Does My Golden Retriever Know I’m Pregnant?

Anyone who’s a dog owner probably knows that dogs are very perceptive. They’re great at reading human behavior and body language and have a sense of smell that trumps ours by a lot. These unique skills and abilities aren’t lost on golden retrievers.

Does my golden retriever know I’m pregnant? It’s likely that your golden retriever will sense some changes with you when you become pregnant, like changes in your hormones and transitions in your emotions. However, your golden retriever might not know that those changes actually mean pregnancy.

If you’re interested in knowing if your golden retriever knows you’re pregnant, just how he or she knows you’re pregnant, and how he or she may act when you’re pregnant, you’re in the right place. We’ll explain all of these things and more, so you know what to expect from your golden when you’re expecting.

Golden Retrievers and Sensing Pregnancy

When it comes down to it, a lot of dog owners and professionals alike believe dogs can sense the changes in a woman that pregnancy brings.

Although it’s believed dogs can sense pregnancy in their owners, as of right now, that notion is mostly conjecture – meaning it’s been formed on incomplete information or evidence.

There haven’t been any formal scientific studies done to prove that dogs can sense when an owner is pregnant, but there is a lot of anecdotal evidence that supports this theory.

For the purpose of this article, we’re not going to dispute that dogs (like golden retrievers) can sense pregnancy, considering many professionals in the field, like Doctors of Veterinary Medicine and dog/animal behavioral specialist, agree with this notion.

Take what Jennie K. Willis, applied animal behaviorist at Colorado State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, has to say on the matter, for example: “Although it hasn’t been scientifically explored, it’s within the realm of reason.”

Or, consider what Dr. Ann Hohenhaus, DVM, who is a staff doctor at New York City’s Animal Medical Center, told the American Kennel Club: “I suspect that dogs can smell something we cannot in a pregnant woman.”

We’re going to discuss the fact that your golden retriever will likely notice several changes in you when you become pregnant – including the changes your golden will sense and how. Let’s get into it!

How Your Golden Retriever Might Sense Your Pregnancy

We’ve discussed that your golden retriever will likely be able to sense some changes in you when you become pregnant. Just what are those changes, though? How is your golden retriever able to detect them? We’ll explain a few of the many possible ways.


A sense of smell is essential when it comes to golden retrievers. Just how important, you wonder?

According to the American Kennel Club and Dr. Ann Hohenhaus, DVM (who we talked about previously), not only do dogs have 60 times as many smell receptors as humans – they also have 40 times as much brainpower devoted just to smell.

 Dogs can supposedly differentiate between 30,000 and 100,000 smells – and maybe even more. Yes, you read that, right!

 Since dogs have so many more smell receptors than humans, and so much more brainpower devoted to smell, it’s not off base to believe that golden retrievers can smell when their owner is pregnant.

 After all, dogs have been able to smell cancer in humans, even specific types like colorectal cancer. They’ve also been able to smell out insulin levels, menstrual cycles in women, and other chemical changes. So, really, it’s very likely they’re able to sense and smell pregnancy, too.

Changes That Occur in Pregnancy That Your Golden May Be Able to Smell

Okay, so it’s pretty likely your pup may be able to smell when you become pregnant. What exactly is he or she able to smell, though? What’s changing in your body that could be attributed to an odor change?

Remember, when you become pregnant, your body chemistry changes and continues changing. Since your golden retriever is so sensitive to smell and can detect even the smallest of changes in odor, your golden will likely be able to smell the difference in your body chemistry or your distinct odor.

 Moreover, hormones in your body can cause a change in scent or odor that you can’t detect, but that your golden retriever can.

Hormones that can affect, or change, your scent while pregnant are:

  • Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG)
  • Progesterone
  • Prolactin
  • Relaxin

Human chorionic gonadotropin, or hCG, is one of the earliest hormones produced during pregnancy. In fact, hCG is the hormone that’s tested for in order to determine pregnancy. It’s what everything from the drugstore pregnancy tests to your doctors’ pregnancy tests looks for.

Progesterone supports fetal development, where prolactin stimulates breast milk production. Relaxin loosens ligaments and muscles in preparation for delivering the baby. While these hormones may appear and change later on than hCG does, it’s likely your dog is able to smell them all.

So, with all the different chemical changes your body goes through while pregnant, there are a lot of different things for your dog to be able to smell.

Behavioral and Emotional Changes

All those hormonal and chemical changes happening during pregnancy are known to change your behavior and emotions, and your golden retriever may be able to pick up on that, too. In fact, it’s pretty common.

You may have noticed your golden retriever offering you more affection or becoming curious when you’re emotional – whether sad, anxious, excited, irritated or whatever the case may be. That’s because they’re so observant; their keen senses help them with that.

Not only are dogs very observant, but they’re creatures of routine; they live with us through our routines and their routines, and can easily pick up changes in their environment – of which we happen to be a part of.

Our furry friends pick up on our behavior and our emotions on a day-to-day basis, and therefore will likely be able to pick up on the different reactions and emotions you develop while pregnant.

 Getting irritated a little more quickly than usual? Experiencing some sadness or stress? How about some fatigue? Your dog can tell the differences in your day to day behavior and emotions.

Changes in the Family Order

As we just mentioned, dogs are creatures of routine and easily pick up on changes in their environment. Dogs are also pack-oriented, and your family is their pack. Therefore, they may easily pick up on changes in the family (pack) order as you and your family go through the process of pregnancy.

For example, your dog may notice you sleeping more than usual. They may see your partner cleaning and/or cooking more, or that both of you are anxious to get things accomplished.

When these changes happen with you and around the household, your dog is along for the ride, too. Your golden can sense when there are changes in the typical family order and routine.

 Some dogs have even been known to notice when toys, clothes, and other items are being brought home for the soon-to-arrive little one. This is another change in their environment and in the family order that they can perceive.

Body Changes

You don’t need special eyes to see the changes that occur in a woman’s body when she’s pregnant; therefore, you can count on your golden retriever seeing and sensing the changes in your body shape and body language when you’re pregnant.

 Your golden retriever may be able to notice that it’s harder than usual for you to get up, that you’re walking more slowly or differently, and even that your body shape has changed.

Even body language and changes in body shape likely won’t slip past your dog; there’s a good chance he or she will be noticing the changes you and your body are experiencing throughout pregnancy.

Changes in Your Routine

Not only can your dog sense changes in your household and family’s routine, but he or she can also sense changes in your routine.

When you’re pregnant, it’s likely that you’ll be making more frequent trips to the bathroom. Maybe you’ve been staying home more because you’re feeling sick, or perhaps you’ve stopped working. Maybe you’ve had to go on bed rest.

Think of all the different changes you’ve had to adapt to in your routines since becoming pregnant. Your pooch can sense and see all of these changes just like you can, although they may not totally know why all the changes in your routine are happening.

Dogs Notice Changes During Pregnancy – But What Does It Mean to Them?

It’s clear that dogs will likely notice changes that happen to you, your body, and your household throughout your pregnancy, whether that be through their sense of smell or just their great observational skills.

However, sensing changes are happening and knowing what those changes mean are two different things.

Does your golden retriever actually know that the changes you’re experiencing are because of pregnancy, or does he or she just see the changes and not know what they mean?

It’s hard to come to a conclusion, but as of now, we can generally believe that while your golden retriever may sense the changes you’re experiencing during pregnancy, he or she doesn’t know the reason.

Let’s revisit Jennie K. Willis, an applied animal behaviorist at Colorado State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. She notes that although your dog will sense all the changes in you while you’re pregnant, they can still be pretty confused when you actually bring your baby home.

Willis notes, “Perhaps if the dog has been with you for multiple pregnancies, he might make the connection [that the changes are due to pregnancy], but it would be tricky.”

So, we can conclude that although your furry best friend likely senses all those changes we discussed, he or she probably doesn’t know why those changes are happening, or what they’re linked to.

Ways Your Golden Retriever May Act When You’re Pregnant

While you’re experiencing all the changes that come with pregnancy, your dog might be experiencing some changes as well. Dogs have frequently been known to act differently around their owners and others when their owner is pregnant.

So, how might your golden retriever act when you’re pregnant? Every dog is different and, therefore, will act differently, but there are some common behavioral changes we see in dogs with a pregnant owner.

Behavioral Changes in Dogs With a Pregnant Owner

As mentioned, every dog is different, and behavioral changes may be different as well. However, some of the changes commonly seen in the behavior of dogs with a pregnant owner are:

  • Increased protection of the pregnant woman
  • Increased affection for the pregnant woman
  • Acting more alert
  • Acting more fearful or timid
  • “Blocking” the pregnant woman from others near her
  • Curiosity with the stomach area, like sniffing or laying head on the belly
  • Urinating around the house
  • Irritation or agitation
  • Growling or barking
  • Being uncooperative or not following what they’ve been trained to do
  • Chewing items brought home for the baby
  • Chewing things related to pregnancy

Some dogs have also been known to become their pregnant owner’s constant companion or little shadow during pregnancy – women have noted their dog wanted to follow them everywhere during their time being pregnant.

American Kennel Club interviewed a dog owner, Jessica. Jessica has a labrador retriever named Jax. When AKC asked Jessica how Jax had been acting since she became pregnant, Jessica answered that Jax had been following around and had been very attentive to her.

How Early Does My Golden Retriever Know I’m Pregnant?

One of the most common questions asked regarding dogs sensing pregnancy is just how early they’re able to sense it.

In this case, you may be asking, how early does my golden retriever know I’m pregnant? The answer is, we aren’t sure of the exact time dogs begin sensing pregnancy, but we believe it’s pretty early on.

 Again, this is due to the fact that formal scientific studies haven’t been done on the subject; however, we have a lot of anecdotal evidence that suggests dogs know early on.

Your golden retriever might even know you’re pregnant before you do!

This is because their senses, especially their sense of smell, are so much more fine-tuned than ours. Remember those statistics – dogs have 60 times as many smell receptors as humans and 40 times more brainpower devoted to the sense of smell.

Your golden may sense the change in your hormones, and therefore a difference in your smell as soon as you become pregnant.

The hormone human chorionic gonadotropin commonly referred to as hCG is one of the first hormones a pregnant woman’s body produces. Production of hCG occurs seven to nine days after fertilization, so very shortly after conception.

Your golden retriever may be able to sense the changes in your body, and therefore pregnancy, as soon as you begin producing hCG. As mentioned, that’s about seven to nine days after fertilization.

 So, all in all, it’s reasonably safe to say that your dog may be able to sense your pregnancy really early on – sometimes even sooner than you can.

Does My Golden Retriever Know I’m Sick? Sad? Or that Something’s Wrong?

As you can tell by now, dogs are very observant thanks to their enhanced senses. It’s likely that they can tell when their owner is pregnant, too, due to all the changes that come with pregnancy.

But what about changes other than pregnancy? Does your golden retriever know when you’re sick? What about if you’re sad, or if something’s wrong? What else can your dog tell about you that you wouldn’t normally think he or she can? Let’s take a look.

Your Golden Retriever Sensing Sickness

Your golden retriever can probably sense when you’re pregnant, but what about when you’re just outright sick?

As it turns out, your dog can tell when you’re sick, too, thanks to their sense of smell and the chemical changes that take place in our bodies.

 Back to that sense of smell again – are you convinced yet that dogs have an amazing sense of smell? You should be!

A lot of the same factors go into dogs sensing sickness as dogs detecting pregnancy. The main reasons your golden retriever can sense when you’re sick are smell, emotional cues, body language, and behavioral changes.


When we’re sick, chemical reactions and changes take place in our bodies. Dogs, with their exceptional sense of smell, can actually smell these chemical changes going on when you’re sick – just like they can when you’re pregnant.

Alexandra Horowitz, head of the Horowitz Dog Cognition Lab at Bernard College, says, “If a person is infected with a virus or bacteria, they will smell different.”

While sometimes sickness can change a person’s smell so much that they and other people notice, it doesn’t take that much of a change for your dog to pick up that you’re sick. Your dog can smell when you’re getting sick in the early stages, even before you’ve shown many symptoms.

When dogs are smelling illness or disease, they’re typically breathing and reacting to VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, in the air around the human body. VOCs are emitted by us when we’re sick, and dogs can smell them in even minuscule amounts.

This is no coincidence, either; dogs have smelled and identified a number of illnesses and diseases in humans. In the past, dogs have been able to detect cancer, narcolepsy, hypoglycemia (or low blood sugar), seizures, migraines, diabetes, and even just outright fear.

Dogs are so great at detecting sicknesses and illnesses in humans that they can actually be trained to do so – and they are, all the time. There’s even an entire organization of medical detection dogs for that very purpose.

Emotional Cues

When you’re sick, your emotions or your mood are apt to change. You may feel stressed, fatigued, sad, weak, or even angry. As it turns out, your pooch can sense this too.

Dogs can pick up on emotions and facial cues that indicate emotions and may be able to put two and two together to tell you’re not yourself.

Dogs even have an area of the brain that allows them to decipher emotional cues in the voices of humans! So, when you speak to your dog when you’re sick, you may sound sad, weak, or stressed – and your dog can tell.

Think of dogs that are trained to help owners who suffer from PTSD or anxiety, for example. These dogs have learned to pick up on the emotional cues of their owners, like the anxious or paranoid feelings, to tell when their owner may need assistance.

Behavioral Changes

Dogs are very observant, and golden retrievers are no exception. Your golden retriever will likely pick up on any behavioral changes you exhibit while you’re sick.

For example, maybe your body language indicates you’re in pain or exhausted. Perhaps you’re not getting up as much as usual, or going to the bathroom more than usual. You may be home for a few days when you usually aren’t.

Your dog can see and sense the behavioral changes you experience and exhibit while you’re sick, like changes in your body language, routine, and overall behavior.

Your Golden Retriever Sensing Sadness or If Something’s Wrong

Throughout this article, we’ve talked a bit about how your golden retriever is able to sense changes in your mood, your emotions, and your overall behavior. All of these things have to do with pregnancy and sickness, but they also have to do with sadness or if something is wrong.

Just like your dog can sense pregnancy and sickness, your dog can sense if you’re sad or if something’s wrong.

 It all comes down to, again, their amazing sense of smell and their observational abilities. Your golden retriever can tell, either by your smell, your body language, your facial expressions, your voice – or all of the above – that you’re feeling sad or that something is wrong.

Again, we can think of service dogs in regards to this notion. Dogs (and very commonly, golden retrievers) are used around the world as therapy dogs – helping comfort people when they experience less-than-desirable emotions.

Ways Your Golden Retriever May Act When You’re Sick, Sad, or Something’s Wrong

Just like with pregnant women, golden retrievers may act a certain way when they sense changes in someone. So, in what ways will your golden retriever act when you’re sick, sad, or when something’s wrong?

Dogs may act out in ways that are desirable, like attempting to comfort you. However, dogs may also act out in some undesirable ways, due to becoming upset because you’re confused. The table below exhibits some of these behaviors.

Desirable Behaviors Undesirable Behaviors
Licking tears off your face Whimpering
Nuzzling you Pacing
Cuddling more than usual Ears folded back
Demanding attention Urinating around the house
Jumping up on you Change in sleeping or eating patterns
Following you around Acting more alert or anxious than usual
Acting submissive or approaching you submissively Barking more than usual
Laying on you Hiding

 Remember, as we mentioned previously, each dog is different, and therefore each dog will behave differently – especially when it comes to reacting to changes in their environment or owner.

Some dogs may become very cuddly and attached to you when you’re sick, sad or when something’s wrong, but others may become stressed by the perceived change and whimper, pace, or act fearfully.

Just like your dog knows you and your routines, you know your dog and his or her habits – you’ll be able to tell if something your dog is doing isn’t normal or is concerning.

Final Thoughts

All in all, dogs are perceptive! They don’t call them, man (and woman’s) best friend for nothing.

When it comes to pregnancy, it’s very likely that your golden retriever will be able to sense the changes you’re going through, like changes in your smell, changes in your behaviors, changes in your emotions, changes in the family order, and changes in your body’s appearance.

Further, although dogs can perceive all these changes through their keen sense of smell and advanced observation, they probably don’t realize the changes you’re going through are attributed to pregnancy. Your pup may still be confused when you bring home your little bundle of joy after nine months or so!

Your golden retriever can also sense other things in you, like if you’re sick, if you’re sad, and if something is wrong.

Again, we can thank our dogs’ sense of smell and observation for this. Your golden retriever can pick up on the smell of chemical changes going on in your body, your emotional cues, and your behavioral changes to tell if you’re sick or experiencing other emotions.

Your golden retriever may even be able to comfort you while you’re pregnant, sick, sad, or experiencing other emotions. Our furry best friends can help us in ways we didn’t even realize – and we owe them some thanks for that!

Does My Golden Retriever Know I'm Pregnant

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