Can't stand your dog after having a baby? You're not alone

February 27, 2024 - 9 min read
German Shepherd wearing a checked green bandana around his neck is gently licking a baby's head. The baby is shown in side profile, with hands supporting him as he leans forward towards the dog.

A friend once told me, "After kids, dogs take a backseat," with a certainty that felt as inevitable as aging. I was taken aback—my dogs were like my first children. How could a newborn change that?

But three months post-baby, my shepherd's once-adorable quirks became challenges. His food obsession—which I used to joke kept my floors spotless—now meant he’d knock over the baby to get to a stray noodle. And his penchant for shadowing us turned him into a constant tripping hazard.

There were joys: cuddles, playtime, and my son's first gentle pats on our dog's head. Yet I battled anger, helplessness, and guilt every day.

If you’re in the same boat, you’re not alone. From February 12–21, 2024, ManyPets surveyed over 1,000 new parents with pets. It turns out there's a lot of frustration out there, but also cause for hope. Let's get into it.

Can't stand your dog after having a baby? You're not alone.

Some parents will find their bond with their dog grows even stronger once a baby's in the mix. But if you're one of the people furtively Googling these terms at 12 a.m., you're in good company:

  • "dog stressed around baby."

  • "i hate my dog after having a baby."

  • "worried about my dog and new baby."

  • "rehoming dog after baby"

  • "I’ve been hating my dog since I gave birth."

  • "signs dogs will attack baby"

  • "dogs and newborn germs"

Here's what one Redditor confessed about their experience:

"I thought it would never happen to me because my dog was like my child. I took him everywhere, took a million pictures, and I would even cancel plans just to stay home with him. After I gave birth, it all changed. It was like a complete switch. I didn’t even pet him for the first 2 weeks. I literally feel grossed out by him. Not only him, but all dogs."

And for some of us parents, this aversion to pets can happen before baby arrives, too.

Curiosity led us to survey over 1000 new parents with pets, uncovering a breadth of emotions towards their four-legged family members post-baby.

How do dog behaviors change after baby?

The attitudes of new parents aren’t shifting out of the blue; their dogs are actually changing!

An overwhelming 97% of survey-takers said their dog's behavior has shifted now that a baby's around. While some of that could be due to respondents’ own changing perceptions—stress and new priorities can do that—it’s likely not all in their heads. 

~40% notice dog's increased protectiveness.

An infant lying in a baby play gym, reaching out to toys, with a German Shepherd dog lying nearby on the floor. The dog is wearing a red and black checkered bandana and appears calm and watchful, suggesting protective behavior around the baby. There is a decorated Christmas tree in the background, indicating the photo was taken during the holiday season.

Roughly 40% of respondents said their dog is "protective over the baby."

Roughly 40% of respondents said their dog is "protective over the baby." This was also the case for Natasha Brereton, a ManyPets team member, and mother of twin baby girls plus a Shih-Poo named Nala.

"Nala loves the babies,” she says. “She's their protector. At first she was really nervous, but I think she could sense there was a vulnerability there."

(You can watch our full linterview with Natasha here.)

40% of respondents said their dog is "protective over the baby."

At best, that protectiveness means great photos of your dog snuggling up to your baby during naptime. At worst, it could mean more aggression—e.g., your pup growls when your mother-in-law approaches the precious infant they’re protecting.

38% report their dog's being more clingy.

If your formerly well-adjusted pup is suddenly sticking to you like glue now that the baby's here, join the club. About 38% of respondents noticed their dog exhibiting "increased clinginess/neediness" post-baby.

Unfortunately, parents who haven’t yet figured out how to clone themselves are feeling stretched thin.

Roughly 34% of parents surveyed reported “moments of annoyance or frustration with our dogs” due to “limited personal time,” and 26% of respondents reported having “trouble attending to [their] dog’s care and exercise.”

38% of respondents noticed their dog exhibiting "increased clinginess/neediness" post-baby.

Parents, your frustration is merited. But from your dog’s perspective, this new arrival means fewer daily walks, fewer spontaneous games of fetch, a precipitous decline in Starbucks pup cups…let’s just say their insecurity is understandable.

Which brings us to another notable change.

36% of respondents say their dog's being more jealous.

About 36% of respondents reported that their dog seems to be more jealous of their pet parents now that the baby's around.

Jealousy can be tricky to navigate, as it can result in aggression, a more disturbing temperament change that ~10% of respondents noticed.

"I am more scared of my dog around the baby," one respondent admitted. "He gets super excited and wants all my attention when I'm giving my attention to the baby, and when the baby tries to touch him, he gets very skittish and shows his teeth."

Unfortunately, survey results show that increased aggression is positively correlated with rehoming a dog. More on that later.

"I am more scared of my dog around the baby."

What drives a new parent to rehome their dog?

Quite frankly, I used to judge parents who'd rehome their precious pugs and malamutes once their baby was born. Now that I've been there, I get it.

The typical reasons for rehoming a dog are varied, ranging from allergies to new jobs or even home loss. The responsibility of keeping a tiny human safe while still keeping your dog happy and healthy adds a hefty layer of complexity.

So it stands to reason that parents who reported concerns about a “dog’s jealous behavior” and “the baby’s safety around the dog” are significantly more likely to also report considering or following through with rehoming their dog.

In fact, 73% of respondents who noticed signs of jealousy in their dog are “considering rehoming” or ‘intend to do so/have already done so.”

And the number is even steeper for those who reported “concern about the baby’s safety around the dog,” about 80%.

Reported behavior/feelings % of respondents "considering," "intending to," or have already rehomed their dog
Dog is jealous/competes for attention with baby 73%
Concern about baby's safety around dog 80%

Unfortunately, it looks like this wasn’t a decision many of these pet parents expected to make. A full 52% of the pet parents who noticed signs of jealousy in their dog also reported it was "harder than they expected" to introduce their dog to their baby.

So, does that mean some parents find it easier to introduce their dog to their baby?

Yup. But what makes it better for some and worse for others?

The data gives us a few clues.

52% of the pet parents who noticed signs of jealousy in their dog also reported it was "harder than expected" to introduce their dog to their baby.

Why is the experience better for some new parents?

A toddler and a German Shepherd dog in close proximity to each other on a carpet. The child is sitting and looking down, seemingly focused on something on the floor, while the dog is attentively sniffing towards the child. The interaction suggests a familiar and gentle relationship between the two, indicative of the dog's protective and curious nature towards the young child. The setting appears to be a home environment with natural lighting.

Some folks have all the luck.

While many pet parents report increased annoyance or even fear of their dog post-baby, many pet parents say the bond with their dog is better than ever.

40% say it was "easier than expected" to introduce the dog to their baby, and 44% say it was "about what I expected."

40% of parents said it was "easier than expected" to introduce the dog to their baby, and 44% say it was "about what [they] expected."

"I believe having pets with newborns has made this experience chaotic in an amazing way," says one elated respondent. "The family is fulfilled."

Do these pet parents have some magical quality that makes them more resilient to change? Are their dogs miraculously chill? Or are there quantifiable factors that actually make it easier to integrate a baby/dog household?

A realistic perspective

Nearly 80% of respondents who found it easier than expected to introduce their dog to their baby reported a solid "no" to the question of rehoming. (Makes sense.) Those who found it more difficult than expected were 46% less likely to say the same.

So could lowering your expectations and bracing for the worst be the keys to happiness? Possibly!

"My doula prepared me years ago with my first child that I would change with my dog and become irritated and frustrated," said one parent.

While it might be a stretch to say that seeing the glass as half-full is the key to dog/baby bliss, it’s vital to be ready. If you assume it’s all going to be a breeze, you might do less research and preparation—and be more shocked when things don’t go smoothly.

Research and preparation

Looking back, 30% of overall respondents said they wish they had spent more time researching beforehand.

Here's where most respondents reported finding advice and resources for integrating dogs and babies. The #1 most commonly cited resource? Consulting a vet (18.4%). (Good call, parents!)

Here are some other resources used and steps pet parents took to ease the transition:

  • Doggy daycare (17%)

  • Asked Alexa/Google/other voice assistant (17%)

  • Attempted to find dog-friendly housing (14.2%)

  • Socialization classes 11.7%

  • Therapy/counseling (11%)

There were no significant correlations when it came to how owners found resources—e.g., struggling dog owners were just as likely to watch videos as more contented owners.

However, there was a correlation between general research beforehand and happiness later.

Respondents who said it was "easier than expected" to introduce their dog(s) to their infant were less likely to report that they wished they’d "done more research and preparation" before integrating their baby with their dog, compared with 40% of respondents who found it "harder than expected."

To drill down deeper, 30% of owners wish they’d prepared a safe space for their dog—away from their baby—before introducing the two. (FYI, preparing a quiet, safe spot for your dog to retreat is a good rule of thumb for everyone, not just parents.)

More training and socialization

Early socialization is key to a puppy's later success in forming relationships with both humans and dogs. So what happens when puppies don’t get that exposure during their formative months…or even years?

The "COVID puppies" would like a word. According to research, puppies raised during the pandemic lockdown are more likely to exhibit signs of fear and aggression.

While we don't know how many of our survey respondents had COVID puppies, it's noteworthy that 34% of pet parents overall reported that they wish their dog had "more/earlier training or socialization" before meeting the baby.

Does the dog's breed make a difference?

While some breeds are lauded for being "amazing" with kids, research doesn't necessarily support the idea that some breeds are more kid-friendly than others. One study showed that breed can explain only 9% of behavioral variations between dogs.

In other words, breeds you wouldn’t expect—like my German Shepherd—can be gentle and kind with kids. On the flip side, a dog with a seemingly kid-friendly pedigree might not get along well with children.

A young toddler leaning on a German Shepherd dog. The child is holding a toy, and both are indoors with a wooden floor visible. The dog is lying down and appears calm and protective, displaying a close bond with the child. The scene suggests a trusting relationship, with the dog serving as a gentle companion to the toddler.

It can actually be dangerous to assume that some dogs are "better" with kids. This mindset can lead to the assumption that some dogs will put up with abuse (pulling ears, etc.) that they actually shouldn't be subjected to. As one author aptly put it, “‘Good with kids’ doesn't—and shouldn’t—mean “will put up with all kinds of abuse without biting.”

In our survey, it seemed there were two key elements that made a dog struggle to integrate with a baby:

  • the dog's energy level/enthusiasm ("The dogs jump when they get excited, which is kind of scary around the baby," "the dog would like to keep licking the baby, and I have to redirect them.")

  • the dog's respect for the baby's space ("The other day I noticed my dog sitting on my newborn with no awareness that he was crushing her")

In the end, it was all about the attitudes and behaviors of individual dogs. Breed doesn't seem to make much of a difference in how well a dog will integrate with your kiddo. As you supervise their interactions, it’s important to keep that in mind.

The case for sticking it out (and how to make things easier)

Over time, my shepherd's behavior around my child started to become more playful, shifting away from competition for food and attention. It helped that as our kiddo grew, getting knocked around became less of a big deal.

So while it might feel impossible to balance your dog's needs with your child's, there is hope. And the overwhelming majority of pet parents we surveyed are planning on sticking it out.

survey of pet parents with new babies, asking whether they would rehome a dog due to baby-related concerns.

These things aren’t always in your control. But if you're looking for action items, here are some ways to make things a bit easier:

Set boundaries

Even the sweetest Golden Retrievers have (and deserve!) their limits. Introduce your dog to your child slowly, and make sure to keep those first few meetings brief, just in case your dog gets overexcited. Supervise every interaction—even if you're pretty confident in your pup.

Establishing these boundaries can help promote safety between kids and pets in the home. It can also help children learn how to behave around pets belonging to other people.

Buff up on dog body language

Do you know what it means when your dog's hackles are raised? Was that a friendly tailwag or a warning signal? It's worth learning more about dog body language so you can avoid potentially dangerous situations before they arise.

Reach out for help

It's important to know your limits and be willing to ask for help in training your dog. Talk to your vet, research good trainers, and take the time to invest in your dog's behavior training, and you'll probably feel much more confident with your dog around not just your child but other kids as well.

The bottom line

Last month, our shepherd passed away.

Our son probably won't remember him, but we are grateful for the time we did have to see them together. And overall, I'm so proud of our pup—at 15 grizzled years old—for adapting to and loving this new member of the pack. And I'm proud of us for (mostly) keeping our cool when things got a little hairy, literally and figuratively. (They’re dubbed “German Shedders” for a reason.)

Whatever you're feeling today as a pup-and-baby parent—overwhelmed, confident, happy, or stressed—remember that you're not alone. The key is to take a deep breath, remember that you're in good company, and reach out for help when you need it.

Leanna Zeibak
Content Manager

Leanna Zeibak is a Content Manager at ManyPets. In her spare time, she paints pet portraits and bakes far too many chocolate chip cookies.