How to Tell When Your Dog Is in Heat

Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He has been working with dogs for more than 40 years.

When Is It Going to Happen?

When we say that your dog is in heat, it means that she is undergoing changes to her body so that she will attract male dogs, get bred, and have puppies.

Your dog will first come into heat when she is still a puppy. With toy breeds it may be as early as four months, but with giant breeds it may not happen until their second year. The first heat cycle is usually kind of mild though, so, unless your front door becomes a gathering place for the neighborhood male dogs, you may not even notice your dog's first heat cycle.

How Can I Tell If My Dog Is in Heat?

Personality Changes

The first sign you will notice, long before any physical changes, are a few changes in your dog's demeanor. She may be nervous, shy, more affectionate than usual, or even aggressive. There is really no way to tell how a dog is going to act. As she gets closer to coming in to heat she will have a swollen vulva; some dogs will even have swollen nipples. For about a week before she starts spotting, your dog will urinate every chance she gets when you walk her—this is her way of alerting the other dogs in the area that she will soon be ready to breed.


Your dog will begin “spotting” (having a bloody discharge from her vulva), and when she starts with this stage you will definitely notice. This may be considered the first day of heat. There may be a lot or just a few drops, but it almost always decreases as the time of ovulation approaches (usually one to three weeks after the bleeding starts).

Bleeding in the house is one of the best reasons to get your dog spayed. If you do not want to have her spayed for some reason, doggie diapers are available and will cover her up so that she does not stain the carpet or furniture. The diapers have to be removed every time you take her outside since, if you do not, she will urinate in the diaper and ruin it.

When Should I Allow My Dog to Breed?

Male dogs are going to be attracted to your female from the first day, but it is not until the second to third week of heat that your dog is most likely to be bred—whether you want it or not. The reduced spotting is a sign of ovulation and your best indication of when she will stand to be bred.

This is the time to take her to the breeder. You can plan on the greatest success if you breed her every few days during the time that she will stand and allow a male to mount.

If you do not want to breed your female, it is also the time you need to watch her carefully and keep her away from the male dogs in the neighborhood. She will not be bleeding anymore but will still be able to conceive puppies.

Should I Just Get My Dog Spayed?

To avoid all of these symptoms and the hassles associated with a dog that comes into heat, you should have your dog spayed. There is a lot of controversy as to when it should be done, but if you cannot watch your dog and protect her during the first heat cycle, you should have her spayed while still young.

What If I Do Not Spay My Dog?

There are a lot of reasons people choose to keep their female dogs intact. If you are going to show your dog or compete in some agility competitions, having your dog spayed will keep her from being able to participate.

Other people want to breed their female dog and produce puppies when the time is right.

If you choose not to have her spayed, do not plan on breeding her unless you are willing to have her hips and elbows x-rayed to check for dysplasia, and her eyes checked for changed in the retina. The father should also be tested and found free of all genetic diseases.

A lot of puppies die every day at animal shelters because some people allow their dogs to breed when they should be spayed. Make sure that you have a home for the puppies before you get involved in this process.

Questions & Answers

Question: I just found my German Shepherd locked onto my rottweiler and do not want her to be pregnant. What can I do to prevent a pregnancy?

Answer: There are several options available but all of them are available only through prescription. You can read/dogs/morning-after-pills-fo... to learn more, but you need to call your local vet immediately and ask what method he uses and when he needs you to bring your rottweiler into his clinic.

[email protected] on December 18, 2019:

EXTREMELY helpful! Thank you so very much for your expertise and caring to share with pet owners who love their pets so much! I'll always check Dr Mark first for helpful advice!

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on June 07, 2018:

Normally the male "ties" when he ejaculates, so if you were able to separate them quickly there is probably no problems.

You can contact your local vet and ask him about a "mismate" injection. Not all vets will give it because of the side effects.

You can also wait and have a pregnancy test done later, with a dexamethasone injection if the test is positive. This will cause her to resorb the puppies.

If you do not want her to breed again the best thing to do is have her spayed.

You are correct. If you just got rid of the last litter a month ago it is still too soon to have another litter. Let her body recover for another six months.

Knickie669 on June 07, 2018:

Just found my dogs but they weren’t lock in. Was able to pull them apart and it was less then 15 min should I worry about her getting pregnant also she just finished nursing a month ago

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on March 26, 2014:

It varies a lot so I cannot give you a definite answer. One of my Pitbulls just came out of heat, she bled for only 3 days. Most dogs bleed from 7-10 days. Plan on watching her closely for about 10 days after that.

If she is a mix breed, and you have no interest in breeding her in the future, it will make your life a lot easier if you go ahead and have her spayed. When a dog is in heat you have to watch her like a hawk!

It may be better to spay her after the first heat. Do some more reading on the subject.

mindi on March 26, 2014:

Approximately how long does the bleeding with first estrus last? I have a lab mix pup.

Bob Bamberg on September 07, 2012:

That sure makes the pizza delivery guy look boring.

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on September 07, 2012:

Yes, that is a funny point because the dogs are all real nice, but around here people are afraid of big dogs. Oh, and the correct answer? A female that likes to visit all the males in the neighborhood.

Bob Bamberg on September 07, 2012:

Well, after lengthy analysis I've ruled out Pug, so that leaves either a bon vivant male Husky or a promiscuous female Husky.

Jeez, I'm only kidding, folks!! In some places sexist humor is OK and in others, it's not. I'm not a knuckle dragger, really!

I'll bet not too many people try to break into your client's property!

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on September 07, 2012:

Big cultural difference! There is not even a place to spay a dog around here, even if she shows up one day in fishnet stockings! I was training at a home yesterday with a Husky/lab cross, a Husky/German Shepherd cross, and a Husky/Alaskan Malamute cross. Guess what her first dog was?

Bob Bamberg on September 07, 2012:

Interesting and informative hub, DrMark. I've never owned a dog, so I always thought the first sign was fishnet stockings under a leather mini-skirt. Now I are enlightened :)

Around here, owners (unless they are serious breeders) who don't get their dogs spayed or neutered during puppyhood are looked upon with some scorn. There is some serious social pressure exerted.

Most pet adoption organizations, if they haven't already had the surgery done, require a commitment to do so (sometimes an actual appointment date) before they will release a dog to an adopter.

Interesting read, as usual. Voted up and interesting. Regards, Bob

What Happens When My Dog is in Heat?

Female dogs are "in heat" when they have entered the fertile part of their reproductive cycle. A heat lasts for 3 weeks on average and a dog will usually go into heat every 6 to 8 months.

Most breeds have their first heat at about 6 months old but it may be earlier or later.

A heat can usually be identified when there is some bleeding from the vagina, a swollen vulva or increased urination. Female dogs do not produce very much blood however, and in a small dog you may not even notice the bleeding.

Unwanted attention

The first thing you will notice if you have a bitch in heat is that she will attract un-castrated male dogs within a very large radius. Her behaviour will change too, so while she normally wouldn't let males mount her, she almost definitely will while in heat.

Additionally, male dogs will go to surprising lengths to get to a female in heat. While your bitch is in heat it's inadvisable to leave her unsupervised outside, and you'll need to keep her on the lead at all times while on walks. In general, other pet owners you encounter will be able to control their dogs, but the scent of a female in heat can cause aggressive behaviour in some dogs.

The second concern is bleeding. If your dog is producing enough blood to cause a mess you may want to restrict her to easy- to -clean, un-carpeted floors. Just leaving her outside is a bad idea unless you want her to have male visitors (and potentially puppies).

Unless you intend breeding, it is best to have her spayed. Spaying will prevent her from going into heat.

There is some debate about when it is best to spay your bitch. Some veterinarians will advise to let a dog have one heat while others will spay as early as 6 months. Ask your vet which course of action they think is right for your dog.

How Neutering Can Help

Neutering your male dog can help curb many of the negative behaviors associated with sexual maturity, such as marking, mounting and roaming. It can also reduce some types of aggression. Neutering may help reduce the possibility of benign prostatic hyperplasia (enlarged prostate gland), perianal tumors and hernias. testicular tumors.

Now you know: Male dogs don't go into heat. But that doesn't make their sexual maturity any less challenging for them or for their pet parents. Be sure to talk to your vet to discuss how to deal with your dog's behaviors, especially if he hasn't been neutered.

How to Know if Your Female Dog Is Ready to Breed

Last Updated: October 27, 2020 References Approved

This article was co-authored by Pippa Elliott, MRCVS. Dr. Elliott, BVMS, MRCVS is a veterinarian with over 30 years of experience in veterinary surgery and companion animal practice. She graduated from the University of Glasgow in 1987 with a degree in veterinary medicine and surgery. She has worked at the same animal clinic in her hometown for over 20 years.

There are 12 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.

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You may decide to breed your female dog though a reputable dog breeder or on your own. In order to breed your female dog with a male dog, you will need to determine exactly when your dog is at the optimal stage in her heat cycle for breeding. You can do this by checking her for behavioral symptoms of being in heat as well as by running tests on your dog and tracking her heat cycle. Once you know your dog’s optimal breeding time, you can then breed her properly with a male dog.

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