There are over 75 million pet dogs in the United States — more so than in any other country. Everyone loves dogs, especially babies. But do dogs love babies as much as we think?
In 2017, 3,853,472 babies were born in the United States. Though plenty of babies around the county get along with their fellow doggos, not every pet-baby relationship starts off well. Thankfully, a group of researchers for the University of British Columbia have decided to get to the bottom of this.
According to Coast Mountain News, UCB postdoctoral fellow Nicole Sugden and Professor Janet Werker have been searching for families with babies between the ages of two and six months to conduct one-hour experiments.
“Does having a family dog change infants’ brain response to language or boost their ability to understand an adult?” asked Sugden. “We’re hoping to find out how having a dog influences infants’ early development.”
Sugden believes that having a pet dog around can actually benefit a baby since dogs can be very responsive social partners and babies are quite sensitive to interactive social partners.
“We have co-evolved with dogs for over 10,000 years,” she added. “This special evolutionary relationship with dogs suggests that we, they, or both of us may have evolved to benefit each other.”
The one-hour study experiments took place at the UBC Infant Studies Center and involved outfitting the babies with a stretchy cap equipped with LED lights used to measure brain activity. The devices use near-infrared spectroscopy in order to identify whether or not babies with dogs show more flexible brain responses to dog barks and human commands.
“We expect babies with dogs will show a more flexible brain response and more point and gaze following,” added Sugden.
Here are some practical tips that will help build a positive and healthy relationship with your pet dog and your infant child:
- Have your dog on a leash while you hold the baby on your lap covering their head with your hand to show protectiveness.
- Don’t place your baby on the floor or over your dog’s head, which encourages jumping.
- Whenever your baby is around, speak to your dog in a calm and soothing voice.
- If your dog isn’t displaying aggressive behavior, allow light interaction (but no licking).
Let us know what you think in the comments! And if you want to learn which dog breeds are best for young children, check out the guide on crittersitca.com!