When a female dog is coming into heat, owners usually handle this situation in one of two ways. One is to flee in a 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 will learn how to handle a female dog when she is in heat. Here are eleven tips to help you along
- 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. With our dog, we were tempted to let her into the yard and watch her through the window. That is especially tempting when it’s cold outside. However, this is a risk. What 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, you can walk a female dog when she is in heat. She needs walks. However, some precautions are necessary; the most crucial is always to walk your dog on a leash. Even if you consider your dog exceptionally well trained, walking off-leash is a “no-no” when your dog is in heat. No obedience training is as strong as 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 measures 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 essential to keep your dog comfortable. If your dog wants to sleep, you should grant her wish, 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 group training or dog shows. Avoid events in which other dogs are involved. The scent that female dogs produce is distracting to male dogs and will impede their performance. 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 dog in heat. You may ask event organizers if you can obtain a refund if your dog comes suddenly into heat right before the event. Some event holders grant a full or partial refund if a dog comes into heat or becomes ill.
- Leave toys or chews. If you have to leave your dog alone for a while, leave her inside with toys or chews. The repetitive action of chewing helps dogs to cope with stress, which is why stress is a common reason why dogs chew objects. 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 approach 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. We have tried it ourselves a lot, and it works very well.
- 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 spay a female dog. The most important ones are behavior changes a reduced risk of mammary tumors. Learn about the 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 are an owner of a female dog, you will find our series about dogs in heat useful!