The Canine Heat Cycle.
All female dogs that have not been spayed will come into ‘heat’ usually twice per year. This is also known as a season, or oestrus and is the equivalent of human menstruation. This Holidays4Dogs article provides information on the canine heat cycle – what to expect and what to consider while your girl is in-season.
Female dogs will generally have their first season from about the age of six months, but this can vary. Some dogs will not have their first season until nearly a year old.
Signs a female dog is coming into season.
Initial signs of a season can be difficult to spot, especially with the first season. However, owners may notice the female dog’s vulva becoming swollen, with signs of discharge. The discharge will be a bright red colour, but as the season progresses, this becomes more watery and clear.
The behaviour of the female dog in season may change somewhat too. Changes in behaviour may involve restlessness, for example, or even attempts to mount other dogs – yes, female dogs do this too!
It is quite common for female dogs in season to urinate more frequently too.
How long do seasons last?
Once a female dog begins her season it can last for around three weeks on average. However, anything from two, to four weeks in season, would also be considered normal.
It is possible for your dog to become pregnant at any point in her season. However, she will be at her most fertile from around day ten, to day fifteen.
What to expect during your dog’s season.
When she is at the most fertile stage, you will notice that she will ‘stand’ for other dogs. In other words, she will present herself to the dog and sweep her tail to one side, inviting him to mate her. A female dog can be quite desperate to escape during these crucial few days.
Keeping your girl away from other dogs when she is in season can challenging. Entire dogs can locate in-season females from a long way away, even if she is in the home, or garden. It isn’t unheard of for local canine Casanovas to form a less than orderly queue outside the home of female dog in heat!
You can still walk your dog while she is in season, but it might be a little trickier because she is bound to receive more attention than usual from other dogs. If you take an in-season female for a walk where there are usually lots of other dog walkers – you may not be very popular!
Keeping to streets and footpaths will mean you are unlikely to meet other dog walkers who have their dog off the lead. Going to parks, or open countryside, is likely to attract off-lead dogs to your girl.
This can create problems for other owners, as it will be more difficult for them to get their dog back under such temptation! Head for places where you would least expect other dogs to be off-lead.
You can try an anti-season spray which may help to mask the females’s scent from other dogs. People report having varying amounts of success with this.
If you do not intend to breed from your dog, spaying is the only option to prevent future seasons. However, it is best to discuss this with your vet, since neutering can have adverse effects as well as benefits.