How to Tell If and When Your Dog Is in Heat
What is "heat" and when is it going to happen?
When we say that your dog is in heat, it means that she is undergoing changes to her body so that she will attract male dogs, get bred, and have puppies.
Your dog will first come into heat when she is still a puppy. With toy breeds it may be as early as 4 months, but with giant breeds it may not happen until their second year. The first heat cycle is usually kind of mild though, so, unless your front door becomes a gathering place for the neighborhood male dogs, you may not even notice your dog´s first heat cycle.
How can I tell if my dog is in heat?
The first sign you will notice, long before any physical changes, are a few personality changes. She may be nervous, shy, more affectionate than usual, or even aggressive. There is really no way to tell how a dog is going to act. As she gets closer to coming in to heat she will have a swollen vulva; some dogs will even have swollen nipples. For about a week before she starts spotting your dog will urinate every chance she gets when you walk her—this is her way of alerting the other dogs in the area that she will soon be ready to breed.
Your dog will begin “spotting” (having a bloody discharge from her vulva) and when she starts with this stage you will definitely notice. This may be considered the first day of heat. There may be a lot or just a few drops, but it almost always decreases as the time of ovulation approaches (usually one to three weeks after the bleeding starts).
Bleeding in the house is one of the best reasons to get your dog spayed. If you do not want to have her spayed for some reason, doggie diapers are available and will cover her up so that she does not stain the carpet or furniture. The diapers have to be removed every time you take her outside since, if you do not, she will urinate in the diaper and ruin it.
The second to third week of heat is when your dog is likely most likely to be bred, whether you want it or not. The reduced spotting is a sign of ovulation and your best indication of when she will stand to be bred. You can plan on the greatest success if you breed her every few days during the time that she will stand and allow a male to mount.
If you do not want to breed your female, it is also the time you need to watch her carefully and keep her away from the male dogs in the neighborhood. She will not be bleeding anymore but will still be able to conceive puppies.
Should I just get her spayed?
To avoid all of these symptoms, you should have your dog spayed. There is a lot of controversy as to when it should be done, but if you cannot watch your dog and protect her during the first heat cycle you should have her spayed while still young.
If you choose not to have her spayed, do not plan on breeding her unless you are willing to have her hips and elbows x-rayed to check for dysplasia, and her eyes checked for changed in the retina.
In case you do plan on breeding, find a male who is free of genetic diseases before your female shows signs of heat.