Dogs Can Detect Pregnancy: True or False

Some research indicates that dogs can detect pregnancy based on perception and sense of smell. Learn more about this phenomenon!
Dogs Can Detect Pregnancy: True or False
Maria Fátima Seppi Vinuales

Reviewed and approved by the psychologist Maria Fátima Seppi Vinuales.

Last update: 11 October, 2022

There’s a lot of talk about the acuity of certain senses in dogs, such as the auditory and olfactory senses. These allow them, from a distance, to capture stimuli or data that would go unnoticed by the ears or sense of smell of a human. There’s even talk of the sixth sense of dogs, as they can anticipate catastrophic situations, such as earthquakes, displaying restlessness a few minutes beforehand. This is why many people say that these animals have a sort of radar and that dogs can detect pregnancy. How much is true and what’s it all about? Let’s take a look in the following article.

You may be interested in: How Pregnancy Affects the Senses

Can dogs detect pregnancy?

Different publications warn that dogs can detect pregnancy. Let’s see how they may be able to do it:

They perceive the baby’s heartbeat

First of all, in somewhat advanced stages of pregnancy, when dogs approach the pregnant person and get close to the belly, they’re able to hear the baby’s heartbeat and perceive its movements.

They have a great sense of smell

Then, different publications also highlight the virtues of dogs’ sense of smell that, together with the hormonal changes that occur in the pregnant woman’s body, facilitate the detection of pregnancy. Research recognizes how developed the sense of smell is in these animals, although they also mention that the fact that they identify pregnancy–which is manifested through hormonal changes–doesn’t mean that they understand that a future birth is involved.

The power of this olfactory capacity of dogs is true and can be verified in other types of situations. For example, when they receive special training to identify drugs or to be companion pets for people with epilepsy.

A woman working from her couch with her dog nearby.
Although it’s believed that dogs could detect pregnancy through their sense of smell, there’s no conclusive evidence in this regard. Another point in favor of the theory is that they can identify emotional changes in people.

Dogs can identify emotional states

Different publications also mention that dogs are able to identify changes in people’s moods, although more specifically in their owners or those with whom they spend the most time. Therefore, canines can recognize the emotional ups and downs of pregnancy.

Based on different research, a variety of theories have been suggested regarding the possible ways in which canines can identify pregnancy. However, it’s true that there are no conclusive results to show that there’s an understanding of what this means. But perhaps that isn’t the most important thing, as most people who have dogs emphasize, above all, the companionship of their pets.

Recommendations to take into account before and after pregnancy

Here are some of the recommendations for those who have a dog before, during, or after pregnancy.

During pregnancy

During pregnancy, it’s good to take into account a series of recommendations both for the health care of the pregnant woman and for the welfare of the pet.

  • The pregnant woman shouldn’t be responsible for picking up or cleaning up the dog’s waste.
  • Verify that the pet’s vaccinations are up to date.
  • It’s not a good idea to interrupt past routines that you have with the animal, such as going for a walk once a day.
  • Let the dog begin to have contact with the baby’s things. For example, their room or some toys, etc.
  • Start to warn the animal regarding which places it’s not allowed to be so that it starts to understand certain limits.
  • Start habituating the pet to the new noises that the home will have, such as the baby’s crying.
A puppy in a baby's bedroom.
It’s important that the dog doesn’t lose its place before the arrival of a child. On the contrary, it should be integrated into this new stage.

After birth

Once the birth has taken place, at least during the first months, the child and the dog shouldn’t be left alone together. Sometimes, little ones make movements or throw objects, which can be misinterpreted by the dog as if it were a game. Thus, the pet may even make a clumsy movement that may scare the baby or, in more serious cases, cause a fall.

Therefore, at least in the beginning, it’s better that they remain in the company or under the supervision of an adult. However, it’s good to point out that the benefits of growing up with a pet are always more significant than the risks.

If a dog accompanies you during pregnancy, don’t forget about your pet!

Regarding the experiences with dogs during the nine months of gestation, there’s no single idea. There are those who report that their pets become more protective and don’t leave their side, while others warn that the animal’s behavior becomes somewhat anxious.

Whatever the case may be, experts in animal behavior point out that it’s important for the pet not to lose its place in the house. Rather, it needs to be integrated and socialized regarding the new situation.

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  • Alicia Phillips Buttner, Breanna Thompson, Rosemary Strasser, Jonathan Santo, Evidence for a synchronization of hormonal states between humans and dogs during competition, Physiology & Behavior, Volume 147, 2015,Pages 54-62, ISSN 0031-9384, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.physbeh.2015.04.010.
  • Díaz Videla, Marcos (2015) “El miembro no humano de la familia: las mascotas a través del ciclo vital familiar,” Revista Ciencia Animal: No. 9 , Article 7