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What do dogs do when they sense pregnancy?

Dogs have an incredible sense of smell that allows them to detect subtle changes in human physiology and behavior. When a woman becomes pregnant, dogs can often pick up on these changes and alter their behavior accordingly. Here’s an overview of some of the fascinating ways dogs respond when they sense that their owner is pregnant.

Dogs May Sniff More Around the Abdomen

One of the most common behaviors dogs exhibit when they sense a pregnancy is increased sniffing around a woman’s abdomen. A dog’s sense of smell is about 10,000 to 100,000 times more acute than a human’s. According to Dr. Danielle Bernal, a veterinarian specializing in canine reproduction, a dog can start picking up on hormonal changes caused by pregnancy as early as four weeks after conception, when a woman may not even be aware she is pregnant yet.

During pregnancy, a woman’s progesterone and estrogen levels rise. Dogs may be able to detect these hormonal shifts through their keen sense of smell. A pregnant woman’s skin’s chemical composition also changes because of different metabolic processes, and dogs can pick up on this too.

While the abdomen does not give off a physically noticeable odor to humans at this early stage of pregnancy, dogs are able to sense these subtle differences. As a result, you may notice your furry companion frequently sniffing around your stomach if you are in the early stages of pregnancy.

Dogs May Guard More

An increase in guarding behaviors is another common change people report noticing in their dogs during a pregnancy. Dogs have strong protective instincts and seem to understand the vulnerable situation a pregnant owner is in. They can pick up on your altered energy and movements as your pregnancy progresses and may stay closer by your side as a result.

You may notice your dog suddenly following you more closely everywhere you go in the house. They may also stick closer by your side when you are sitting down. Some dogs even take on a protective stance when strangers approach or growl at unfamiliar passersby when out on a walk.

This guarding behavior comes from a place of love. Dogs consider their owners part of their pack. When you become pregnant, they seem to know you are in a more vulnerable state and exhibit guarding behaviors to keep you and your unborn baby safe.

Dogs May Lay Their Head on Your Abdomen

As your pregnancy progresses, some dogs begin to nuzzle and lay their heads gently on a pregnant woman’s belly. This sweet, touching behavior shows they understand and care about the pregnancy.

According to Dr. Katherine Houpt, an emeritus professor of veterinary behavior at Cornell University, some dogs even mirror the expectant mother’s care for her unborn baby by tending to the baby bump themselves. They are responding to the sounds, movements, and smells of the fetus developing inside.

Ultrasounds have detected that dogs can hear fetal heartbeats from as early as 16 weeks. As your pregnancy progresses, your dog may be drawn to laying its head sweetly on your bump so it can feel closer to your baby.

Dogs May Become More Affectionate

Along with protective behaviors, many dogs also become more affectionate and attached when they sense their owner is pregnant. The hormonal changes of pregnancy and the energy of the growing fetus seem to inspire loving behaviors in many dogs.

You may find your dog wants to cuddle up closer to you more often. Your furry companion may also solicit more petting, hugging, and lap time from you. It makes sense dogs would want to bond more during your pregnancy – after all, there will be a new member of the pack for them to get to know and love soon!

Dogs May Bring Gifts

One of the most adorable pregnancy behaviors some dogs exhibit is bringing their pregnant owner gifts. These are not random toys or objects. Your clever canine companion is bringing items it views as being for the baby.

Dogs’ gift-giving tendencies come from their wolf ancestry. Female wolves would regurgitate food for their young to signal they could care for the offspring. Domestic dogs seem to have retained this innate nurturing behavior.

Your dog may bring over baby toys, blankets, or clothing items it finds around the house. It is their way of expressing they understand a little human is on the way and they want to help prepare for its arrival!

Dogs May Nap Against or Near You

Pregnancy is an exhausting time for expectant mothers. As your energy levels fluctuate, your intuitive dog notices these changes. You may find your pooch sticking closer by your side and mirroring your need for more rest and relaxation as your pregnancy progresses.

Dogs are highly empathetic creatures. According to a 2019 study by the University of Linköping in Sweden, dogs synchronize their heart rate variability with their owners as a bonding mechanism. This synchronization also means dogs intuitively pick up on your emotional and physical states.

If you find yourself more tired than usual during pregnancy, don’t be surprised if your devoted dog friend naps alongside you more often. They are picking up on your need for more sleep and want to rest by your side.

Dogs May Display Confusion

Not all dog pregnancy behaviors are as pleasant as bringing gifts and sticking close by your side. Some dogs become confused and act out during their owner’s pregnancy.

As your body changes shape and new smells emerge, some dogs have trouble making sense of it all. They may start eliminating in the house when previously house-trained. Other dogs grow more vocal and bark or whine more frequently.

Try to have patience with these behaviors. Your dog is simply struggling to process the major changes happening within your household. With some extra training reinforcement and plenty of affection, they can usually adapt.

Dogs May React Negatively to Your Baby Bump

While most dogs become more loving and caring when they sense their owner is pregnant, some may actually react negatively and display signs of stress or aggression. Unfortunately, this reaction is not uncommon in dogs.

If your dog starts growling, hiding, snapping, or nipping at you during pregnancy, call in a professional dog trainer or behaviorist. Do not attempt to resolve these behaviors on your own, since aggression can be unpredictable.

With guidance from an expert, most dogs can come to understand that the baby bump is not a threat. Proper conditioning before the baby arrives can usually help them relax.

Some Dogs Detect Pregnancy Before Humans

Here is a table summarizing how early dogs can sense pregnancy compared to humans:

Weeks Pregnant Human Detection Dog Detection
1-2 weeks Not possible Unlikely
3-4 weeks Missed period may be first sign Dogs may start detecting changes
5-6 weeks Pregnancy tests can detect hCG hormone Dogs’ detection increases
7-8 weeks Morning sickness and other symptoms may appear Dogs clearly sense pregnancy now

As you can see from the table, dogs can sense the changes of early pregnancy about two to three weeks sooner than humans can confirm it with a pregnancy test. Their early detection is thanks to their superior sense of smell.

Dogs Have an Evolutionary Advantage

When you consider dogs’ evolutionary history, it makes sense why they developed such sensitivity to human pregnancy. Dogs’ ancestors primarily lived in packs where cooperation was necessary to survive. If a female in the pack became pregnant, it impacted the whole group.

According to Dr. Linda Lombardi, a veterinarian specializing in animal behavior, dogs’ ability to detect pregnancy improved their pack’s coordination and communication. It helped ensure pregnant pack members and future offspring received protection and care.

While family structures look very different today, those protective pack instincts remain strong in dogs. They continue to pick up on pregnancy milestones and cues.

Bonding With Your Dog During Pregnancy

To help your dog bond with you and your expected baby during pregnancy:

  • Keep up your normal exercise and play routine as long as possible. This helps your dog feel involved.
  • Brush your dog frequently to soothe them.
  • Talk or sing to your baby bump when your dog is nearby.
  • Let your dog sniff ultrasound photos of the baby.
  • Rub baby lotion or powder on your hands before petting your dog. This introduces the new smells.
  • Consider taking them to a training class for expectant dog owner.

Developing positive associations and introducing pregnancy changes gradually helps your dog adapt to your new chapter. With patience and care, you and your furry best friend can navigate this transition together.

Signs Your Dog Understands Your Pregnancy

Here are some of the most notable signals that your intuitive dog comprehends you are expecting:

  • Sniffing or nuzzling your abdomen frequently
  • Placing their head gently on your belly
  • Licking your stomach
  • Staying closer by your side
  • Following you everywhere
  • Being more alert or protective
  • Bringing you gifts
  • Cuddling up to you more
  • Seeming especially calm or happy around you

Of course, every dog has their own unique personality and way of picking up on your pregnancy. But these behaviors suggest they do have an innate understanding of the changes happening within your body as you prepare to welcome a new baby!


It is incredible to witness the loving, protective, and intuitive ways dogs respond when they sense their owner is pregnant. While some dogs do become confused or stressed by the changes, most react positively and demonstrate they comprehend a new little human is joining their family soon.

From sniffing developing baby bumps to bringing thoughtful gifts for the nursery, dogs’ actions show just how in tune they are to the transition into motherhood. By providing them plenty of affection and training reinforcement, you can ensure your furry companion develops a strong bond with your expected baby and remains an integral part of the family pack.