out your baby’s social side too.
Don’t Get Rid of Your Dog
So, it turns out that while there are some potential risks with dogs around babies, there isn’t any real reason to worry as long as you take proper precautions. There is absolutely no reason that you have to get rid of your dog if you are having a baby and your dog can actually provide some really cool benefits to your baby. With that being said, there is also no real reason to go out and get a dog when your pregnant just for the benefits of having your baby around a dog. Getting a dog at the same time as having a baby can add unnecessary stress and make it difficult to properly prepare the dog for your baby as they will be getting used to their new home as it is. Basically, if you already have a dog, that’s great! However, if you don’t, there are no worries about that either.