A recent video uploaded to YouTube suggests your pet dog may be more aptly described as woman’s best friend. A put bull-boxer mix named Tebow has made a name for himself by dutifully protecting his pregnant owner, jumping to action any time others get within reach of her growing belly.
And no, Tebow wasn’t trained to do so. As one friend put it, per LifeDaily, the canine, “has become extremely protective of the yet to be delivered bundle of joy.”
The proof is in the video evidence.
It turns out there’s actually some precedent for this kind of behavior. Animal behaviorist Nikole Gipps writes in BabyCenter that, “We don’t have scientific proof that pets sense their owners’ pregnancies, but I’ve seen plenty of examples of this in my ten years as an animal trainer.”
In this case, there’s simply been a lack of scientific study. That doesn’t make the phenomena any less real, though.
“It’s common for dogs to go on alert and become overprotective of their expecting owner from the very beginning of her pregnancy,” Gipps adds. “I’ve worked with dogs that growled, barked, or blocked doors with their bodies to prevent other family members—even the baby’s father—from coming into the same room as the mom-to-be.”
Gipps notes that she’s witnessed other dogs become more caring and attentive with pregnant owners. It may be anecdotal evidence, but it sure seems like something is going on. And there may be a perfectly logical reason for it.
One explanation is dogs’ ability to notice subtle changes in body odor.
“When a woman becomes pregnant, her body chemistry changes,” explains Pedigree.com. “This, in turn, can cause her distinct odor (an odor her dog knows intimately) to change. Remember, the amazing canine sense of smell can detect even the slightest change in odor. Imagine what a loyal, loving dog must think when the woman of the house suddenly begins to smell different.”
It remains unclear whether dogs associate the odor change with pregnancy automatically, but scent likely isn’t the only factor in play. Pedigree.com also cites “changes in body shape and body language” and “changes in mood and behavior” as potential causes for the protective behavior.
At least some experts think the scenario is entirely plausible. As Colorado State University applied animal behaviorist Jennie K. Willis explained to Animal Planet, “Although it hasn’t been scientifically explored, it’s within the realm of reason.”
Willis believes that dogs who’ve been around for multiple pregnancies could have some understanding of what’s taking place. But she otherwise doubts that they can really make sense of pregnancy in any meaningful way. So while changes in pregnant women may be associated with unusual behavior in dogs, it would be much more difficult to demonstrate these dogs have a firm concept of what’s happening. They may simply sense that their owners are in need of support, in part because they see others helping and treating someone differently on account of the pregnancy.
“Dogs are students of our routine,” Willis adds. “Any change, such as different work hours, exercise or bedtime, is very prominent to a dog.”
Dogs may similarly sense emotional changes and respond accordingly. They’re pretty well-tuned in.
As for Tebow, your eyes aren’t lying. Definitive proof of dogs’ pregnancy instincts may remain elusive at the moment, but it’s awfully hard to conjure up alternative explanations for Tebow’s behavior. It’s especially notable that he seems to react to any gestures toward the owner’s belly itself. We know dogs are highly perceptive. But could they really grasp the fact that an owner is about to have a baby?
Check out the video for yourself.