How Can Dogs Sense When You Are Pregnant? What Are Other Behavioral Signs?
|Expert Reviewed||Dr. Rachel Barrack, Veterinarian & Certified Veterinary Chinese Herbalist|
Can Dogs Sense Pregnancy?
Dogs are known for their sense of smell. According to PetMD, humans have about 6 million receptors in their noses; dogs have up to 300 million. They are also very observant and intuitive and know when something is up, so it's hardly surprising that dogs can also detect when women are pregnant. This observant behavior has only improved since we've domesticated dogs and made them a part of our families. There's no scientific evidence to explain how they know that you're pregnant, but here are a few theories.
- Dogs may be able to smell the hormonal changes: Firstly, it's possible that, with their heightened senses, dogs can smell the changes in hormones and pheromones that occur in a pregnant woman's body. These hormonal changes can take place as early as within the first month, which means that a dog could sense your pregnancy before you are even aware of it.
- They may be able to detect emotional and behavioral changes: When you become pregnant, small changes in posture and habits will be apparent to your loyal canine. For example, you may go on shorter walks or tire more quickly. Dogs are also very sensitive to mood changes, so if you are more emotional or anxious, your dog will notice. These are also things that would be noticeable by an observant human!
- They may be able to sense changes in body shape. Your dog will notice your growing belly when they are snuggling up next to you, or they may feel the baby kick once you are further along.
While it's unlikely that your dog knows that in nine months there will be a new addition to the family, they can sense a change.
How Do Dogs Act Around Pregnant Women?
When a dog detects your pregnancy, they might start acting very differently towards you by:
- becoming much more protective of you and your bump.
- following you around everywhere you go.
- sleeping with their head on your belly.
- Becoming jealous of this new rival for your affections!
What If My Dog Starts to Have Behavioral Problems?
As you get further along in your pregnancy, your dog will start to see and smell all over the new things for the baby–crib, stroller, new paint in the baby's room, diapers, etc. The dog might retaliate by chewing up the baby items, peeing in the house, or being uncooperative. Don't worry! These reactions are common since they know that change is coming and are worried this might mean they'll be pushed out of the family or taken to the shelter.
In a small percentage of dogs, they'll become aggressive towards strangers in an attempt to protect you.
How Can I Help My Dog Adjust?
Continue to Give Your Dog Attention and Love
It's important to continue to snuggle with your furry child to ensure that they know they're loved. Be very cognizant of your body language, so that you don't inadvertently give off the vibe that you don't want your dog close. According to animal behaviorist Nikole Gipps, many pregnant women unconsciously put their hands over their growing belly, but this tells your dog to stay away.
If they begin acting stressed or jealous, be sure to continue his routine as closely as possible. If it becomes difficult to walk them with the same regularity, find a friend or family member who can assist.
Start or Reinforce Obedience Training
To prepare for the arrival of a baby, it's important to let your dog know that you're in charge and ensure that they will listen to your commands." If you have a puppy, it might be a good idea to enroll them in puppy classes to get them socialized and to teach them basic commands. If you have an older pup, it's still important to reinforce these rules. A new addition to the family might freak out your dog, but if there's structure in place before the baby's arrival, you'll likely be able to keep them relaxed.
Create a Safe Haven
If you don't already have one, it's important to create a safe space for your pup to go to when they're feeling stressed or tired. Take them over to this little space each day to establish a routine. This will be especially important after the baby is born and the house gets a little more chaotic!
Do a Meet and Greet With Your Dog and New Baby
According to Dr. Rachel Barrack, DVM, CVA, CVCH of Animal Acupuncture, you should have someone bring home a burp cloth or blanket with the baby's scent before you come home from the hospital so your dog can become acclimated.
Dr. Barrack also adds some rules to enforce when you bring the baby home. "Greet your dog separate from the baby when first arriving home so they don’t inadvertently jump on the baby in their excitement. Also, keep your dog on the leash for the first meet and greet should they need to be reprimanded and offer lots of positive reinforcement and verbal praise. Don’t exclude your dog from your time with the baby as they may then act up to get your attention."
Did You Know?
Dogs can hear in the ultrasound range, which means they can hear sound waves around 50,000 to 65,000 cycles per second. A human’s maximum sound range is only 20,000 cycles per second.
How Can Dogs Sense Things Before You Know?
It is because of these heightened senses that people "employ" guard dogs to protect their property, sniffer dogs to detect drugs and explosives, guide dogs to aid the blind, hearing dogs to accompany the deaf, and search and rescue dogs to play critical roles in various missions.
This increased sensitivity can even seem supernatural—for example, canines seem to predict natural disasters. For instance, there are many accounts of animals (including dogs) acting strangely before a tsunamis in Southern Asia, as if they knew that it was about to happen.
National Geographic says the following:
The belief that wild and domestic animals possess a sixth sense—and know in advance when the earth is going to shake—has been around for centuries. Wildlife experts believe animals' more acute hearing and other senses might enable them to hear or feel the earth's vibration, tipping them off to approaching disaster long before humans realize what's going on.
It has also been reported that dogs are able to detect the subtle changes that occur in the body when cancer is present.
The Benefits of Having a Dog While Pregnant
- They can improve your mood. With your hormones all over the place, there will be some days when you'll need a reason to smile. According to a study done by Frontiers in Psychology, interacting with animals can improve your mood.
- They will offer companionship when things get lonely. Being pregnant can feel lonely at times, especially in your third trimester when you don't want to do anything and are anxious for the baby to arrive. Hanging out with a furry little friend can make things easier. Plus, who doesn't love to have someone to cuddle with?
- Having a dog will help you stay active. On the days when you don't want to move, having your pup stare at you as they wait for a walk can be a great motivator. Collaborative research from the WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition and the University of Liverpool has shown that pregnant women who own dogs are more physically active than those who don’t.
How Do Other People Know I'm Pregnant?
Sometimes other (perceptive) humans may be able to detect that you're pregnant—not from sniffing hormones and pheromones (unless they're unusually talented in this area!), but because of the way you behave.
During those early weeks before the first scan, most people want to keep their pregnancy a secret. However, even if you're not showing during that time, you may unconsciously be giving off signals.
With the massive hormonal changes that are taking place inside your body, it's not surprising that your behaviour and emotions might change. Apart from perhaps turning a bit green and having to throw up a lot, you may experience some of the following behavioural changes:
- An increased sense of well-being and happiness (from the hormonal changes, and probably also from the excitement of being pregnant). This can change your entire personality; a normally serious and fretful person might become light-hearted and optimistic. I know about this change from personal experience, as my newly sunny disposition alerted my (rather observant) boss to my pregnancy!
- Hormonal changes can also cause you to become more emotional. You may become more sensitive to sad or happy things. They can also make you feel more stressed or irritable in situations that normally do not affect you.
- From very early on in your pregnancy, you may feel much more tired than normal.
- Hormonal changes when you become pregnant can cause frequent urination, and then your uterus begins to press on your bladder from as early as six to eight weeks of pregnancy. So it's possible that you might have to pop to the toilet quite a lot.
- You might start to get incredibly hungry as if you're eating for two right from the start—even though your baby is still the size of an apple seed.
- Cravings can also start quite early on, and some women crave some very strange things!
- You may have a heightened sense of smell, causing you to react unfavourably to scents. (I couldn't stand the smell of coffee or garlic, previously two of my favourite smells).
- Some women suffer from headaches in early pregnancy, which can make it difficult to concentrate. It's also quite common to become a bit forgetful.
Of course, not every pregnant woman will experience all (or indeed any) of these things, and sometimes these changes may be so subtle that nobody would notice them. But even if somebody did suspect that you were pregnant, they would be unlikely to ask you anyway, as it's difficult to be 100 percent sure. And it would be embarrassing to be wrong! Only dogs (and other animals) seem to show no hesitation in reacting to your pregnancy.
Dr. Rachel Barrack
- The article has been modified since this review was written.