Does My Dog Know I'm Pregnant?

Pregnant woman with dog in green field
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Having co-evolved with us for tens of thousands of years, dogs are amazingly tuned in to humans. Many dog owners feel that their dogs can pick up on subtle changes in their behavior, or in some cases, their body chemistry.

Anecdotally, a large number of people have claimed that their dogs were able to sense their pregnancies. But could that be true?

Dogs can smell a change.

Jennie K. Willis, an applied animal behaviorist with Colorado State University's College of Veterinary Medicine, says it's within the realm of possibility. Dogs have amazing senses of smell, and they are able to sniff out human pheromones, which is why they like sniffing our crotches and armpits. When you're pregnant, your dog has probably picked up on a scent change that occurred because of hormones.

Pregnant woman carrying pet dog
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Dogs understand household routines.

Additionally, your dog may sense changes in your routine. Dogs, who are great observers of human behavior, are keenly aware of our daily routines. If pregnancy has impacted your usual routines in any way, your dog may have sensed that and might act differently in response. "Any change, such as different work hours, exercise or bedtime, is very prominent to a dog," says Dr. Willis.

Dogs can sense body changes.

We know that dogs rely heavily on facial recognition to identify their owners, and a savvy pup will be able to notice changes to her owner's body like belly size or difficulty sitting and standing.

Likewise, according to a recently published study in the journal Neuroscience and Biobehavioural Reviews, there is concrete proof that dogs really can make accurate judgments about the moods of the humans around them.

However, though your dog may pick up on these changes, it's unlikely that she understands what pregnancy is. Your dog doesn't know that the hormones she smells mean she will soon be joined by a new human sibling ... but she'll find out soon enough.