Doggy Doulas – Dr. Elliot Berlin, DC
"It’s amazing how dogs can sense that something special is happening when labor starts. Dogs, being highly sensitive creatures, pick up on the changes in their owners' behavior and can become quite inquisitive about what is happening."
As a pregnancy-focused chiropractor, birth bodyworker, and labor support doula, I have been fortunate to witness a lot of different birth experiences. Over the years, I have come across many different scenarios, but one of the most interesting and heart-warming experiences that I have encountered is when family dogs are present during childbirth.
It’s amazing how dogs can sense that something special is happening when labor starts. Dogs, being highly sensitive creatures, pick up on the changes in their owners’ behavior and can become quite inquisitive about what is happening. In my experience, dogs have had different reactions during childbirth, ranging from being oblivious to acting like little doulas. Some become very protective guard dogs, while others get very anxious. Here is a closer look at each of these reactions I have observed.
The first type of dog reaction that I have seen is when the dog is oblivious to what is happening. These dogs don’t seem to notice or care their owners are in labor and go about their daily routines as if nothing is happening. These dogs might lay down and go to sleep or play with toys while their owners are in the midst or even peak of labor.
At first, this type of reaction might seem a bit odd. However, upon closer examination, it’s clear these dogs are very comfortable with their owners and are not alarmed by the sounds or smells associated with childbirth. They might even be used to their owners making noises during exercise or other strenuous activities, so they don’t pay much attention to it.
Little Doula Dogs
The second type of dog reaction that I have seen is the dog that acts like a little doula. These dogs are highly attuned to their owners and seem to know exactly what to do to provide comfort and support. They might lay down next to their owners or put their paws on their owners’ bellies or lick their faces, providing warmth and a sense of calm. I was particularly impressed by a tiny little dog that was clearly part of the labor support team in a beautiful birth shared on the episode of our podcast called Miss America Homebirth.
These dogs might even sense when their owners are about to give birth and will alert others in the room. I have seen dogs change their bark or whine just before the baby arrives.
Protective Guard Dogs
The third type of dog reaction that I have seen during childbirth is the dog that becomes very protective. These dogs might become territorial, barking and growling at anyone who approaches their owners. They might even try to block the door to keep people out.
While this type of reaction might seem alarming, it is actually quite natural. Dogs are pack animals and they sometimes see their owners as part of the pack. Naturally they want to protect their pack members from harm, and see childbirth as a potentially dangerous situation.
The fourth type of dog reaction that I have seen is the dog that becomes very anxious. These dogs might pace back and forth or whine, unable to settle down. They might be nervous about the new smells and sounds associated with childbirth, or they might be picking up on the stress of their owners.
It’s important to remember that dogs are highly sensitive creatures and can pick up on their owners’ emotions. If you have an anxious dog, it might be a good idea to have a plan in place to help them feel more comfortable during the labor process. I was even at a birth one time where a golden retriever was on the treadmill for an hour to burn off some of that anxious steam.
Dogs can have a wide range of reactions during childbirth. Some dogs are oblivious, while others act like little doulas. Some become very protective guard dogs, while others get very anxious. No matter what type of reaction your dog has, it is important to remember that they are part of your family and most want to be with you during this special time.
Dr. Elliot Berlin is an award winning prenatal chiropractor, childbirth educator, labor support bodyworker, and co-founder of Berlin Wellness Group in Los Angeles, California. Dr. Berlin graduated Summa Cum Laude from Life University of Chiropractic in Atlanta, Georgia and the Atlanta School of Massage.
His separate schooling in massage therapy, bodywork, and chiropractic form the backbone of his innovative techniques for pre and post natal wellness care. Unique ‘Chirossage’ sessions soothe and relax tight, painful muscles and restore motion to restricted joints. These 30 to 45 minute treatments effectively address most pregnancy aches and pains in just a few visits and promote healthy, comfortable, and functional pregnancy and an ideal environment for labor and delivery.
Dr. Berlin’s Informed Pregnancy® Project aims to utilize multiple forms of media (podcast, YouTube series, documentaries, and online workshops) to compile and deliver unbiased information about pregnancy and childbirth to empower new and expectant parents to make informed choices regarding their pregnancy and parenting journey.
Dr. Berlin lives in Los Angeles with his wife, perinatal psychologist Dr. Alyssa Berlin, and their four fantastic kids.