How to calm down a female dog in heat

Many things require your attention when caring for a dog in heat. Reducing her restlessness is among the hardest.

We remember when our dog was in heat for the first time. It was driving her crazy. She was whining and crying most of the time, and it was hard to calm her down.

man gives dog a high five to calm her
Attention is a great way to calm a female dog in heat, Photo by Olena Yakobchuk.

But even worse, it was driving us crazy. We had to keep her mostly inside, but at times we let her out, we had to stay with her. No matter the hour, day or night.

You’ve probably been there. Maybe you are there right now. Is that barking and whining we hear in the background? Fortunately, there are several things you can do to calm down a female dog in heat.

NOTE: Dog trainers often suggest to train a dog to be calm. The technique is to ignore the restless behaviors and rewarding (with treats and praises) calm ones. We will not delve into this here because we want you to make your dog not only act calm but actually feel calm.

  • Give your dog attention. It’s the most effective way to calm her. Forms of attention may include talking to your dog, walking, playing, brushing, and a few more that you will find here. Even sitting in the same room may work. The bad news is that your dog will also require attention at night. We have noticed that it’s easier to calm our dog when we invite her to sleep in our bedroom. Another option is for one of us to sleep on a couch close to a place where she sleeps. That way, we are near her and can talk to her or pet her if she gets nervous.
  • Boxer dog in heat playing with a ball
    Ball chasing is a very exhausting form of play that can be used to calm the most active dogs. Photo by Giada Trementozzi.

    Exercise your dog. Exercise is good. It helps you (and your dog) to stay in shape. But most importantly, it helps her to rid herself of excess energy — dogs who are sufficiently active sleep better. Exercise may include walking, running, ball chasing, training, and more. However, outdoor activities like walking call for extra precautions when your dog is in heat. Don’t let her run off-leash, and if possible, drive her in your car to a distant area. Don’t engage her in group activities involving other dogs. You can find more tips on walking a dog in the heat here. On the other hand, if your dog is already exhausted and, don’t push her.

  • Leave out chews and treats. Not every owner can spend 24 hours a day with her dog to calm her. The truth is, when dogs are stressed, they love to chew things. However, even if you can’t be around all day, you can leave out treats for your dog. Choose those that your dog cannot consume in one gulp. You want your dog to chew, chew, and chew for as long as possible. Bully sticks and others of a similar kind are a smart choice. They last long and are tasty (though we haven’t tried it) and natural. Try other chews, as well, to see which your dog likes more and which keeps her busy for longer. NOTE: Real bones, especially poultry bones, are not okay. They can be lethal, and surgical removal of bones from the throats or stomachs of dogs is not a rarity in vet clinics.

    Dog in heat enjoying tasty bully stick
    Chews may keep your dog’s attention for a while. Photo by Jelly Dude, cc
  • Leave toys out for your dog. Toys are another alternative to keep your dog busy and give her a chance to focus on something other than the heat. Squeaky toys are attractive to most dogs, but food dispenser toys are an excellent choice, too. The latter are usually hollow toys that you can fill with food, both dry and wet. They let a dog receive small amounts of food as long as she continues to play. To keep your female dog’s attention on her toys longer, you may wish to use more than one and take them away when they are not needed. NOTE: Whenever using food, make sure to count it as a part of your dog’s daily food intake.
  • Will medicine work? When the options above are not enough, you can try herbal medicine. They are intended for comforting dogs in stressful situations, such as driving in a car, vet visits, and holiday fireworks, but they also work well for dogs in heat. You can get them at pet stores or vet clinics. However, while a vet visit is a single act, your dog’s heat lasts a bit longer, and long-term usage of these medications must be done carefully. Make sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions and consult a vet.
  • Spay your dog. While not a technique to calm your dog in heat, spaying is a way to prevent her from cycling in the first place. We recommend that you spay your dog if you are not planning to breed her. It will save you both a plethora of future trouble. You can find more information about spaying a dog here. However, spaying a dog while she’s in the heat is not recommended. You should wait until it ends before performing the surgery. Consult your veterinarian if you have more questions.

Most likely, it’s going to take more than one of the methods mentioned above to calm your dog during the heat. Regardless of whether you choose long walks, running, buying tons of toys for your dog, or even medicine, we know that the most powerful weapon when a dog is in the heat is patience. Good Luck!

This article is a part of a series about dogs in heat.