Golden Retriever Heat Cycles Explained

Once the initial excitement of bringing home a beautiful new Golden Retriever pup wears off you may have a few questions regarding her heat cycles. This is something that will affect every female dog, and the more you understand it the better prepared you’ll be.

You might wonder:

  • When will my Golden Retriever have her first season?
  • How often will my Golden Retriever have a season?
  • How long do Golden Retriever seasons last?
  • How will I know when my Golden Retriever comes into season?
  • What should I do when my Golden Retriever comes into season?

We’re going to cover everything you need to know and more in this short post.

What Is a Heat Cycle?

Before we get started on everything to do with the heat cycle, I’ll explain what a heat cycle is. It’s the stage when a female dog is in the fertile part of her reproductive cycle. This is when she can mate with another dog and have puppies.

The best way to avoid heat cycles and possible pregnancies is to get your Golden Retriever spayed (the surgery that removes her ovaries). If you’re interested in learning more about this, check out this post.

This is also known as when she’s ‘in season’, or the equivalent of her being ‘on her period’. One of the most obvious signs of this is bleeding from her vulva (more on this later). 

When Will My Golden Retriever Have Her First Season?

You can expect your Golden Retriever’s first cycle to begin between the ages of 9 months and 14 months old. 

Smaller breeds tend to have their first heat cycle at around 6 months. Whereas bigger breeds on average, are much later – around 18 months to two years old. Golden Retrievers are classed as large breed dogs and are somewhere in the middle.

With these timings in mind, you should still be aware that all dogs are different and these are averages and some dogs will naturally fall outside of these timings.

On occasion, it has been noted that a younger female will have their first heat cycle a little earlier if they are spending time with another female that is already in heat.

How Often Will My Golden Retriever Have a Season?

Your Golden Retriever should fall into a fairly regular cycle of coming into season roughly every 9 or 10 months

Your Golden will continue to have a heat cycle for the rest of her life but they may become further apart the older she gets. If you get your dog spayed, her reproductive tract would be removed and she’d never go back into heat after the op. To learn more, check out this post.

It’s a good idea to keep track of their cycles so you can establish a pattern so you know when to expect their next one.

How Long Do Golden Retriever’s Seasons Last?

On average, a Golden Retriever’s season will last around 2-4 weeks. 

The signs that they are in heat may not be consistent during this whole time. Sometimes you may notice the bleeding has changed colour to a more straw-like substance or it may appear to have stopped (especially if your girl is vigilant about keeping herself clean).

You may think their season is over before it actually is. Therefore, it is best to be cautious about letting them mix with males again until you are absolutely sure – assuming that you’re avoiding breeding her.

How Will I Know When My Golden Retriever Comes Into Season?

If you have never experienced a dog in heat then you may be wondering what to expect. 

You may notice a handful of small droplets of blood on the floor. We also found that our girl had her first wee accident by the back door after being clean for months and when I let her outside she squatted and urinated about 5 or 6 times around the garden. This was unusual for her and I wondered if she had developed a urinary tract infection (she hadn’t!).

Increased urination is very common and is a way that females leave their scent to let all the local dogs know about it. If she starts having some little accidents inside, try to encourage her to go outside a few extra times during the day. It’s completely normal and will pass after her heat ends. 

Common signs that your Golden Retriever is in heat are:

  • Bleeding and/or discharge (the amount and colour can vary between dogs).
  • Swollen vulva (this is normal, due to increased hormone levels and will return to normal once the heat cycle ends).
  • Dominating behaviours (you may notice her mounting things/other dogs. It’s not something to be concerned about, it’s a natural response to the hormones).
  • Extra urinating (as mentioned above, this is not something to worry about).
  • Personality changes (she may become more clingy or affectionate than usual or more easily irritated or whiny. Her appetite may change temporarily. If she becomes aggressive with other female dogs you should keep them distanced to stop any fights until she’s finished her heat cycle).
  • Extra licking (she may spend a lot more time licking herself to keep herself clean).
  • Male dogs will be able to smell your bitch when she’s in heat and may try to get to her (don’t leave your dog outside alone even in a fenced-off garden during this time as male dogs have been known to clear very tall fences to reach them).

What Should I Do When My Golden Retriever Comes Into Season?

In all honesty, not a lot changes during your Golden Retriever’s heat. 

You might choose to keep her out of your carpeted areas or off the furniture to avoid any mess.

You can buy special ‘doggy underwear’ if you’d prefer to avoid any little messes. This brand from Amazon is very highly rated.

Some people choose not to walk their bitches in public spaces during their heat cycle because they cannot guarantee they won’t run into any other dogs during this time. 

Your Golden Retriever is not the easiest dog to swiftly pick up should you need to in an emergency! 

If you choose to walk your Golden Retriever outside make sure that she is kept on a lead at all times. Even the most reliable Goldie may suddenly lose their ability to ‘hear’ your recall during their heat cycle.

Your vet will always be able to help if you have any questions too.

Stages of a Golden Retriever’s Heat Cycle

There are four stages of the heat cycle and each one is different from the last:

  1. Proestrus: Normally from 7-10 days (though it can be 4-20 in some cases) This is when she’ll have an enlarged vulva. When you see blood for the first time, this should be marked ‘Day 1’ on schedule. She’s often clingier and will be aggressive to males who are attracted to her because she’s created pheromones that draw them in.
  2. Estrus: Normally from 5-14 days. This is when her blood will change from red to staw coloured. She’ll be ready and eager to mate at this point.
  3. Diestrus: Normally starts on day 24 (but it can last 60-90 days). Her blood will go back to red and then stop. It will probably have a smell to it. You shouldn’t take her out or let males near at this point, she is getting past the point to mate.
  4. Anestrus: The final phase, where her body is back to normal. This can last 60-90 days. Once it finishes, the cycle will start from the beginning again.

It’s important to understand the stages so you can care for your Golden Retriever as best you can and to know when she can breed.

Complications and Issues for a Golden Retriever in Heat

There are four issues that may come about when your girl comes into heat:

  • Silent heat: This is when she’s in heat, without any obvious signs. This sometimes happens before she has her first normal heat cycle. Be careful, as she can get pregnant during silent heat, so you’ll need to take extra precautions.
  • Split heat: This is when your girl starts her heat cycle and gets halfway before going out of heat. She then has the second part of the cycle a month or two later. If this happens regularly, it’s worth checking in with a vet.
  • Prolonged heat: If she has higher levels of oestrogen than is normal, her heat cycle will last longer than it ordinarily would. This increased oestrogen could potentially be caused by an Avian Cyst or Granulosa Cell Tumour. You’ll need to take her to the vet so she can be checked.
  • Absent heat: If your Golden girl completely skips her heat. For the first two years of her life, her cycles might be unreliable, but after age two they should be consistent. Aside from being spayed which prevents heat cycles, there might be an underlying problem like malnourishment preventing her cycle, it’s best to check with a vet.

What if I Want to Breed My Golden Retriever When She’s in Heat?

If you’re planning to breed your Golden Retriever, these tips might help:

  • Keep track: Use a calendar or similar to keep track of her heat cycle. When you start seeing changes in behavior or genitalia it’s usually around two weeks until she’ll be ready to mate
  • Check her discharge: When she’s mating, her discharge should be runny and watery in consistency.
  • Plan in advance: Arrange who the stud will be and get all the legal contracts, paperwork, and details worked out in advance so you can focus on your dog and not have to worry about anything else.
  • Make sure she’s suitable to breed: This means she’s the right age, healthy, and that you’ve carried out the relevant checks. You’ll also need to make sure there are no breeding endorsements on her record.

For more information on breeding, check out this information from the Kennel Club.

Do I Need to Separate My Male and Female Golden Retrievers When She’s in Heat?

If you have both male and female dogs, and they haven’t been spayed or neutered, then it’s best to keep them apart when the female is in heat.

Unless you’re intending to breed them, you’ll see aggressive behaviour and mounting. Even a brief encounter can lead to a surprise pregnancy. Make sure you’re prepared and proactive for any possible situation.

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