When a female dog is coming into heat, inexperienced owners usually handle this situation in one of two ways.
One is to flee in panic about what to do. Should take time off from work, how to, when to… The second approach is to ignore the fact and treat their dog as they usually do.
As a part of our series for female dog owners, in this article, you are going to learn what to do with a female dog when she is in heat and how to handle this situation in a calm manner.
- Never let your dog out in the yard alone. Protecting your dog from male dogs and unwanted pregnancy is the most important thing to do when your dog is in heat. It doesn’t matter whether or not you plan to breed your dog this time. When our own dog comes into heat, we are tempted to let her into the yard and just keep an eye on her through the window, especially if it’s cold outside. However, this technique won’t work if a male dog suddenly appears nearby or if our dog jumps over the fence. Go out into the yard with your dog when she’s in heat. Depending on her activity, you might even consider using a leash.
- No off-leash walks. Despite common misconceptions, a female dog in heat can be walked, and she actually needs walks. However, some precautions are necessary, the most important being to always walk your dog on a leash. Even if you consider your dog extremely well trained, walking off-leash is a “no-no” when your dog is in heat. No obedience training is as strong as natural instincts.
- Balance between exercise and rest. Different dogs react differently to heat. While some may feel tired all day, most dogs are restless during the heat and owners must add exercises and take other measure to calm her down. Others may feel tired all day, while others may become restless. Observing your dog’s behavior and choosing the right amount of rest and exercise (walking, running, playing, etc.) is important to keep your dog comfortable. If your dog wants to sleep, her wish should be granted, but if she is restless, you can find tips to calm her down here.
- Extra attention. When a dog is in heat, the changes are not only physical, but mental as well. If you want to ensure that your dog feels comfortable when in heat, you will need to pay her more attention than usual. Playing, brushing, talking to her or going for a walk are just a few examples. Have that extra time available for your dog during heat, and she will feel much calmer and more confident.
- No training or dog shows. Events in which other dogs are involved should always be avoided. The scent that female dogs produces is very annoying to male dogs and will distract them from completing their tasks in the show. Most male owners become angry (a very reasonable response, if you ask us) if someone disrespects this “law” and appears in a dog show with a bitch in heat. You may ask event organizers if you can obtain a refund if your dog comes suddenly into heat right before the event. Serious event holders grant a full or partial refund if a dog comes into heat or becomes ill.
- Leave toys or chews. If you are going away and have to leave your dog alone for a while, let her out (going with her) to relieve herself, and then leave her inside with toys or chews. Put them away when you return home, to retain her interest till the next time. This will help to drive her restless thoughts away and keep her busy when you are not present.
- Hide the trail back home from male dogs. If you are walking outdoors with your dog in heat, it would be wise to break up the trail leading back home. The best way to achieve this is to put your dog in a car and drive to the walking spot. This way male dogs won’t track your dog to your house.
- Put menthol on the tip of her tail. When walking outdoors, this technique may help to mask the scent. It may become handy if a male dog suddenly appears nearby, so he does not detect your female in heat from a distance. However, if he comes closer, this method will not work that well. There are also some commercial products available to mask the scent. Ask for them in a pet store.
- Use doggie pants. One of the most common heat symptoms in dogs is a bloody discharge from the vulva. This may be very annoying if you have a new carpet. If your dog allows you to put dog diapers or pants on her, you may use them. They may also help to mask the odor outdoors and prevent males from following your dog back to your house. However, doggie pants won’t stop your dog from mating, so do not let male dogs approach during walks.
- Consult a vet. Even though being in heat is not an illness and should not be treated as one, having a chat with your veterinarian may help if unexpected trouble occurs.
- Consider spaying your dog. We strongly recommended that you spay your dog if you are not planning to breed her. While some may say that spaying is not natural, we can respond that not allowing her to mate whenever she wants is also not natural. Nor is keeping a dog at home. There are many advantages to spaying a female dog. The most important ones are behavior changes a reduced risk of mammary tumors. Learn about advantages and disadvantages of spaying a dog here.
It’s not as though you must do all of the above, when your dog is in heat. Dogs differ in terms of restlessness, activity, symptom strength, attraction to males, etc. However, the more you take advantage of the above ideas, the more comfortable your dog (and you) will feel.
If you ar an owner of a female dog, you will find our series about dogs in heat useful!