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Ask Dr. Michael Salkin Your Own Question
Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Dog Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 29824
Experience:  University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 45 years of experience
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Hi, My dog has been acting weird towards me since I got pregnant.

Resolved Question:

Hi, My dog has been acting weird towards me since I got pregnant. He is angry at me, afraid of me and growling at me. Sometimes he is just looking at me very suspiciously, like I was an alien. He is protecting my boyfriend from me. Yesterday it has gone that far, that he bit me, so I needed a stitch, plus injection against tetanus, plus antibiotics.

Have you heard of previous incidents, or do you know why he is like that and what can I do to get my old dog back? I can't go through the whole pregXXXXX XXXXXke this, but I don't want to get rid of him either. Any suggestions?
Submitted: 6 years ago.
Category: Dog Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 6 years ago.
Aloha! You're speaking to Dr. Michael Salkin
Hi - You simply must read this article written by a certified animal behaviorist:
Pregnancy and Dogs
Tips for Pregnant Pet Owners

Couples often choose to test run their parenting skills with a dog prior to beginning their human family. As a Childbirth professional you have an opportunity to share valuable resources and observe interaction with families and their companions. Expecting parents may express to you mixed feelings, questions, or concerns once a baby is on the way. As a certified dog behavior consultant specializing in safety between kids and dogs, I enjoy supporting families as they learn how to safely include their dog into the new family dynamics. The new role of Motherhood is joyous but also can be overwhelming. I believe that preparing families ahead of time is the key to a smooth homecoming and long term bond. Below are answers to the questions I am most frequently asked.

Does my dog know that I am pregnant?
Pregnancy brings on many changes for expecting Moms physically and emotionally. Changes in one's scent, posture, and moods are normal parts of pregnancy. Dogs are experts in observing and recognizing these subtle changes. Some dogs are more observant than others and might react to these subtle changes an expecting Mom is experiencing.

What reactions might my dog have to my pregnancy?
Reactions can vary from increased attention-seeking behaviors to aggression.

Because of the postural changes in pregnant women, some dogs may view their person as more vulnerable or in need of protection. Women might not walk as steadily and that can be scary for some dogs. It is important to keep in mind that changes in posture and overall appearance can trigger different and unusual responses in some dogs. Hormonal changes also may cause Mom to smell a bit different and this too may bring on a change in behavior for some dogs.

What can I do about any negative reactions I see in my dog?
Obedience and leadership play a huge role in keeping the balance during unavoidable changes. Dogs are most comfortable when they know what is expected and exactly what to do. If your dog is demonstrating any negative or uncertain behavior, defer back to your basic commands and structure to provide them with something to do. Practicing basic obedience is essential during time of change and transition. Leadership is also very important. Dogs can relax when they know their humans are in control and can take care of things. If your dog is used to being "pushy" or getting attention on demand then he or she may have a more challenging time adjusting during times you are pre occupied or tired.

It is no secret that pregnancy or the adoption process leads to an emotional roller coaster for all family members including the family dog! Stress that is good or bad takes a toll on energy and mood. This is a great time for families to learn to read their dogs' stress cues and subtle signals. It is also ideal for planning and thinking ahead on how to handle the stressful times once the baby arrives. Planning ahead and learning the subtle body language that dogs offer when stressed is the best way to increase success as the family grows.

Hiring a professional dog behavior consultant or trainer can greatly decrease stress, prevent problems, and eliminate unwanted behaviors that are cropping up.

Five great ways to prepare for life with baby!

  1. Identify and decrease attention-seeking behaviors such as pawing, barking, jumping, or any demanding behavior.
  2. Become familiar with subtle signals and body language of dogs.
  3. Begin a baby-friendly or flexible routine of feeding and activities with your dog. Be sure to take these opportunities to practice obedience skills.
  4. Role-play with a doll & baby equipment to help gradually expose your dog to these new and exciting items. Reward calm and desired behavior.
  5. Identify and begin to use designated "dog zone's" such as gated room, outside, closed room, crate etc. If you have multiple dogs get them used to being apart from one another.
  6. (I have to return to work, but will address any additional questions or concerns you might have when I return.)
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Hi Michael,

Your answer was useful, but didn't say much new to me. I am only 8 weeks pregnant, and Blake has been acting like this for 5 weeks. I didn't even know I was pregnant. Nothing has changed in my behavior or my emotions really, only that my dog 'hates' me and loves my boyfriend. He was originally my dog, so I am the packleader, and nothing was wrong until five weeks ago. 90% of the time he is as usual, only sometimes, suddenly out of the blue he becomes a monster, but only with me. The number of times this happens is increasing, and since he even bit me yesterday just for petting his head, I am really afraid it will just get worse and worse.... My questions is: is this not going to change while I am pregnant? In that case I should let him go, but that is not easy, as otherwise he is a great and smart dog.. It is just so sad... Perhaps I should really find a professional dog behavior consultant, it is just not that easy to do in my area...
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 6 years ago.
I understand your concerns. Yes, his behavior is likely to escalate unless the "new you" can recondition him (your leadership in the pack must be reaffirmed). I realize that you have time and commitment restraints at this time, and I agree that a animal behaviorist would be terrific to consult with. Blake's vet would be the first contact I would make - the vet may have a good reference for you. I have little tolerance for biting dogs and know how dangerous even a "minor" bite can be. Great care must be taken when trying to recondition dogs with aggression of any kind - another reason for professional help or rehoming.
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Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 6 years ago.
Thank you for your kind accept. You have some difficult decisions to make.