First Heat In Female Dogs: Symptoms, Duration And Behaviour

When the female comes into heat for the first time, the excitement is great, especially on the part of the owner.

How exactly does a heat run?

How long does the first heat last and what do I have to consider at this time?

So that you and your dog get through this sometimes very strenuous time well and safely, in this article we will explain everything you need to know about your dog’s first heat.

In a nutshell: when does a bitch get into heat for the first time?

A female normally comes into heat between the 6th and 12th month of life. Since our dogs are all individual, heat can also take a long time to come.

It usually lasts three weeks. Bleeding starts between the first 3 and 17 days. The following 3 to 21 days are called standing heat. During this time, your bitch is receptive for a few days.

If you would like to learn more about your dog’s cycle and the changes in behavior during heat, we can provide you with the online veterinarian Dr. Recommend Sam. Here you can reach a team of competent veterinarians 365 days a year.

They can see your dog via WhatsApp video call and give you valuable tips at almost any time of the day or night. Try it out, the first consultation is free!

How does the female change with the first heat?

With the first puberty, your bitch will grow up.

She leaves the stage of puberty. When the bitch is in heat, she often exhibits strange behavior. Permanent behavioral changes may or may not occur.

Females are often clingy and cuddly during heat, a bit sluggish, lacking in appetite and melancholic or the complete opposite: excited, excited, and apparently hard of hearing.

This behavior usually resolves as the cycle wears off. So there is no need to worry!

You can find more about the change in personality after the heat in our article here.


If you find it difficult to retrieve your dog without a leash while she is in heat, it is better to strap her on a drag leash. You need to take extra care of her during this time so she doesn’t accidentally get mated.

How is the first heat expressed?

The best first heat detectors are males.

When your bitch starts to heat up, the males are literally glued to you – or your bitch – on the backside.

Bleeding starts in the first 3 to 17 days. The vulva swells. At this point the bitch is not ready to breed.

This phase is followed by standing heat with about 3 to 21 days.

In the first days of standing heat, the female is receptive!

You can also recognize this by the fact that the color of the blood changes. It changes from intense red to a light pink and often has a slimy consistency. Here you have to be particularly careful that no intact male dog approaches your female!

Good to know:

All bitches become pseudopregnant after heat. However, symptoms such as the urge to build nests, mothering of cuddly toys or other objects, and the milk come in to varying degrees in all bitches.

Some bitches suffer a lot during this time. So pay close attention to your girl and whether she has problems with the heat or especially with the false pregnancy. If so, you may want to speak to a vet about spaying.

What does quiet heat mean?

It’s normal for a bitch’s first heat not to go quite as well as subsequent heats. This is because the body is not yet fully developed and must first adjust to the new situation.

So some bitches come into heat quietly and secretly without any visible signs. But she is still receptive, so caution is advised here too!

If the first heat occurs without bleeding or swelling of the vulva, it is referred to as a silent heat.

How long does a female’s first heat take?

As a rule, females come into heat for the first time between the sixth and twelve months of life.

In the case of large dog breeds and the so-called “late bloomers”, the first heat can also be a long time coming. It always depends on the bitch’s body size and stage of development.

The duration and also the intensity of the first heat is very individual!

A normal menstrual cycle in bitches has four phases and usually lasts about three weeks. During this time (proestrus/estrus) your bitch bleeds and is receptive during the so-called standing days.

  • Proestrus/pre-estrus: approx. 9 days, no readiness for mating
  • Estrus/oestrus: approx. 9 days, standing days/standing heat
  • Metestrus/post-oestrus: approx. 90 – 120 days, time of pseudopregnancy
  • Anestrus/resting phase: approx. 60 – 90 days, everything in the normal range

How often do dogs come into heat?

A bitch normally comes into heat twice a year. However, the cycle varies in each individual.

While some bitches come into heat about every seven months, the interval between heats for other females is as little as four months.

How does a female behave before & during the heat?

Even before her first heat, there are a few signs that your dog is about to become sexually mature.

It is important to know that behavioral problems and changes are completely normal during this time.

For example, if your dog has previously listened to your commands very well, it can happen that she forgets all of this during this time. She has other things on her mind now, like letting the male dogs around her know what she’s up to.

What are the Symptoms & Signs?

This is how you can tell that your bitch will soon be in the heat:

  • Your dog is tagging and sniffing more than usual
  • She moves farther away from you on walks
  • She finds other dogs, especially males, increasingly interesting
  • Growling and snapping in the direction of pushy males is not uncommon
  • Goodbye basic obedience!
  • loss of appetite and a lot of sleep
  • Your dog grooms herself more
  • Stronger need for closeness and cuddles OR
  • your dog withdraws more and wants to be left alone
  • Tail turned sideways
  • Swollen vulva
  • Bloody discharge

Is your bitch in heat for the first time? This is an exciting time for both of you. If you are unsure or want to ask someone for advice, we recommend the online veterinarian Dr. Sam!

A team of expert veterinarians is available 365 days a year to answer small questions via WhatsApp video calls. Maybe a subscription is interesting for you at this time?


As a precaution, put blankets on the couch at home and stow the carpets in the basement for this time. You will have to wipe after your dog from time to time or put on her pants when she is in heat. You can of course handle this however you want.

How can I make heat easier for my female?

First of all, it is important that you understand the changed behavior of your dog. Just let her be who she is and cater to her special needs. If she wants to be quiet, that’s just as okay as if she keeps clinging to your heels.

Especially on walks, you should pay special attention to your hot girl.

The smelly females are often molested by rowdy and pushy males. Make sure that your female is safe from stormy suitors with you. A male dog moves towards you, stand protectively in front of your bitch and calmly but firmly send the strange dog away from you.

At this time you should rather avoid dog encounters and always keep your dog on a leash. Go at times and places when there is little going on. This makes your dog walks much more relaxed for your dog in heat.

Also, make sure your girl eats enough!

During the heat it can certainly be a special treat to stimulate the appetite. We girls know the urge to snack during this time. Who doesn’t rather eat chocolate than vegetables? (Of course not your dog!)

Feeding a female in heat

Loss of appetite during heat is not uncommon.

So you don’t need to worry about that too much. However, if your dog isn’t eating and you’re feeling a little weird, you should consult a veterinarian.

Otherwise, just feed her normally.

Maybe you can offer her some extra treats, like her favorite chew or a particularly tasty piece of meat. You know best what your dog likes and you can spoil her now.

Attention danger!

Just because your dog doesn’t want her regular food doesn’t mean you can’t stuff her with dangerous foods! Of course, the following applies at all times: Sweets of all kinds, sugar, xylitol, alcohol, salt, strong spices, and some foods such as avocado, onions, garlic, or tomatoes are taboo for all dogs!


Not infrequently, the first heat is accompanied by strange changes in behavior.

Be aware that a lack of appetite, sluggishness, melancholy, or even latent excitement and restlessness are completely normal at this time. As a rule, this behavior subsides after the heat.

Your female will be in heat for the first time between the sixth and twelfth month of life and thus sexually mature.

During this time you have to take special care of them so that no unplanned litters come about!

If you need a contact person during this special time, please contact the online veterinarian Dr. Sam. After a free initial consultation, you can take out a subscription and ask questions almost around the clock, 365 days a year. The vets around Dr. Sam can see your dog via cell phone camera and give you competent advice.

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