Understanding Dog Behavior During Pregnancy

February 16, 2023

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Among many other things during your pregnancy, how your dog starts to respond to you can come as a complete surprise! How dogs react to human pregnancy can vary from dog to dog. Most dogs won’t change or have a surprising reaction, but it is possible that your dog’s behavior during pregnancy can change… for good or for bad.

Kelley, dog trainer

I’ve even lost my awkward discomfort about directly asking clients stating “sudden behavior changes in their dogs” if they know or might be pregnant. One was on fertility treatment, another was trying, and a third....was surprised.”

Can dogs sense pregnancy? 

The short answer is: Yes! Many moms had shared that their dogs seemed to know they were pregnant before they did. 


“My female dog was the one who convinced me to take a test. She is totally attached to my husband. But instead of going to him when he sat on the couch with lunch, she was like a statue sitting behind me while I worked at my desk. He even called to her for a treat with no response. Tested that night with a strong positive.” 

Dogs can certainly pick up on the changes in smell from pregnancy hormones. They can tell something is changing, even if they don’t understand that it is because of a baby.

However, this doesn’t always mean that their behavior will change. While some dogs can have more reactive or loving behaviors, others have no change at all. Some dogs may change their behavior during different trimesters. 

Luna's mom

“Our greyhound didn’t show any change until the third trimester. She became really gentle with me, very gently offering me her paw, asking for pets and cuddles. Before the third trimester, she would shove her paw into my tummy and push until she got attention. She even started walking really slowly next to me on walks instead of haring off and being a nutter.”

Dog behavior during pregnancy can also change with each pregnancy. 


 “I had prenatal anxiety with my second, so I’m not sure whether my pup knew I was pregnant, but she knew I was anxious. She became reactive and very protective. It was exhausting. I wish I could go back in time and fully understand how my anxiety affected her. She was fine with my third pregnancy because I had no anxiety issues. So hard when every pregnancy and postpartum time is different.”

⁠The Clingy Dog 

When it comes to dog behavior during pregnancy, the two ends of the spectrum are a clingy pup and a reactive pup. On one hand, your dog may become extra loving and needy during pregnancy. 


“My dog started sleeping next to me instead of my husband. She would follow me everywhere, even to stand guard of the bathroom at night.”

Moms have shared how their dogs would look for their "approval" before doing everyday things throughout the day. Your dog might also stop jumping on you, become much more gentle, and may not stray as far from you as they had before.

Other behaviors you might see with these ultra-loving behaviors are dogs pushing people away from your belly or the oh-so-cute way they will rest their head on your bump. Your dog might start licking and nuzzling into your belly and legs or spend a lot of time smelling your face, crotch, or belly. 


“My dog was always attached to me, but the pregnancy brought it to the extreme. He also listens a lot more to me than to my hubby. 21 weeks now, and he's starting to rub his head on my belly and pushes people away from it. He won't bark, but if my mom touches my belly or his dog friends go to smell me, he stands in between us.”

A Reactive and Aggressive Side

Unfortunately, not all dogs will become extra-loving during pregnancy. Instead, your dog may start showing a different side you aren’t used to. Some dogs develop separation anxiety or seem to move backward in their training by eating things, destroying the house, or peeing and pooping in the house.

Other dogs can show a more aggressive side, especially while on walks or around strangers. 


“My girl has become reactive on leash. She will randomly lunge at probably 1 out of every 10 people with no discernible pattern, other than we’ve noticed that she doesn’t like when people move quickly around me. It’s giving me so much anxiety.”

They may growl at your partner or protect your house or space.


“Our dogs' behavior is all over the place: new reactivity to other dogs, sometimes extra sweet, but more growly and snappy (sometimes scary) with my spouse. It’s been hard.”

And lastly, there are some dogs who will become distant and less engaging. Some dogs may lose their appetite or start to hide in a different room.


“My dog seemed very freaked out by me when I first became pregnant - would stay away from me and stare at me suspiciously from afar.”

Is it forever?

Many parents shared that their dog’s behavior returned to how it was before the baby arrived. 


“My pup became way more reactive on walks. Now that baby is here, he’s back to his old carefree self, which I appreciate as I simultaneously navigate a stroller and his leash.”

But it’s not always the case. 

If your dog is only reactive towards other dogs or people with you, if doable, it’s best to let someone else walk the dog in places where there are dogs and people. This way your dog won't rehearse this behavior. While some dogs go “back to normal,” some remain reactive. 


“My dog is much more reactive on leash now. It started during pregnancy, and the baby is 1 month old now. He will bark and bark at any other dog we pass on a walk.”

Some dogs become protective of the pregnant mom, and once the baby is born, they are protective of the baby. 


“My dog didn’t like new dogs near me on walks when I was pregnant, and since having the baby, she doesn’t want new dogs near my baby either.”

No Change At All

As mentioned above, dog behavior during pregnancy will not always change. In fact, more often than not, your dog won’t change at all.


“My dog hasn’t changed at all. She’s still her normal self. I was totally expecting a change!”

My dog Lola definitely “knew”; she was sniffing me much more, but her behavior remained the same. I secretly hoped she would be more cuddly, but it didn’t happen.  

You're not the only one who's nervous about your new addition.

Your dog knows something's up long before your little one makes their entrance. Whether your dog has a behavior change or not, preparing them for the baby is always beneficial. 

  • If your dog is extra clingy, I suggest brief separations throughout the day.
  • If your dog seems worried or anxious, see if going on walks together or short training sessions with yummy rewards would make your dog less anxious and reinstate your bond. 
  • If your dog is more barky, give your dog a job. Check out this blog post for ideas. 

If you need help preparing and training your dog, follow the step-by-step curriculum in the Preparation Course to set your dog up for success with their new brother or sister.

Disclaimer: This blog is for educational purposes only. Please contact your veterinarian, a certified dog trainer, or a veterinary behaviorist if your dog's well-being is at risk or your dog's behavior poses a threat to you or other people.