Behaviors of Intact Female Dogs

Updated on November 15, 2016

Female dogs may have more maternal instincts

Female dogs especially those intact, may exhibit distinct behaviors that are typical of their sex. Most behavior changes are particularly relevant during the dog's heat (estrus) and if feasible, during the dog's pregnancy and nursing times. Spayed female dogs may show less distinct behavior changes than non spayed female dogs, however, they still show different behaviors that distinguish them from males.

A female dog's estrus takes place generally twice a year beginning at around the age of six months. There are some differences among breeds. Large, giant breeds may go in heat at a later age, sometimes around 12-18 months. These large giant breeds may also go less often in heat. In rare, cases, female dogs may go into ''silent heats'' that is heats where the symptoms are quite subtle and barely noticeable by the owner.

The female dog's heat is divided into four different phases.


This phase generally lasts an average of seven to ten days.This is when the dog's reproductive tissues swell and is accompanied by a bloody discharge. The dog will typically also lick herself repeatedly in order to keep herself clean. Behavior wise, the dog may lose appetite and appear a bit more irritable in some cases. Male dogs may appear to be very interested in her but she will act standoffish and appear not be interested as of yet.


This phase generally lasts six to ten days and is the phase often referred by breeders as ''standing heat''. The bloody discharge is replaced by a pinkish or straw colored discharge that proves the dog is very likely at the peak of her heat when she is more likely to become pregnant. This is when the female dog will accept the male dog and will stand still for the male to breed. .


This phase concludes the dog's heat.. Indeed, most females from this point on will no longer be interested in males. Male dogs however, may still decide to stick around for a bit.

This phase is an inactive phase as it appears to be a quiet time for the dog's reproductive organs, however, the dog's pituitary gland and ovaries are in reality getting ready for the next proestrus cycle.

Dogs that did not get pregnant while in heat, may develop at times a ''false pregnancy''. A dog affected by false pregnancy may be found pacing around the home looking for blankets and paper to shred to built a suitable place to raise puppies. The dog may also decide to adopt a stuffed animal or any other inanimate object and treat it as puppy. Sometimes, the dog may also grow over protective of it an guard it from strangers.

Surprisingly, physical changes may affect dogs with false pregnancy as well. Some may develop symptoms strongly suggesting a real pregnancy such as weight gain, abdominal swelling, nesting, clingliness to owner, and even vaginal discharges.

Dogs that become actually pregnant will exhibit signs and behaviors very closely resembling false pregnancy. Indeed it is often difficult to tell the tow apart unless a veterinarian is given the opportunity to test the dog for pregnancy..

Once the dog gives birth, the dog may become possessive of her litter. This is only temporary in most cases, an gradually weans away as the puppies start growing and getting more independent. However, many new mothers will not mind their owners touching their puppies.

Other Female Dog Behaviors

Female dogs generally squat to urinate unlike male dogs that show a preference to lift their leg. They also are not much engaged in''marking territory '' as males, however, there can be exceptions. Some female dogs may be found ''humping'' like males do, but this is not sexual behavior,rather it is an attempt to demonstrate dominance.

In a multi-dog household, many times female dogs may not get along with other females. Indeed. bitch fights may turn out bloody and even fatal in some circumstances. However, they mostly do well with males.

Compared to males, females may have more mood swings even though they can be pretty sweet most of the time. Female dogs may also have a more maternal instinct which may do better in households with children. Of course, each dog is different and no generalizations can be really made when it comes to canine behavior.

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