How to Control a Male Dog Around a Female in Heat
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When a female dog is in heat, it can make their regular pet care needs more difficult. Their psychological state can be anxious, but they may also grow aggressive. When you have male dogs in the home or you are taking the dog out for a walk, your main concern may be one thing: keeping male dogs under control when they sense a female in heat.
This is mainly a practical issue. If you have a female dog and are trying to give them exercise, having male attention from other dogs can prove distracting. If your dog is not neutered (or on rare occasions, even when it has been), having sex can lead to unwanted pregnancy in dogs. This can mean a much greater responsibility as a pet owner. If you are unable to meet this responsibility, it can put more strain on already overburdened shelter and adoption systems.
This is why AnimalWised provides ways on how to control a male dog around a female in heat so that you can help avert a difficult situation for everyone.
- Is my dog in heat?
- How do male dogs act around females in heat?
- Keeping the scent under control
- Doggie pants for females in heat
- Change your walking schedule
- Products to cover up the scent
- Proligestone injections for dogs in heat
- Expend their pent up energy in a healthy way
- The importance of sterilization in dogs
Is my dog in heat?
The first thing we need to know is whether our dog is indeed in heat. While all mammals have similar reproductive organs, they do not all work in the same way. If they did, it would take dogs 9 months to birth puppies and quintuplets would be much more common in humans. While humans have a menstrual cycle, canines have an estrus cycle. When a dog is in the estrus stage of this cycle, we refer to them being ‘in heat’.
The stages of the heat cycle in dogs are as follows:
- Proestrus: although it can be difficult to detect, the dog's vulva should become inflamed and there may be some discharge. This discharge may have a little blood which is why some people think dogs have ‘periods’.
- Estrus: the true ‘heat’ stage when the dog is at their most fertile and feeling the most compelled to mate. The dog ovulates due to high estrogen levels and they will seek out a male for up to 21 days after the beginning of proestrus.
- Diestrus: this is the period after mating, determining if the dog will indeed become pregnant.
- Anestrus: this is the period when the dog is no longer fertile and they will, correspondingly, be uninterested in finding a male to mate.
It is natural for a male to seek out a female during this time, they are simply responding to their natural desire to procreate and continue their species. The behavior of both male and female dogs can be erratic and males will also compete with other males for the opportunity to mate. This leads some people to ask, “Do males go into heat?”
Male dogs do not go into heat. A female will go into heat an average of twice a year, the only time during which they are interested in mating. Male dogs can mate at any time of the year and will look for any opportunity to do so. This is, of course, if they have not been castrated. By neutering the dog, you remove the organs which produce sex hormones and remove their sex drive in the process.
How do male dogs act around females in heat?
Some neighborhoods allow you to have a dog which can run around with relative freedom. They may be well behaved dogs which will generally stay near your property and don't bother your neighbours. This can be the case whether your dog is male or female. There are many benefits, such as allowing the dog to relieve themselves without needing your physical presence, having more access to exercise and providing an enriched environment to meet their needs.
Unfortunately, whether you have a male or female dog, being outside can also lead to problems. Their freedom may be good for the dog, but it may not be something your neighbours will appreciate. When you have a female dog in heat, this is particularly the case. Even if your dog is well behaved, there is always the chance their hormonal changes will lead to erratic behavior which causes problems for your otherwise quiet community.
They may be more aggressive to neighbours as well as strangers. If there are children present, in particular, this can lead to seriously negative consequences for which you as a pet owner will bear responsibility. There is also the issue of other male dogs. Male dogs attracted to a female in heat will also exhibit negative behavior.
If you have a female dog in heat, male dogs may come over to your property, causing damage or riling up your pet. Male dogs are also particularly territorial during this time, so they may often urinate on your property. Of course, there is also the possibility of the dog becoming pregnant.
If your dog is in heat, letting them outside alone and unsupervised should be avoided. It can lead to many problems, many of which you may not expect if you have never seen your dog's behavior during this time. To be honest, you should not have a free roaming dog at any point. There are many dangers and factors which can make this a bad idea, even the simple possibility of becoming lost.
Female dog in heat behavior is not necessarily as aggressive, but they will be signalling their need to reproduce. The physical signs of their heat cycle are explained above, but their behavior can also change. They may:
- Urinate more often.
- Become either lazier or more boisterous.
- Be confused.
- Become more affectionate and look for interactions.
- Raise their rump when males are around.
As you can see, the two dogs are acting together. To prevent unwanted pregnancy, it is vital we keep the male dog away from the female. However, if you are the guardian of a female dog, the responsibility of birthing and rearing the pups will fall to you.
Keeping the scent under control
Keeping a clean home is something you should be doing anyway, but this is particularly the case when you have a female dog in heat. Although you may not be able to perceive it, they leave their scent all over the place. This is a hidden sign of their sexual cycle. If you have a male dog in the home, this scent alone can cause them to get overexcited and exhibit their own behavioral problems.
As dogs have such a prodigious sense of smell, keeping this scent under control as much as possible is imperative. If you have a male dog living in the same household as a female dog in heat, it should be fairly obvious that you need to keep them in separate areas of the home. This also means preventing them from using the same materials such as blankets and dog beds. Cleaning the common areas thoroughly will also help to keep their hormones under control and prevent destructive behavior.
Doggie pants for females in heat
You may think it a little strange, but dog underwear is becoming more widely accepted in the canine care community. This acceptance is so much so that pet stores have started to stock specially made doggie pants for the purpose of keeping female dogs healthy during heat periods. They are many styles and types which can be used for both male and female dogs to help with incontinence as well as a female dog's estrous cycle.
However, you don't need to buy special dog underwear if you want to help keep male dogs away from a female dog in heat. Human underwear can be adapted to make doggie pants by either cutting holes or affixing with safety pins. A pad similar to human sanitary napkins can be placed in the underwear so that it absorbs secretions as well as helping to mask the smell. They should also help work as a form of birth control if male dogs tried to mount them.
Change your walking schedule
Changing your dog's walking times can be a very practical solution to this problem. Taking advantage of quieter hours of the day means you can take a female dog in heat out for a walk without having to worry about male dogs bothering them. Your dog may normally be very happy to run around off leash without a problem. However, when they are in heat, it is recommended you keep them on leash.
The reason for keeping female dogs in heat on leash is for both their benefit and others. Not only does it help you keep them calm in the presence of male dogs, as well as helping them to evade the dog's attention, but it means other dogs and people are kept safe from potentially aggressive behavior during this time.
Products to cover up the scent
As we stated before, keeping male dogs calm in the presence of female dogs in heat is greatly helped by keeping the scent under control. To help meet this end, there are some other commercially available products which may help. These include anti-odor smells which mask the smell and keep male dogs distracted. Their effectiveness may differ, but they are all designed to help mask or neutralize the pheromones emitted during the heat period. These include methanol scents, similar to Vicks Vaporub which is used for cold related treatments.
Proligestone injections for dogs in heat
Speak to your veterinarian about other medical options which may be able to help keep a dog in heat from being bothered. These include injections designed to regulate the heat cycle. The most common drug for this purpose is known as proligestone which is sold under the brand names of Delvosteron and Covinan. While these drugs can be effective in controlling the estrous cycle of dogs, they are more often used to treat dogs with related problematic issues such as hypersexuality.
Proligestone has been used to treat other health issues in dogs such as problems related to dwarfism in German shepherds. These studies, however, have shown the possibility of adverse side effects. These include obesity, problems with their coat and insulin related issues. These treatments also come in pill form.
These treatments are often used for animals which are too old to go under sterilization surgery. Not only are they expensive options, their use could be detrimental to your a pet's quality of life. If you do want to consider using these treatments, it is very important you speak to your veterinarian first.
Expend their pent up energy in a healthy way
If you have a male dog near a female dog in heat, whether looking after a dog for a friend or having these pets grow up together, keeping them calm and distracted can take time. As female dogs have a relatively short period of heat during a year, it can mean male dogs get particularly aggressive in trying to assert dominance when waiting to mate.
As a dog owner, taking your dog out and helping them expend this aggressive energy can be the best way to keep them in check. Make sure you walk them properly, as well as provide them with education and training to keep certain behavior in check. Engage in intelligence games and do what you can to make a female dog the last thing on their mind. This is, unfortunately, much easier said than done.
The importance of sterilization in dogs
The last piece of advice we have is the one you should consider first. Unless you are a professional dog breeder with the knowledge and resources to look after puppies, sterilization in the form of spaying or neutering is recommended. Not only does it prevent unwanted pregnancy, but it keeps your dog's general health in check. The psychological state of female and males dogs is also improved after sterilization. It keeps their hormones under control and allows them to enjoy other aspects of life.
In female dogs spaying (the removal of ovaries) will cause them to no longer be in heat. However, there may still be some symptoms of the heat cycle which present themselves. This can cause male dogs to think the dog is in heat. There is also the issue of false pregnancies, whereby the dog's physiology creates pregnancy symptoms without actually being pregnant.
For both female and male dogs, neutering is the best course of action if you want to control male dogs around a female in heat. It will often make the previous steps in this article unnecessary as it takes care of the problem before it occurs.
If you need some more adive on helping to calm a rambunctious dog, our video below may be useful:
If you want to read similar articles to How to Control a Male Dog Around a Female in Heat, we recommend you visit our Heat category.
1. MSD Animal Health. (2010). DELVOSTERON. Retrieved November 15, 2019, from
2. Knottenbelt, C. M., & Herrtage, M. E. (2002). Use of Proligestone in the Management of Three German Shepherd Dogs with Pituitary Dwarfism. Journal of Small Animal Practice, 43(4), 164-170.