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The Behaviour of a Female Dog in Heat – 8 Personality Changes & Tips to Calm

Behaviour of a Female Dog in Heat
The Behaviour of a Female Dog in Heat can be unsettling for owners and any dogs that come into contact with the bitch. Female dogs in heat tend to show several behavioural changes which owners and inexperienced dog trainers can incorrectly label as behaviour problems.
how to comfort a dog in heat
Female dogs in heat can be clingy, needy and more vocal than usual. Keeping them comfortable and safe during this time is important.

The Behaviour of a Female Dog in Heat can be unsettling for owners and any dogs that come into contact with the bitch. Female dogs in heat tend to show several behavioural changes which owners and inexperienced dog trainers can incorrectly label as behaviour problems. This is because the female dog’s heat cycle or oestrus is the time the female dog is fertile and ready to mate. She undergoes several hormonal changes at this time that cause her to behave differently than normal.

It is important to be aware of these behavioural changes so pet parents can keep their un-desexed ‘girls’ safe and comfortable, prevent dog fights and also take precautions to avoid unwanted pregnancies and puppies.

The Behaviour of a Female Dog in Heat can drastically change its personality for up to 9 weeks following its cycle. Here are some personality changes that a female dog in heat might show.

What are the 4 stages of a dog in heat?

dog heat cycle

8 Behavioural Changes in Female Dogs in Heat

1.   Excessive Licking

female dog in heat behaviour pain
Some female dogs will keep themselves meticulously clean during their heat cycle – so much so that owners won’t know their dog is in heat.

Your dog’s vulva will swell up and she might lick it excessively. She will also bleed from her private area, similar to a human period and she will lick the bloody discharge.

This is normal behaviour and female dogs are genetically wired to clean themselves. 

If needed, use doggy diapers to contain the mess and prevent stains on your bedding, carpet, and floors.

2.   Territory Marking

female dog in heat behaviour panting
Female dogs will often pee more than usual while in heat, sometimes lifting their leg as they do so.

The Behaviour of a Female Dog in Heat can result in increased peeing, as she spreads her scent to find a suitable male to mate with. This is another sign that your female dog is either close to her oestrus or is already in heat. Your girl might want to urinate several times a day. She will use her urine to mark her territory and indicate to unneutered male dogs that she is available for mating.

You might also notice some changes in the way your dog urinates. For example, she might urinate more around male dogs or even raise her leg while urinating.

3.   Being Clingy or Overly Affectionate

how do female dogs react to other females in heat
Female dogs that are in heat can be more nervous, emotional and clingy to their owners.

The Behaviour of a Female Dog in Heat can be more clingy and needy. They become extremely affectionate with their humans and also show friendliness towards male dogs. Although, some females can become more aggressive toward male dogs and will only be playful and flirty with them for a couple of days when they ovulate.

Indoors, your dog might follow you all around the house, not leaving you for even a moment.

Outdoors, she will seek the attention of male dogs.

She might even allow male dogs to sniff and lick her privates. (Normally, she won’t allow this behaviour and may growl or bite any males that come near her.)

4.   Excess Barking

female dog in heat personality
The increase in the hormone progesterone can cause the female dog in heat to be more hyper-vigilant – increasing barking and crying behaviours. Similarly, when male dogs smell a female dog in heat, they can also bark and whine.

The Behaviour of a Female Dog in Heat can present as barking and increased reactivity. When your female dog detects a potentially suitable, un-neutered male nearby, she might bark excessively to gain their attention. She may become excessively vocal and whine or howl. She might even pace restlessly near the door or window if she detects the scent of a male dog nearby.

The increased progesterone level in her body can also make her hyper-vigilant and more prone to barking and reacting to new things in the environment. This is in preparation for her pregnancy and to ensure she safely carries and whelps her puppies.

4 stages of a dog in heat
This graphic shows the hormonal changes that occur when a female dog is in heat. These hormones impact the female dog’s behaviour and personality while she is in heat and progesterone (the hormone of pregnancy) lingers for 9 weeks after ovulation. Therefore, personality changes can persist for 9 weeks after the bleeding stops.

5.   Trying to Escape

One of the most dangerous changes in The Behaviour of a Female Dog in Heat is their desire to escape and find males to mate with. Your pet might dig under the fence or jump over it to meet a male dog nearby. This can be extremely dangerous for your dog.

Worse, some male dogs might also try to come into your premises and show signs of aggression if they are stopped from meeting your female dog.

6.   Irritability or Aggression

pictures of a female dog in heat
Bitches in heat can be more irritable, reactive and aggressive due to their hormonal changes.

The Behaviour of a Female Dog in Heat can result in nervous aggression and reactivity as they are secreting mating hormones. They can even become irritable or anxious, snapping, barking or growling at other dogs.

Some females tend to show confusion and fear. They may cry or whine all the time. This is because of the hormonal upheaval in their bodies. These hormones are responsible for moods, energy levels, etc. Resultantly, an un-spayed dog in heat may be moody and restless for 9 weeks following their heat. Therefore, given that most female dogs cycle every 6 months, the behaviour of a female dog can change quite drastically for 4 months of the year.

This highlights the benefit of desexing female dogs for behavioural reasons. Desexing can benefit the behaviour of the female dog herself and any dogs that live with her in a multi-dog household.

7.   Increased Nesting Behaviour

The Behaviour of a Female Dog in Heat can result in nesting tendencies. This is in preparation for the puppies. The hormone progesterone stays elevated for 9 weeks following her period, regardless of whether she gets pregnant or not. This mimics a false pregnancy tricking the dog into thinking that she is about to have puppies. Some bitches will nurse their toys or bones and even get milk.

Resultantly, your pet might start planning for the pups and prepare a safe area with newspapers or blankets. She might even start hiding food and resources.

8.   Appetite Changes

female dog behaviour after heat
Male dogs that come in contact with a female dog in heat, can go off their food and become emotional. They will cry and bark in their attempts to access the female that’s in heat.

The Behaviour of a Female Dog in Heat and her scent can result in bitches and males that live with the female, refusing food as they are entirely focused on mating. They may not eat normally in the first week of the oestrus and this can last for as long as 10-14 days. On the other hand, some dogs get extremely hungry and may beg for food all the time. It is not surprising to see some female dogs gaining weight during this period.

Male dogs, particularly if they are un-desexed sometimes stop eating while a female is on heat. They will also bark, whine and vocalise out of frustration because they want to get to the female who has her period.

It is important to monitor your dog’s weight and not feed her too much food. If needed, check with your vet nutritionist regarding the right portions and calorie intake for your dog.

FAQ – Behaviour of a Female Dog in Heat

Does a dog’s personality change when in heat?

A dog’s personality will often change when they are in heat. The cause of this change is the increased level of the hormone progesterone in the dog’s body. Progesterone is the hormone of pregnancy and bitches experience an increase in the level of this hormone that persists for 9 weeks following ovulation. Therefore, owners of un-desexed female dogs can expect their dog’s personality to change every 6 months for around 9 weeks.
Similarly, the personality of dogs living in a multi-dog household with un-desexed females will change. Males can stop eating, bark and whine while a female is in heat and sometimes female dogs will fight with each other if one is on her period.

How do you calm a male dog when a female is in heat?

Male dogs, particularly when they are not desexed can get extremely stressed when a female is in heat. They will chew, dig and climb to escape and get to the female that is in heat and it’s not uncommon for them to stop eating, particularly around the time when the female ovulates.
It’s difficult to calm a male, once he senses that a female is in heat. He will become obsessed with her, barking and whining at all hours. To calm him, keep him away from the bitch and don’t allow him access to where she is peeing and pooping, because he will smell her and her scent will set him off.
If possible, board the male elsewhere while the female is on heat to avoid the stress of this situation and unwanted puppies.

How do you know when dog heat is over?

When a female dog is in heat, she will usually bleed from days 1-9 and then the discharge will turn a pale straw colour. Bleeding eases and becomes very pale in colour from days 10-21. As the period progresses, bleeding will lessen. It’s important to note that although uncommon, not all females bleed and swell when they’re on heat but they can still fall pregnant. Some dogs will ovulate as early as day 5 of bleeding and others as late as day 16. Therefore, it’s important to remain vigilant and keep your female away from un-desexed males for around 25 days following the start of bleeding.

How far away can a male dog smell a female in heat?

common behaviours of dog in heat

Dogs have an extremely good sense of smell and it’s not uncommon for dogs in the neighbourhood to start howling and vocalising when a bitch in heat is ovulating. It is believed that dogs can smell a female in heat up to 4.8km away. Ovulation is the time when a female dog can get pregnant if mating occurs and males are particularly sensitive to the scent females give off during this time.

How to comfort a dog in heat

A dog in heat is often needy, affectionate and clingy. They benefit from passive calming activities such as stuffed Kongs, snuffle mats, licky mats, food puzzles, long-lasting chews and raw meaty bones to keep them occupied. Avoid exposing your dog in heat to other dogs which could cause her stress.
The increase in the pregnancy hormone ‘progesterone’ will make her hyper-vigilant while she is in heat and for 9 weeks following ovulation – therefore, ensuring she feels safe will help her to feel more comfortable during this emotional time.

How do female dogs react to other females in heat?

what are the 4 stages of a dog in heat

Un-desexed female dogs that live together will often cycle together and can become more aggressive toward each other during this hormonal period. To prevent fights, supervise your dogs at all times and don’t leave them unattended with resources such as their favourite toys, bones, chews etc. Sometimes when female dogs are in heat and ovulating, they will hump each other – this can upset some female dogs, resulting in aggression and fighting.

Conclusion – Behaviour of a Female Dog in Heat

stages of dog in heat
The Behaviour of a Female Dog in Heat can be confusing for first-time dog owners. Desexing a dog at around 6 months of age, will prevent these hormonal fluctuations and 6 monthly changes in behaviour.

The Behaviour of a Female Dog in Heat can cause stress to owners, neighbours and any dogs that live in the area surrounding the bitch. Having an understanding of these behaviour changes can help owners to manage their dogs, preventing nuisance behaviours like barking, marking of territory, fighting, pregnancy and ultimately a litter of puppies. A female dog in heat tends to show several behavioural changes. It is important to note that an unspayed female is at risk of unwanted pregnancy. So, you must take all precautions and avoid keeping your pet outdoors.

Always supervise your dog – especially while outside to prevent male dogs from coming near her. If needed, get your dog spayed to prevent unwanted puppies and other health issues in the future.

If you’re worried about your dog’s behaviour or wellness during her heat, contact a veterinarian as potentially dangerous infections like pyometra can occur around this time.

Experienced dog behaviourists and dog trainers will be aware of the changes in Behaviour of a Female Dog in Heat and will refrain from diagnosing behaviour problems that can be attributed to hormone fluctuations that occur during this time.

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Hi! I’m Tres! I’m passionate about dog behaviour and training. My dog training methods are effective for all breeds and goals. I have trained dogs for protection, obedience, manners, loose leash walking, crate training and have solved common behaviour problems such as reactivity, barking, separation anxiety and more. Let’s connect, sign up to my free newsletter (above) for helpful tips and upcoming training events.
dog trainer Sydney
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Hi! I’m Tres! I’m passionate about dog behaviour and training. My dog training methods are effective for all breeds and goals. I have trained dogs for protection, obedience, manners, loose leash walking, crate training and have solved common behaviour problems such as reactivity, barking, separation anxiety and more. Let’s connect, sign up to my free newsletter (above) for helpful tips and upcoming training events.
dog trainer Sydney

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