Family Lifestyle

Do Dogs Understand Pregnancy?

  • February 20, 2018
White Border collie Dog and Pregnancy Test

From the day I saw those two pink lines show up on the home pregnancy test, I swear Ava knew something was up.

I used to be skeptical that dogs could possibly understand pregnancy, but over the last few months of watching my dog adjust to my mine, I’ve become a believer! While “understand” is a strong word to use about dogs grasping the actual concept of pregnancy, their behavior does change, so there’s got to be something behind that!

Dogs are notoriously very in-tune to their masters. They pick up on emotions, physical changes, scents, and stressors. Guess what pregnancy includes? A whole lot of emotions, stressors, physical and hormonal changes!

White border collie dog laying on floor
Waiting for mom’s next move

So whether or not they actually understand pregnancy is one thing. But they definitely know that something is up! Here are a few of the things that Ava has been up to these past 8 months that confirm my suspicions.

She is more attentive.

Dogs are innately aware of what’s going on around them. How many times do you think your pup is asleep and then the second you try to snap that adorable photo for instagram, they pop their one eye open and stare at you like “Can I help you?”. They are somewhat telepathic, in my personal opinion. And it’s absolutely amazing!

I remember very clearly the day I saw that positive HPT. I came downstairs to sit in the armchair and cry. All sorts of emotions that I could not handle flooded my body (none of which were sadness, by the way). Ava sat right in front of me on the floor, looking at me with worry and offering herself as immediate comfort to whatever was wrong with me.

That day began many months of this sort of behavior, many of which were completely unprompted by me bursting out in tears. Although there are certainly a lot of tears flowing in this house these days.

In pregnancy, I’ve spent more time than usual sitting still, feeling emotions, feeling my breathing patterns, thinking about the future, and delighting in the movements of the tiny human inside of me. All of these things are internal, however, without sounding like the crazy dog lady that I am, I think Ava actually understands that these times are special to me. She calmly lays at my feet or by my side, leaving me to my thoughts. She knows.

White border collie dog resting with pregnant belly
Ava bonding with the baby

She won’t leave my side.

I don’t want to call my dog “clingy” because that sounds pretty negative. I will say, however, that Ava’s behavior of staying nearby has ramped up tremendously in the last few months.

If she’s not next to me, I’m in her direct line of sight.

Maybe it’s because she sees the physical changes I am going through. She has witnessed me injure my back, lose my breath repeatedly, become so exhausted that I can’t change the sheets on my own bed, and struggle to get up from a lot of different positions.

One could presume this behavioral change can be attributed to her protective nature. Something about her master isn’t normal, and although she isn’t sure what, she feels the need to stick close by in case anything bad happens.

This could be it; I truly don’t know. I’m not a scientist, or a researcher, and unfortunately there isn’t a lot of evidence out there to support any of this! (At least none that I have found.)

There are however, many beliefs within the veterinary and animal communities that dogs can sense hormonal changes. After all, dogs can be trained to do amazing things with their scents! They can be trained to sniff out drugs, diseases, and some are even trained to detect an oncoming health crisis before it ever happens.

Their remarkable sense of smell can be traced back to their instinctual nature. Think about it. Dogs use scents to learn about each other. This article helped me understand how dogs are affected by human hormones.  And guess what almost everything in pregnancy can be blamed on…yep, a bunch of raging, hormonal changes!

She is more patient.

Wait, do dogs even have patience? I don’t actually know the answer to this?! Anyway, Ava’s always been a pretty low-key dog, but she will let me know if I’m not paying her enough attention!

In pregnancy, it’s almost as if she’s “understanding” that I am not up for doing the same things as I was before. Nearly my whole first trimester, all I wanted to do was nap. But instead of her standing right in front of me, tailing wagging, and staring at me expectantly as I tried to catch some zzz’s, she instead curls up next to me and joins in for the party.

I hate to admit that she gets much less exercise since I’ve been pregnant. I have less stamina, less energy, less motivation, and somehow Ava’s become an even calmer, more laid back dog, with less exercise.

How is that even possible? It’s as if my dog is my mirror…

white border collie dog naps with pregnant woman
Professional nap partner

She is more careful.

The last thing I’ve noticed about my pup is that she is so gentle with me! Again, she’s always been a great dog. Very aware, very gentle, always sweet. But now even more!

I notice it most when we are playing, or when we’re all having family couch time where she is most definitely invited to sit with us. My husband always plays super hard with Ava. Oddly enough, she doesn’t get quite as “high” when I play with her. It’s rather boring, in fact. Maybe she just likes him more than I? Maybe I should be offended?

No, but really. In the evenings when we all relax on the couch together, Ava used to hop up on the couch and walk overtop of us, uninhibited, until she found her perfect spot. She would often step all over our full bellies after dinner as she turned in circles trying to make her nest for the evening.

In pregnancy, Ava still joins us on the couch for cuddling. BUT.  She has never, not once, stepped on my pregnant belly!

I will admit that I have “guarded” it in the past when I wasn’t sure where she would go, but she intentionally and carefully places her paws to avoid my abdomen. HOW DOES SHE KNOW TO DO THAT?! She is careful with me all of the time and it blows my mind!

In case we didn’t already know, it’s safe to say dogs are pretty amazing. I am convinced, officially, that while dogs may not understand that a baby is growing inside of their pregnant owners, they definitely know something is different about them. They get it, and their behavioral changes illustrate this!

Thanks for reading. Please comment below, as I would LOVE to hear how your furry friends reacted to your pregnancies or other health changes!

  • Caitlin

    Great post! YES! I truly believe dogs behave differently around pregnant women!! Ava definitely changed her behavior around me when I was pregnant, and I wasn’t even her primary caregiver! She was noticeably more cuddly among all the other things you mentioned here. She is incredibly intune to her surroundings.

    • Michelle

      Thanks for your reply, Caitlin! It’s amazing how much animals can sense about us humans, isn’t it? I am so curious if other people’s dogs behave this way? According to some of the articles I read, technically dogs should be able to sense changes in your menstrual cycle as well. Although I’m sure these changes aren’t near as drastic! Thanks for reading 🙂

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