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When a dog experiences its thermal cycle, we can expect some changes. Such changes affect both their physical condition and their behavior. As dog watchers, we must provide care adapted to their changing needs. While this will require a lot of practical care, it is possible that a dog’s emotional state may change, sometimes significantly. A special concern for caregivers is when a dog becomes aggressive in heat.
Let’s take a look at AnimalWised why is my dog in heat and aggressive. We answer some of the most common questions about the dog’s behavior during his warming cycle and find practical tips on how to help them during this period.
Before you take a closer look at aggression in dogs during their thermal cycle, we should look at the different stages of this period. We will also look at how each phase can affect a dog’s behavior.
Dogs of small breeds as a yorkshire terrier or maltese usually enter the first october cycle between 6 and 9 months of age. For larger breeds, such as the Rottweiler or the German Shepherd, it is more likely between 9 and 12 months of age. These are guidelines and individual dogs may vary due to various factors.
The thermal period consists of four phases. Everyone can change the dog’s behavior to some extent, again depending on his individual circumstances. The stages of oestrus in dogs are:
- Proestrus: proestrus is not always easy to detect. Although some bleeding may occur, it is usually not abundant and the dog often removes it by licking its intimate parts. In addition, we may be able to detect an inflamed vulva. The female is not fertile during this period, but begins to attract males and often rejects them, which results in aggressive behavior towards them. This phase can last from 3 to 17 days.
- Estrus: it is at this stage of their heat that the dog is fertile and accepts males who try to mount it. During this time, she may be distracted, less obedient, more sociable when close to other dogs, and may also show physical signs such as increased urination (polyuria). Some dogs who already have behavioral problems, such as anxiety, may experience an increase in these problems. It can also take 3 to 17 days.
It is important to emphasize that at this fertile stage we must be very careful not to leave the dog unattended in the park. This is likely to lead to an unwanted pregnancy.
- Dextrus: if fertilization occurred during heat, the bitch ‘s pregnancy begins at this stage. If not, it enters the resting phase before entering the next phase of the anestrus cycle. It is possible that a dog will experience a phantom pregnancy. During this pseudogravidity, the dog’s hormones react as if they are pregnant, even though no puppies are pregnant.
During both actual and pseudo-pregnancies, it is common for a woman to suffer from behavioral changes such as aggression. Males may still try to mate with it during this time, which is another catalyst for aggression in dogs in heat. This period will last 60 to 100 days.
- Anestrus: it is a phase of sexual inactivity and the duration is variable, lasting up to 130 days. The time will depend on age and hormonal processes. At this time we will observe the normal behavior of the dog.
You can read our related article to find out if your dog is in heat.
As you can see from the outline above, hormonal changes that accompany a dog’s thermal cycle can change his behavior. This can be exacerbated, among other things, by the discomfort of their reproductive parts or by their overall poor health. In general, aggression occurs suddenly and the dog may not have previous behavioral problems.
However, this does not mean that every dog will react the same way. In fact, it is common in dogs to become loving during their warmth, especially during the fertility period. In this sense, although a dog may become aggressive when in heat, it is not something that always happens. If we give them the right level of care, we can often reduce aggressive feelings.
Basically, we should be aware of the hormonal changes of the dog and adapt our care according to. For example, if they are looking for more affection, we must give it to them. Conversely, if they become too aggressive, we must give them space. Find out more in our article about why a dog is suddenly aggressive towards me.
After the first heat, some dogs may show longer signs of behavioral changes, including being more aggressive. These changes are mainly related to the physical and hormonal changes they have undergone. However, their experience during the thermal cycle can also influence their behavior.
It is possible that you have two dog bitches in your household that have had a positive relationship with each other before. After their first heat, it is possible that one or both will change. They may even show signs of aggression, such as unnecessary growl, possessive behavior to their supplements, or even attacked another dog female in certain situations.
It is important to note that such aggression after their heat does not occur in all cases. Despite this fact, we need to know what to do if it becomes an eventuality. Before we do, you may want to check out our related article on 12 types of dog aggression.
If your dog begins to develop a grumpy attitude towards you or your family members, it is important that you intervene. The longer you let it happen, the harder it will be to fix it. This is especially important when children or other vulnerable people live in the household. We must be respectful and not disturb her as she gives soothing signals such as growling, bowing ears, or turning away. Find out more with our guide to soothing signals in dogs.
Here are some basic tips on how to help a dog in heat that has become aggressive towards humans:
- Give your dog a nest so that she can take refuge whenever she wants. You should place it in a quiet place in the home and ensure that it does not disturb it. By giving the dog a place of peace and security, they can better manage their aggressive tendencies, because they know that they can feel better somewhere.
- Understanding that the change in her behavior is caused by a hormonal process will help us empathize with her and be more tolerant. We must avoid punishment completely. This only increases the level of stress and anxiety, which can worsen unwanted behavior.
- Strengthen positive behaviorsuch as being calm or sociable. We can do it with positive and calm speech, caresses, treats or other rewards. Promoting positive behavior is much more effective than punishing negative.
- In the most serious cases, it will be necessary to visit and canine specialist. This is especially true when the dog becomes aggressive and suddenly bites. The sooner we start applying the rules, the sooner we solve the problem and the less likely it is that the behavior will become addictive.
Sudden aggression is not the only sign of oestrus in dogs. You can see what else you can expect in our article on why a cat cries in heat.
We must emphasize that it is not appropriate to take an aggressive dog in heat to a place with other dogs, especially if they are not neutered. Pheromones in dogs and other bitches can lead to quarrels. In particular, the rejection of a male in the proestral phase can cause conflicts.
Regardless of this specific phase of the oestrus cycle, it is common for caregivers who see negative behavior in their dog after heat to completely stop interacting with other dogs. That shouldn’t happen. Although the dog may have a problem with aggression, he still needs to socialization.
With or without the help of an ethologist or canine educator, we must identify the reasons for the aggression and treat them accordingly. We also need to look at the situations that trigger this aggression. If we observe that the dog growls, chases other dogs and is generally nervous during their heat cycle, we should stop the interaction. Once the problem is solved, we must return to introduce them to other dogs.
When the aggression intensifies to the point that they are attacks other dogs or even people, a professional is required. They will be able to assess the specific needs of your dog and give appropriate behavioral therapies. If we do not do this, it is possible that the dog’s aggression will make them dangerous and in severe cases may even be defeated.
Not all types of aggression are the same, as you can see in our article about why a dog plays too harshly.
We recommend dog caregivers to neuter their pets as soon as they reach the right age for this procedure. Not only will this help avoid unwanted pregnancies, but it can reduce behavioral problems such as aggression. If the dog does not have reproductive organs to release hormones, they will not have the same mood swings.
However, this does not mean that we should neuter a dog during the breeding season, even if it is aggressive. This is because their hormonal levels can castrate hazardous. Elevated estrogen levels cause swelling of the uterus, which complicates the procedure and increases the likelihood of complications. Similarly, increased blood supply provides a more serious risk of bleeding.
Even if the aggression does not remain, we should take our dog to the vet after his heat cycle is over. This way you can assess the possibility neutering a dog. This will avoid heat periods in the future, prevent aggression, unwanted pregnancies, certain hormonal diseases and other negative health factors.
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