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The complete estrus, or heat, cycle typically lasts two to three weeks. You may notice that your dog’s vulva is swollen or that she has a bloody discharge. This stage, called proestrus, averages nine days but can last as little as three days or as long as 17 days. The discharge usually occurs during the second week. Many dogs keep themselves so clean during this time that you may not even notice the discharge, but others must wear protective panties that keep the discharge off clothing and furniture and prevent males from gaining access to them.
In the next phase of the cycle, known as estrus, females are ready for male attention — and willing to allow it — and that’s when you need to be extra-careful to make sure they don’t hook up with the dog next door. Go outdoors with her on leash and stay with her, just in case there are any interested males in the vicinity. It’s best to keep her indoors the rest of the time. Even a secure kennel with a strong top and a concrete bottom isn’t foolproof; two dogs can mate through the kennel fence.
The third stage is called diestrus, when the female is no longer interested in mating or is not interesting to males. Her hormone levels drop, eventually returning her to the stage known as anestrus, the quiet period that lasts an average of 130 to 150 days until the cycle begins again.
When we think of living with intact male dogs, the assumption is often that they are going to be humping everything in their path and lifting their legs in the house and that they will inevitably be aggressive toward other male dogs.
But that's not always so. Like any other dog, an intact male can and should learn manners. There’s no reason he can’t learn that humping and leg-lifting in the home are no-nos. And as far as aggression, it’s often the case that neutered males are aggressive toward intact males — possibly because they smell different.
Not all intact male dogs have an odor, but like teenage boys, adolescent male dogs can be stinky. It could be hormones, it could be that their aim isn’t very good yet and they are getting urine on their legs or it could be that they have a health problem that should be checked out by your veterinarian. In most cases, though, that canine funk should disappear by the time your male reaches maturity at 14 to 24 months.
Preventing humping and urine marking inside the house is a matter of management and training. To help prevent humping, occupy your dog with other activities such as play, training and puzzle toys. If you catch him in the act, redirect him with a game of fetch or a run through his obedience commands. Training teaches him control and focus, while play relieves stress and wears him out. When you're out and about, keep him on leash and at your side so he lacks opportunity.
Adolescent males who seemed to be house-trained may start lifting their leg in the home as a way of marking territory. (Intact females may also do this to attract mates.) That’s not cool. Do some remedial house training, restrict your dog’s freedom in the home with a crate or by leashing him at your side and thoroughly clean the area he marked with an enzymatic odor neutralizer. If he is whiny or barky in the presence of in-season females, give him the canine equivalent of a cold shower: extra walks, play and training to help take his mind off the hot girl. He’ll still want her, but the desire will be slightly dampened.
Living with an intact dog requires some extra care — keeping females confined and not allowing males to be pests — but with consistent training and appropriate management, there’s no reason they have to be any more difficult to live with than a spayed or neutered dog.
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