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Golden Retriever Heat Cycle


A golden retriever’s heat period! This is one of the most trying times for unspayed female dog owners. A lot of changes occur in your dog’s behaviour during this period and you are expected to change your attitude towards her as well. Indeed, it can be a very confusing period for you.

Contrary to some assumptions that this period does not last much longer, it could actually take more than a week. This is an especially crucial period for you and your female golden retriever if you’re looking to have puppies, you should be ready.

Changes in her personality, viscid behaviour and a swollen vulva are indications that your female golden retriever is in her heat period. Know that these are absolutely normal. You have nothing to worry about.

What then is a dog’s heat cycle, how long does it take and how should you act during this period? Let’s get into it!

When Will My Golden Retriever Go Into Heat?

Unless your dog is spayed or pregnant, she will experience her first heat cycle at age 10-14 months. Of course, this isn’t an absolute fact because depending on the size of your dog, she could have her first heat at 6 months old.

This is the average month for dogs of smaller breeds. Bigger breed dogs can have their first heat cycle as late as 18-24 months.

Again, unless your dog is spayed or pregnant, the heat cycle is a continuous experience for a golden retriever throughout her lifetime, commonly occurring every 9-10 months.

It is important not to breed your dog in the first cycle because she is still even a puppy. The second or third heat is the ideal period to try to breed your golden retriever. Talk to your vet about what the right age is for your dog.

How Long Will My Golden Retriever Be In Heat?

Like humans, golden retrievers can have their individual length of heat period. Yet, normally, the heat period for your female golden retriever will be between 2-4 weeks. One important thing dog owners should do is to keep track of how long their dogs tend to be in the heat period.

This will help prevent unwanted pregnancies or help you figure out the best time to introduce a male dog to your female golden retriever for mating if you want to breed. They are fertile for the entire duration of the heat cycle so make sure to know what time it will begin and end.

When you notice that she is no longer discharging or bleeding and that her vulva has returned to normal size, it is an indication that your female retriever has completed her heat cycle.

What Are The Signs That My Golden Retriever Is In Heat?

The following signs can signal to you that your female golden retriever is in her heat. It is important to keep track so you know when the next heat period will be.

Swollen Vulva

During your female retriever’s heat cycle, her vulva increases in size and looks swollen. Do not fret. This does not occasion your retriever any pain. It is usually visible a day or two before the bleeding or discharge of blood begins in what is known as the Proestrus Stage (we will discuss this under stages of the heat cycle)


This is one of the most common signs that your golden retriever is in heat. Retriever owners who are seeking to breed their female dogs should look out for this sign because it’s an indication that she is ready to be bred.

After a day or two when the bloody discharge is clear, you can introduce your female retriever to a male about two or three times over the next 8 to 10 days.

Unusual Mounting Behaviour

During the heat cycle, it is common for dogs to exhibit very unusual mounting behaviours towards other dogs, mostly causing owners to feel embarrassed, especially in public spaces. Note that this sign can be confusing because regardless of what stage of the heat cycle your retriever is in, they can demonstrate mounting behaviours.

Thus, what you should look out for are heightened mounting behaviours. Knowing your retriever, you should be able to tell when her mounting behaviour seems more than usual or even tends to happen in different situations.

Increased Urination

When your female golden retriever is about to go into her heat period or even during the period, increased urination can be a thing for her. It is her way of letting other dogs know she is going into her heat period.

You should look out for this sign as a dog owner. On the other hand, it can be an unfortunate sign that your retriever has Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) so it is important that you look out for the other signs of heat to be sure of what is happening. Male dogs like to mark their territory with their urine.

Licking Genitals

This is also another sign that your female golden retriever is entering or is in her heat cycle. With increased blood flow, the areas become more sensitive, and so dogs tend to lick. Some experts say it is a way of keeping herself clean, yet I implore you to look out for this as a sign of the heat cycle.

Nesting Behaviour

During your female retriever’s heat period, they tend to ‘prepare a nest’ as they are naturally aware of the possibility of a pregnancy. This is common as dogs are naturally burrowing animals. You will notice your dog dragging toys and other items into the nest to sleep with them.

What Are The Stages Of A Golden Retriever’s Heat Cycle?

Your golden retriever’s heat cycle comes in four (4) stages, namely the Proestrus, Estrus, Diestrus and Anestrus stages, the length of which takes about 4 to 7 months. Let’s look at them.

The first stage is known as the Proestrus Stage and is where the signs of heat are very noticeable. We say the dog is in its heat at this stage, although that is somehow inaccurate as the dog is not as yet fertile. This stage averages 9 days but could last between 4 to 27 days. This is where you will notice a swollen vulva and the discharge of blood.

Also, your retriever will release pheromones, a chemical factor that will trigger a response in male dogs and make them attractive. Yet, because she is not yet fertile at this stage, she will become increasingly hostile towards male dogs, signalling her unwillingness to mate.

The second stage, the Estrus Stage, also averages 9 days yet could last between 4 to 24 days. Also known as the ‘standing heat’, it is the actual heat period where your retriever is sexually active, she is ovulating and also very fertile.

One of the visible signs of this period is what is termed ‘flagging.’ Your female retriever will start wagging her tail from side to side as a way of welcoming male suitors. Yes, she is ready to mate! Another clear sign of this stage is the change in colour of your retriever’s discharge from red to pink as the flow lessens.

Diestrus is the third stage of your golden retriever’s heat cycle. This stage lasts about 2 months and is where your retriever’s fertility ends, whether or not she’s pregnant. Note that she will still be releasing pheromones and thus will be attracting male suitors.

Yet, she may become very hostile towards them to fend them off. Her discharge will be back to red from pink before eventually coming to an end.

Anestrus is the final stage of your retriever’s heat cycle. This is also known as the recovery stage, lasting approximately 4 months. At this stage, the discharge has ceased and the vulva isn’t swollen. The body of your retriever returns to its original model at this point. It is the healing period for your retriever as she prepares for her next cycle.

How Do I Prepare For My Golden Retriever’s Heat Cycle?

Here are some of the things you can do to ready yourself for your retriever’s heat period:

  1. There could be some messy accidents during your retriever’s heat period, especially given that her urinating will increase significantly. Thus, you should get some doggy diapers or protective covers for your couch and other surfaces that may be damaged when urinated on.
  2. One very important thing to note is to never spay your female golden retriever during her heat as the vulva will swell significantly during or after the operation, rendering her recovery difficult.
  3. Because her eggs will still be immature, do not breed your female retriever during her first heat. If you do this, you might not be aware of subsequent, associated health effects.
  4. Spay your dog if you do not think you can control your dog’s heat cycle as spaying your dog may have an added: she can live quite long.

How Do I Take Care Of My Retriever While She’s In Her Heat?

There are many ways you can take care of your female golden retriever during her heat period.

Note that in this phase of your dog’s life, a little extra attention and care can do the trick as they mostly crave more of that anyway. They’re at risk and will need to feel safe and happy. Here are a few tips on how you can achieve that.

  1. You might feel the need to leave and give your dog some time alone. This is okay every other day except she is in her heat. DO NOT let her outside alone as male dogs may be on to her during this period.

This can result in mating during her first heat cycle, a very wrong time for that as we have already discussed in this article. During walks, keep your dog on a leash for the same reason. It is even best if you avoid taking her to public places during this period.

  1. It is important to know what your dog’s behaviour is in terms of exercise and rest during this period. Every dog is different.

Your retriever might be either more active or just wants to lay around all day during her heat period. Knows what works for them so you don’t push them too hard one way or the other. Comfort is key for your dog in this period.

  1. Get a GPS tracker. Yes, a GPS tracker! This might sound a little overboard but trust me, in this period, your dog might get quite rebellious and seek to escape your yard.

A GPS tracker might just be what you need in case this happens, just to avoid any unwanted pregnancies.

  1. Whether or not you trust your dog’s self-hygiene abilities, you will still need some doggy diapers for the ‘just in case’ moments.

You can save yourself from having to clean discharges that might soil your couch, carpets and other sensitive surfaces of your home as diapers limit discharges. They come in both disposable and reusable ones. Pick what’s best for you.

How Do I Prevent My Golden Retriever From Going Into Heat?

If you’re not sure you can handle your female golden retriever’s heat cycle, the best way to prevent it from happening is to spay her.

Spaying is the surgical removal of your female retriever’s ovaries and uterus to prevent heat and subsequent pregnancy. This surgical method is called an ovariohysterectomy and will lead to your female retriever being sterilized.

The recommendation is that you wait till your dog is 6 months before spaying her. You can also opt for the other procedure where only her ovaries are removed. Just like any human medical procedure, there are pros and cons to spaying.

Be aware of them before proceeding with the operation. And oh, spaying your female retriever is not an explicit answer if you’re looking for changes in her behaviour.


A golden retriever’s heat cycle usually occurs every 9 to 10 months, for about 2 to 4 weeks. It is important to keep track of the timing so you can be ready and not caught off guard.

There are 4 stages to the cycle with the second stage, Estrus, being the stage where your retriever is fertile.

Do not breed your female retriever during her first heat. The second or third heat is recommended. Speak to your vet if you encounter any issues with your golden retriever.

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