The Dreaded Heat! I am often asked about when and what to expect regarding female puppies and dogs going into heat. I normally give an explanation to all of my customers getting female puppies, because I require that my puppies be kept intact until they are 24 months old. You can find a full explanation of why that’s necessary in my other post on that topic.
When & How Often?
In large or giant breed dogs like Mastadors, a female puppy will have her first heat at around 9 months old. That’s a strong average. But it’s possible for a female to go into her first heat as early as 6 months, or as late as a year or more. After the first heat, they come roughly every six months. That fluctuates a good deal as well. My lasses range from 6-8 months in-between most of the time. But I tell folks that they should expect to go through three heat cycles by the time they reach 24 months, and can be spayed if desired. At right is our Lola, who had her first heat at 9 months, with her second due at 15 months (April 2022), and the third one due at 21 months, approximately.
How Do I Tell? How Long Does It Last?
The heat cycle is 20 days long, and can normally be spotted by some obvious signs. First, your lass will start to drip spots of blood when her heat begins. Also, her vulva will appear swollen. But either of these can sometimes not appear, or be so mild you don’t detect it for awhile. We’ll deal with that in a minute. Another sign is any other dogs in close proximity will be humping her, or she will mount them. If you see that behavior, check your lass for a swollen vulva, and get a clean white cloth and dab her vagina to
check for secretions, especially blood tinge. Always use the first day you are certain, as Day One of your 20-day count.
Approximately Day 11 is ovulation time, when she is fertile. It is also where most females will stand for any male in proximity. When she is near a male she will start “flagging” him, that is, she will stick her tail straight up and come in close to him. This is of course, the most dangerous time, in terms of avoiding pregnancy. Despite the really small window of 48 hours or so of ovulation, you must assume that your lass is at risk for impregnation at any time during the 20-day period. As unusual as it is, some females have become pregnant from ties that occurred in the first few days or the last few days of a heat cycle. You always have to assume the risk is there, for the entirety of the heat cycle.
Protecting Her From The Lads
It is important to keep your female absolutely protected from the lads! Make no mistake, males can literally detect the scent of a female in heat, and track it, as far as three miles away! They will perform extraordinary feats to get to her. I have had my lads tear apart wood privacy fence, chew through welded-wire fence and chain link panel, dig a hole so deep, a 130# dog can get under the fence. Do not underestimate the power of female hormones! [I hear men mumbling “Amen” under their breath as they read].
We have had three accidental litters over the years, that were sired by dogs that wandered onto our farm in the middle of nowhere. Nobody had ever seen these males before or since. We gave them names. The first one was The Traveling Salesman. The next year we had a handsome fellow we called The Wayfaring Stranger, and the third was called The Wandering Minstrel. In each of these cases, we missed the signs of heat, because our lasses were outside all day long, and some were at night, as well. Our males were contained.
Behavior During The Heat
Your lovely lass can be an angel or a demon during her heat, or both. She is likely to be more clingy with you, more desirous of your attention and affection. She may be that way with other dogs in your house as well… or not. If you have other dogs in the house your lass could turn into, let’s say, a Raging Bitch! It’s ok to say “bitch”, cuz I’m a dog breeder. I’m not cussin’. I have had a few dog fights over the years between my lasses, nearly always when one or both are in heat. Be wary of this. It doesn’t happen all that often, but it is one of the things that you could face during a heat cycle.
Your girl may also have a significantly diminished appetite during her heat cycle, and that may also extend to other dogs in your home. If you think the dogs are simply not eating enough, you can always add some canned mackerel to their food for a couple of weeks. That will guarantee they eat more. You may want to offer treats more often during this time as well.
Your lass will likely be spotting blood for most of her heat. If she doesn’t it’s no cause for alarm, nor does it mean the heat is over with! Most of the time, the girls will clean up after themselves, licking up the blood off of hard floors, and keeping themselves clean. But there will still be cleanup to do. There are both disposable and washable doggy diapers available for this very thing. I have not used them, as we have hard floors, and just clean up, but my puppy customers prefer the washable kind over the disposables, by a wide margin. These are readily available in larger WalMart stores, or on Amazon.
Silent Heats And Other Anomolies
It is possible for your female to miss a heat, or have a “silent heat”, which are not the same thing. How each lass behaves and shows symptoms of her heat season can be very different from one to another; in some it is obvious and very pronounced, while in others, it can be hard to tell. Some females do not change in behavior or temperament during their heat cycle at all, and may have only a very light discharge with little or no swelling of the vulva. This is perfectly normal for some females. This doesn’t mean that your lass is necessarily going through a silent heat, but simply that her seasons are very asymptomatic.
A silent heat is a genuine season characterized by a nearly total lack of symptoms. This can make it pretty confusing for an owner. But if you take your lass out on walks, any unaltered lads will be making a beeline for her! If you see dogs you have never seen before, hovering around your property, there’s a good chance there’s a heat going on.
I cannot emphasize enough, the need for adequate protection from the lads! The safest course is to keep your lass in the house during the entire heat, and walk her if you do not have a fenced yard!