Dogs in Heat: What to Expect

Perhaps you are wondering what exactly it means for a dog to be “in heat.” This period of a female dog’s life is specifically when she is most fertile. As she is ovulating, your dog is ready to breed with potential mates. Be aware that at this time, your dog may display bizarre behavior, which may simply be classic symptoms of a dog in heat. During her period of heat, there is a serious possibility that your dog could get pregnant. Because of this, preventing any unwanted pregnancy in your dog should be handled proactively.

When Do Canines Go In Heat?

When dogs reach puberty, they will experience their first heat cycle. This is when they mature sexually and therefore become able to reproduce. This usually occurs at about six months of age, but breed also has an influence.

Small dogs are known to mature earlier, whereas larger dogs might not experience their first heat until 18 to 24 months. A dog can go into heat during any season of the year.

About every six months, a female dog goes into her heat cycle. However, that isn’t set in stone. For example, a large dog may only cycle once per year and a small dog could cycle three times. It is normal for a young dog’s heat cycle to take up to two years to balance out.

Male dogs don’t go into heat, as only female dogs can become impregnated. However, be aware that your male dog picks up the scent of female dogs in heat that are nearby. This may cause him to hunt down the source of the scent, so keep a good handle on your pup.

The Behavior of a Female Dog in Heat

Accompanying the obvious symptom of vaginal bleeding, the following are common behaviors of a female dog that is in heat:

  1. Excessive licking of her female parts: It is completely normal for a dog to lick its body parts to help clean them. However, if your female dog is unspayed and she is licking her private area excessively, she may be in heat. She may be trying to keep the area clean of discharge during this time. To help keep your dog clean, use dog wipes.
  2. Urination habits are different: Dogs in heat may urinate more frequently, specifically around male dogs.
  3. She’s becoming more friendly towards male dogs. Your female may become increasingly attractive toward male dogs and more receptive as a result. Her tail may wag quickly as a sign that she is interested.
  4. Humping and mounting: Not only do male dogs show physical actions when they are ready to mate, females do as well. Mounting, humping, or thrusting is one of the most obvious ways dogs express their sexual energy. However, she will likely hump any dog, or anything large enough to fill the space of a dog.
  5. Anxiety or aggressiveness: When a female in heat is ready for mating, she may display anxious or aggressive behaviors. You may also notice her nesting behaviors kick in.

How Long Are Dogs in Heat?

There are two phases to a dog’s heat cycle. The first one involves bleeding from her vulva. This phase lasts between 3-17 days.

The second phase is the period when she will likely become impregnated. This is known as estrus and lasts between 3 and 18 days. You should expect the full heat to last around 2-3 weeks.  

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