Few things are sweeter than seeing your dog nuzzle your baby bump, but what does it mean when they do something that's really out of the ordinary for them, especially if your due date is not too far away? Could your favorite four-legged companion actually be trying to tell you something? Can your dog sense that you're about to go into labor? It may not be the first time that they've tried to warn you about something.
If you ask Dog Whisperer Cesar Millan, the answer is yes, your dog can tell when their human parent is going into labor. Dogs have been able to predict earthquakes, storms, sickness — even when a woman is about to give birth, explained Millan. But there isn’t much by way of scientific evidence to support how dogs respond to an owner’s pregnancy and labor, according to Erin Askeland, pet behaviorist. She does tell Romper, however, that "there are many statements from women and surrounding family members that support these claims, along with the knowledge that dogs can detect certain things in the body like insulin levels, oncoming seizures, and even cancer; so the claim that they can also detect shifts in a woman’s body during pregnancy isn’t farfetched, particularly over the nine-month span of pregnancy."
If you're like most pet owners, you've probably seen your dog display some remarkable intuition. Whether it's pacing before a storm or barking at a person you've always disliked, dogs sometimes seem like they literally possess a sixth sense. In fact, 72 percent of dog owners said they've gotten weather warnings from their dogs, and 47 percent of dog owners say their pets have alerted them to bad news, according to NBC News, reporting on an Associated Press-Petside.com poll. These owners cited various ways in which their dog let them know something was amiss, including being overly hyper or barking persistently.
There are plenty of other examples of dogs knowing things before we do too. So what are some ways that dogs tell us that labor is nigh? Here are some remarkable firsthand examples from mamas with some pretty amazing pups.
1. Your Dog Starts Acting Super Clingy
If your dog suddenly becomes your shadow — more than usual — you might be going into labor very soon.
"The night before my induction my dog was acting super clingy and protective. He would not leave my side for anything and whined if I went somewhere he couldn't go," said Gingermom15 in a forum on The Bump. "I woke up at 1:30 that morning with irregular but strong contractions. I certainly think animals can sense these things," she said. Askeland says this isn't out of the realm of possibility. Because your pup has probably noticed you acting a little strange, they can "become glued to their owner’s side, maintain contact with their owner (like resting their head on them or following them closely), or try to provide comfort," she says.
2. Your Dog Starts Sniffing You
As your due date approaches, be on the lookout for your dog getting extra sniffy, especially in the crotch region! "According to the Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES), a dog's sense of smell is about 1,000 times keener than that of their two-legged companions — and many dog experts claim it's millions of times better," according to Animal Planet. And this entry from BibleMommy in a Baby Center community forum really confirms it:
"My cousin has two dogs, which never paid me much attention, and one night when I was by her house the dogs kept walking circles around me and smelling my crouch (sic). I was 38 weeks and just left the dr office, which she said I was not having this baby anytime soon so I thought they were just acting weird. Went home and about an hour later my water broke and I went into labor."
Sure your vagina does change in scent when you're pregnant, but this instance seems like it was something more than just an unfamiliar smell that perked these pups' interests. "Dogs can smell changes in the body when their owner goes into labor — these smells come from hormones associated with the pregnancy and labor process such as oxytocin, estrogen, and progesterone," Askeland says. "They may even be able to smell placenta."
3. Your Dog Pees Where He Shouldn't
If your normally well-behaved dog suddenly pees inside, you might be headed to the delivery room real soon: "'The day I went into labor I went to the bathroom and my dog followed me in there and peed on the floor right in front of me..." said schmom1517 in a What to Expect forum. According to PetMD, house-trained dogs can pee inside the house when they are overexcited or feeling scared, and labor definitely brings on both those emotions. Askeland agrees that your dog's behavior can change a bit. "For some dogs, they may become nervous or anxious from their owner’s stress, and show signs of this like pacing, vocalizing, keeping their distance, or hiding." Or peeing?
4. Your Dog Starts Barking A Lot
Dogs might not be able to talk but they sure can say a lot with their barks and whines — maybe even that your baby is on the way.
"I was 39wks and 2days that night, i was siting down on my rocking chair and she stared barking and crying looking at me, i was not feeling well that night," explained Naivy in the same Baby Center community. She went into labor the next morning, so it seems like her dog was right on the money. But again, this may be due to your pup noticing that you're also feeling a little stressed out or worried.
5. Your Dog Starts Ignoring You
If your normally lovey-lovey dog gets a little stand-offish, he might be telling you your baby is coming (and about to replace him).
"My dog is ignoring me right now. She is refusing to give me a cuddle and I think I am in early labor," said shelloc25 on What to Expect. Askeland tells Romper that dogs can also "detect a change in stress level in their owner’s body through tone and inflection and how they move, which is likely to change throughout the pregnancy and through labor," so if you notice your pup giving you some space, they may just notice a change. It really depends on the dog, Askeland says.
Even if there isn't hardcore scientific proof that dogs can tell when a woman is in labor, there's no denying that many dogs exhibit a sixth sense. And you know what, as their mama, you'll probably be able to spot the signs better than anyone else.
Erin Askeland, Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA) and Certified Behavior Consultant Canine (CBCC-KA)
This post was originally published on June 11, 2018. It was updated on Sept. 27, 2019. Additional reporting by Samantha Darby.
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