Why doesn’t my dog ​​like me anymore after my miscarriage? | Knowledge & Environment | DW

Anna had been feeling bad for days. The young self-employed woman from the US state of Virginia couldn’t explain what was going on – and then another problem added to her nausea and insecurity: her dog was acting strangely. Lulu, a poodle who was usually more attached to Anna than her husband, suddenly didn’t want to be around her anymore.

As it turned out, Anna was pregnant. But she only found out after heavy bleeding and a stay in the emergency room. There she was told that if she did, she would have a high-risk pregnancy fetus should survive.

She and her husband returned from the hospital in shock. For Anna it was the hardest day of her life. All she wanted was to lay down at home and cuddle with her dog. But Lulu refused.

Anna, whose real name is different, says she was angry with her dog. She felt that Lulu ignored her during her most down time.

“She no longer slept next to me, like she did almost every night since we got her,” Anna told DW. “She just wanted to sleep next to my husband, which she had never done before.”

A few days later the fetus died. Anna has never needed support more than she has during this time, but Lulu continued to stay away from her. Her dog’s dismissive behavior gave her a hard time. “I always thought dogs were supposed to show you unconditional love,” says Anna.

Dogs smell changes in human hormone levels

After Anna’s curettage, during which the remains of the fetus were removed, it took a few more days for Lulu to behave normally again. Today she is “much more affectionate” and cuddles with Anna again.

But why had the animal’s behavior changed so drastically?

“Dogs smell pheromones, and when they’re pregnant or have had a miscarriage, their caregiver’s scent changes,” says dog trainer Sissy Leonie Kreid, who studies animal science at Wageningen University in the Netherlands “Academy Dog” founded in Regensburg.

Kreid says such changes in a human’s hormone levels can affect a dog’s behavior. But that’s not the only possible explanation for what happened between Anna and Lulu.

“People behave differently after a miscarriage, they become sadder, maybe even desperate. The dog doesn’t understand this change and needs time to get used to it,” says Kreid.

This is exactly what Anna experienced with her dog.

“I’m sorry that Lulu must have been totally confused,” says Anna. “Well now I’m sorry. At the time I was just angry.”

Kreid says that if human hormones do after an event like a miscarriage, the dog’s behavior is likely to return to normal. Normally the dog is back to normal after a few weeks, sometimes – as in the case of Anna’s poodle – even after just a few days.

When the dog is the first to know about the pregnancy

Dogs can find avalanche victims or people buried under the rubble after an earthquake. Also in health sector the animals are asked: They can Cancer or Sniffing out COVID-19. And sometimes they know very early on that someone close to them is pregnant.

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“[Mein Hund] avoided me even before I knew I was pregnant,” says Anna.

Based on her years of experience with hundreds of dogs and their human families, Kreid says dogs can sense when change is in the air.

“We don’t have any scientific data on whether dogs know exactly what this change is. But we can see from their behavior that they obviously perceived that something was different,” says Kreid.

A man and a dog search for survivors in earthquake debris in the Turkish city of Malatya

After the February 2023 earthquakes in Turkey, dogs helped search for survivors

From phantom pregnancy to watchdog behavior

Benedict, a fitness trainer from Bonn, confirms that the family dog ​​Merle definitely noticed when Benedict’s wife was pregnant with their first child.

“Merle suddenly had this nest-building instinct,” Benedict told DW. “She collected stuffed animals and made a cozy corner. It was like having a phantom pregnancy.”

Other dogs become extremely clingy or exhibit tight guarding behavior when someone in their human family is pregnant, Kreid says.

“The dog may then become controlling and protective and not allow a stranger to sit next to the pregnant woman,” says the expert. “They can also aggressively bark at sounds coming into the house from outside.”

In such a case, Kreid strongly recommends hiring a dog behavior expert, otherwise the situation could get worse once the baby is born. A reason: Dogs can feel jealousyas a 2014 US study found.

“Empathy for the dog has to be the first reaction,” says Kreid. “When a baby is out and about, it’s an unsafe, confusing situation for the dog. It can be for humans, too – but the dog has a lot less control over it, so it can get nervous or neurotic. That’s where understanding is important to show.”

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Prepare the dog for the baby

If the family is expecting a baby, it is a good idea to prepare the dog as early as possible. A good step, for example, is to choose someone other than the pregnant person to be responsible for feeding the dog and walking them—starting slowly early in the pregnancy. So there is no abrupt change if at some point the pregnant person is no longer able to do these activities.

It’s also a good idea to get your dog used to baby noises. For example, you can play crying and whining on your cell phone and keep walking past the dog so that later “it doesn’t jump up or bark when you’re carrying a crying baby around,” says Kreid.

So there is a lot to do even before the birth. For the time after that, Kreid’s most important advice is: never leave the baby and dog alone together.

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