GSDs usually come into season between 7 and 11 months. See See, the female I kept from Jane’s last litter, just turned 10 months old, and she has not been in heat yet. However, I just heard from her sister’s owner, and was informed that she had started her heat cycle. If any of the other females in the litter have started their heat cycles, I would like to hear about it.
This brings up the idea of spaying and when to do it. All the people who purchased one of my puppies were told about a recent study that determined that German Shepherds specifically should not be spayed or neutered until 24 months for the best orthopedic outcomes. This information is worth repeating because it is so important. While orhopedic problems such as hip and elbow dysplasia are affected by genetics, nutrition, and environment, they are also impacted by hormones, or the lack of them. Spaying female GSDs before age two is also linked to a higher incidence of urinary incontinence. Here is the link to the study:
For a quick reference, here are the authors and credentials of the study:
Here is the paragraph specific to German Shepherds:
And here is the chart of all 35 breeds studied for comparison:
When discussing when to spay or neuter your GSD with your veterinarian, please keep this study in mind. I am a big believer in spaying and neutering, because I sincerely believe that doing so reduces animal suffering overall. However, I also know that responsible pet owners can take precautions to make sure that their dogs are not breeding, and to devise ways to minimize the inconvenience of having a female in heat, or a male who is tempted and starting to push boundaries and feel his oats (hormones). Remember that this is not a lifetime, but for a few weeks at a time for females, a few times before age two, and occasionally at random times for males.
First, I will offer some hopefully helpful suggestions to get through a heat cycle which typically occurs every 6 months, and what to expect. Sometimes when a female first goes into heat, she gets a little moody, or sort of pouty or sulky. I think this is just because they don’t feel good and they don’t know what is happening. Their appetite may be off. My females tend to get clingy, and want to cuddle. The heat cycle lasts about 28 days, but you won’t see blood the whole time. You will first notice your female licking herself a lot, and you will notice blood drops on the floor. No puddles, just a few drops here and there. These can be easily wiped up from most floors with a damp paper towel. Not so easy if you have carpet. I suggest confining your female to an area with no carpet during the first 2 weeks. Some people use a diaper type pad to keep their female from dripping onto carpet, because they don’t want to keep her in another area away from the family. The pads are available at pet stores or online. I have never tried this, but some people say it works well. Usually the blood turns to a amber colored discharge on about day 9 or 10. This is when she is most fertile. By day 15, the flow is usually gone, but there is still swelling. She could still be fertile. DO NOT make the mistake of thinking that if the blood flow has stopped, her heat cycle is over. She will be attractive to males until at least day 21, and usually for another week. Until day 28, do not take your dog anywhere where there might be loose dogs. The messiness is a lot less time than the whole cycle, but you must pay attention to the timing! When her heat cycle is done, give her a good allover bath and change her bedding to reduce smells that can continue to attract males.
Males. Yes, they have their own issues. It is around the 10 month mark that males are getting physically big, and they start to realize their strength. They start to think more independently, and can start to act territorial. The sweet puppy who loved everybody can start to sound ferocious. This is when people start thinking of neutering. I disagree. Females also start to push boundaries and guard territory at this age. It is part of the maturing process. Obedience training is the answer. Hopefully you have already done basic obedience and leash manners. If not, start. And do it yourself! The best training is the training you do yourself! Go to a class where the trainer teaches you to train your dog. The most important thing you can teach is the recall. Repeat and repeat. I’m going through this with Clyde right now. He is more distracted than he used to be, and dang he is strong! Another behavior of intact males is pacing and whining for no apparent reason. Well, the reason is obvious to them…. They can smell a female in heat a mile away! This is the behavior that will most likely change once he is neutered, plus all the ridiculous peeing. In the meantime, remember, a tired dog is a good dog!
Both males and females will try to mount other dogs. If there are no females in heat around, you can be sure this is about dominance and/or play. This happens with young puppies and adults, and is instinctive behavior. Distracting dogs when they do this at inopportune times works best. Play fetch, run, do some obedience.
Both males and females start to develop secondary sex characteristics around 10 months too. I will do another post on that, which also relates to spaying and neutering.
I hope this information is not too much, or not enough. Please comment or write to me directly! I look forward to hearing from you! When you use this form, it goes right to my email.
2 thoughts on “Spaying, neutering, behavior changes, and heat cycles in German Shepherd Dogs”
I just heard about this study. I wonder if waiting to spay Ellie would have helped to prevent her hip arthritis. She was spayed at 4 months old by the shelter.
Could be. I’m guessing she is mostly Labrador, and the study does say after 1 year is best for female labs. If her arthritis is due to hip dysplasia, then I would say it didn’t help for her to be spayed so early. In the study, they narrowed their findings to HD (hip dysplasia), CCL (cranial crucial elements ligament ruptures or tears), and ED (elbow dysplasia), which they then call as a group “joint disorders”. So, other joint disorders weren’t studied. I understand why the shelters do that though.
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