Have you ever noticed that your dog acts pretty much like a baby? It likes to be held in your arms, sits on your lap, hand-fed, or even cuddled before sleep. Although we enjoy spoiling our dogs and indulging their baby-like needs, sometimes they can get a little overwhelming.
So, why does my dog act like a baby? Dogs act like babies because they know we like to attend to their needs and care for them – in other words, they are trying to please us (the benefits are just bonuses). Your dog can sense your emotions, and once it learns you actually enjoy its baby-like needs, it will start taking advantage of the situation.
This article will explain which dog actions and needs are similar to those of babies and small children. We will also talk about a recent study confirming that dogs do behave like children.
WHY DO ADULT DOGS ACT LIKE HUMAN CHILDREN TO OWNERS?
The owner-dog relationship is quite similar and easily comparable with the parent-children bond. Humans have an innate need to form deep bonds and connections with other humans and animals.
The bond-forming process between humans and dogs has lasted for over 15.000 years. The moniker “man’s best friend” proves that close bond and relationship. It also indicates that pets can replace human connections.
Simply stated, the owner-dog relationship improves the overall well-being and is a satisfactory substitute for the parent-children relationship. Consequently, we consciously or subconsciously humanize our dogs and positively reinforce their baby-like habits and tendencies.
MY DOG LIKES TO BE HELD LIKE A BABY
Most dogs like to be held like babies. There are several potential reasons for this behavior, and in some dogs, several reasons can be present at the same time. Here are some of the most likely culprits for your dog’s fondness for being held like a baby.
Separation anxiety is a severe problem in dogs, and sadly, it is becoming more and more present. A dog with separation anxiety will express extreme attachment to the owner and behave irrationally as soon as the owner leaves the house. Once the owner is back home, the dog will try to spend as much time as possible together – from being held like a baby to sharing the bed.
Dogs are notorious for their attention-seeking tendencies. And what is a better way of seeking attention than requesting to spend time in someone’s arms? Some dogs are constant attention seekers, while others seek attention only if they are bored and feel like being neglected.
Once your dog learns that certain behaviors get rewarded, it will repeatedly engage in those behaviors to enjoy the reward. For example, suppose you were holding your dog in your hands like a baby and talking to it in a sweet and loving voice. In that case, your dog will start associating the hand-holding part with being praised. If you happen to give a treat afterward, the learning process will be even faster.
Sometimes, there is no hidden attention behind your dog’s fondness for being held like a baby. Dogs are affectionate (even the ones that pretend to be self-sufficient and independent) and enjoy sharing moments of cuddles and affection. They thrive on human contact and interaction, and spending time in the owner’s arms is the perfect form of affection display.
Fear or stress
Dogs get easily scared and stressed. As creatures of habit, dogs thrive on schedules and routines. Even the most minor changes in their surroundings and schedule can cause stress, not to mention anxiety-triggering events like having guests over, thunderstorms, or fireworks. Since dogs feel most secure in the presence of their owners, being held like babies serves as an efficient stress-relieving mechanism.
MY DOG GETS BORED OF ITS OLD TOYS
Just like babies, dogs get bored of the old toys and always want the latest hit from the toy section. While spoiling your baby or dog with new toys is delightful, more often than not, this decision can be tough on the budget.
Luckily, there is a budget-friendly solution for this problem. It may not work on babies, but it definitely works on dogs. All you need to do is invest in a reasonable number of toys and then rotate them.
In other words, if your dog has ten toys in total, do not let it play with all ten at once – give only five toys and keep the rest away. After some time, you can take one old toy and replace it with a new one (once your dog forgets its old toy, the reintroduction will bring fun).
MY DOG LIKES TO BE HAND-FED LIKE A BABY
Suppose you ever thought about hand feeding your dog. In that case, you need to stop thinking about it – hand feeding is a nasty and quite addictive habit which dogs usually like. However, it all depends on the dog’s personality.
Some dogs are voracious eaters and will eat the last kibble crumb in a matter of seconds. Other dogs are picky eaters and like making a big fuss over mealtime. Pet owners whose dogs belong to the second category would do anything to make their pups eat kibble or two – from offering premium brands with novel taste formulas to hand feeding.
Suppose your dog learns you are willing to feed it by hand – offering one kibble at a time. In that case, it will take advantage of the situation and demand to be hand-fed regularly. While hand-feeding a Chihuahua can be straightforward, hand-feeding a Great Dane is a time-consuming task.
MY DOG PUTS ON A SHOW IF IT DOES NOT GET ITS WAY
Ever seen a child literally pouring waterfalls of tears or flailing on the floor when denied something they simply “must” have? Well, dogs can behave similarly, too.
There will be no tears or floor flailing, but you will definitely have to bear the guilt imposed by the sad puppy eyes for quite some time. And sadly, sometimes there can be a display of destructive behaviors – chewed wires, devoured pillows, or secret pee puddles in corners.
MY DOG HAS A FAVORITE PARENT
Secretly, all children have a favorite parent, or in case they say they love both parents equally, they all have a favorite aunt. Dogs are the same. Although dogs love all human family members, they always choose one person with whom they form a stronger bond.
Some dogs are even classified as one-person dogs. This means they enjoy the company of all family members but prefer being and spending time with one person in particular. The excess attachment to one person can be a drawback – these dogs are more likely to develop separation anxiety.
MY DOG LIKES WHEN WE TALK
Whoever said it is impossible to communicate with dogs had it all wrong. Dogs are brilliant, and although they cannot speak in the same way we can, it does not mean they do not understand.
In fact, you can have a complete conversation with your canine friend. The average dog is capable of understanding over 250 different words and gestures. That is the equivalent of the words and gestures a two-year-toddler knows and understands.
Plus, in some situations, words are not necessary for healthy communication. As incredible as it sounds, your dog can spot changes in your emotions simply by looking at your face – dogs can detect changes in facial expressions down to one-sixteenth of a millimeter.
DOGS ACT LIKE CHILDREN – A STUDY CONFIRMS
To test the dog-owner bond, scientists conducted a simple experiment – they divided dogs into three groups, and they gave them interactive toys with treats. The first group of dogs was assigned the toy in the absence of their owners. In the second group, the owners were present but were not allowed to talk. In the third group, the owners were present and told to support their dogs’ playtime with the interactive toy enthusiastically.
The dogs from the first group were less motivated to play with the toy and spent less time trying to get the treat than the dogs whose owners encouraged the playing activity.
Based on the overall study analysis, scientists concluded that the dogs from the third group spent more time with the toy and were more tenacious in getting the treat simply because their owners’ presence made them feel safe and secure. The same concept applies to children in the presence of their caregivers.
All in all, dogs are intelligent creatures and can quickly learn to modify their behavior based on our needs. If we treat our dogs like babies, they will soon start to behave like ones and become even more dependent on their human family members than they already are.
While indulging one or two baby-like needs every once in a while is perfectly acceptable, making a habit will negatively impact the mutual owner-dog relationship. Although often referred to as fur babies, dogs are not babies – they are distinct species adapted to live with humans. Dogs make an excellent addition to every family and deserve to be treated as unique members.