Does your dog steal your baby’s toys, diapers, pacifiers, or clothes? Sometimes you get lucky and your dog magically KNOWS not to touch the baby's toys. But, if you’re like most, you need a strategy for keeping your baby's stuff out of your dog's mouth, and your dog out of harm's way.
Creating a safe environment
Babies bring A LOT of new and organic smells that are exciting to your dog. Dogs are natural scavengers. Scavenging is a survival mechanism and an instinct that’s strong in most dogs. Introducing a baby to your house can potentially trigger your dog’s scavenger tendencies in new ways.
Many baby items can be stimulating for your dog, or even mistaken for food. Here’s a list of common baby items that can be uncontrollably enticing for your dog:
- dirty burp clothes
- dirty diapers
- milk/formula bottles
- pacifiers with baby slobber
My dog ate a toy, now what?
If your dog gets, consumes, or destroys one of these things, don’t panic; it’s no different than your dog eating food you accidentally left at their level or (easily) accessible. Depending on the culprit, you can resolve the situation 1 of 2 ways. 1) You may monitor the dog at home and your dog may have an upset tummy for a day or two. Or 2) You may need to rush your dog to the ER for emergency surgery, to induce vomiting or stomach pumping, fluids, and overnight monitoring.
Always call your veterinarian if your dog consumes something potentially dangerous or call ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435 (US) for directions (there is a fee but it is well worth it).
You’re not alone!
In a poll, my followers on Instagram have shared an impressive list of baby and toddler items their dogs have ingested:
- baby socks and mittens
- the animal of the WubbaNub pacifier
- various balls
- sand from the sandbox
- an entire box of crayons (64!)
- an entire butt spatula
- vitamin D
- some essential oils (eucalyptus oil, tea tree oil, citrus, peppermint, pine, wintergreen, etc.)
Possible health issues
- A frequent issue with an ingested baby and toddler item is an obstruction (intestinal blockage), for which dogs often require emergency surgery.
- Some essential oils used in treating our baby's colds are toxic whether they are applied to the skin, used in diffusers, or licked up in the case of a spill.
- Vitamin D and Advil (Ibuprofen) are very toxic to dogs and even a small amount can cause adverse effects and poisoning.
This is not an exhaustive list! Always check with your veterinarian immediately if you have any concerns.
Dr. Lisa Lippman, DVM, shares many useful tips on her Instagram account.
Why do dogs steal baby toys?
- Baby toys are very tempting to dogs and often look like their toys -or cooler!
- They are brand new, many dogs love new toys.
- Attention! When you have an infant, chances are your dog gets less attention than before and some dogs quickly learn that grabbing baby’s items gets them what they want, your attention. They care less about the item they grabbed and much more about you chasing them.
- Many dogs love to chew or even dissect new toys.
- If touched or chewed by a baby, there are many enticing novel smells on that toy.
Expert tips: Your dog may protect a stolen toy from your child or you. Many dogs, who are protective of their toys or items they consider valuable from other dogs, will show the same protective behavior from young children.
10 Practical tips
1. No squeaky toys for your child if your dog is obsessed with squeaky toys.
2. Watch out for possible choking hazards. Some baby items look like toys, some have small pieces (e.g., a chew necklace made out of silicone beads or teddy bear eyes) that could be a choking hazard or cause intestinal blockage.
3. If your dog steals wooden toys and chews on them, get them their own chew! Check out the various chewies in my Amazon store for inspiration.
4. Teach your dog “Leave It” and "Drop" cues. Not sure how? Watch this short training of me teaching 6-month-old Rosie the Leave IT cue.
5. Teach your dog which toys are his/hers through redirection. Be consistent.
6. Gates gates gates! Go to Dog Meets Baby Amazon Store to check out baby gates and playpens recommended by me, my clients, and my followers.
I have this long gate from Toddleroo. It is more pricey but very sturdy, looks great, and has been one of the best baby-dog related purchases. My kids are 6 and we still use it daily. In the last two years, mostly to keep their projects, Lego constructions, drawings, and toys safe from Lola and other dogs who stay with us. They call it their ‘office'. Find a similar product here.
7. Baby toys in baby-only zones and dog toys in dog-only zones.
8. Keep the most tempting toys out of reach if your dog is only interested in certain types of toys.
9. No stuffed or plush toys for your dog to help your dog distinguish. Easier done when you have a puppy.
10. Create designated spaces for dogs and kids.
Pre-Baby Expert Tip: Don't leave the activity mat out all the time, especially if you are not home and can't stop your dog from going on it.
The clips in this reel are from the Preparation Course. I teach you how to create baby and dog zones, and how to teach your dog to stay in their zone and not approach the baby’s zones.
Are you nervous that your dog is going to trample your baby trying to get to a toy without even realizing it? Teach your dog that baby space is off-limits by practicing the Leave It cue, redirecting, teaching your dog to stay on their bed, and body blocking. This way everything that is in the baby's space is off-limits. Here is my simple and effective way to train Go to Bed. Waffles is an 8-month-old easily distractable puppy and this method worked like charm.
*Bonus Tip!* Play with your dog.
Playing with toys is a great outlet for dogs and a great bonding exercise. Having the rules for toy play and implementing them before the baby arrives will set your dog up for success. If you and your dog like to play rough with toys or you have a ball-obsessed dog, set up play scenarios that prevent your dog from being mouthy, jumpy, or grabby near your baby. Cues like ‘drop,’ ‘leave it,’ ‘back up,’ and ‘stay’ can make play situations more controlled, calmer and safer. Or you can manage by playing in a different space from your child.
The flirt pole is my go-to toy for exercising my dog when I don’t have much time. I have tested all three flirt poles and I like each one of them for different reasons.
- Squishy Face Studio flirt pole is perfect for big and strong dogs.
- The flirt pole in the reel is by Outwardhound, we mainly use it in our backyard.
- I keep the extendable flirt pole in the car, easy to throw it in my bag.
If you have a tiny dog, you can use a cat wand toy.
While many dogs attempt to steal baby’s toys, there are many ways to stop them from doing it, through training, redirecting them to their toys and chew toys and management. In my book, management is equally good, you don’t always have to train! But if you enjoy the training, subscribe to my YouTube Channel where I share short training videos with easy-to-follow steps.