The Female Canine Reproductive Cycle

If you own a female puppy who hasn’t quite reached adolescents, enjoy every moment. It’s kind of a honeymoon, a gift, without controversy.

Once your sweet little puppy reaches sexual maturity, well lets face it, your nothing more than a Madam at a brothel! Home Sweet Home.

With female dogs, often times referred to as ‘bitches’, conversations are endless on whether to spay young or wait through a heat cycle or two. There are some really great studies out there on why you should wait, for growth, behavior, and development reasons, but I do understand why some people choose to spay young. Going through a heat cycle with a female dog is not for the faint of heart, it takes understanding, planning, meticulous management, and some down time each year from regular activities. 

If you know you don’t have good management skills, you really like going to off leash areas, and you want your dog around unknown dogs on a daily basis, spaying is a good option. It is recommended to not spay earlier than 6-8 months though, and even that might be young.

So what exactly is the Canine Reproductive Cycle and what can you expect? It’s actually super cool, and more involved than you might think.


This is the ‘getting ready’ stage that average around 9 days or so. This is when the eggs in the ovaries begin to mature and the oestrogen levels start to rise.

You will start to see genital swelling, and some bloody discharge.

The scent of the hormone change will be super attractive to male dogs, but this stage is also referred to as the ‘non-receptive’ stage, meaning the female will not allow a male near her, and even act aggressively to back him off.

Management times 100, for peace in the household, and in the yard. It is not recommended to take your female out in an off leash area, on a public trail, or near a park with off leash dogs during the proestrus stage.


This stage also averages about 9 days. This is when the eggs are released from the ovaries, and the oestrogen levels decline while the progesterone levels rise.

The genitals, vulva, will be swollen and sponge like, and the discharge will be clear, or slightly colored.

During this stage the female dog will be receptive and attracted to the male dog, meaning she will become flirty, and begin to ‘flag her tail’. Flagging is when the female will wrap her tail to the side, or even grab it in her mouth and pull it to the side, and or flag it side to side to disperse her scent, in order to attract and receive the male.

Her nipples may swell a bit, but not in every case.

You will see mood changes, from edgy, to randy, to melancholy, to ‘bitchy’. It is hard to predict this because every dog is different.

If you are looking to breed, this is the time.

If you don’t want to breed, then batten down the hatches and raise the draw bridge!

NOTE – I mentioned 9 days are average, either or both of these stages can go from 5-21 days in length. So you want to watch your female dog carefully. Genetics and health play a role in this.


If the female dog is pregnant, this stage lasts about 58-63 days. If the female dog did not become pregnant, than this stage lasts between 60-90 days. Progesterone is high, and the female dog will not accept a male dogs advances during this time.

So no dog parks, no trails, no off leash areas. It is a super stressful time for the female dog with unknown dogs in her space.

NOTE – If you are going to spay your dog after their first or second heat cycle, it is recommended to do so at least two to three months after the proestrus cycle, which means, at the end of the diestrus cycle. So mark your calendars!

There have been studies on ‘adult female onset aggression’ and it has been linked to spaying during the height of hormones.


This is the stage marked as the quiescence time, a stage of inactivity or dormancy. It is also the time noted for recovery. This is the lowest hormonal stage in your female dogs cycle.

This stage lasts on average, four to five months, can be longer depending on your dogs genetics.

NOTE – My line has a once a year cycle, so this stage is quite a bit longer. Some dogs cycle every six months, which I refer to as the hormonal roller coaster ride.


Yes things can be different, or off. From prolonged cycles, to split cycles, to erratic cycles, it is good to do a search and read about these and what my be affecting your dogs cycle.

Raising the draw bridge soon, Nancy

8 Comments Add yours

  1. mtwaggin says:

    ….so well laid out. Don’t forget to close the shutters on the castle too! LOL I love my boys!

  2. tippysmom2 says:

    They spayed Tippy before I could bring her home from the Humane Society – when she was really young – maybe 3 months, maybe younger. I asked my vet about them doing that so young, and she said the most common side affect of early spaying in dogs is that she has a greater chance of developing incontinence at an early age. Hopefully, she won’t do that, but, I was a little relived that it wouldn’t potentially be something worse.

  3. cj says:

    I had no idea there were 3 different cycles and that they can last as long as that. My goodness! I better understand why raising a female that you don’t intend to spay is not for the faint of heart… What will you do with your boys when Rhumb goes through this?

    1. Nancy Tanner says:

      we have every room gated, and lock down is in our near future!!! 😉

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