Dog season (or dogs on heat) explained!

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Season, also known as a dog’s heat cycle is a period of time which your dog can become pregnant.

When it comes to seasons, every dog has a different experience. The size and the breed of your dog can largely affect the length of time and seasons your dog experiences. The same rule goes for when your dog is expected to have her first season.

In most cases, the first season occurs from the age of 6 to 24 months, with smaller dog breeds starting sooner and larger dog breeds starting later. Some dogs have even been known to go as long as 36 months before their first season. If this is the case, and you are looking to breed your dog, it’s strongly suggested you work with your vet to make sure there’s no underlying medical problems with your pooch.

If your female dog is unspayed, she has the potential of having anywhere from 1 to 3 seasons or heat cycles in a 12 to 18 month period. Seasons can last anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks. It is strongly advised that you wait until at least your dogs second season before breeding to allow her to mature properly.

How do I know if my dog is in season?

  • You may see a yellow or a white mucus type of discharge, followed by a bloody discharge
  • Your dog may be seen licking around her genital area more frequently to stay clean
  • Her vulva can sometimes become swollen to varying degrees for different dogs
  • She may experience mood changes
  • Increased urination and marking behaviour
  • She may show restlessness or nervous behaviour
  • A loss of appetite is common as well as
  • Recall becoming quite difficult

It’s really important to know that every dog experiences signs of being in season differently. Some dogs may experience all of the above symptoms while other dogs may only experience one or two symptoms. This information is to be used as a guideline and it is always advised that you seek professional advice.

What do I do now that she’s in heat?

You’ll know when your dog is at her most fertile when her mucusy discharge becomes mostly clear. The clear discharge acts as a natural lubricant for mating and is also a sign that she is ovulating.

For the most part, once your dog is in heat, nature and natural instincts kick in and the mating process begins. If your bitch has someone to mate with you’ll see that she will instinctively stand and present herself by moving her tail to one side as a way of invitation for her male counterpart to mate with her.

Generally the process is to mate and then ‘tie’ which is when the dogs turn back to back whilst still coupled together. Once tied, there is nothing left for you to do but let nature take its course. Over a period of about 20 to 30 minutes the males organs subside and the 2 dogs will be able to separate and ‘untie’ naturally.

If your dog is in heat and there is no mate in sight, it is good to keep in mind that during seasons she may be inclined to escape in order to find someone to mate with. It’s true that a female dog in heat will do almost anything to experience release so please make sure her surroundings are secure and safe for her.

It’s also wise to be mindful that a bitch on heat can attract all the boys to the yard, so please keep your dog secured at all times!

An easy read article with images to explain and demonstrate the entire season: READ ME!

What does pregnancy and the gestational period look like for my dog (in a nutshell)?

Pregnancy and the gestational period is very different for dogs than it is for humans (lucky them)! An average pregnancy for your dog is about 9 weeks or anywhere between 58 to 68 days.

At the beginning of your dog’s pregnancy you may notice hormonal changes such as a loss of appetite, lethargy, a change in her nipple size, a need for more attention, the need for less attention and various behavioural changes. These are all normal and will be experienced differently for each dog.

A few weeks into your dog’s pregnancy you will notice that her appetite has improved and some rapid weight gain. In these circumstances, it’s good for her to embrace her curves! She’s not big boned, she’s pregnant!

Leading up to her final weeks of pregnancy you will notice her stomach area becoming larger and thicker, her nipples becoming enlarged.

Within days of delivering her pups, you may notice your bitch lactating and you may even experience the joys of seeing the pups moving inside her belly! At this point, get ready to welcome your new pups into the world very soon!

Frequently Asked Questions:

  • If my dog has mated before ovulation can she still become pregnant?

Yes. Sperm can survive in her reproductive tract for up to a week meaning she can ovulate within those 7 days and still have her eggs fertilized.

  • Do dogs have to ‘tie’ in order for the bitch to become pregnant?

No. It’s a common misconception that dogs MUST tie in order for fertilisation and conception to occur. If your dog has mated with another dog then the sperm is still active and in the reproductive system, even if there was no tieing.

  • Can I walk my dog when she is on heat?

Yes, your dog can be walked when on heat but be conscious of other dogs and their owners walking too. A dog in heat carries a strong scent and can cause some male dogs to become overly excited. Stay away from crowded dog parks and the like.

  • If we don’t want to breed our dog or don’t want any more litters, when is the right time to neuter/spay?

Neutering is a very big topic and one that has to be a personal choice. There are so many conflicting views as to when or IF a dog should be neutered/spayed. There are many things to consider when making your choice, a lot having to do with health benefits/ailments your dog might experience if they are neutered/spayed at different ages. Research is key as ultimately this is your choice.

If you want to read more on why you may consider NOT neutering or spaying your dog, then this article by the Dog listener is a very thorough and interesting read!

We’d love to hear about your experiences when it comes to dogs in season and breeding! We’d also love to hear your views on neutering and spaying as these are such important conversations that need to be had –  WITHOUT judgement of course.

Leave a comment below with your thoughts. Information shared is a potential life spared.

Paws of Love,

Sarah (fur mum to Frank) xo

P.S. Are you in the Frank and Jellys ‘Doggy Detectives’ Facebook group? It’s a place where fur mums and dads go to make friends, test doggy products and share stories on best products. PLUS we always share tips and tricks as well as offering advice and sharing experiences when one of our furry friends is not well or not behaving! It’s great fun and it’s absolutely FREE to join! Come join the fun HERE xo.


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