If you have a dog, they’re no doubt an integral part of your life. A dog in the family means having a best friend who is always by your side, ready for a walk or a snuggle — or to pick up that tantalizing chip you just dropped. Given just how much time humans spend with their pups, it’s only natural for them to perceive that something is up when you’re expecting. But can dogs sense pregnancy?
Dogs are incredibly perceptive creatures. They can notice changes in their owner’s mood, and they’re keenly aware of body language — that’s why they look sheepish when you scold them for chewing up your favorite shoe. As a result, they tend to follow your lead. If you’re happy and relaxed, then chances are your doggo is going to get the hint and initiate a game of fetch or beg for a nice long walk. On the other hand, if you’re feeling down, your four-legged friend might cuddle up next to you in hopes of providing a little extra comfort.
This means most dogs will definitely know things are a bit different if you’re pregnant. Whether morning sickness has you feeling grim or your doggo is receiving less attention as prep for baby’s arrival begins, they’ll know something is up. However, they’re not likely to suspect that something is a tiny human who is about to change their lives (and yours) forever.
Can dogs detect pregnancy?
Your dog is definitely no substitute for a pregnancy test. But as your hormones change, there is anecdotal evidence that your dog may notice a change in your smell. According to a 2018 report in Frontiers of Veterinary Science, dogs can smell 1,000 to 10,000 times better than humans. That’s because they’re believed to have more than 220 million more olfactory receptors in their snouts.
This keen sense of smell is why dogs are used to sniff out bombs, find missing people, and even detect low or high blood sugar in people with diabetes. So, yes, your dog knows your smell well and could become curious if it changes. Still, even if your pup realizes there’s something different about the way you smell, they’re unlikely to know the reason why.
There’s no evidence that dogs can alert their humans that they’re expecting before the mom-to-be realizes it herself. But given how many hormones your body releases when you’re pregnant — including progesterone, relaxin, and oxytocin — there’s a good chance your dog will detect a change in your natural smell (even if they don’t alert you).
Do dogs become more protective when their person is pregnant?
It’s important to note that every dog is different. If your dog is usually oblivious to your moods, they’re unlikely to suddenly become extra protective when you’re preparing to welcome a new baby. However, if you have a dog who is already highly attentive to your moods, they might stick close to your side as your due date approaches.
Even though there’s no evidence dogs understand exactly what’s happening when a person is pregnant, they do know something is changing. Due to their awareness of their owner’s normal walk and body language, they may notice if your gait changes as your belly grows or if you begin to slow down the closer you get to your baby’s arrival.
Some owners have reported their dogs becoming more protective of them as their body changes during pregnancy. Additionally, your pet could begin acting out if they’re receiving less attention or their environment is changing as you prepare for your new family member.
How can you prepare your dog for the arrival of a new baby?
Having a baby is a big change for everyone in your household, including your dog. That’s why it’s so important to prepare your pup for the arrival of a new family member before you bring the baby home. Here are a few ways you can help your furry friend understand there’s a new member of the family coming soon, according to the ASPCA:
- Gradually change your dog’s routine before the baby’s arrival so they’re not completely thrown by midnight feedings and later walk times. They’re going to be receiving less attention than they’re used to, and it will be jarring if the change happens all at once.
- Teach your dog new rules you want them to follow — like not jumping on people or staying off the furniture — before you bring home your baby.
- Play baby sounds to get your dog used to the cries and gurgles that will soon be filling the house.
- Let your pup see and smell new baby items — and make sure they understand the new teddy bears aren’t part of their toy collection.
- Put your dog on a leash the first time you introduce them to the baby, just in case they get too excited. Stay calm and speak softly as you let your dog sniff the baby, and be sure to offer praise for gentleness.
- Remember to still make time for your pup. While the new baby comes first and requires lots of attention, it’s only natural for a dog to act out if they’re not eased into changes in their environment. From hiring a dog walker to help your best furry pal get some much-needed energy out (or enlisting a dog-loving friend’s help) to simply making time to give them pets and treats, showing your pup that they’re still important can make a world of difference.
Dogs are highly perceptive creatures, so they’ll notice all of the changes going on around them during your pregnancy — but it’s up to their humans to help them prepare for their tiny new family member’s arrival.