Walking a female dog in heat

Can I walk my dog when she is in heat?” is among the most common questions female dog owners ask during their dog’s period. To be more precise, it is a question that predominantly comes from female dog owners who have a yard. Why?

Namely this: people who do not have a yard would never ask if their dog can be walked during a thunderstorm or an earthquake. They just have to walk her, no matter what. Otherwise, the dog would likely hold on for as long as she possible and then relieve herself on the owner’s carpet. In the long run, such behavior could lead to health problems as well as unfortunate carpet stains.

Dog Walking in Heat Sign

So, that leaves us to the only possible answer: you CAN walk a dog when she is in heat and, for owners who do not have a yard, you MUST walk your dog.

Besides that, taking a walk is likely the single best way to calm your dog’s mind when in heat. Other things work, too, but walking is a must.

But, not so fast.

Since you’re reading this, you likely understand that walking a female dog in heat isn’t going to be a walk in the park. Jokes aside, here are some things to keep in mind when walking a dog in heat.

Never walk your dog without a leash when she is in heat

The most important rule when walking a dog is to always wear a leash, especially when she is in heat.

Female dogs are extremely attracted to males during those days, and you might find it hard to control her even if she is well-trained. If your dog smells a male’s scent, it can make her unresponsive to anything you might try. Calling “come here, come here” definitely won’t work, and a smelly bite of sausage — which might work in most circumstances — is also unlikely to entice her over a real hot dog.

The leash is a must!

Dog in heat should not walk off leash

Think about the trail your female dog leaves when in heat

You can control your dog better when she is on a leash, though things won’t be simple even then.

When your dog is in heat, she produces an increased amount of pheromones that attracts male dogs. You’ve probably noticed that, among other signs, your dog is urinating a lot more when in heat. That is because urine is the easiest way for her to spread her scent.

That scent is long lasting and a male dog can pick it up hours after it is left there. From that scent, he can determine not only that your dog is in heat but even track her to your home. You can expect at least a few canine gang members visiting you in the night. Have a pleasant sleep.

How can you avoid this from happening? It’s simple: you must break the trail through which male dogs can trace her. The easiest way to do it is to put your dog in the car and drive at least a few blocks away or, even better, to some distant area. Then, if a male dog picks up your girl’s scent, he will track it down to the place where you car was parked and no further. Poor thing, but at least your problem is solved.

We are female dog owners ourselves and we have tried different ways to walk her when she was in heat. When walking normally, even if we did not meet any males on the way, we had at least a few visiting our front door each night. They would bark outside, and our dog would bark inside. It was a bad night for all of us. When we put her in a car and drove about 500 meters — or 550 yards — away, none of those inconveniences happened. It was as if we hadn’t taken her for a walk at all. What a huge difference it made that she could walk, enjoy herself and sleep without a herd of randy dogs chasing her down.

Don’t go where the males are when your dog is in heat

Meeting a male dog is the biggest concern when walking your dog in heat.

Even after avoiding the inconveniences male dogs might cause at night, your walks can still be full of stress.

Likely, the worst part of walking a female dog in heat is the possibility of encountering a male dog. Usually, dogs do not start mating right after meeting each other. However, a meeting can still be troublesome, and possible mating isn’t your only problem.

Male dogs can be aggressive, especially during the first phase of heat; during this phase, a male might be interested, but the female is usually not willing to mate. Moreover, if you try to ruin their rendezvous, you risk injuring all three of you — or four of you, if the male has an owner nearby.

As such, it is easier to avoid meeting male dogs in the first place.

If you know your neighborhood, you probably know where the male dogs live and where they walk or wander. Avoid those places like the plague. If that’s not possible, drive to a remote area for your walks. Alternatively, try limiting the length or distance of your walks, but do them more frequently to avoid any accidents on the carpet.

If a male dog on a leash appears, the best course of action is to keep the dogs at a distance. Cross to the opposite side of the street. If avoiding them is not possible, warn the other owner that your dog is in heat. Some dog owners are extremely friendly and are happy to let the dogs smell each other and communicate. This is nice on a normal day but not when a female is in heat. Besides, if you warn the other owner, he will not perceive you as a weirdo when you cross the street to avoid him.

Last, but not least, if you have a friend or family member willing to accompany you on a walk, it can be a great aid. Not only can your loved one help you spot male dogs in advance, but he or she can also help control the situation if you encounter one.

Do pants and deodorizers work?

Popular advice suggests rubbing the tip of your dog’s tail with menthol or a commercial product to mask your female dog’s scent on a walk.

Unfortunately, while menthol does help to decrease the amount of scent a female dog releases, it does not suppress it entirely. Menthol and commercial deodorizers for dogs in heat may help if a male dog appears at a distance but not if he comes closer. If he does, or even smells the urine left by your dog, he will undoubtedly know what’s going on.

Female dog pants or dog diapers may also be an option to lower female scent distribution and reduce the risk of your dog getting pregnant if she meets a male dog. However, they are not contraceptives and should not be treated as such.

In fact, the greatest benefit from pants is simply keeping your female dog from making a mess indoors while she is in heat. Wearing them on a walk to reduce scent distribution and the risk of unwanted pregnancy is just a good side effect.

Consider spaying your dog

One last piece of advice: if you are not planning to breed, you should seriously consider spaying your female dog. Why? Spayed female dogs do NOT come in heat. That means they can be walked outdoors, together with intact male dogs, regardless of the time of year. Puppies may be cute but not when they come as an unwelcome surprise.

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

Photos by Mo Kaiwen, Horia Varlan, and theilr.