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When Do Golden Retrievers First Go into Heat? Vet Approved Facts & FAQ

Written by: Brooke Bundy

Last Updated on July 16, 2024 by Dogster Team

Golden retriever beautiful lovely pair

When Do Golden Retrievers First Go into Heat? Vet Approved Facts & FAQ


Dr. Lorna Whittemore  Photo


Dr. Lorna Whittemore

BVMS, MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

A dog is capable of becoming pregnant when they “go into heat.” However, it might surprise you to learn that the heat cycle has four distinct phases. Learning how to identify when and how Golden Retrievers go into heat can help you care for your dog during this sensitive time and keep up with their cycles to track or prevent pregnancy.

When Do Golden Retrievers Go into Heat?

Large breed dogs such as the Golden Retriever typically experience their first heat cycle between 10 and 14 months of age. It’s very common for your female Golden to have her first heat cycle sometime around her first birthday. The time of year for most dog breeds does not affect when they will come into heat. Other phrases used to describe a heat cycle include estrus and coming into “season”.

Although you should expect your Golden’s cycle to begin between 10 and 14 months, it’s possible for her to go into heat as early as 9 months or as late as 15 months. If your dog is more than 18 months old and has never experienced a heat cycle (and isn’t spayed), talk to your vet.

Golden retriever wagging his tail
Image by: Hollysdogs, Shutterstock

The 4 Stages of the Heat Cycle 

A dog’s heat cycle can be divided up into four distinct stages. Please note that the heat cycle isn’t the same as being “in heat/standing heat,” which only occurs for a small portion of the total time of the 6-month process.

  • Proestrus–start of heat. During this time, your dog’s vulva enlarges. Once you start to see blood, mark it on your calendar as Day 1 of the heat cycle. It helps you plan or prevent litters. In proestrus the female will reject advances by the males. Proestrus usually lasts around 9 days.
  • Estrus–mating possible. After around 9 days, the bleeding should lessen, and her discharge will become clear or light pink. The vulva will be very swollen by this point. This signifies that she is in her fertile window and will now stand to be mated, hence the phrase “standing heat”. If she mates during this time, it’s likely she’ll become pregnant. Her time of being “in heat” lasts about 4-14 days on average.
  • Diestrus–pregnant or resting phase. Sometime between the 13th and 25th day of your dog’s heat cycle, your dog’s fertile window will come to an end. She’ll no longer want to mate with any male dogs and might even become aggressive towards them. Her discharge may turn back to blood for a while. Once it finally stops, she’s free to go to the dog park again.
  • Anestrus–quiet phase. This is the “resting” time of your dog’s cycle. There’s no discharge or chance of your Golden Retriever becoming pregnant during this time, which lasts about 2-4 months before the cycle repeats.

Tips for Dealing With Your Golden Retriever’s Heat Cycle

Even though your dog is only capable of producing pups twice a year–and able to get pregnant for less than a month of the year–tracking their heat cycles is very important because it says a lot about their health. Golden Retrievers usually go into heat every 6 months until spayed but there is considerable individual variation. Changes that are abnormal for your dog’s heat cycle should prompt a visit to the vet.

You should also track your dog’s heat cycles to prevent or plan litters. Never allow your female to become pregnant on her first heat cycle. Her body is still growing and maturing both mentally and skeletally; it’s tough on a dog’s body. Some dogs even die if they have their first litter too young. For most dog breeds, breeding is not recommended until they’re around 2 to 3 years old.

Most females in heat aren’t allowed in dog parks or dog boarding facilities where a male can impregnate her. It’s recommended that you stay with your female Golden Retriever at all times during the first three stages of her heat cycle, and don’t let her into the dog park while she’s bleeding or in estrus. The behavioral changes she experiences can cause stress around other dogs and be very unsettling. Once the bleeding stops, she’s safe to return to the playground. It is important that she is kept on a leash or at home during the 2 to 3 weeks of her heat cycle and ensure there are no means for escape or males to break into the property.

She’ll need your support during her heat cycles even more than ever. Females usually become surprisingly altered around the time they come into season. They may be mopey, reserved, or more affectionate, or possibly more aggressive than usual. They might even display nesting behaviors such as snuggling or resting in a secluded area with their favorite toy.

golden retriever dogs lying on the floor with pet sitter
Image by: atyana Vyc, Shutterstock

Signs Your Dog Is Going into Heat

Look for these signs when it’s about that time of year:

  • Enlarged vulva
  • Excessive genital licking
  • Increased affection to humans
  • Increased or unusual humping
  • Attracting mates
  • Frequent urination
  • Nesting behaviors

Remember, the first day you see blood is the first day of your dog’s new heat (estrus) cycle. They’ll be able to become pregnant around the 8th to 24th day of their cycle every 6 months.

If your dog displays these behaviors but it’s not time for heat, talk to your veterinarian. These signs could be signs of a genito-urinary tract infection or other medical problem, so they shouldn’t be ignored.

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Heat is a normal part of a female dog’s life. If you don’t want your dog to continue to cycle, you can choose to have her spayed. The timing of this should be discussed with your veterinarian. Tracking your dog’s heat cycle helps you know when puppies are on the way if you decide to breed your dog or keep her away from the dog park if you don’t want puppies. Although Golden Retrievers are late bloomers who typically don’t get their first heat cycle until they’re 10 to 14 months, start looking for signs as early as 9 months to make sure you’re prepared.

Featured Image Credit: Rala3030, Shutterstock

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