What to do when your female dog reaches sexual maturity and is in heat

When your dog reaches sexual maturity, a number of things happen - both physically and mentally. It's different for females and males, but both go through big changes. A bitch's sexual maturity is shown by her running.

Mature bitch

Depending on the breed and the individual, the female will reach sexual maturity between about 7-24 months of age, which is her first run. Often smaller breeds have their first run earlier than larger breeds. Most bitches run twice a year, about five to seven months apart. The running cycle consists of four phases - pre-run, high-run, post-run and rest period. What we call "the run" consists of the pre-runs and the high runs and usually lasts about 3 weeks. During the run, the bitch is fertile, which means she can become pregnant.

The mood

It is common for the bitch's mood and behaviour to change before, during and after the run. She may appear low or depressed and not want to romp as usual. Some bitches lose their appetite and eat less than usual, while others are the opposite and have an increased appetite and eat more than usual. After a run, your bitch's maternal instincts may be reawakened and she may become skittish. This can be shown by her "taking care" of small toys as if they were her puppies, guarding them, etc. The bitch can also become irritable during the running period, which is quite normal.


To prevent the bitch from staining the floor and furniture during her run, she can wear a bitch cover, which is available in pet shops. Tick guards come in different sizes and you should choose one that suits your dog.

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