Some women say that their dog started acting differently around them even before they knew they were pregnant. So if you’re trying to conceive, you may want to keep an eye on your dog’s behavior to see if they respond to you in different or unusual ways. It’s possible that your dog might notice something’s different even if you’re only a few weeks pregnant. It’s also possible your dog might not notice you’re pregnant until your belly starts showing or your routine changes. Your dog noticing that you’re pregnant can be a fun story, but a pregnancy test is a more reliable way to determine if you’ve conceived.
So, what might give dogs the ability to detect that you’re pregnant before you know you’re pregnant? The answer may lie in their physiology or their temperament.
A dog’s sense of smell is substantially better than a human’s. In fact, dogs can differentiate anywhere from 30,000 to 100,000 different scents and have 60 times more scent receptors than humans. But can dogs sense pregnancy in humans? Although there haven’t been any scientific studies that have examined specifically whether dogs can pick up the scent of a pregnant woman, anecdotal evidence suggests that it may be possible. A pregnant woman’s hormonal changes may cause subtle changes to her scent that are detectable only to her canine companion.
How hormones can affect your scent
When you’re pregnant, your hormones change, and this could affect the familiar smell of your skin that your dog knows and loves. Instead of saying that dogs smell pregnancy, it might be more accurate to say that dogs can possibly smell these hormonal changes.
One of the first pregnancy hormones that a woman’s body produces is human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), which occurs seven to nine days after fertilization. This same hormone is the one that urine or blood sample pregnancy tests detect.
Other pregnancy hormones that may influence your scent include:
- relaxin, which loosens your muscles and ligaments in preparation for labor
- prolactin, which stimulates breast milk production
- progesterone, which supports fetal development
Although you might not notice a difference in how you smell, these hormones will start to change how you feel. Hormonal changes correspond to physical changes in the body such as:
- swollen, sensitive, or painful breasts
- drowsiness or fatigue
- headaches or nausea
- change in appetite or taste preferences
Your dog observes your behavior
How else might dogs sense pregnancy? Dogs are very observant creatures and can pick up on different body language cues, moods, and emotions. Your dog might notice if you’re feeling anxious or worried, or they might respond to you differently when you’re fatigued than when you’re alert.
Dogs are also highly sensitive to their environment, especially if what is familiar to them starts to change. If they notice that you are redecorating a room or bringing home new furniture and toys in anticipation of the new baby, they may figure out that something is happening.
Many pregnant women who have dogs as pets say that their furry friend became more affectionate, more cuddly, and even more alert and protective toward them when they became pregnant.
Your dog’s behavior might also change based on your pregnancy symptoms or mood. For example, if you are experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions, your dog might respond to your change in behavior if you appear uncomfortable or concerned. If real pregnancy contractions start and you’re preparing for labor and delivery, your dog may react to what’s going on around you.
Below are some common behaviors that dogs exhibit when their owner is pregnant:
- Being more affectionate than usual: following their owner around or begging for attention.
- Being more alert or protective: showing a heightened sensitivity to otherwise familiar people and environments.
- Being more cuddly: nuzzling their owner’s abdomen or snuggling when they’re resting.
- Acting out: urinating around the house or chewing items brought home for the new baby.
A dog’s behavior depends on their personality, so some dogs may react more strongly to pregnancy than others.
Being pregnant and having a baby can bring lots of emotion, excitement, and anxiety for you and your loved ones, including your dogs! Now that you know how sensitive dogs are, you may wish to help them adjust to changing family dynamics. Continuing to give them lots of love and affection and being patient with them if they start to act out can help them adapt.
You may need to ask friends, family, or even a dog trainer for support if your pregnancy symptoms impact your ability to care for your pet the way you did before you were pregnant. You can track symptoms like stress in the Flo app to monitor how your pregnancy may affect your relationship with your pet.