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How to Calm a Male Dog When a Female Is in Heat: 8 Vet-Approved Tricks

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By Nicole Cosgrove

Dog smells a dog in heat

Vet approved

Dr. Marta Vidal-Abarca Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Marta Vidal-Abarca

BVSc GPCert (Ophthal) MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Male dogs are instinctively fixated when they sense a female dog in heat. This biological process where the male dog will react to the female dog’s scent can be stressful for you and for both the male and the female dog – unless you take action.

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When a Female Dog Is in Heat

A female dog can be anywhere between 6 and 24 months old when she has her first heat cycle. Smaller dogs typically go into heat earlier, just around 6 months of age; some large and giant breed females might not have their first heat cycle until they are around 10 to 12 months old. Most female dogs go into heat about every 6 months (usually twice a year), and it can last about 4 weeks.

Some of the signs that a female dog is in heat are:

  • Swollen vulva
  • Enlarged mammary glands
  • Bloody vaginal discharge
  • Excessive licking and grooming of the genitals
  • Responsive to male dogs
  • Frequent urination
  • Holding her tail close to her body and raising her hindquarters
  • Aggressive, agitated, and easily distracted

If your dog is in heat, it’s best to keep her away from dog parks at busy times, and never leave her alone outside or take her off-leash. She might attempt to run away, so you should also ensure her microchip and dog tags are updated.

hybrid dog
Image Credit: ulleo, Pixabay

How a Male Dog Acts When a Female Dog Is in Heat

Male dogs are driven by their biological urges when they are able to sense a female dog is in heat. Some of the behaviors that male dogs will exhibit when they are around a female in heat are:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Less interested in sleep
  • An increase in marking their territory
  • Escalated aggression around other male dogs
  • Anxious and agitated
  • Howling and whining excessively
  • Appears to be very distracted
  • Attempts to escape the backyard and the leash

Male dogs will be obsessed with pursuing the female dog throughout her heat cycle. If you suspect a female dog in your neighborhood is in heat, your best bet is to keep your boy indoors as much as possible with the windows closed, excluding leashed walks, of course. Never leave him unsupervised while outside in your backyard. No matter how tall your fence is, he will find a way to reach her.

When You Have Both Dogs Living Under the Same Roof

When your female dog in heat is living in the same house as an unneutered male dog, you have yourself a worst-case scenario.

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The 8 Tips and Tricks to Help You Cope

1. Separate the Dogs Into Different Rooms

If your house is large enough, you should keep them in separate rooms as far away from each other as possible. Male dogs can usually scent a female dog in heat up to 3 miles away! It will be even more effective if you can keep them in rooms on different floors or opposite sides of the house.

2. Keep One Indoors and the Other Outdoors

When keeping them separate inside your home isn’t possible, you can separate them by putting the male outside and keeping the female inside the house. It’s essential to keep the female indoors as you don’t want every male dog in the neighborhood trying to visit your female while she’s in the backyard.

Ensure your male dog is in a fully enclosed yard and don’t leave him alone for long periods of time. Also, remember to close the windows of your house while your female is inside.

dog outside the bedroom
Image Credit: Pixabay

3. Board the Male at a Kennel

If the first two tips are not an option, you could consider boarding your male dog at a kennel during your female’s heat cycle. Or ask your friends or family to take care of your dog at this time. This is a much cheaper and more comfortable alternative for your male dog.

4. Diaper the Female

Okay, so this tip might sound ridiculous, but if you put a diaper on your female dog, it will prevent her from spreading her discharge around. It will also provide a physical barrier that will undoubtedly make access to her more difficult for the male dog. There are disposable diapers, such as this one for small dogs, and reusable diapers, like this one for large dogs.

dog with diaper
Image Credit: Zmaj88, Shutterstock

5. Tire Them Out

Make sure you exercise both of your dogs separately. This will help to distract them and tire them out. Occupying them with lots of exercise and playtime will also help keep them calm and expend some of their more aggressive energy. Try to avoid taking your female dog for long walks at busy places and make sure she gets her exercise in a less crowded space where you can keep her under close supervision.

6. Hide Her Scent

Give your female dog more frequent baths than usual, and use a good odor-control dog shampoo. Rather than bathing her from head to paws, you can just focus on her rear-end area, which is where the scent comes from. 

7. Clean, Clean, Clean

You should be keeping your house as clean as possible in the areas where your female dog has been. If she isn’t wearing a diaper, she’ll be leaving discharge around the house, and using a tiny amount of bleach or vinegar can help mask her odor as well as clean up any mess. Be sure to launder any bedding or fabrics that she’s come into contact with.

young woman cleaning the carpet
Image Credit: sebra, Shutterstock

8. Surgery for Your Dogs

The last and most permanent solution is to have your female dog spayed and your male dog neutered. If you plan to use your female for breeding, just neutering your male dog will help as he will start to lose interest when she goes through her heat cycle.

One of the advantages of these surgeries is it can help prolong your dog’s life. It helps prevent serious health issues in the future and can lessen aggressive behavior and the tendency for your dog to run away. Your dogs will also be much less stressed out, not to mention less stress for yourself.

Speak to your vet about when the right time is for your dog’s operation. It used to be recommended to spay all female dogs before their first heat cycle, but this advice may change slightly depending on your dog’s size and breed. Generally speaking, male dogs are neutered by 6 months of age.

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If you choose to spay or neuter your dog, these tips and tricks won’t be necessary, and life would definitely be much easier for everyone. Your dog’s comfort and happiness are essential, and we hope that some of these ideas will prove helpful.

See also:

Featured Image Credit: sanjagrujic, Shutterstock

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