When you’re a dog owner, you know that there are certain challenges your pet faces throughout the year. For instance, if you have an unneutered male dog, then you probably understand how much of a pain in the arse it is when he comes into heat every few months. It’s challenging because not only do they smell stronger than ever, but they also have this rather annoying habit of barking and whining at all hours of the night because they are searching for a potential mate. So unless you want to be woken up by them every night between February and April next year and again in August, September and October after that…well…you get the idea. Challenging doesn’t even begin to cover it. Unneutered dogs can also be aggressive towards other dogs while in heat which makes them more likely to catch sexually transmitted diseases as well as infectious viruses such as Parvovirus or Canine Herpes Virus (depending on where you live). So how do we deal with all that then? Well, there are some fairly simple steps that will help ease your dog through their heat cycle without too many problems.
Know when your dog goes into heat.
This might sound like a no-brainer but you would be surprised at how many people don’t know when their dog is going into heat or what signs to look for. If your dog is on a fixed schedule, it should be easy to tell when they go into heat. If you have an unneutered female dog, be prepared for some changes in behaviour as soon as they go into heat. They will become a lot more vocal and affectionate towards both humans and other dogs. Female dogs in heat are often not interested in toys, food or treats, so don’t be surprised if they don’t eat or play when they’re in heat. They will also likely be restless and vocal, and may start urinating or defecating outside of the litter box. When your dog goes into heat, it is a normal biological process. Dogs have heat cycles just like humans do. The length of the cycle varies from one dog to another. Some dogs have cycles lasting 21 days, while others have cycles lasting anywhere from 33 to 40 days. During the time in which a female dog is fertile, they are referred to as being in heat. The period of time when a female dog is fertile starts several days before they are actually “in heat”, and ends several days after they are no longer “in heat”.
Crate your dog.
Dogs especially during their heat cycle can be very destructive. They may also become more aggressive and may start to act out more. Crate training your dog can help with this. Crate training is also a good way to help your dog become accustomed to spending time in a smaller space, if you plan on traveling with them in the future. A crate can be a safe and secure place for your dog to retreat to, especially if they are feeling anxious or stressed. It can also be a good place for puppies to sleep when you don’t want them to be sleeping on the couch or your bed. Crating your dog can help keep them from ruining your stuff (and from chewing themselves bloody) when you’re not around to supervise them. A lot of dogs can be very destructive when they’re in heat, and crating them can help keep your belongings safe. If your dog is normally crate trained and you want to keep them in a crate while they’re in heat, it’s a good idea to put a blanket or something in the bottom so they don’t have to lay on a hard surface.
Establish a feeding routine.
As challenging as it might sound, establishing a feeding routine is also a very good idea if your dog goes into heat. Remember, they will probably be more restless as they are searching for a mate, and a feeding routine can help to keep them calmer when they’re indoors. Feeding your dog at roughly the same times every day can help to keep them from getting too hungry, especially if you have a smaller dog. If your dog is smaller or on the chubby side, try to feed them a bit less than their daily recommended amount, as they might try to eat more than they need. If your dog is not in heat, then you can feed them their normal amount. If you are unsure how much to feed your dog, you can talk to a veterinarian to help you figure out the correct amount to feed them.
Get a baby gate, or install kiddie fencing.
If you don’t want your dog running around and bothering you while you’re trying to do other things, or want to keep them out of the bedroom while you’re sleeping, get a baby gate or kiddie fencing. If you don’t have a spare room or area where you can put them, then a baby gate or kiddie fencing might be the best option. Even if you do want to cuddle with them, but they smell so strongly that it’s making you sick, a baby gate or kiddie fencing can help you to keep them out of your hair while you’re trying to get some work done or spend time with your other pets. If you are using kiddie fencing, it’s a good idea to close it off with a curtain or a sheet, so your dog can still see you but you don’t have to smell them. If you’re using a baby gate, it might be good to have a top on it so your dog can see you and you can see them, but they can’t jump over the top.
Provide lots of water and iced treats.
Your dog will likely be very thirsty during their heat cycle, and they may start drinking lots more water than they normally do. Make sure they always have access to water, and if they show any signs of dehydration such as lethargy, moodiness, weakness or wrinkled skin, take them to the vet immediately. To help make the water more interesting, you can try adding a bit of flavour to it, like frozen berries or small amounts of citrus. If you don’t want to just give your dog water all the time, try giving them small portions of ice cubes as a snack. Just make sure the ice cubes are made from fresh water so they don’t get too salty. A dog in heat may also crave more salty foods, so if you don’t want to feed them ice cubes, try giving them a bit of salty food.
Make sure they’re comfortable.
A dog in heat will probably want to be more comfortable than usual, and that includes their sleeping arrangements. If they are used to sleeping in your bed, try to let them rest on a couch or in a nearby dog bed. If your dog is sleeping in a crate, that is also a great way to make them feel even more comfortable while they are in heat. If they are on a hard surface, you can also put a soft blanket or pillow in the crate with them. If your dog is particularly restless and antsy, try giving them a few massage treats or a relaxing rub down. This can help calm them down, and make them feel more comfortable. If you don’t know how to give a massage, you can find instructions online or you can ask your vet for tips.
Lock-up the chew toys and anything else you don’t want chewed.
If your dog is a chewer, or if you have a puppy, then you probably already know that dogs in heat are a lot more likely to chew things they probably shouldn’t be chewing. If you don’t want your dog chewing your table legs or couch, make sure all your valuables are locked up in a closet, drawer or high up on a shelf where they can’t get to them. If you have a puppy, now is a great time to start teaching them what they can and can’t chew on. Make sure they aren’t chewing your furniture, electrical cords or anything else they shouldn’t be chewing. If you want to protect your furniture, try putting a blanket or towel over it, or putting some chew deterrent sprays on