Understanding Dogs and their season. Also known as Heat Cycle, Estrus.or Oestrus

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The Dogs Season or Heat

Season or Heat Cycle In Dogs

Swollen Vulva early in the seasons cycle as it is still bleeding. When the discharge become clear mucus it normally signifies the dog is ready to couple What Is a Season?: The "Season" can also be called "heat" or "oestrus".This is the time when the female dog can become pregnant

Care must be taken if you do not want a litter of unwanted puppies. It is not always obvious that the dog is in a season. 

Especially when it is the first season. The signs may be quite difficult to spot.

That is because the swelling and discharge can be almost non-existent.

When the first heat actually occurs, varies enormously from dog to dog.

An unspayed female dog can usually be expected to come into heat twice yearly, it normally lasts three weeks. Unfortunately, nature does not do usually, when it comes to seasons you cannot class all dogs alike.

Some seasons can vary in length from two to four weeks. The average three weeks. Always calculate it as four weeks if you are unsure, or you could be very unhappy with the outcome.

Some females only have one season a year, and others can have three. Nothing is set in stone when it comes to seasons. The giant breeds may have only one season every year, some have been known to be every 18 months.

Charlie because he was neutered as a rescue. Does not know what is expected of him, desperate for sex Pip the female mounts him to show what he should do.mounts to show what he should do.

What Age Does The 1st Season Normally Start?: Once again this has enormous variations.

The average will start it when the female is between six to thirty-six months old.

Though the lower figure would normally be the smaller breeds. However, like all the others this can vary between different breeds and sizes.

In the picture on the left. Charlie, because he was neutered as a rescue before he was mature (A really bad decision) See (1) Paediatric Neutering.

He really does not know what is expected of him and is very confused. 

Desperate for sex, Pip the female, mounts him to show what he should do.

I have known dogs to have their first season at five months and others as late as twenty-four months. Having said that these would normally be the giant breeds, such as Wolfhounds or Great Danes.

The size of the dog normally means they will mature at different times. For instance, I would start to become a little worried, if the season does not happen until very late (after thirty-six months)

Have the dog checked out by a Vet if you are concerned that the season is delayed way past a normal time for that breed. It is prudent to check to make sure there are no underlying medical problems that could be affecting the onset of the first season. 

What Are The Signs?: Sometimes you will see a yellow or white mucus type discharge from the Vulva. This is the area that links to the womb not where they toilet from. After a short period, you may see a bloody discharge.

The dog may be licking around the genital regions more than normal, as she tries to keep clean. Her vulva will often become swollen; this once again can be different from dog to dog. Some can become very large, and therefore obvious, others almost unnoticeable.

Other signs are mood changes and increased urination. She may develop marking behaviour, in which she urinates small amounts on different objects, either at home or on a walk. She may show restlessness and reduced appetite. She can become skittish and show nervous behaviour, recall can become a real problem as she becomes fertile.

Pip standing for charlie Note the tail pulled to one sideWhen Can She Get Pregnant: At the time the discharge becomes almost clear with some mucus, which acts as a lubricant, this is when she ovulates. 

She is now at her most fertile stage. This will be the time when she may try and escape and look for a dog to couple with.

The dog’s genetics kicks in and she will actively stand for a dog and move its tail to one side inviting the male dog to mate with her. 

If you look at the picture right you can see Pipsqueak in her second season standing for Charlie.

Whilst he looks interested, in reality, he has been neutered and has no idea why she is flirting with him and what she wants. The female can get very desperate at this time, if any door or gate is unlocked then she will be off.

The local lothario can also sneak in and have his evil way. If she has mated before she reaches this period in her season, she can still get pregnant. Sperm can survive for a week in her reproductive tract, therefore still capable of fertilising the eggs.

It is commonly believed that if the dogs do not “tie,” which the act of turning back to back whilst still, coupled together, then she cannot fall pregnant. 

This is an “old wives tale”  A dog can get pregnant, just as easily without becoming fully tied, with just normal coupling.

Can Dogs get pregnant when they are not in season?. The simple answer is NO. That is totally impossible unless the dog is actually in season and within the heat cycle where pregnancy is achievable, it simply cannot become pregnant.  

I have also been told by numerous people that to stop dogs that are already copulating you should throw a bucket of water over them. This is a very dangerous old wives tale. If you dod this and it panics the dogs they could both be seriously injured internally.

Once they have tied like the picture below then there is nothing you can do. You must let nature take its course and they will untie eventually. The average time is about 20-30 minutes when the males organ subsides and they will part naturally.

If you have decided t0 have a litter of puppies. Then I have written an article especially for you. It is called (2) The Pregnant Dog Countdown to Birth

 Commonly Asked Questions 

Dogs tied after copulating they can stay like this for some considerable time1.If a dog couples can I get her a morning after pill?
Yes, there is a medication that can help to terminate a pregnancy up to a few days after coupling. 

Having said that it can have in some cases severe complications, some vets are wary of prescribing it.

2How long is a pregnancy?
 Pregnancy in dogs also called a gestation period, typically lasts 63 days (about nine weeks). The duration of a dog's pregnancy can fall in the range of 58 to 68 days. 

3.Can a dog get pregnant in its first season?
The simple answer is yes. If the dog has matured enough to have a season, then it is perfectly capable of carrying a belly full of puppies. Though any good breeder would wait until at least the second season before even considering breeding.

4.Can I walk my dog when in heat?
Yes, you can walk your dog. But have some respect for other dog owners. Only walk the streets, not the park, and always keep her on a lead whilst in season.

5.Will my dog not miss having puppies?
This is a typical anthropomorphic question. It suggests dogs like humans will yearn after motherhood, especially if they cannot have pups. The only automatic yearning dogs have is to mate. During that 10 day period, the dog’s instinct is to couple to any male dog.  Other than that time the dog will not miss or yearn for a family or puppies.

6.Do dogs have a menopause the same as humans?
Unlike humans, dogs stay fertile all their lives. The season may be missed occasionally as they move into old age. However, they can still fall pregnant at any age.

7.What are the early signs of pregnancy?
These include loss of appetite, lethargy, slight nipple growth and some behavioural changes. These changes come about because of the surges in hormones and can include the need for isolation or the opposite demanding to be cuddled.

Pebbles pregnant three days before giving birth8.What are the later signs of pregnancy?
After a few weeks, her appetite will improve and she will rapidly start to gain weight. 

Her abdomen will thicken and her nipples will enlarge, and she may start lactating a few day before birth. 

In the last weeks, you can feel and sometimes see the puppies moving around inside the womb. On the right is Pebbles.

She is pregnant and three days before actually giving birth.

The miracle of birth can be an amazing experience. I love dogs and always have done, that is why I am in this profession. However, I have never bred a litter of puppies. Though I am considering it because I have a number of absolutely brilliant dogs.

I have followed many litters from birth to death. Whilst the rescue centres are screaming out for homes for unwanted dogs. and the likes of the RSPCA are euthanising thousands of perfectly healthy dogs.Then I am not prepared to add to that statistic just yet.

75% of all the dogs I have owned have been rescued. The others I bought as puppies, to be trained as gun dogs or sniffer dogs. If it was a puppy then I needed to get them early and at the most important time of their learning period, this is between 0 and 16 weeks. If I choose wisely and pick the right breeder, then I will know that the 1st weeks of their lives will have been fine.

Read Charlies Background. Part of his story is in (3) Fearful and Timid Dogs. When I finish my first book, I will write more about Charlie’s amazing fortitude, and his ability to overcome some of the worst starts in life I have ever heard of or had to treat.

I will also mention the brilliant work of a vet nurse, now a dog trainer, Who literally saved him from being systematically beaten to death, when others ignored his plight. Charlie's brother was kicked to death by this psychopath.

Pebbles with her three pups. Pips in the other photo's is her daughter and is the one in the middle of these three.On the right is Pebbles with her three pups.

Flossie in all the other photo's with Charlie is her daughter, she is the one on the left. 

I have not written about seasons and pregnancies in dogs because I want you to rush out and get your dog neutered.

I promise you that is something I would never recommend.

Before you consider that read (4) Neutering the Real Story. 

However, if I can get just one person to take on a rescue dog. Then I will have at least helped the hard-pressed rescue centres, most but not all who do brilliant work.

I have very little time for the likes of the RSPCA and some of the other large rescue institutions. I like and support the small individual rescue centres.

Having said that the small RSPCA units, often do sterling work. It is the wasteful heads of these institutions that appear to get the donations, whilst starving the operations that do the real work. Look at the Blue Cross recently and the scandal that hit them.

The RSPCA's boss Gavin Grant has left for "health reasons". Don't they often say that when people are pushed? He was an absolute car crash of a man and did no favours to an organisation that has totally lost its way.

So my time and money will always go to the little ones. They are the ones that are struggling. Not the ones with a tranche of directors on six-figure salaries and fleets of company cars.

ON your donations these people live the high life on salaries many of us only dream about. Charity should be for the animals, not the hangers-on.

Rant over

For the very best natural Dog Treats for your adult or puppy dog Then Click  Natural Dog Treats




Stan Rawlinson
September 2012

Latest update December 2017

(1) Paediatric Neutering.

(2) The Pregnant Dog Countdown to Birth.

(3) Fearful and Timid Dogs.

(4) Neutering the Real Story. 



Stan Rawlinson's picture

Sent to me by Email.

Thank you so much for the article on how to tell whether a dog was in heat. We have an almost 7 month old peke-a-poo, and I just scheduled her today to get spayed. Tonight, I saw blood near her private area fur (slightly in back of it), and I was nervous.

My husband had mentioned that she was asking to go out (we live in the country and walk her, she is never alone) every half hour. I noticed she was very clingy. I was reading the descriptions of "in heat" at other sites, but I still was unsure and nervous about what may be wrong with her.

Then I went to your site and saw the photos and they were an immense help. I was reading about the tail being moved, but was having trouble visualizing it. Your picture of that is exactly what our puppy is doing. The close up picture of the vulva was extremely helpful , as well.

I don't normally email people that I do not know, but I was so thankful for that article, because it is late at night, and I would have had to wait until tomorrow to call the vet, and I wanted to let you know what a big help it was. Thank you so much.

We have always had three dogs at a time, and have never had any go into heat before getting spayed, so the whole thing made me nervous. She is a rescue pup and adapting well! We also have an 8 year old female pekingese and a 9 year old male bichon. I am sure hoping that he is like your dog and doesn't "know what to do." He was neutered at 6 months old.

Once again, thank you for that great and informative article! I feel much better after reading that, and I had visited many other sites before I found yours, but none explained that as well as you.

Thank you again,


maciejsawinski@yahoo.com's picture

I have a beagle and its a she. Soon she will be on her season and i am looking for another beagle to breeding. I dont know where to search could you help me?

Stan Rawlinson's picture

Hi Macie

That will depend on a number of variables. How old is the dog and does it have full KC pedigree papers. If she does you could contact the list of breeders of Beagles at the kennel club and ask if they have a stud dog. below is the link.

However, the dog should be at least two years old and have had one full season and be free of any inherited breed diseases. See below also for a list of things you should understand

Things to consider
If you are thinking of breeding from your bitch, there
are certain questions that you will need to ask yourself
before proceeding:

• Is the bitch fit, healthy and does she have a good

• Can I afford to pay for the recommended health tests
for the bitch prior to mating her and, where necessary,
for her litter?

• Do I know enough to help the bitch during the
whelping, if necessary?

• Can I afford to pay for a caesarean should the dam
have difficulty whelping the litter?

• Could I cope with a very large litter of, say, 10 or 12

• Do I have sufficient knowledge to rear the litter
correctly, including worming, vaccinations and

• Have I the time to devote to a litter until the puppies are
old enough to go to their new homes, which is usually
around eight weeks?

• Am I knowledgeable enough to advise new owners
about caring for their puppies, including rearing, diet,
training and health problems?

• Would I be able to find good homes for the puppies?

• Am I in a position to take back or re-home any puppies
if it becomes necessary?

What are your thoughts on Tubal Ligation vs traditional spay procedure.

Stan Rawlinson's picture

I have written an overview on neutering recently and in that article i cover Tubal Ligation as well as Vasectomy, I aLso cover hysterectomy as opposed to Ovariohysterectomy . I hope it helps.


aislingk50@gmail.com's picture

This was very helpful. I just have one question my bitch Dane is coming into her first sewing at 10 months Ive an unnutered male Dane he is 6 years old he's never been around a bitch in heat and had bad hips... would he still know what to do and would he be able to do it

Stan Rawlinson's picture

The simple answer is yes he certainly would. Mating is not a learned process it is instinctual and the need to mate when a female is in heat is very powerful . Therefore it would probably overcome any pain he has during your females season.

You have a couple of options either someone else looks after the dog or bitch when she is in season or you can have a short chemical castration. It is a injection that mimics neutering in the male and in this case it would be Tardak. There is another chemical castration called suprelorin. However the affects of this last far longer and i would not normally recommend it with a dog with joint or bone problems in these circumstances.

There is no chemical neutering for females at present. However they are working on it.


does anyone out there know why my 6 yr old girl has not had a season fr a long time

Stan Rawlinson's picture

The answer will be either one of three scenarios The seasons are almost not showing in any way and she keeps herself clean. She has had a medical condition that is stopping the eggs from entering the fallopian tubes or she has been spayed.

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