As I sit here with my now 6.5 month belly.. I find myself in amazement. Humans are pretty incredible! We are capable of some extraordinary things and I have a new found appreciation for the human body and all its glory. On my new journey into (human) motherhood, I have had lots of opportunities to learn and grow with my current pack.
I have done lots of research and read a ton of studies on how dogs are affected by pregnancy. I am strong believer in the pack hierarchy in dogs (although it seems to be subjective for some people). After working with dogs for the past 8 years, I have no doubt in my mind that dogs have a pack mentality, it is often just misinterpreted or misunderstood.
As I have always said, dogs are pretty incredible too!
For dogs to be around a pregnant human, they undoubtedly are aware of our changes from a biological stand point, more than the perspective that they understand human gestation. However, this doesn’t make it easy for them understand the energy changes they are in tuned to.
Pregnancy goes hand in hand with hormonal changes (boy are they fun!) which causes a change in our body chemistry and how we smell to our canine companions. Think about a male dog who is not neutered. His hormones will smell about 5x stronger to other dogs than a dog who is neutered. That is the reason some dogs (more so in males) have a hard time “getting along” with dogs who still have their goods. These changes can make your fur baby reluctant to bond with you since they are unsure of your new scent OR it can do the opposite and make your dog show signs of protective behavior and neediness.
In my case, I got both behaviors! My 4lb warrior Chihuahua mix has become distant and very unsure of me and others in our home. My 75lb rescue mutt has become EVEN MORE of a baby and remains glued to my hip. If I can offer any advise to others, here are the top 5 most important areas to work on to keep your pack hierarchy in check:
1. Be aware of your energy – No matter how much your hormones are raging, the only thing you can control is the present. So stay present & calm.
2. Focus on leadership – Rules & boundaries are NOT the enemy!!!
3. Go back to basics – It is never to late to make sure your dogs command of sit, stay, wait & heal are solid.
4. Establish a flexible routine – Dogs are not to meant to live a cookie cutter life & once the baby comes, you are on BABY time (that includes the dog). Introducing different play times, walk schedules and feeding regimes will smooth the transition of a new pack member.
5. Desensitization – Babies demand a lot, they want to be held, cuddled, fed, changed etc etc. Allow your dogs to experience the sounds of a baby, smell of baby items or even see you walking around carrying a “baby.”