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Do female dogs know when you’re pregnant?

Many dog owners wonder if their furry companions are able to sense when a woman is pregnant. Dogs have an incredibly advanced sense of smell, so it seems plausible that they could detect changes in a woman’s body or behavior during pregnancy. But does the evidence actually support the idea that dogs can sense pregnancy?

In the opening paragraphs, we’ll provide a quick overview of what science tells us about dogs’ ability to detect pregnancy. Then, we’ll dig deeper into the details and proposed explanations. Read on to learn if female dogs really know when you’re pregnant!

The Quick Answers

– There are many anecdotal reports of dogs appearing to sense their owner’s pregnancy or even pregnancy in strangers. However, there is no firm scientific consensus on dogs detecting pregnancy.

– Dogs may potentially be detecting extremely subtle chemical changes during pregnancy through their keen sense of smell. However, more research is needed in this area.

– There are key changes in odor, mood, behavior and routine that occur in pregnant women, which dogs may pick up on as signals. Experts think this is a more likely explanation than supernatural pregnancy detection abilities.

– Female dogs that live in the same household with a pregnant woman may show mothering behaviors like nesting or acting more protective. This indicates they detect the changes associated with pregnancy in their home environment.

Exploring the Evidence: Can Dogs Really Sense Pregnancy?

Many dog owners are utterly convinced their pet knew they were pregnant before they did. But what does science have to say about these claims? Let’s dig into the evidence surrounding dogs’ potential ability to detect pregnancy.

Anecdotal Reports from Dog Owners

There are scores of reports from dog owners claiming their dogs could tell they were pregnant before they even knew themselves. Some examples:

– Dogs becoming suddenly overprotective and affectionate with their pregnant owner. Refusing to let strangers near them and growling at loved ones.

– Dogs sniffing and nuzzling the pregnant belly repeatedly. Sometimes laying their heads gently against it.

– Dogs suddenly following their pregnant owner everywhere. Even waiting right outside the bathroom door.

– Dogs barking at and sniffing the pregnant belly of strangers who visit the home.

Of course, these are all just anecdotes. But could dogs really be subtly sensing chemical changes? Let’s look at their biology.

The Incredible Scenting Abilities of Dogs

Dogs have a sense of smell that is 10,000 to 100,000 times more acute than humans. Their noses have over 300 million olfactory receptors compared to our 6 million. Dogs can pick up scents in incredibly minuscule concentrations of just 1 or 2 parts per trillion!

Some examples of dogs’ scenting prowess:

– Detecting cancer through odor signatures in bodily fluids like breath, urine and blood.

– Smelling venom in sea snakes.

– Finding a pint of blood diluted in 2 Olympic sized swimming pools.

– Sniffing out dangerous mold hidden deep inside walls.

– Scenting underground truffles through tons of intervening dirt.

With such an uncanny sense of smell, it seems plausible dogs could detect the subtle chemical changes happening in a woman’s body during the very earliest stages of pregnancy. But this has not been conclusively proven by science yet.

Possible Chemical Changes Dogs May Potentially Detect

Here are some of the chemical changes dogs may potentially smell during early pregnancy:

– Elevated estrogen levels

– Changes in progesterone levels

– Minute changes in compounds like alpha-amylase and luteinizing hormone

– Rising levels of the pregnancy hormone hCG or human chorionic gonadotropin

– Unusually high respiration and heart rates

However, experts say the changes would likely be extremely difficult to detect in the first few weeks. And dogs would have to be very closely and frequently scenting the woman to do so.

Scientific Research on Dogs Sensing Pregnancy

Very few scientific studies have actually tested dogs’ ability to detect pregnancy. And their findings are inconclusive:

Study Findings
1989 study – University of Pennsylvania Female dogs were exposed to urine from pregnant women. They showed no signs of detecting pregnancy.
2013 study – Czech University of Life Sciences Prague Dogs were able to correctly detect pregnant urine samples 64-72% of the time.
2014 study – University of Arizona Trained medical scent dogs accurately identified pregnancy urine samples.

The few studies done have very mixed results. Some dogs could indicate pregnant samples while others showed no signs of detecting anything different about pregnant women. Much more research is needed before we can say conclusively whether dogs can biologically sense pregnancy.

Other Explanations for Dogs’ “Pregnancy Detection”

Rather than special pregnancy sensing capabilities, experts say dogs are likely responding to the many changes in scent, mood, behavior and routine that accompany pregnancy:

– **Morning sickness:** Dogs notice changes in bathroom habits.

– **Aversion to smells:** Changing hormones make pregnant women sensitive to smells dogs give off.

– **Mood:** Dogs are experts at reading human emotional cues. They sense mood changes.

– **Routine:** Dogs see their owners resting more, going for fewer walks etc.

– **Baby bump:** Dogs see and sniff the growing belly.

– **Maternal instinct:** Female dogs may mirror the behaviors of a pregnant human mother.

– **More attention:** Dogs get more affection from the pregnant owner or family.

Rather than supernatural pregnancy detection, dogs are just highly observant of the many changes that come with pregnancy. Their responses likely stem from logical explanations.

Do Female Dogs Detect Pregnancy in Other Dogs?

Interestingly, female dogs also sometimes appear to detect pregnancy in other dogs. They may show interest in and gentleness toward a pregnant dog’s belly.

Some possible explanations for this behavior:

– Scenting hormonal changes just like with humans

– Noticing changes in body shape and mammary glands

– Mirroring maternal preparation behaviors like nesting

– Responding to shifts in mood and temperament in the pregnant dog

So female dogs probably rely on similar cues to determine another dog is pregnant. Although scent may play a stronger role for dogs than humans.

Behaviors of Female Dogs When a Woman is Pregnant

If a female dog is living in the same home as a pregnant woman, she will likely notice some changes. Here are some common behaviors dogs display when they detect a household member is pregnant:

Increased Affection and Protectiveness

Some female dogs become very attached to a pregnant woman. They may follow her around constantly and want to cuddle or be petted more. Female dogs may also act more protective and not want unknown people touching or getting close to the pregnant belly. Their protective instincts kick in.

Sniffing and Licking the Belly

Dogs will often gently sniff and lick a pregnant belly, just as they do with a swelling pregnant dog belly. They are investigating the changes they detect in smell and appearance. The licking may also be a comforting, bonding gesture.

Nesting Behaviors

Some female dogs appear to mirror the “nesting” urge pregnant women experience shortly before birth. The dog may dig at bedding and pillows, turn around in circles, and prepare a comfortable nest for the arrival of a new family member. Female dogs may also steal stuffed animals or baby toys and bring them to their nest.

Mothering and Caregiving

Female dogs often show strong mothering behaviors toward human infants. So they may demonstrate the same nurturing actions toward a pregnant woman. This includes alerting others when the woman wants care or needs help. The female dog is getting ready to take on some babysitting duties!

Guarding Toys or Food

Pregnant women are advised to stop playing tug of war and feeding dogs from their plates. Female dogs may instinctively start guarding resources like food, treats and toys in preparation for the new arrival. This important resource guarding prevents potential conflicts.

So while female dogs may not supernaturally sense a pregnancy, they do behave differently when they detect the associated changes in the household. Their actions help prepare for a new family member.


While the jury is still out on whether female dogs can truly sense the extremely early stages of pregnancy through smell, it’s clear that dogs notice many tangible changes that accompany pregnancy. From morning sickness to mood changes to a growing belly, dogs pick up on the multitude of differences, likely without any supernatural pregnancy detection sixth sense.

And when they live in the same home as an expectant mother, female dogs will mirror some of her behaviors to prepare for the new arrival. Although they can’t read that pregnancy test stick, it seems female dogs still know a baby is on the way based on the environmental cues in their home!