Caring for a female dog in season

    After three and a half years of house and pet sitting, caring for over ninety different dogs, we’ve only looked after three dogs in heat and they’ve all been in the past few months! The first at a rural house sit in Norfolk with four year old terrier Winnie, and most recently at our current house sit in Oxford with two year old Pomeranian Foxy, and nine year old Jack Russell Cookie. The first thing we did at both house sits was to tell the homeowner right away, to see if they had any special things they do for the girls at this time. That first experience with Winnie was one we were glad to go through as we navigated her changing behaviour and expanded our dog care skills – we learnt a lot about caring for dogs in season, which prepared us for our second experience with Foxy and Cookie.

    On our first day at our Oxford housesit we didn’t have a hand over with the owners, so when we noticed that Foxy was bleeding we text them right away, and they told us this was the first time they’d had her in season. The next day we noticed Cookie had gone into season too – the homeowners said this hadn’t happened for a long time, which is how we learnt that doggy cycles can sync up! Our little seven month old boy Pom, Gizmo, doesn’t know what to do with himself – the ample pheromones all around are making him a little erratic!

    It’s day three of our Oxford sit and watching their behaviour over the past few days is what inspired us to write our care tips here, for house sitters or really anyone that hasn’t dealt with a female dog in heat before. As I’m writing this, Foxy is snuggled up sound asleep on a bar stool in the kitchen while Gizmo sleeps on the floor below – we did this deliberately to give her a break from Gizmo’s affections(!) – while Cookie has taken herself off to her favourite cosy spot in the lounge next door. Here’s what we’ve learnt about caring for the girls at this time:

    Foxy snoozing by my side as I type this, out of reach of Gizmo!

    Cuddles!

    If there’s one thing the girls need while in heat, it’s extra love and attention. Their hormones make them feel snuggly and affectionate, so we like to set aside some dedicated cuddle time for them. Cookie likes to hop up on the sofa to lie next to us, while Foxy enjoys being cradled in our arms like a baby. If you’re worried about getting blood on your clothes, find a covering that you can put between her and you – in Norfolk, little Winnie would absolutely love being swaddled in a designated throw while we cuddled up on the sofa.

    Cover furniture and beds

    Which brings us to the second most important thing – BLANKETS. If you’re house sitting, ask the homeowner if there are any blankets or towels that can be used to cover soft furnishings to prevent blood stains when the girls sit down. Our current pups like to sleep in bed with us, so we have dog blankets on the end of the bed where they can snooze without staining the sheets. You could also line their dog beds with comfy towels, which you can then easily remove for washing instead of having to clean the whole bed.

    Create a cosy space

    While we’re on the subject of blankets, it might be nice to create a cosy nest where your girl can feel safe and comforted. Yesterday Cookie spent the entirety of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon curled up by our sides, sleeping on a super fluffy blanket that covered her end of the sofa while we watched the film. If you’re caring for both female and male dogs, it’s also worth providing some respite from the attention of the boys. Seven month old Gizmo just will not leave Foxy alone right now! She enjoys play-fighting with him sometimes but when we can tell she’s just trying to snooze, we separate them to give her a chance to relax. She’s been quite sleepy due to her hormones, so it’s good to ensure she’s getting some time to rest.

    Cookie curled up in her cosy nest on the sofa

    Be extra vigilant on walks

    At the rural Norfolk house sit, any time we saw a male dog coming towards Winnie we would immediately put her on lead and explain to the other owner that Winnie was in heat. We never had any trouble, and other owners were super understanding, but we could see that male dogs were more interested in Winnie as they would ignore our other two dogs to follow along behind her. The pheromones they give off can make male dogs aggressive so take care, and if you’re pet sitting you’ll have to be extra careful so your home owner doesn’t return home to a pregnant pup!

    Provide extra toilet breaks

    Speaking of going outside, make sure that your girls get out for more wee breaks than normal. At this time, they may feel the need to relieve themselves more often. It’s a good idea to keep on top of wee breaks at home or, if they have free roam of the garden, leave a door open so she can come and go as often as she feels.

    Be prepared to clean up

    We find it best to have certain cleaning supplies to hand to quickly wipe any blood from tiles or to save soft furnishings. You know what dogs are like – you’ll put down ten different blankets and they’ll manage to sit on the one square inch of sofa that isn’t covered! We keep an eye on our girls to try and prevent this as best we can but it’s not always possible. We gave Winnie an entire double duvet that was normally used for the back seat of the car, and we tucked it down the sides of a sofa, only for her to dig it up one afternoon and sit on a cushion instead! It was a red cushion, and small enough to chuck in the washing machine, but still. There’s no washing machine big enough to fit the arm of a chair in, so keep those cleaning sprays nearby!

    A very sleepy Winnie on one of her blankets
    A very sleepy Winnie on one of her blankets

    We like to keep down waste too, so we tend to sacrifice a washable cloth or sponge early on to save us from wasting endless paper towels and tissue. In the first few days of caring for Winnie, we read online that a dog owner had used nappies for her pup. After finding out how expensive dog nappies are, we figured baby nappies could do the same thing, so we measured Winnie’s waist and went out to buy a pack from Tesco. We put one on Winnie and she absolutely hated it! She was so fluffy that she couldn’t walk well in it, and it kept sliding off. After five minutes we took it off and resolved to just put blankets down! Luckily, we were able to gift the rest of the nappies to Suze’s sister for her actual baby. Learn from us – it’s easier, and much less wasteful, to just wash blankets and clean up after your girl.

    Aside from all this, as always it’s important to make sure your pup is eating well and has access to enough water. Stay in touch with your home owner and update them if anything seems out of the ordinary – it can be difficult to know what ‘normal’ looks like if you’ve only cared for the dog for a few days, but any major change in her behaviour is worth mentioning to be on the safe side.

    We hope you find these tips helpful! It can be difficult to care for a pup going through the stages of bleeding and feeling dozy, but it’s just an excuse to give her a lot of love and enjoy some snuggles together. For more house sitting tales and doggie tips, head to our blog or our Instagram. Leave a comment below with your experiences, or chat to us directly – we love to hear from you!