Can Dogs Sense Pregnancy in Humans?

Terrier dog sitting on a couch with a young lady

Maybe your dog suddenly becomes more protective than usual. Or perhaps she gets annoyingly clingy, wanting to be in the same room with you all the time. Maybe your dog even tries to lay on your stomach whenever you give her the chance.

What’s going on? Well, if you’re a woman, it could be a sign that you’re pregnant.

At least, that’s what a lot of people seem to believe. Of course a lot of people believe things about dogs that are flat-out wrong, so it’s wise to be skeptical about the idea that dogs can tell when someone’s pregnant. Here’s what the evidence and common sense tell us.

3 Good Reasons to Believe Dogs Can Sense Pregnancy

The truth is that, as of now, there’s no scientific proof that dogs can detect pregnancy in humans. Anecdotes about dogs sensing pregnancy – common as they are – don’t constitute evidence. That said, the idea isn’t much of a stretch given what we do know about our canine pals.

1. Dogs have super senses
From a human’s perspective, a dog’s senses are hard to comprehend, which is why canines are often ascribed mystical powers (like the ability to see ghosts). Studies have shown that dogs can sniff out certain medical conditions in people with a high degree of accuracy, so it doesn’t seem far-fetched to think they could pick up the raging hormones of a woman in the early stages of pregnancy. It’s also likely that at some point in the pregnancy, the keen ears of a dog would be able to hear a fetal heartbeat.

2. Dogs are highly attuned to human behavior
Dogs have thrived as a species by sticking with humans and paying close attention to our behavior and moods. Therefore, any change – even one that’s imperceptible to us – could set off alarm bells in a dog’s head. It could be something as minor as a slight change to the way you move, or the different feelings you have as a result of the hormones coursing through your body.

3. Dogs are sensitive to changes in routine
Both because dogs are attuned to us and because they’re creatures of habit themselves, they very likely can pick up a subtle change in routine before it even registers with humans. Maybe you’re eating different kinds of food. Or you’re getting up in the middle of the night to pee. Or you’re sleeping in more. These may seem like insignificant changes to us, but they’re highly interesting and potentially distressing to a dog.

2 Reasons Not to Get Carried Away

As you can see, there’s a good chance that dogs can indeed sense when a human is pregnant. However, there are a couple of caveats that make it not quite as impressive as it might seem.

1. Dogs probably don’t know the significance of what they’re detecting
Even if all of the above points are true, it’s perhaps misleading to say that dogs can sense pregnancy. It’s more accurate to say that they can sense that something is different about a pregnant woman. That something is what makes our loyal companions concerned or curious, which causes the behavior that people note in the familiar anecdotes.

2. Confirmation bias
The ability of dogs to sense pregnancy – if it exists – might be seriously overblown due to confirmation bias. This is the tendency of people to look for evidence to support something they want to believe – such as the idea that their dog has special abilities – while disregarding contradictory facts. Note that in most of the anecdotes, people only assign significance to the dog’s behavior after it turns out they were pregnant. For all we know, the cases where dogs fail to notice anything could far outnumber the ones where they do.

Perhaps it’s not all that surprising that a devoted dog could sense his owner’s pregnancy. After all, dogs are our best friends, and best friends often know us better than we know ourselves. But please, whatever you do, don’t skip out on the pregnancy test based on Fido’s behavior.