Walking a female dog in heat

Should I be walking my dog when she’s in heat? This is among the most common questions female dog owners ask when their their pup’s in heat in our veterinary clinic. Surprisingly, it’s a question that predominantly comes from owners that have a yard. Wait, what?

In this article you’ll learn how to walk your dog when she’s in heat, preventing males from following her home, and how to use doggie diapers.

Female yellow Labrador retriever on a leash out for a walk.  Having a dog in heat on leash is the most important rule.
Walking a female dog in heat is fine, but make sure to keep her on leash at all times.

Can I walk my dog when she’s in heat?

Yes. You CAN walk your dog when she’s in heat. For pet owners who don’t have a yard, they must walk her as she needs to eliminate. The mental stimulation will help calm her down from the raging hormones she’s dealing with. Further, exercise is a good for her to help reduce the stress she’s enduring because of her reproductive cycle. It’s also the single best way to calm your dog’s mind when in heat. Other things work, too, but exercise is a must.

But not so fast.

Since you’re reading this, you likely understand that walking a female dog in heat isn’t going to be a walk in the park. Jokes aside, here are some things to keep in mind when walking your dog when she’s in her heat cycle.

What’s the most important rule when walking a dog in heat?

When walking a dog in heat, always have her on leash as shown by this beagle on a leash
Always have your female dog in heat on a leash when you leave the house.

The most important rule when walking a dog in heat is: Always have her on a leash. Female are extremely attracted to males during these days. You might find it hard to control her even if she is well trained. Remember that’s she’s not her normal self. Dogs in heat will be ruled by their hormones that are elevated during her estrus cycle. If she smells a male’s scent, it can make her unresponsive to anything you might try. Calling “Come here, come here” definitely won’t work. Even her favorite treat like a bite of sausage, which might work in most circumstances, is likely to be ignored. The leash is a must!

Think about the trail your she leaves

You can control your dog better when she’s on a leash, although there are more things to be aware of.

When your dog is in heat, she produces an increased amount of pheromones that attracts males. You’ve probably noticed that among other signs like a swollen vulva and bloody discharge, that she is urinating a lot more when in heat. That’s because urine is the easiest way for her to spread her scent.

That scent is long lasting and a male can pick it up hours after it’s left there. From that scent, he can determine not only that your dog is in heat but he can even track her to your home. You can expect at least a few canine gang members visiting you in the night. We found that male dogs howled on the other side of our fence when our little girl was in her first heat. And of course it went on day and night. Sleep was almost impossible for us.

How can you avoid this unwanted attention from happening? It’s simple: you must break the trail that males use to track her. The easiest way to do it is to put your dog in your car and drive at least several blocks away or even better, to some distant area from your home. Then go for your walk. Then if a male dog picks up your girl’s scent, he’ll track it down to the place where you car was parked and no further. Poor little guy, but at least your problem is solved.

We are female dog owners ourselves and we’ve tried different ways to walk her when she was in heat. When walking normally, even if we didn’t meet any males on the way, we had at least a few visiting our front door and back fence each night. They would bark and howl outside and our dog would bark inside. It was a stressful time for all of us. Then we decided to put her in our car and drove about 500 meters or 550 yards away, and none of those problems happened. It was as if we hadn’t taken her for a walk at all. What a huge difference it made that she could walk, enjoy herself, and sleep without a herd of frisky male dogs following her scent to our home.

Avoid male dogs

Meeting a male dog is the biggest concern when walking your dog in heat.
While your dog would love to play with other dogs, it’s not safe at this time.

Even after avoiding the inconveniences male suitors might cause at night, your walks can still be full of stress.

Likely, the worst part of walking her is the possibility of encountering a male. Usually, dogs don’t start mating right after meeting each other. However, a meeting can still be troublesome, and possible mating isn’t your only problem.

Male dogs can show aggressive behavior, especially during the first phase of the dog heat cycle. During the estrus stage of her reproductive cycle, a male might be interested, but she is usually not willing to mate. Moreover, if you try to ruin their rendezvous, you risk injuring all three of you or four of you, if the male’s owner is there. Even though our girl is a larger breed (Newfoundland), every male dog was giving her extra attention. From toy breeds to you name it. If it wasn’t so crazy to see a little teacup poodle making advances, it would have been funny.

As such, we strongly recommend to avoid meeting male dogs in the first place.

If you know your neighborhood, you probably know where they live and where they walk or wander. Avoid those places at all costs. If that’s not possible, drive to a remote area for your walks. Alternatively, try limiting the length or distance of your walks, but do them more frequently to avoid any vaginal discharge accidents on your carpet.

If a male dog on a leash appears, the best course of action is to keep them at a distance. Cross to the opposite side of the street. If avoiding them isn’t possible, warn the other owner that your dog is in heat. Some owners are extremely friendly and are happy to let the dogs smell each other and communicate. This is nice on a normal day but not when she’s in heat. Besides, if you warn the other owner, they won’t think you are unfriendly or odd when you cross the street to avoid them.

Last, but not least, if you have a friend or family member willing to accompany you on a walk, they can be a great aid. Not only can your loved one help you spot males in advance, but they can also help control the situation if you encounter an amorous furry friend.

Do doggie diapers and deodorizers work?

No. Unfortunately, dog diapers and deodorizers are not contraceptives and won’t prevent impregnation. Popular advice suggests rubbing the tip of your dog’s tail with menthol or a commercial product to mask your her scent when out on a walk. While menthol does help to mask or hide the scent she releases, it doesn’t hide it entirely. Menthol and commercial deodorizers may help if a male appears at a distance but not if he comes closer. If he does, or even smells the urine left by your girl, he will undoubtedly know what’s going on. Remember, dogs sense of smell is some 40 times stronger than ours.

Female dog pants or doggie diapers may be an option to reduce scent distribution and reduce the risk of your dog getting pregnant if she meets a male dog. However, they are not contraceptives and should not be treated as such. We had to say that twice because we had a case where a patient got pregnant while wearing doggie diapers much to their parents confusion and dismay.

In fact, the greatest benefit from diapers is simply keeping your girl from making a mess indoors. For more details on the common signs such as a bloody discharge, please see our article Do dogs have periods? Dog heat cycle symptoms. Wearing them on a walk to reduce scent distribution and the risk of unwanted pregnancy is just a nice side benefit.

She’s safe in my fenced yard right?

No. If you have a fenced yard, your female isn’t completely safe. Remember that dogs in heat will be very attractive to males. So much so that even a fence may be jumped or dug underneath. The drive to procreate is an incredibly strong force. That means male dogs might dig under your fence or jump it all together. Remember the most important rule. Always have her on leash when you take her outside. This way she’ll be under your control at all times.

Consider spaying your dog

One last piece of advice: if you aren’t planning to breed your four legged furry friend, you should seriously consider spaying your female dog. Why? Spayed females do NOT come in heat. There are also health benefits such as significantly reducing her risk of mammary cancer. She can be walked outdoors, together with males regardless of the time of year. Puppies may be cute but not when they are part of unwanted pregnancies.

You’ve learned how to walk your dog when she’s in heat, preventing males from following her home, and how to use doggie diapers. This will go a long way towards giving your female dog the exercise she needs, a place to eliminate, and help reduce the stress she is under.  Your pet will be healthier and happy.  And keeping your Pet happy, is what we all want.

Question: What is the most important rule when walking a dog in heat?

Answer: Always have her on a leash. She might be hard to control even if they she’s well trained. 

Question: Can my female dog go to dog parks or play with other dogs while she’s in heat?

Answer: No. We do not recommend you let your female dog play with other dogs, especially male dogs, while she’s in heat. It’s not only a safety concern but also can lead to an unwanted pregnancy.

Question: How often should I walk my female dog when she’s in heat?

Answer: We recommend to continue your usual walking routine with your female dog when she’s in heat. Try to limit the duration and distance of the walk. Aim for multiple short walks instead of one long one.

Question: Will a dog diaper or sanitary pad keep my female dog from getting pregnant?

Answer: No. A doggy diaper or sanitary pad is not a contraceptive. It can help reduce her scent during walks. They are ideally used at home to reduce the mess from vaginal discharge.

Question: Can I spay my female dog while she’s in heat?

Answer: No. It’s not recommended to spay your female dog while she’s in heat. The hormones during the heat cycle can increase the risk of complications during the surgery. It’s best to wait until she’s out of heat before scheduling the surgery.

Question: How do I prevent male dogs from following us back to our home?

Answer: Drive your car at least several blocks from your home. Then start your walk.  When finished, put your dog in the car and drive home.  This prevents her scent from leading male dogs all the way to your home.

This article is part of a series about dogs in heat.

Next: What to do with the male dog during this time?
Previous: How to calm a female dog in heat

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