Why Do Dogs Protect Pregnant Owners?

Dogs protect human owners because, as sensitive beings, they are capable of detecting even the most subtle changes taking place in their owner's bodies. Of course, not all dogs act protective of expecting mothers: it just seems like it takes a certain personality for the dog to display protectiveness.

Although there is no scientific data to back up the fact that dogs are capable of detecting their owners' pregnancies, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence. Indeed, almost every family has some story about how Rover was capable of detecting their owner's pregnancy, sometimes even before the owner ran a pregnancy test! How is this all possible though? This ability surely makes dogs look like they are psychics! 

A Time of Changes 

Pregnancy causes a variety of changes that go beyond the most evident signs such as food cravings and an evident "bump." With dogs being capable of detecting cancer, diabetes and minute traces of explosives in a busy airport, it comes as no surprise how readily they can recognize signs of pregnancy. 

First off, with their powerful sniffers, dogs are capable of detecting subtle chemistry changes. Then, consider that dogs are masters in reading body language. They'll therefore be quick to pick up slight differences in a pregnant woman's posture, shape and movements as the pregnancy progresses. 

And then, consider that dogs are very sensitive to changes in their routines. They'll be fast to recognize the fact that they are no longer walked as frequently as they used to. They may also notice that their pregnant owner spends more time sitting or preparing the nursery room. 

Not to mention, dogs are very attuned to their owner's moods-and pregnant women can sure be quite moody! On top of this, dogs may also notice changes in others sharing the household. They may notice how other members of the family may be taking more care of "preggers."

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Dogs are very tuned-in to their owners and readily detect physical and emotional changes

Reactions to Human Pregnancy

As seen, pregnancy brings lots of changes which can even feel a tad bit overwhelming to dogs who are creatures of habit and love their routines. We can't blame them tough, pregnancy can be stressful for humans too!

Dogs who are more observant and sensitive to changes, and dogs who are very tuned-in with their owners are therefore more likely to be impacted. What kind of reactions are expected? Dogs may react in various ways. 

Some dogs may ask for more attention, while others may even exhibit aggressive displays towards the expecting mother or other people or dogs approaching her.  

Dogs who become more protective, most likely do so because they feel as if their pregnant owner is vulnerable. Perhaps this can be attributed to their postural changes and the fact that expecting mothers might not walk as steadily as they used to. Perhaps scent also plays a role.

Until dogs can talk, we can only make assumptions as to why some dogs tend to act protective towards pregnant women. All that we know with certainty is that changes can bring unusual responses in some dogs. 

Signs of Protective Behaviors

Dogs who become protective of their pregnant owner may display signs of protectiveness directed towards strangers, other dogs and even people sharing the same household.

 It is not unheard of for some dogs to even display signs of protectiveness targeted towards the spouse of the expecting mother.  

What are some common signs of protective behaviors in dogs? Affected dogs may growl, bark, lunge and even attempt to bite other dogs or people who try to approach the pregnant owner. 

Some dogs may block doors with their bodies or may try to prevent a spouse from laying down on the bed. Barking and growling may also occur when somebody attempts to shake hands or even hug or kiss the owner. 

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Dogs may place themselves between the owner and somebody perceived as an "intruder"

Nipping the Behavior in the Bud

When it comes to aggressive behaviors, it is always best to tackle these behaviors early. If you put off getting help for too long, there are risks that the behavior may get more and more established and therefore more difficult to overcome. 

And don't just assume that once the baby is born, your dog will go back to acting normally- sure, in the best case scenario it can happen, but there are cases of dogs who, once the baby is born, become protective of both mom and baby. From bad to worse!

Now That You Know...

If your dog acts protective of you, you may be concerned about the behavior, especially if your dog engages in aggressive displays when other people or other dogs approach you. What can be done to fix this behavior? Fortunately, there are several options, but it is always best nipping the behavior in the bud before it has a chance of establishing and consulting with a professional. 

  • Avoid using any harsh training methods. Correcting a dog for biting through physical intervention or intimidation can escalate the confrontation and in general risks making matters worse.
  • Consult with a dog behavior professional using force-free behavior modification methods. He or she can suggest behavior modification techniques based on the behavior you are observing.  
  •  Avoid putting your dog in situations that trigger the protective behavior. The more dogs rehearse problem behaviors, the more stressed they become and the more likely the undesirable behavior put roots and establishes. If your dog acts protective in presence of people approaching, do not allow them to approach. If you must invite guests over, keep your dog in a separate area in the home. 
  •  Get familiar with the process of desensitization and counterconditioning. Have your dog behavior professional show you how you can create positive associations with people approaching you. For more information, read "why do dogs act protective of one owner?"
  • Keep your dog's routine as close as possible to normal. As mentioned, dogs dislike changes as they disrupt their lives and cause stress. 
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