Can Dogs Sense Pregnancy?
Why does it seem like they know everything?! 🐶🤰
Have you noticed your dog acting totally strange around you ever since you got pregnant?
It turns out, you’re not imagining it.
“Some dogs act differently toward an owner when she becomes pregnant,” Amy Shojai, a certified animal behavior consultant in Texas, told The Dodo.
And the way they can tell is actually pretty cool. To find out more, The Dodo spoke with Shojai to find out about how dogs use sight and smell to sense pregnancy.
How can dogs sense pregnancy?
“Dogs have an extraordinary ability to react to changes in their environment,” Shojai said.
Not only is your dog seeing changes go on around her (like a new crib being set up), she might even be able to smell some changes, too.
Your dog is observing changes
“To dogs, a beloved human becomes their world,” Shojai said. “Any change in the human’s behavior may impact the dog’s actions and reactions as well.”
A woman who is pregnant might go about her life a little bit differently, in ways that the dog can notice. That might mean changes in work or sleeping schedules, or maybe rearranging the furniture and creating a nursery, which can totally confuse your dog — and make her think that something’s up.
“The mommy-to-be getting up frequently for middle-of-the-night bathroom breaks also disrupts the dog’s sleep if, like many, Rex shares the covers,” Shojai said.
Later in pregnancy, your dog might notice that you’re walking her less or don’t play around as much as you used to — another sign your dog can pick up on.
And if there’s morning sickness or mood swings, your dog probably notices those, too. Especially since that might come with other changes in your routine, like you eating later in the mornings and sleeping in. “Dogs may empathize, or become confused by these changes, and act out in reaction,” Shojai said.
Can dogs smell hormones?
While some people suspect dogs can actually smell all the physical changes that happen to a woman’s body, it’s not exactly clear whether or not dogs can sense the hormone changes that go along with pregnancy.
“A woman’s body changes during pregnancy, with a boatload of different or increased hormones that can alter her behavior and emotions,” Shojai said. “We don’t know if dogs detect all of these changes in hormones, or understand them.”
It’s true that dogs have an amazing ability to detect scents that humans can’t. In fact, a dog’s sense of smell is 10,000 to 100,000 times better than the average human’s.
And it’s been proven that dogs can sniff out changes in a human’s biology under other circumstances. Trained dogs can detect low blood sugar levels in people with diabetes, cancer and seizures. So it’s certainly not impossible that a dog can smell pregnancy, especially since a woman’s hormones change a lot during this time.
“It makes sense that as a pregnant woman’s body chemistry changes with the development of her baby, a dog may smell differences that confuse, excite or otherwise alert him,” Shojai said.
How do dogs typically react to pregnancy?
Once your dog recognizes that you’re pregnant, she “may become more attentive and clingy, or protective, or simply act out in unexpected ways,” Shojai said.
But that’s not the case for every dog, she added. “Each dog-owner relationship is unique ... so there’s not a way to predict if a specific dog’s behavior will change when the owner expects a child.”
Can dogs predict labor?
Some people say that dogs are able to predict the moment their human is about to go into labor. But there are no studies that show whether or not this is true.
“We don’t know if dogs can predict labor,” Shojai said. “Dogs can detect behavior and scent changes so quickly that it may appear to be a prediction.”
There might be some subtle changes in a woman’s body right before labor that her dog can pick up on. Like the fact that she’s having early contractions, or walking a little differently. Not to mention the sudden burst of pre-labor hormones your dog may or may not smell.
Dealing with your dog’s change in behavior
If you notice your dog reacting to your pregnancy, try to reassure her as much as possible with extra love and attention.
If your dog is acting more clingy, rejecting her “might make [her] more protective toward her [mom] to keep others away,” Shojai said.
But regardless of how your dog’s acting, it’s good to start preparing your dog for her new brother or sister prior to the baby’s arrival. One thing you can try is gradually giving your dog less attention. That way, she won’t be completely blindsided when you’re busy caring for the new arrival. This sudden change can cause her to act out, so try to get her used to your absence as much as possible beforehand.
In most cases, your dog will adjust quickly and form a lifelong friendship with her new sibling. But if you have any concerns about your dog’s behavior, especially if you’re worried that your dog will act out aggressively, contact your vet or a certified dog trainer or animal behaviorist for help.