Talk with a dog lover and you’ll likely hear about how amazing their pet is. Talk with a pregnant dog lover and you may hear stories about their dog being more protective, loving, or otherwise showing that they know their human is pregnant. Maybe this even describes your situation.
There’s no doubt that dogs are super observant to the world around them — perhaps even more observant than people realize. So if you have an acutely observant dog, you may wonder if they can sense when you’re pregnant.
Medically speaking, dogs can certainly detect some pretty remarkable things. In fact, research supports the ability of trained dogs to:
- detect prostate cancer by sniffing human urine samples
detect low and high blood sugar levelsin people with diabetes due to a small, imperceptible-to-humans change in odor sense narcolepsydue to a change in sweat odor
Your body goes through many changes during pregnancy. So if you believe in your dog’s ability to pick up on these changes, their strange behavior related to your new pregnancy status might not be in your head.
A rise in hormone levels is a normal, healthy part of pregnancy — and it’s also necessary.
Take human chorionic gonadotropin hormone (hCG), for example. It’s only produced during pregnancy, and its purpose is to nourish a newly fertilized egg.
Other hormones that increase during pregnancy include:
- human placenta lactogen, which provides your baby with nutrients and prepares the milk glands for breastfeeding
- estrogen, which contributes to a healthy pregnancy
- progesterone, which thickens the uterine lining in preparation for the implantation of an egg and helps to sustain the pregnancy throughout
- relaxin, which loosens the area around the pelvic bones in preparation for delivery
- prolactin, which prepares your breasts for lactation
- oxytocin, which helps stretch your cervix and allows your nipples to produce milk
Hormonal changes happen over the course of 9 months. During this time, it’s theoretically possible for these changes to cause a shift in your natural body scent, which your dog might be able to pick up on.
It’s been reported that dogs can smell 1,000 to 10,000 times better than humans — we’ve even reports of up to
Regardless of the specific (really big) numbers — we’ll leave that to the scientists to sort out, since the internet can’t agree — there’s no question dogs have a dramatically superior sense of smell.
So while your dog might not realize you’re pregnant, a change in your scent could prompt the pup to show more — or different — attention to you than usual.
To be abundantly clear, though, there’s no proof to support this. But given a dog’s keen sense of smell, it’s a plausible explanation.
Aside from a change in body scent, a shift in hormones brings about other changes that some canines may pick up on.
Dogs are also observant to the physical and emotional state of their owners. So depending on how long you’ve had your dog, they may be able to read your moods.
Think back to your last bad day. Did your dog initiate more cuddle time to cheer you up? If so, your dog might respond similarly when you’re pregnant.
As the body produces hCG, morning sickness symptoms like nausea and vomiting become more common. Certainly, your dog may not be used to you throwing up!
Morning sickness could also disrupt your normal routine. You might take your morning walks a little later, or you might lie down more often. If your dog senses that you don’t feel well, they may keep close to your side — one of the many things that make dogs great, we think.
Fatigue and moodiness can increase as estrogen and progesterone levels rise. This can also result in fewer walks with your dog or a slower walking pace. And if you’re more irritable, your dog may pick up on more reprimands.
In later stages of pregnancy, your gait may become a little more awkward — and if you have a lap dog on your hands, well, it just won’t be the same. Again, these are all things that can cause your dog to wonder, What’s going on here?
Although there’s no evidence to support this, it’s certainly possible.
Hearing your baby’s heartbeat becomes easier as you move farther along in your pregnancy. At a certain point, it’s even possible to hear the baby’s heartbeat without using a fetal Doppler — you may use a stethoscope, special earbuds, or even have your partner hear it by placing their ear to your belly.
Considering how dogs likely have a better sense of hearing — and better range — compared to humans, it stands to reason that they might also hear a fetal heartbeat and know something’s up. One theory is that dogs can hear four times farther away than humans, but this hasn’t been scientifically proven.
If your dog senses a pregnancy, you’ll likely notice a change in their behavior. Dogs differ, so their reactions can, too.
Some dogs become more protective of their owners during pregnancy and will stay close by your side. As your baby bump grows, this protective drive may even increase.
But while some dogs adjust well to the change, others have a hard time. So don’t be surprised if your dog becomes more rebellious or starts doing things out of character, such as urinating in the home or chewing on items. This could be because they’re not happy at some of the changes we mentioned: slower or fewer walks, less attention because you’re setting up a nursery — in a word, they’re jealous.
Give Fido some time — they’ll adjust to the change. In the meantime, give them a little extra love and reassurance when you get the chance, and plan for some pretty cute baby-and-dog photos for the ‘gram.
Again, there’s no definitive answer that your dog can sense signs of labor. But as you get closer and closer to delivery, your body will go through some 11th-hour changes that your dog might notice. And as a result, they may become extra protective and clingy, following you around the home to make sure you’re OK. Many women have reported this.
For example, if you have Braxton-Hicks contractions, your dog might pick up on your discomfort and show concern. Your gait or walk might also change as the baby drops in preparation for delivery.
Also, your natural scent might change slightly right before labor, triggering a reaction from your pet. So if you’re close to your due date and notice a sudden change in your dog, labor might be right around the corner — but this probably isn’t due to some sixth sense on their part.
Even if your dog senses a pregnancy, they don’t really know what that means. They have no idea what’s about to rock their world.
There’s no way to know how your dog will react to the newest family member, and it can take time for it to adjust. Here are a few tips to make the adjustment a bit easier:
- Gradually decrease the attention you give your dog — especially if this is your first baby. The new baby will take much of your time and energy, and you’ll have less time for your dog, at least initially. And unfortunately, some dogs react negatively to this change. So if you normally give your dog a lot of attention, start decreasing this amount in preparation for the baby.
- Get your dog accustomed to hearing baby sounds. Babies cry — sometimes even a lot — and make other noises, which can be sensory overload for some dogs. To help your dog get used to the extra noise in the house, occasionally play a recording of a baby crying and making other sounds in the background.
- Apply the baby lotion you plan to use to a blanket. Allow your dog to sniff the blanket before the baby arrives to get it used to the baby’s scent.
- Train your dog not to jump on visitors, and assign a “go to” or “calm down” spot (mat or bed). This can prevent your dog from becoming overly excited when meeting baby for the first time.
- Leash your dog the first time they meet your little one — just in case they get a little too excited. And you do want to introduce them, allowing your dog to investigate your new addition. Shooing your dog away will make them even more curious — or more resentful.
Dogs are observant and have strong senses of hearing and smell, so there’s a good chance that your four-legged friend will pick up on a pregnancy — or at least know that something’s different.
Babies and dogs (or cats — cat lovers, we haven’t forgotten you) can be an adorable mix when introduced properly. Whether your dog’s behavior changes during your pregnancy or not, there are big changes in store after baby arrives. Don’t be surprised if your child and dog become best friends before you know it.