Understanding your puppy’s first season

Updated 20 June 2024
Read time: 8 mins
article author
Written by Charlotte Niblett
article author
Reviewed by Elle Padgham

After bringing your puppy home, you witness every stage of their life as they grow from teeny, clumsy pups into fully trained, fun-loving adult dogs! For female puppies, it also means helping them through their first season and heat cycle.

For first-time female puppy owners, managing their first season can be quite daunting, especially when you feel like you don’t know how to help them. This article will get you up to speed on everything you need to know about your pup’s first season, including what it means, how to manage it, your future options, and everything you can do to make your pup feel as comfortable as possible!

What does it mean when a puppy is in season?

A puppy’s season, or ‘being in heat’ is the name given to the time in a female dog’s fertility cycle when they’ve reached puberty. The cycle signifies a window where, if they were to mate, they could get pregnant. To us puppy parents, it all seems very similar to a human’s menstrual cycle, but the two are actually very different - so don’t be reaching for a doggy hot water bottle and ice cream just yet!

Instead of a menstrual cycle, dogs experience what’s called the estrus cycle. Where the human menstrual cycle involves a stage where bleeding is caused by shedding of the uterine lining, dogs experience a dark red or light-coloured discharge consisting of blood and mucus that leaks from their cervix during their ‘proestrus stage’. 

During this stage, you’ll often find this discharge dotted around the house. As a new pup parent, this might feel like something to be concerned about, but it is simply a symptom of fluctuating hormones and their eggs being released from their ovaries. 

What are the stages of a puppy in heat?

The bleeding part of your puppy’s first season is just one stage of the 4 part heat cycle. 

It’s important to read up on each step of your pup’s season so you can make the right preparations, especially if you’re not looking to gain a litter of new puppies anytime soon!

Below you’ll find the 4 stages of your pup’s heat cycle, including the Proestrus stage, Estrus, Diestrus and Anestrus. 


  • Proestrus - The first stage of your dog’s heat cycle - this is when bleeding happens.
  • Estrus  - When your pup is at their most fertile.
  • Diestrus - Hormones start to return to normal and the fertility window closes.
  • Anestrus - Most physical symptoms die down as your pup’s body would prepare for pregnancy if they’d successfully mated.


What are the common signs of a puppy coming into season?

There are plenty of telltale signs that your pup is about to come into season, which makes it much easier to prepare for!

These include behavioural changes such as;

  • Increased interest in mounting or humping
  • Lethargy
  • Irritability and being prone to more aggressive behaviour
  • Peeing more frequently 
  • Wanting to socialise with other dogs more, particularly male dogs

Physical signs your pup is coming into season include;

  • Swollen genitals
  • Increased licking of genitals and surrounding areas
  • Bleeding and discharge

Some, if not all of these symptoms signify your pup coming into their first season. However, if you spot any heavy bleeding or behaviour that seems a little too out of the ordinary, always seek advice from your vet to double check everything’s okay.

What age does a puppy have their first season?

Your pup’s first heat cycle usually comes in when they’re hitting puppy puberty, which can differ between size and breed. Puppy puberty normally kicks in around 6 months old, and the heat cycle can begin anywhere between then and a year old. 

For smaller breeds, like Terriers,  it tends to occur a bit sooner, so be sure to keep an eye out for the signs and symptoms as your pup enters their adolescent phase. 


How long is a puppy in season for?

The entirety of your pup’s heat cycle lasts anywhere up to 2-3 weeks. 

Not to worry though as the more hands-on, bleeding stage of this cycle only lasts between 7-10 days. However, other symptoms and signs may last throughout the entire cycle.

How often are puppies in season?

Often the size and breed of your pup can affect how often they have a heat cycle, but on average, they come around every 6-7 months, or twice a year. 

So it’s not something as a pup parent that you’ll have to face often, but it’s always good to be prepared when it comes around! 

If you decide to spay your female pup, this will stop their heat cycle from ever returning, so you may only have to manage it once or twice in their life.

When does a dog stop coming into season?

For pups, there’s no such thing as ‘meno-paws’, so they’ll continue to have a heat cycle and go into season for the rest of their life, unless you decide to spay them.

Managing your puppy’s first season

Whether you decide to spay your pup in the future or not, that very first heat cycle will come around quickly! But how can you make sure things go as smoothly as possible, and your pup remains happy and healthy?

Caring for your puppy

  • Playing, distraction and enrichment - With hormones running wild and experiencing new feelings, your pup will probably be feeling all out of sorts. During this time, it’s important to prioritise play time with enrichment toys and distracting games. This might include a treat stuffed toy or a snuffle mat.
  • Adapting their diet - To make sure your pup is getting all the nutrients possible to help them through their first season, make sure they have access to lots of liquid to keep them hydrated. Foods with lots of fibre also come in handy, which they can get from carrots, pumpkin, apples and milled flaxseed.

  • Keeping them calm - This is a hectic time for you and your pup, so it’s wise to have a temporary wind down. Try and avoid any big events or anything that will add stress to your already confused little pup. Instead, create a calm atmosphere and try to stay patient with some of the behavioural changes coming into season may bring. 

The Calm and Relaxed range here at Pooch & Mutt includes our Calming Probiotic Meaty Treats. Grain-free, and packed with turkey, relaxing hemp and valerian root, these moist tasty treats are suitable for puppies over 12 weeks - and are a great way to distract your pup all whilst keeping things zen.

Cleaning up after your puppy

  • Keeping wipes nearby - Two symptoms of being in heat are more frequent peeing and of course, bleeding and discharge. Having had a young puppy, you’re probably already a pro at slipping a pee pad under squatting bums,

  • but with the added unpredictability of bleeding, it’s always good to have wipes and extra pads in reach to clean up after them and keep their area clean and tidy. This is especially the case if there’s another dog in the house.

  • Nappies and pads - Yep, you read that correctly! Just to manage your pup’s bleeding, you can temporarily curb this with pads and nappies specifically designed for pups. This is one option you can consider while you figure out how to manage future seasons.

    This said, if your pup isn’t happy wearing something strange, don’t force them as this will add to their stress, which is not a great mix whilst their hormones fluctuate.

  • Avoiding unwanted pregnancy

    • Spaying your pup - An option that pup owners commonly opt for is spaying, especially when you’re not planning on breeding. Spaying your female pup includes a small, keyhole surgery where they remove her womb and ovaries. This will prevent her heat cycle from returning for the rest of her life.

    • Avoiding other dogs - If you have no near plans to spay your pup, or you’re dealing with their first season and want to avoid pregnancy, it’s important to keep them away from other dogs, especially male dogs. When going out, make sure to keep a close eye on your pup, preferably keeping them on the lead when in public places and dog-walking areas. 

    Keeping an eye out for complications

    After making the right preparations, your pup’s first season, and any other seasons to come are extremely manageable. That said, you should also keep a close eye on your pup at this time to spot any causes for concern. Signs that something might be wrong and medical attention is needed include;

    • Excessive bleeding
    • Irregular cycles
    • Unmanageable,, abnormal behaviour
    • Pregnancy symptoms such as bloating, nesting and enlarged nipples


    Can I still take my puppy for walks during their first season?

    You can absolutely still walk your puppy during their first season! It’s good for them to get out to keep them distracted and entertained.Just make sure you’re always staying away from other dogs.

    Keeping them on the lead and staying away from dog-heavy areas like fields and hiking trails is the best way to keep a close eye.

    Will spaying my pup change her personality?

    Spaying your pup won’t change their overall personality, but will cause a few tweaks in their behaviour. Spaying halts hormone development so, if anything, the lack of oestrogen will make them less prone to aggressive behaviour.

    Will spaying my pup change her appearance?

    There’ve been multiple mentions across different-sized dogs and breeds about how spaying them has changed their coats. Some have said that their pup’s fur had changed colour and even texture. This may be down to their neutering, but other external factors can also be to blame.

    Either way, these changes are usually no cause for concern, and can just simply act as a new stylish look for your pup!

    How do you manage your puppy’s first season with a male dog in the home?

    If you have a male dog in the house alongside your pup who’s currently in season, it’s best to keep them apart as much as possible, especially if the male dog hasn’t been neutered yet.

    It can be very difficult to keep male and female dogs apart at this time, so it would be best to consider keeping your male dog with friends or family, or ensuring their sleeping and walking habits are completely separated. Also, be sure to keep on top of cleaning blood or discharge to avoid upsetting your male dog who will already be fighting back their instinct to sniff out a nearby female in heat.

    What is phantom pregnancy in dogs?

    Unspayed pups can show all the hormonal and behavioural signs of being pregnant, without any puppies being present. This is what is known as a phantom or false pregnancy. If you’re seeing signs of pregnancy in your pup but know for a fact that isn’t possible, contact your vet for a diagnosis. Phantom pregnancies usually go away on their own, but watch to see if the symptoms continue. 

    It’s advised to wait for a phantom pregnancy to pass before spaying your pup as symptoms may not ever go away. After they’re spayed, they’ll no longer be at risk of phantom pregnancies.


    If you see signs of your pup’s first season, ensure you’re prepared with everything they might need, whether that’s more distraction, puppy pads, extra nutrients or a calming, stress-free atmosphere. Shop our Calm & Relaxed range, including puppy-safe Calming Probiotic Meaty Treats to provide top-tier nutrients, whilst naturally calming more excitable or anxious pups.

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