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Can Dogs Tell When You're Pregnant?



Dog’s seem to have a sixth sense about things. They sense when there’s danger nearby, they can tune in to our emotions, and some dogs have even been known to sniff out sickness or detect cancer. Considering all the changes to human behavior, environment, and hormones that happen during pregnancy, the answer to the question “does my dog know I’m pregnant?” seems all but answered at this point. Still, just because a dog knows that something is up does not mean they know exactly what’s going on. 

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Does my dog know I’m pregnant?

When someone is pregnant, the hormones in their body are affected by the change. Dogs can detect even the slightest change in scent, and the belief is that pregnancy hormones give off a different scent than normal ones. In fact, it is believed that dogs can sense pregnancy even before someone knows they are pregnant. But is this an old wives’ tale, or merely conjecture based on what we know about dogs? How can we be sure that this is the change they are sensing?

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Dogs have a superb sense of smell.

According to the American Kennel Club, dogs have 60 times as many smell receptors as humans. They also devote 40 times the amount of brainpower to those smells than we do. Experts believe that this allows them to differentiate 30,000 to 100,000 aromas. It is this ability to differentiate smells that allow dogs to sniff out drugs, bombs, convicts, and cancers. If they can smell those things, then they can certainly detect something as life-altering as pregnancy.

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How early does my dog sense pregnancy?

Scientists are not sure exactly when a dog can sense that someone is pregnant. Your dog may be able to sense a change, but they might not know why right away. Dogs are intelligent, as well as highly sensitive to human behavior and movement — more sensitive than any other animal, thanks to our centuries of human-canine codependence.

A 2008 study found that dogs are so tuned in to human behavior that they are able to discern the meaning behind even the most subtle human gestures, whereas an ape featured in the same study was not. It doesn’t make dogs geniuses by any measure, but considering how much a pregnancy affects a home and a family, most dogs will definitely be able to notice the difference. 

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How will my dog react to the pregnancy or to the baby?

Many expectant parents might be concerned with how their dog is likely to react to a new face entering the home. People worry that their dog may become protective or fearful of the baby, rather than accepting. It’s a valid concern, as even the most well-behaved dogs can become anxious in the face of big changes, and a baby certainly changes the status quo. 

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As Dr. Rachel Barrack of Animal Acupuncture in New York City explained to the American Kennel Club, parents need not be so concerned. Dr. Barrack reports that many pregnant people have noticed their dogs becoming more affectionate and/or protective during pregnancy and that this behavior has carried into the birth as well. The dog might take to following their pregnant human around or sleeping close by. Many dogs might even be able to sense when their pregnant pet parent is getting too stressed and will attempt to ease that anxiety. 

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Should I prepare my dog for the baby’s arrival?

Regardless of how sweet your dog is being during pregnancy, most experts recommend preparing your pup before the baby arrives. Most dogs will easily adapt to the new routine, but the more stubborn ones might require a bit more love and attention to get used to things. One of the best ways to do this is to bring one of the swaddling cloths from the hospital home to introduce the dog to the baby’s scent. That way, the dog will have some idea of what’s coming. 

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