If you're reading this, you've got your first puppy, or your first female dog and want to find out more about their seasons. Here we have some tips and advice for you from our experience but we always recommend to ask your breeder for advice, as things can vary for each breed of dog, and they can talk from experience of your girl's mum and ancestors.
When will she have her first season?
This varies for all puppies, but usually its between six and nine months, but some can be around 12-18 months. After this they should have a season every six months, but they aren't always on time when they are young. Darcy, my toy poodle has her first season at nine months, then her next one seven months later, and her third six months after that. Villanelle my puppy toy poodle had her first season bang on six months, a super easy season, but then two months later she had symptoms of a season (as did her sister siblings), but it was just delayed hormones.
What are the symptoms?
Before the season starts you might start to notice some little changes. She might start to be extra clingy and cuddly. She might start to go off her food (or in Villanelle's case be hungry all the time), and she will also start to scent mark on walks. You'll notice she will sniff lots on walks and then wee where she sniffed. This is her alerting male dogs that she is in the area. Then her nipples and vajayjay (my favourite Grey's Anatomy term for lady parts) may start to swell. She will then start to bleed. Some dogs are super clean (both mine are) so you might not even notice any blood. You can place a tissue on her to see if there is any blood. With both of mine they woke up with a couple of spots on their bed on their first day and then I never saw any blood again.
How long does it last?
A season usually lasts for around three weeks, but it is safer to keep them on lead and away from parks for four weeks. I find most people don't realise that when the bleeding stops this is when they become the most fertile, and this is the time when you really need to keep them on lead and avoid parks. This is usually around day 13, there are three days when they will be most fertile, but it can be up to 10 days.
How do you keep them clean?
Most dogs should keep themselves clean. You can get puppy pants for them, but I'd advise only using these at night, or if she doesn't clean up after herself, because otherwise she will get frustrated that she can't clean and/or she won't learn to clean herself. I just throw a load of sheets and blankets down.
What are the stages?
First they bleed which lasts about 10-13 days. Then they have the three days where they are most fertile. It can take a month or more for them to get over their season and for their hormones to settle back down. Some girls can have a phantom pregnancy afterwards, Darcy had these really bad which is why I got her spayed as they were making her depressed.
What is a phantom pregnancy?
A phantom pregnancy is where you dog thinks she has a litter, this happens eight weeks after her season, when she would have had a litter if she were pregnant. There are various symptoms that can be nesting, treating toys like babies and some even lactate. If your dog starts licking her toys and carrying them around like babies, you need to take all her toys away to stop the cycle of the phantom. If your dog suffers from phantoms, you can also give her raspberry leaf tablets from the first day of her season to try and prevent it.
When can I get her spayed?
Your vets will probably advise you to get her done before or after her first season. Whenever you get your dog done, if you chose to do so, it will have to be three months after the season ends, to ensure her hormones are back to normal.
Whatever you decide I recommend doing your research and ask your breeder. I was advised to wait until Darcy turned two, and many other poodle owners recommended this to me on Facebook groups as well. This is to ensure she is fully mature, her seasons happening at different times just shows that she wasn't. There are pros and cons to spaying, but spaying early can cause health problems and stunt growth. It's not my place to recommend or advise when you should get it done. But all I will suggest is get the advice of your vet, your breeder, other owners of your breed, read up the pros and cons online and then make the decision that is right for you.
I chose to get Darcy done purely because her phantom pregnancies were getting worse and I couldn't breed from her at the time due to my circumstances, so I didn't want to put her through any more phantom pregnancies. Villanelle's first season was super easy, she had the hormone blip a few months after, but no sign of a phantom, she is yet to have her next season, but if its the same, I have no plans to get her spayed anytime soon. I will just monitor her, as I do anyway with both my dogs, and keep an eye out for anything that doesn't seem normal for her.
What can I do for my dog during her season?
Just like us human girls, her hormones will be all over the place, so just follow her lead. If she wants space, give it to her. If she wants attention, give her lots of cuddles. If she isn't eating, don't panic, she will get back to eating when she is hungry. Just ensure you keep her walks in parks to a minimum and always walk her on lead through her season. Avoiding parks isn't just for her, its for those poor intact male dogs who will smell her scent and possibly run off looking for her and can spend the whole day stressed from her scent.