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When I was considering a new puppy, we had just had our third child. We wanted to make sure that the breed we chose would be safe to have around a newborn. As our top choice, I researched extensively to ensure that Labs are good with babies.
A Lab’s natural temperament is friendly and non-aggressive making them a good choice for families with infants and toddlers. Therefore, a purebred Lab puppy from a credible breeder should cause no concern. Take precautions with Lab mixes and rescue Labs where genetics or behavior is less predictable.
While there are generally no concerns, I would always recommend that parents take precautionary steps when introducing any animal, including Labradors, and small children. There can certainly be unforeseen risks and you should be familiar with them. By the end of this article, you’ll have everything you need to feel comfortable letting your Lab and baby interact.
Labrador Temperament And Behavior
Labrador Retrievers are some of the most common pets in America. They have cheerful, good-natured personalities that make them fun to play with. However, they do have some tendencies that could affect their interactions with children.
Labs are one of the friendliest breeds. Obviously, this personality trait can vary from one dog to another, especially depending on how they were raised. Generally speaking though, Labs are quite social and happy.
This personality trait is very helpful when it comes to dealing with small children. Sometimes kids might pull an ear or a tail. While the dog may not like this, they’ll usually be able to grin and bear it until the child stops bothering them.
Labs Are Often Used As Therapy Animals
Another benefit of the Labrador breed is their emotional intelligence. Although there are breeds that are smarter, Labs have become very popular because of the emotional support they can provide. They can see warning signs of distress and will be there to help you through it with a wagging tail and sympathetic presence.
Slow To Mature
On the other hand, many Labradors don’t calm down until they’re about 1 year old. They have a longer “puppy phase” than some other breeds, and they may still act a bit wild once they’re adults. Lab puppies won’t mix well with babies because they won’t be able to control their excitement.
Labs are athletic dogs, but sometimes they have a bit too much energy for their own good. It can be funny to see them trip or fumble a toy, but sometimes their clumsiness might result in a child getting knocked over. They don’t mean any harm, but they’re not always the most coordinated dogs. Take it slow when you introducing kids and dogs to the idea of playtime.
Labrador Retrievers form close bonds with their owners. They will always want to be around you, even if you need to run an errand or take a break from them. This balance can be difficult when there’s a new baby in the house. Labs require attention, but babies will probably take priority for a while. This may cause your dog to act out or become more withdrawn.
Most dogs enjoy a good chew toy, but Labs take things to a new level! These dogs were bred to retrieve birds and other wild game. They’re used to carrying things in their mouths and they’re still driven by a deep-set need to chew.
My go-to chew toys that LAST:
Kong Classic chew toy for large dogs (Molly still has the same one we purchased on 10/16/2017!)
Kong Classic chew toy with Easy Treat peanut butter spray (so much easier than using a knife)
Kong tug of war toy (her absolute favorite)
This behavior can be managed if they have enough chew toys, but Labs sometimes “mouth” or chew gently on hands and other exposed body parts. This doesn’t usually hurt adults, but it can be scary and a bit more dangerous for children.
Exercise and Stimulation
Finally, Labs are very active dogs that require a good amount of exercise. They need to be walked at least once a day, but this isn’t enough to fully wear them out. If you have a new baby in the house, you might not always have the time and energy to exercise with a dog.
Labs can turn to destructive behaviors when they’re bored or have too much pent-up energy. Toys, playtime, and lots of walks can help keep them calm and manageable.
How To Introduce Labs To Babies
Labradors are great family dogs and they get along well with children. However, sometimes they don’t know what to do in a new situation. Babies can be loud, smelly, and strange, which is a lot for a dog to handle. To help the first introduction go well, you may want to try the following steps:
1. Train Them Ahead Of Time
Labs are fairly intelligent, and they can pick up a variety of command words. They don’t have to be able to play dead, but you should train them with a few simple commands before the baby arrives. Sit, stay, lay down, and leave it are all good things for your Lab to know.
I highly recommend using an online training program to train your dog yourself, but with the guidance of a professional. This alternative to traditional training is both convenient as well as cost-effective.
2. Create Space For The Baby And The Dog
A new baby is going to shake up your household quite a bit! In order to keep the dog and the baby safe, you should create separate spaces for both of them. Create clear boundaries and establish certain areas as “off-limits”. This can be helpful for your dog as well because they will know which areas are theirs, and which areas are for the baby.
3. Let The Dog Explore The Nursery
Even though this isn’t their territory, you should let your Lab explore the nursery before the baby arrives. Let them sniff some of the new items and get used to the smell of diapers, baby food, etc. This process will help them become more comfortable with the setting before the baby arrives.
4. Introduce Them In A Calm Environment
When the time does arrive to introduce your baby and Lab, make sure it’s in a calm, peaceful space. Gently encourage the dog to sniff the baby and encourage calm behavior with treats and praise. Keep the meeting brief, but try to make a good first impression.
5. Monitor All Interactions Moving Forward
Once your dog gets used to the idea of a baby, they may start to spend more time together. Labs are often very curious about children and want to be near them. Keep a close eye on them as they get more comfortable around each other. Make sure the dog doesn’t get too rowdy. Keep their interactions fairly brief to prevent any problems.
Labs are good with babies, but you can never be too careful in the early years.
Potential Risks of Introducing Dogs and Babies
Labs are very good family dogs that don’t pose a threat to children. They can usually sense that a baby can’t defend itself and will act kindly toward them. However, even if it’s an accident, there are a few inherent risks to keeping a baby and a dog in the same household.
Dogs can sometimes pass diseases and parasites to nearby humans. These are not usually fatal, but they are more dangerous to babies than to adults.
Biting and rough play is another danger to consider. They don’t mean any harm, but Labs are pretty big dogs that don’t always know their strength. They might end up scratching, biting, or shoving babies without meaning to. Even though Labs are good with babies and small children, accidents happen!
There’s also a higher chance that your baby will be exposed to allergens, dirt, slobber, and germs. Dog fur can pick up a lot of debris, especially if they spent a lot of time outside. Groom and bathe them frequently to reduce the germs in your household.
Dog Breeds To Avoid With Children
With proper training and reinforcement, most dogs can get along with children. Labs are wonderful options that have worked well for thousands of families. There are a few dog breeds that have a hard time mixing with children though, so you may want to avoid the following dogs:
- Siberian Husky
- Alaskan Malamute
- Border Collie
So, are Labs good with babies? Yes! Labrador Retrievers are friendly and active dogs that get along well with children of all ages. As long as you take the proper precautions to introduce them, your child and dog will be able to get along just fine.