How to Calm a Male Dog When a Female Is in Heat

When your mild-mannered dog is quietly snoozing in his bed, it's hard to believe he's the same guy who could scale a fence or dig through rock-hard ground to meet up with a female dog in heat. A dog in heat emits powerful odors, strong enough to entice suitors from up to three miles away. If your dog isn't neutered, you'll have to be clever and determined about calming him during the female's estrus cycle.

Two Spaniels running
credit: Brighton Dog Photography/Moment/GettyImages

Lady signals says the typical female dog experiences one to four heat cycles a year, each lasting approximately two to three weeks. Depending on the dog, you may not notice she's in heat right away; often a bloody discharge is the first thing to clue you in.

A dog can't get pregnant early in her cycle, but as Whole Dog Journal explains, after a week to 10 days, she enters the estrus phase of her heat cycle. At this point, her discharge becomes more watery, and she often begins to mark, depositing urine on various spots in and out of the house, signaling her receptiveness to mate. During this time, her urine contains hormones and pheromones easily detected by male dogs, which can detect her scent and condition from great distances.

Not so gentlemanly responses

Dogs have a sharp sense of smell that helps them perpetuate the species. Once an intact male gets a whiff of his potential new girlfriend, he'll do just about anything to find his way to her, including digging under and jumping over fences and dodging his way across a busy highway. The male also will urine mark if he picks up the scent of a female in estrus, signaling his availability. If there's competition for her affections, there may be some aggressive behavior as two male suitors battle it out for her attentions.

Preventing pregnancy

Chances are good if an intact male encounters a female in estrus, there will be a litter of puppies. The ASPCA argues that spaying and neutering is the only way to ensure neither becomes a parent. Otherwise, you'll have to keep your dogs separated until she's completed her heat cycle. If a tryst has taken place and you aren't ready for little ones, your vet can perform an abortion, but this can only be done at least 30 days into the pregnancy according to the Mar Vista Animal Center.

Time apart

If you cannot neuter and spay your dogs and you don't want puppies, keeping them separated is mandatory. Consider kenneling your male dog for the duration of your female's heat cycle. He won't be present to pick up on the scents the female is emitting, nor will he be spending all of his time trying to hook up with his girlfriend.

You can board your dog at a vet or other commercial boarding location or build a safe, humane kennel on your own property. If you go the later route, make sure the kennel truly is escape proof, far enough away from the female that he will not go crazy and be sure to allow him plenty of exercise time after relocating the female in another secured location.

If kenneling is out of the question, dog breeder and nutritional consultant Linda Arndt recommends giving the female liquid chlorophyll twice a day to mask her odors. According to Arndt, the male's interest wanes a bit because he's not picking up the masked scent. If you choose to try this option, check with your vet to determine the appropriate dose. It is worth noting that this tactic is not 100 percent effective, so be sure to keep an eye on your dogs to prevent any unexpected pregnancies.

If your male's potential suitor isn't in the same house but lives next door or up the street, do your best to avoid the other dog and ensure your pooch cannot escape your property.