How long does a bitch stay in heat ?

by Sue Matthews, © 2007

A person inexperienced with dog breeding issues asks how long her young bitch, now experiencing her first heat at age 8 1/2 months, will remain in heat and how long will she need to be protected from contact with intact male dogs. This is a question that could easily occur to any novice , or for that matter an experienced dog person who had never had an intact bitch before. An experienced breeder replies.
I wonder how many "oops" litters have resulted because someone did not have the sense to ask the right question to a breeder or a vet who could have enlightened them. for that matter there may be a lot of vets out there who don't see many bitches in heat these days because most pets are spayed.
I have permission from the author's to use this material, which is presented unchanged from the original.

How long does a bitch stay in heat ?

by Sue Matthews, © 2007

A Bouvier list member asked :

To begin, please excuse my ignorance regarding the following topic. Our 8 1/2 month old Bouvier seems to be finishing up her first heat. I had heard it might run as long as 3 weeks or so, but she seems to be pretty much done with it all after just a week and a half.
My question is this...ours is definitely a dog community. When we take our bitch for a walk around the neighborhood, we always encounter at least a half dozen dogs...the majority on leashes, of course. But occassionally we'll se an unleased dog in their yard with their owners. Because of that, we've been leary about walking her during this time, and have pretty much exercised her in our back yard. How long is she likely to be screamingly attractive to the male members of this neighborhood? We've been very careful, of course, as she will be spayed a month or so after the completion of her being in heat, but we most assuredly don't want any /accidents/ to happen.
How long is she vulnerable? Thanks for your input.

An experienced breeder replies :

Ah contraire...she's only just begun I'm afraid.... and good on you for asking important questions to keep your puppy safe. There's no shame at all in not having experience with an intact puppy girl and you're absolutely right to be seeking information.

The first week or so you'll see drops of blood on the floor unless your girl is just really scrupulous about keeping herself clean. The bleeding ends, but don't think that this is the end of the heart cycle. This is the pre-estrus stage (averages about 9 days, but can range from 2-27, depending on the individual). Then she moves into estrus... (average 9 days, range 3-21). She will still have a discharge, but it will be more straw colored and this signals that fertility is imminent (usually within the next few days, but not necessarily... some bitches just have weird cycles).

This is how it's supposed to work, but talk to breeders and they'll all have stories to tell you about girls who apparently did not bother to read the book about what bitches are supposed to do. It's better to be a little extra careful than to be sorry later if something unplanned happens.

I keep girls in heat away from males or strange dogs in general for 3-4 weeks. Your puppy is probably going to be *very* attractive about now. By walking your girl in the neighborhood now, you're simply lighting the path to your door for any amorous male within a mile or so. You don't know what sleepless is until you have a hormone laden male singing love songs to a bitch in heat.

Take care,


(note : since Sue lives not terribly far from Seattle, I guess she could have signed this "Sleepless in Seattle" !)


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site author Pam Green copyright 2003
created 7/21/07 revised 7/21/07
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