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One of the funny things I see a lot in online forums is that someone will think their dog is sick because they are behaving differently than usual. However, veterinarians could not find the cause.
Usually, people will advise the owner to see a doctor! This is because dogs can sense human illness and even pregnancy, sometimes before they know themselves.
Dogs can sense human pregnancy, but we’re not sure how much they understand or what causes them to behave differently when someone in the family is pregnant. They may become clingy, protective, or even act worse than usual.
In this article, we discuss whether dogs can sense human pregnancy, behavioral changes you might see, and how to make the transition to having a baby easier for your dog.
Do Dogs Get Clingy When You’re Pregnant?
Dogs can, and often do, become clingy when you’re pregnant. After noticing changes in you, they may start to hug you more often or refuse to leave your side when you are home.
Some dogs have “their people” in the house, but once another person in the family becomes pregnant, they leave their side rather than attaching to them.
No one is really sure why dogs do this, and it may vary from dog to dog. Some dogs may notice that you are sick with pregnancy and want to offer comfort. Others may like babies so stay with you when they know you’re pregnant.
You know your dog best, so you can probably guess why they’re clingy. Who knows – maybe they even know they won’t leave you alone after the baby is born and want to have some quality time!
Do Dogs Protect Their Pregnant Owners?
Some dogs can protect their pregnant owners. This may or may not be accompanied by sticking.
Likewise, we can’t be sure why some dogs’ protective instincts kick in when someone is pregnant. We can only guess what was going on in their heads.
They may perceive pregnant people as vulnerable, especially if they are sick or move around less than usual due to pregnancy.
It’s also possible that your dog is protecting the fetus instead of you. Some dogs cling to and protect babies after they are born, suggesting that their behavior may be targeting babies.
What if my dog is too protective?
Dog protection can sometimes go awry. After all, a dog “protecting” you from other people in your home is not the same as protecting you from a burglar!
If your dog is overprotective, consider hiring a professional to help with the problem before it escalates. A certified veterinary behaviorist would be best, but otherwise, look for a trainer who uses a powerless method. Aversive training methods can worsen guarding and cause it to escalate into aggression.
Do dogs misbehave when their owners are pregnant?
Not all dogs know what to expect when someone is pregnant, or how to handle it in a nice way, like giving them an extra hug.
Some dogs may sense that their guardians are different and misbehave accordingly. This is especially true if your dog receives less attention, exercise, or mental stimulation.
Ideally, if someone else in the household is the dog’s primary caretaker, they should provide assistance to the pregnant person. After all, your dog still needs attention – any dog that doesn’t get enough walks or mental stimulation will start to get bored and will likely behave poorly. They’re just looking for something to do!
But even with care, dogs can underperform due to changes in their routine. Even if other people do the same, your dog may wonder why the pregnant person doesn’t spend time with them anymore.
Or, on the other hand, your dog may be used to a pregnant woman who goes to work every day. Maternity leave might be bothering them – for example, maybe they usually sleep when everyone is away and now they wake up and miss that sleep.
How to Help a Misbehaving Dog
The first thing to remember is that your dog is not trying to be bad or make your life harder. This can be hard to remember, especially during pregnancy.
Put yourself in their shoes. Dogs thrive on everyday life, and your dog probably expects the same things every day. Now, things are changing. This is incredibly stressful for a dog.
Here are some ways to help your dog that will also help their behavior.
- Keep the routines as similar as possible. Keep walks, mealtimes and any other daily activities in your dog’s life. Pregnant people may not be able to do this, but ideally someone else will step up to help! You might also consider hiring a dog walker if you can afford it.
- Give them extra attention. When dogs feel insecure, sometimes all they need is a little more love to comfort them.
- Hire someone to help. If you don’t have someone in your home to help care for your dog, consider hiring someone to walk or groom your dog.
- Go to the vet. If your dog is generally behaving well, be sure to rule out changes in their health. Sometimes dogs exhibit behaviors due to illness or pain.
- give it time. Sometimes, all you can do is wait for your dog’s strong emotions to pass. Once they get used to the changes in their lives, they may adapt and return to being the well-behaved dogs they were before.
Prepare new members for your dog
Raising a dog and a baby at the same time can be difficult, especially if you haven’t done it before. Here are some ways to make the process smoother for you and your dog:
Let the lifestyle change slowly
If you’re spoiling your dog all day now, it’s going to be hard for them to adjust when you spend time with your new baby. They may also resent their children for not getting the attention they want. Instead, start spending less time with your dog during your pregnancy. I’m not suggesting cutting back on walks or ignoring your dog’s needs — just getting them used to your attention rather than focusing on them all the time.
Where possible, do not change their routine
Some changes will need to be made, whether temporarily while you recover or permanently due to the arrival of the baby. However, your dog still needs to be properly cared for! This means sticking to their daily walks, feeding them daily, and grooming them as needed.
Desensitizes Your Dog to Baby Sounds and Smells
Baby cries are stressful for dogs! I know my last puppy would be very sad to hear a baby cry even though he never lived with a baby.
It can also be so attractive to your dog that they may come too close to your baby’s face to find the source of the sound or try to help.
One way to desensitize your dog to this is to play a baby crying sound on your phone or computer for them to hear before the baby comes home. That way, it won’t be brand new.
You can also do this to a certain extent with scent. Let your dog smell the lotion you’re giving your baby—you can even put it on yourself or on a blanket so they can smell it often.
This is especially useful for sniffing dogs who might otherwise be overwhelmed with babies!
Engage in training and socialization
Your dog should know basic manners before meeting your baby, as this will keep everyone safe. For example, you don’t want babies jumping on top of you when they’re in your arms.
Some things that need to be done include:
- don’t jump on people
- greet people calmly
- “Place” command to teach them to go to bed or somewhere in the house to calm down
- “Leave it” command in case you need your dog to ignore babies (for example, if they are too excited to see them)
Mental enrichment can temporarily replace physical exercise
It’s understandable not to walk your dog on the day you’re home with the kids, or even while you’re in the hospital. If you don’t have anyone to help you, plan some enrichment for the days when you won’t be able to go for a walk or play as much as you normally would. These can include jigsaw puzzles, frozen KONG toys, lick pads, and even homemade dog puzzles. You want the activity to be hard enough to keep your dog busy and drain their brains, but not so hard that they give up!
Leash Your Dog During the First Introduction
Some dogs get very excited around babies and don’t know much about their size or how to be gentle. When you bring your baby home, they’ll probably be curious and want to see them right away!
Keeping them on a leash will stop them from jumping up, which could injure the baby. It also stops them from crowding the baby and doing too much sniffing!
Of course, you want your dog to meet your baby so they know what’s going on and you can start the process of teaching them to live together peacefully.
Constantly scolding your dog for getting too close or not allowing them to interact at all will confuse your dog and cause them to associate the baby with your scolding, which doesn’t build a good relationship for the two of them!
However, you also want to make sure your introductions are done safely. Keep your dog on a leash and pay attention to their body language. If they’re scared, you may need to slow down the process and let them warm up to the baby. Do not force your dog to interact if they are not interested!
Can Dogs Sense Labor?
The dog may sense that you are in or near labor due to changes in your body and smell. You may notice a change in their behavior as a result, even if they didn’t behave differently earlier in pregnancy.
If you have Braxton-Hicks contractions or a home birth, your dog may be concerned because they can tell you that you are in pain.
Can Dogs Sense Miscarriage?
Dogs are likely to be able to sense miscarriage and pregnancy. Many changes occur in the body during pregnancy, including hormones, smell, and the way someone looks and moves during pregnancy.
Of course, their bodies change in the same way after a miscarriage. Dogs can sense this, and if they know the person is pregnant, they may understand what’s going on.
Your dog may also notice that people in the family are upset about the miscarriage. Perceiving these feelings may cause them to become extra clingy to offer comfort, or they may try to involve you in a game to cheer you up.
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I am broadly interested in how human activities influence the ability of wildlife to persist in the modified environments that we create.
Specifically, my research investigates how the configuration and composition of landscapes influence the movement and population dynamics of forest birds. Both natural and human-derived fragmenting of habitat can influence where birds settle, how they access the resources they need to survive and reproduce, and these factors in turn affect population demographics. Most recently, I have been studying the ability of individuals to move through and utilize forested areas which have been modified through timber harvest as they seek out resources for the breeding and postfledging phases. As well I am working in collaboration with Parks Canada scientists to examine in the influence of high density moose populations on forest bird communities in Gros Morne National Park. Many of my projects are conducted in collaboration or consultation with representatives of industry and government agencies, seeking to improve the management and sustainability of natural resource extraction.