When Do Female Golden Retrievers Go Into Their First Heat?

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As the owner of an unspayed female Golden Retriever, I’m sure you’re dying to know “When Do Female Golden Retrievers Go Into Their First Heat?”

The first heat is an important milestone in your pup’s life, it means that she has reached sexual maturity and is able to become pregnant.

Whether you plan on breeding your female or not, it is NOT advisable to do so on her first heat, for health reasons.

Knowing when to expect your Golden’s first heat as well as the signs to look for, are extremely important, in order to prevent an unwanted litter of puppies!

This article discusses everything you need to know about your Golden Retriever’s first heat.

So, let’s find out when it will happen.

When Do Female Golden Retrievers Go Into Their First Heat?

Golden Retrievers typically go into their first heat when they are between the ages of 10-14 months old. Your Golden may experience her first heat earlier than normal if she is smaller in size, or if she is around other female dogs who are in heat. The first heat may be irregular with light bleeding, but you can expect her heat cycle to become regular after that. There are 4 stages in the heat cycle and your Golden will display both physical and behavioural signs during each stage. You should not allow your female to become pregnant during her first heat!

Signs That Your Female Golden Retriever Is Going Into Her First Heat

When Do Female Golden Retrievers Go Into Their First Heat - A side view of a Golden Retriever wearing a red bandana and looking happy.

During heat, your Golden will likely display some changes in behaviour as well as physical changes.

Be sure to keep an eye out for any of these common signs listed below, as they will let you know what stage in the heat cycle your dog is in. The stages of heat are discussed further below.

Swollen Vulva

This is the first sign that your dog is in heat. But, it’s usually not the first thing that you are going to notice.

Swelling of the vulva is not painful to your dog, and it usually happens just a day or two before bleeding starts.

The vulva swells about 3-4 times its normal size.

Bleeding or Discharge

Bleeding is usually the first thing that dog owners will notice. Discharge can be bloody, brown, clear or yellow.

Abnormal Mounting Behaviour

All puppies display humping and mounting behaviour, even before their first heat, so it can be a little difficult to determine. However, you are looking for an increase in mounting.

Your female will mount a lot! Objects like toys, pillows, your leg, or other dogs regardless of male or female.

It’s a normal reaction to hormones! Your female will also be tolerant of other dogs mounting her.

Excessive Licking of Genitals

During your Golden’s heat cycle, she will lick her genitals more than normal.

The reasons are that she is keeping herself clean from the discharge, as well as the swollen vulva can be itchy or uncomfortable.

Changes In Behaviour

A Golden Retriever snuggled up on a full sized human bed.

You may notice that your female is more clingy and affectionate. Or, she may want to be left alone. Changes in personality are a result of hormones.

At times your female may also be irritated, moody, and show aggression towards other female dogs.

Don’t be surprised if your female has a loss of appetite or even an increase in appetite. This is all normal behaviour during the heat cycle.

Increased Urination

Your female in heat will be making more bathroom trips than normal. It may be annoying, but don’t worry this stage will end soon enough.

Urinating is a way for your female to leave her scent, in order to entice the male dogs to come around. She is letting them know that she is in heat.

Nesting Behaviour

Nesting is when your Golden digs or tries to burrow herself into her bed or blankets. She will likely try to move her bed or blanket to a new location, as well as carry toys to her “nest”.

Your Golden is trying to create a safe and comfortable place for her “puppies”. She may also sleep with her toys, and it may be difficult to get her away from her nest.


A Golden Retriever shown turned around looking at you while standing on a dirt road.  The tail of the Golden Retriever is sticking up in the air.

Flagging is when your Golden moves her tail to one side to let male dogs know that she is open to advances. She may also move her tail from side to side to allow her pheromones to spread, attracting male dogs.

The 4 Stages Of Your Golden Retriever’s Heat Cycle

The canine heat cycle consists of four stages. During each stage, your Golden will display different signs and behaviour.

Being aware of the signs will let you know what stage your pup is in, and what your Golden is going through physically.

Stage 1: Proestrus

This stage is the beginning of your Golden’s heat. It typically lasts 7-10 days, but it can last anywhere from 4-20 days.

Your Golden will release pheromones that will attract male dogs. But, during this stage, she is not fertile and will not be receptive to males. She may act aggressively towards males as well as females to try to fend them off.

Signs include:

  • Swollen vulva.
  • Bleeding starts.
  • Change in appetite & mood.

Stage 2: Estrus

Estrus is the main stage of your Golden’s heat cycle. It can last from 4-24 days, with an average of 9 days.

During this time your female is ovulating and fertile and is willing to accept male advances. This is the time you need to really be careful and keep your female away from male dogs!

Signs include:

  • Bleeding decreases and becomes lighter in colour.
  • Your female will try to attract male dogs by urinating frequently & flagging her tail.
  • Some females may even run off to try to find a male partner.

Stage 3: Diestrus

During the third stage, your Golden is no longer fertile, and you can breathe a sigh of relief!

This stage usually begins around 24 days after the start of your Golden’s heat, and will typically last from 60-90 days.

Your Golden will still be emitting pheromones, so you need to keep her away from male dogs until her bleeding stops.

Signs include:

  • No longer fertile.
  • Still emitting pheromones.
  • Personality will return to normal.
  • She will fend off male dogs.
  • Bleeding will change from pink to red, and then it will finally stop.

Stage 4: Anestrus

Anestrus is the resting and recovery stage, it is the longest and final stage of the heat cycle. In other words, this is the time when your Golden is not in heat, but instead recovering and preparing for the next heat cycle.

It can last as little as 60 days, or as long as 150 days. The time period depends on the size of your dog, typically it will last longer for Golden Retrievers.

Signs include:

  • Your female is infertile.
  • No discharge.
  • Vulva is no longer swollen.
  • There are no sexual or hormonal symptoms.
  • Your female displays her normal behaviour.
  • The next heat cycle will start once this stage ends.
Golden Retriever First Heat Infographic.

How Long Will My Golden Retriever’s Heat Cycle Last?

Typically you can expect your Golden Retriever to be in heat for 2-4 weeks, with the average being 21 days.

After your Golden’s first heat cycle, the following cycles will become regular. How often they occur depends on the individual dog. Some Golden Retrievers go into heat every 7 months, however, it is more common every 9-10 months.

Your Golden’s heat cycle is continuous unless she is pregnant or spayed.

The only way to know how long your Golden is in heat is to monitor her. Mark on the calendar the first day you notice bleeding, and observe her symptoms.

You will know when her heat is finished when there is no more discharge and her vulva is no longer swollen.

What To Expect As Your Golden Retriever Goes Into Her First Heat

Waiting for your Golden’s first heat to come around can make you nervous.

The thought of your female bleeding for 2-4 weeks and having to keep her away from male dogs can be very unsettling!

It sounds awful, but it really isn’t that bad.

Some females experience heavy bleeding while others only bleed slightly. The first heat is typically lighter.

Regardless, Golden Retrievers do a great job of keeping themselves clean, and you may hardly notice any blood.

The first heat may also be a little irregular, as your pup is getting used to going through puberty. It can take some Golden’s up to 2 years to develop regular cycles.

A silent heat or a split heat is quite common in younger females going through their first heat.

Silent Heat

This is when symptoms like bleeding and a swollen vulva are hardly noticeable, however, your female is still ovulating.

Split Heat

A split heat is when a female starts her heat, then stops for a few days, and starts back up again a few weeks later.

It’s nothing to worry about, as it is quite common in younger females. Heat cycles will regulate themselves as your female matures.

Will My Golden Retriever Bleed The Whole Time She Is In Heat?

No, Golden’s will only bleed for about 7-10 days during their entire heat cycle. This of course varies on the individual dog and their size. Smaller dogs tend to bleed less, and larger ones more.

Chances are your Golden will do a good job of keeping herself clean, and you will likely just notice a few droplets of blood on the floor.

Is The Heat Cycle Painful For My Golden Retriever?

Your Golden’s heat cycle should not cause her any pain. She may feel a little uncomfortable, nervous, or irritated by all of the hormones she is experiencing, but it is not painful.

If you do notice that your Golden is in pain, it is best to consult your vet.

Extra attention and cuddles are always a great way to keep your Golden feeling comfortable and at ease during this time. That is unless she is wanting to be left alone, as some Goldens do during their heat.

How To Care For Your Golden Retriever During Her First Heat

When your Golden is in heat, extra supervision and care are needed to keep her happy and safe.

This short video discusses how to keep your female comfortable and happy during her heat cycle. The video is of a Cavalier dog, but the same tips can apply to a Golden Retriever.

Following up on the video, more tips are discussed below:

Avoid Public Places

Male dogs will do anything to come near your female in heat, including digging under or jumping over a fence!

Do not take your female out in public for the entire time she is in heat. She will be releasing pheromones which will attract all the male dogs in the neighbourhood!

Be Prepared With Doggie Diapers

Many owners prepare for their Golden’s first heat by having doggie diapers on hand. Doggie diapers will prevent any blood from dripping onto your furniture and floors, as well as act as a chastity belt to prevent any male from mating with your female.

They are available in both reusable and disposable.

I recommend these washable diapers by Wegreeco:

3 Washable Doggie Diapers shown in pink, blue and purple.

Sometimes doggie diapers can be challenging to keep on your dog, especially if they are too big and slide off, or in most cases, your dog manages to get them off.

If this is the case, you may want to try a surgical suit.

A surgical suit is a onesie that you can use along with a sanitary pad for protection. A onesie is much harder for your dog to remove. Check out my review of the best surgical suits for your dog.

Make Sure She Is Eating & Drinking Properly

Some Golden’s will have a decrease in appetite when they are in heat. Your female may not want to eat or drink anything, but it is important that she maintains adequate nutrition.

Be Attentive To Her Needs

A Golden Retriever sitting and looking up at a woman petting her.

During her heat cycle, your Golden may want more attention and affection from you. She may even become more clingy (yes clingier than a usual Golden Retriever!).

Be sure to read your dog’s mood and be attentive to her needs.

Exercise Her Indoors & In A Supervised Yard

Even if your yard is fenced, never let your dog outside unsupervised. Male dogs are very determined!

During the heat cycle, it is best to play with your dog inside, and catch up on her exercise once her heat cycle is finished.

Avoid Pregnancy On The First Heat

Responsible breeders never breed their dog on their first or second heat. If you plan on breeding your Golden, it is best to do so after her third heat which usually occurs around 18-24 months of age.

Consider Spaying After The First Heat

Spaying your female is the only sure way to prevent an unwanted litter of puppies. Spayed females do not have heat cycles, therefore you don’t have to worry about any bleeding or keeping her away from male dogs.

Golden Retrievers should be spayed after their first heat. This ensures that they have all of the hormones needed for growth and development. I recently wrote an article on the best time to spay your Golden Retriever, as well as the pros and cons of spaying. Be sure to check it out.

Talk To Your Vet

Any questions or concerns regarding your Golden’s first heat can be discussed with your vet. Your vet may be able to give you answers and advice specific to your Golden’s heat cycle and how to make it easier for you and your Golden.

Final Thoughts

The average age for a female Golden Retriever to go into her first heat is 10-14 months old. While it is quite common for small breeds to go into heat at 6 months old, and giant breeds at 18-24 months old, Golden Retrievers fall somewhere in the middle.

Your Golden’s first heat is a milestone, however, it is not as stressful as you may think. By knowing what to expect during the heat cycle, and what signs to look for, as well as having some doggie diapers on hand, you will be well prepared.

You should expect some physical and behaviour changes, and be sure to give your female plenty of affection to make this time easier on her.

While there is only a small window of when your female is most fertile, pregnancy can happen right until the end of her cycle. You will need to be extra vigilant in keeping her away from male dogs during her entire heat.

When did your female Golden Retriever experience her first heat? What signs did you notice that your female was in heat? Was your female’s first heat experience easier than you expected?

Share your Golden Retriever’s first heat with us! Let us know in the comments below, as well as any questions you may have. I would love to hear from you!

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2 thoughts on “When Do Female Golden Retrievers Go Into Their First Heat?”

  1. I have a female Lab and have had many dogs (both male and female) over my lifetime. But I really had no clue about the whole heat cycle and how that works or whether or not diapers would be necessary. This was fascinating to read and learn about! I always just trusted my vet’s advice in the past and would get my female pups spayed around the 6-month mark, so I never did experience these things. However, if I should ever get another female I will take all these things into consideration. There’s certainly a lot to keep in mind. Thanks for this well-written article.

    • Hi Lee,

      The recommended age for spaying most female dogs (small breeds) is 6 months, and this is what many vets have recommended in the past, even for Goldens.  HOWEVER, new studies show that large breed dogs such as Golden Retrievers should not be spayed until after their first heat or later.  They need the hormones to fully develop and grow.  

      Guidelines in the 10-year study by UC Davis indicate that spaying a female at any age increases the occurrence of cancers.  Leaving a female intact is the best option, but if spaying is needed (as it is the most practical choice for most dog owners), then spaying after the first heat is recommended, and then being vigilant for the cancers.

      Because female Golden Retrievers should go through a heat cycle, it is best to be prepared by knowing when to expect it, signs to look for, and caring for a Golden in heat.

      It’s certainly a lot of information to consider, should you ever get another female.  I know to many dog owners, the thought of their dog experiencing a heat cycle can be overwhelming.  But, it really isn’t that bad, doggie diapers do help a lot to contain the mess.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.



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