If you ever get the feeling your dog can read your mind, you’re not alone. The bond between humans and their dogs is astonishingly strong — and has been for thousands of years. While they’re not mind readers, dogs are excellent at reading human body language and behavior and have an amazing ability to sense change in the world around them — including when their owner is pregnant!
How Do Dogs Know When Their Owner Is Pregnant?
So, what happens when a dog’s owner becomes pregnant? What is it about her condition that a dog can detect?
Here are several factors that may explain how dogs sense when their owner is pregnant.
Change in Scent
Dogs have an amazing sense of smell that can differentiate 30,000 to 100,000 aromas and detect even the slightest change in odor. A mother’s body chemistry and hormones alter during pregnancy, which can also cause her unique scent (an odor her dog knows intimately) to change. And it doesn’t stop at sniffing out pregnancy; there’s even some evidence that dogs can detect when a person has cancer or is about to have a seizure.
Changes in Body Shape and Body Language
You don’t have to be as astute an observer as your dog to notice how pregnancy changes the way a woman looks and moves. Dogs can easily notice when their owner has a difficult time standing up, or when her gait changes to shorter, tilting steps instead of big, fast strides. And compared to a human, an attentive dog might just notice their owner is “showing” sooner in her pregnancy.
Changes in Mood and Behavior
As a dog owner, you've likely come to realize that your dog can read your moods. They know when you’re blue (and respond by cheering you up) and they join in the celebration when you’re bursting with joy. When it comes to moods, you simply cannot fool your dog — one of the many reasons owning a pet is good for us. So, it seems only natural that dogs can sense the mood and behavior changes a mother undergoes when she’s pregnant.
How Do Dogs React to Human Pregnancy?
The changes that occur in a pregnant woman can affect the entire household, including the family pup. Once a sensitive dog realizes change is happening, they may react with their own deviations in behavior.
Depending on the dog’s personality and the physical and emotional shifts of the pregnant woman, a dog may display one or more of these behaviors:
Increased affection for — and protection of — the pregnant woman
Agitation, growling, barking and/or being uncooperative
Urinating around the house
Chewing new items brought into the house for the baby
While some dogs have a more difficult time adjusting, most will eventually get used to the changes in their pregnant owner and return to a more normal behavior pattern.
Most of the time, showing your pup a little extra love and attention goes a long way toward giving them a much-needed sense of relief and reassurance. After all, change can be hard for humans and dogs alike. In more extreme cases, though, a dog that continues to act out may benefit from attending classes with a professional trainer.
Playing and having fun helps to eliminate stress from your life—and the same holds true for your dog. In fact, incorporating various forms of play into your dog's daily routine is vital to helping him develop a healthy, loving personality.
The benefits of play
Here are some of the ways that playing and having fun is important:
Physical health. Active play helps keep your dog's heart healthy, keeps the joints lubricated, and improves his overall balance and coordination.
Mental health. Games with rules force your dog to use his brain, not just his body. This can help keep his mind sharp and focused.
Social skills. When your dog plays with other dogs and other people, it helps improve his overall social skills. He learns basic rules and how to play by them.
Bonding. Even if it's only for a few minutes a day, playing with your dog helps strengthen the bond between you.
Your health. What better way to alleviate the stress of a busy workday and get a bit of exercise than to come home and play with your dog? It's a win-win for both of you.
How to play with your dog
There are right ways—and wrong ways—to play. The most important thing to remember is that you're the boss. You decide what games should be played and you set the rules. This helps establish your credibility as the pack leader. It also helps keep your dog from getting overly excited and out of control while you play. If your dog does become difficult to manage, simply put a stop to the game until he calms down again.
When you're teaching your dog a new game, reward him when he does well. Remember, rewards don't have to be just treats. You can also reward him with his favorite toys or lots of hugs and praise.
When you start out teaching your dog a new game, keep it simple and go through the game slowly, until your dog fully grasps the rules. Also, wait until he fully understands one game before you teach him a new one, otherwise it will end up confusing him.
Avoid games like keep away, wrestling, or tug-of-war. Those games encourage biting or dominant, aggressive behavior.
Stay in control of the game at all times. Show your dog that you're the pack leader, not just another member of the pack. Retrieval games are good at teaching control.
Don't include your body or clothing as part of any game.
Incorporate the SIT or DOWN and STAY commands in every game.
You decide when it's time to end the game, not your dog. The best time to stop the game is when your dog is still eager to play.
If, for some reason, your dog doesn't seem to understand the game at some point, go back to the beginning, or simply leave it and try again a few days later. Don't get angry if you're dog isn't "getting it" right away. Remember it's supposed to be a fun experience for both of you!