For centuries, humans have known that dogs possess an extraordinary sense of smell way beyond their own olfactory capabilities. As a result, we’ve put that skill to use in a variety of beneficial ways, such as finding missing people and detecting illegal drugs. 

However, can that enhanced, highly sensitive smell detect human pregnancy? Well, there is little solid scientific evidence that proves they can. But a lot of anecdotal evidence, alongside well-established experience with dogs detecting other physical conditions, says yes!


A Dog’s Sense of Smell

A dog’s superior sense of smell is common knowledge. However, how much stronger it is compared to humans varies by whom you ask. Some sources, for example, say dogs have 60 times the smell receptors, whereas others claim dogs have 220 million receptors versus the 5 million humans have. 

A more significant portion of a dog’s brain is dedicated to smells, meaning they can detect smells from extremely small sources. 


Detecting All Kinds of Things

Dogs and their noses have helped humans save lives and fight crimes for generations. They can be trained to detect almost anything with the slightest scent. They sniff out bombs, drugs, and hidden suspects. It’s become such an art that police dogs can now be trained to find electronic media storage, such as thumb drives, hard drives, and phones!


Detecting Health Conditions

Every human has a unique smell — that’s the primary way our dogs get to know us. Our distinct smell is influenced by genetics, the foods we eat, and the state of our health. 

Injuries and illnesses can make slight changes to the way we smell, and dogs are quick to detect them. Certain dogs specialize in detecting specific conditions, such as certain cancers or blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. In addition, they can detect and warn of impending seizures, and some are now learning to detect COVID-19!


Do Dogs Sense Pregnancy in Humans?

It’s reasonable to believe that dogs can detect pregnancy, too. Whether they’re thinking to themselves that mom is going to have human puppies is unknown. But given their powerful sense of smell and their history of detecting human illnesses, chances are that they can at least notice that something is different. Otherwise, it would be hard to explain why dog parents report changes in their dogs’ behavior after getting pregnant.


Hormonal Changes

A pregnant woman’s body is flooded with numerous pregnancy hormones to support the pregnancy and prepare for childbirth, including: 

  • Human chorionic gonadotropin hormone; 
  • Human placental lactogen; 
  • Estrogen; 
  • Progesterone; 
  • Relaxin; 
  • Prolactin; 
  • Oxytocin. 

All those hormones can change mom’s natural scent, and the dog will notice it immediately. Chances are your dog will detect pregnancy early, as the hormones start doing their job right after conception. 


Changes in Mom’s Behavior and Routines

As a pregnant woman’s body changes, she may need to change her daily routines as well. For example, morning sickness and the need to rest more often will probably alter the dog’s walking schedule. In the third trimester, the baby bump will make her walk differently, and she may not move as quickly as she usually does. Be sure that these changes will not escape your dog. 


Can Dogs Hear a Baby’s Heartbeat?

Just as dogs have a keen sense of smell, they also have a strong sense of hearing. No doubt you occasionally see your dog react to something you can’t hear. So, if you’re wondering whether your dog can hear a fetal heartbeat, it’s quite possible. In fact, they may also hear other sounds from the womb, especially late in the pregnancy. If your dog is staring at mom’s belly, maybe tilting their head back and forth, they may be hearing what’s going on in the womb! 


Do Dogs Become More Protective Around Pregnant Women?

Not all dogs react the same way when they detect their mom’s pregnancy, but yes, many do tend to become more protective. Expecting parents often tell us that their dog is more reactive toward other dogs or people during walks and more affectionate toward mom.


What Happens When the Baby Arrives?

A new baby changes the family dynamics and your dog’s place in the pack. You’ll need to train your dog to understand what is allowed and what is not where the baby is concerned. It’s important to introduce the dog to the baby in a way that the baby feels safe. For example, allow your dog to familiarize themselves with the new body scent first, then teach them how to interact with the baby in a safe manner. We often recommend using the leash to help guide the dog. 

No matter how friendly your dog is, we do not recommend putting the dog and baby together on the floor, as people do in cute online videos. What if the doorbell rings, and suddenly your dog jumps to bark at the door, accidentally stepping on the baby? What if the baby’s flailing fingers poke the dog in the eye? The dog may bite just out of instinct. It’s important to establish clear boundaries that keep everyone safe. 


Looking for a Certified Dog Trainer? Look No Further Than K9 Basics!

If you’re concerned about your dog’s reaction to your new baby, we can help ensure your child’s safety and your dog’s good behavior. Our capable team at K9 Basics has the experience, expertise, and compassion to safely and effectively teach your dog important skills and teach you how to be a powerful pack leader.

Give us a call at (866) 592-2742 or, if you’re from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, or New York, visit us at 131 Kenilworth Road, Marlton, New Jersey 08053, to learn more about our dog training services. Also, browse our blog and social media for various topics about dogs and their lives with us!