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Behavioral Reaction of Proestrus and Estrous in Dogs

Rachael Gerkensmeyer

June 3, 2021

Female dogs go through a heat cycle twice a year, during which time, they can mate and conceive babies. The first part of the heat cycle is referred to as the proestrus stage, while the second part of the cycle is referred to as the estrous stage. Both stages trigger different behavioral actions that can help owners decipher just where their dogs are at in their cycles. We have put together this comprehensive guide to help you understand the behavioral reactions during both proestrus and estrous that your dog may display. Here is what you need to know.

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The Proestrus Stage

This is the stage when a female dog is preparing to mate. They are not yet fertile and are not quite receptive to mating yet, but their hormones are starting to change and prepare the body for conception. Here are a few of the behaviors that your dog may display during the proestrus stage:

jack russell in heat
Image Credit: Reshetnikov_art, Shutterstock

  • Swollen Vulva. As blood starts to circulate and the vulva becomes ready for penetration, it will begin swelling up and turning pink or red. Your dog may begin to lick the area more often, and she may seem a little irritated by the situation.
  • Bloody discharge. While not a behavior, bloody discharge and a red tinge in urine are telltale signs of your dog being in the proestrus stage. Most dogs do not bleed enough to leave markings around the house, though larger breeds might need diapers if they experience excessive discharge.
  • Clinginess. Dogs in the proestrus phase may become clingy when spending time around their human companions or other dogs that they trust. They may want to snuggle more often or just stay by your side, whether you are washing dishes in the kitchen or enjoying an afternoon in the backyard.
  • Humping. The urge to hump other dogs or objects is common in females going through the proestrus stage. It does not matter what the sex of the other dog is or whether it is a human’s leg or a pillow that has fallen off the couch and onto the ground. The urge to hump can last for just one day or throughout the entire proestrus stage.
  • Restlessness. You might notice that your dog becomes restless or fidgety due to hormone changes during her heat cycle, especially during the proestrus stage. Your dog may not settle down as easily at night, and she may pace during the day until let outside to release pent-up energy. She may even act nervous when around groups of people or other dogs.

The Estrous Stage

The estrous stage happens when a female dog is ready for mating and conception. Behavior tends to change at this point for most dogs. No longer will your dog be nervous, and she will not continue trying to hump other animals, people, and things like she did during the proestrus stage. Here are the behaviors that you can expect from your dog during the estrous stage:

Dog sniffing dog in heat
Image Credit: atiger, Shutterstock

  • Frequent Urination. Dogs tend to urinate more often than usual during the estrous stage. Be prepared to take your dog out or let them into the yard several times throughout the day and a couple of times during the night. It may be necessary to put potty pads out if you cannot take her out throughout the day. 
  • Aggressiveness Toward Other Females. Dogs in heat, especially during the estrous stage, do not want to be around “the competition,” which is any other female dog. If you have more than one female dog, they may squabble during this stage and might need to be separated until the stage ends.
  • Extra Attention Toward Males. The estrous stage happens when a dog is ready to mate and make babies, so do not be surprised if your girl starts stalking any males that she makes contact with and then tries to get their attention. Your dog may rub up against male dogs, show her behind, or turn her tail to the side as an invitation to mate.

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Final Thoughts

Now that you know what kinds of behaviors to expect from your dog during the proestrus and estrous stages of her heat cycle, you can keep an eye out for the behaviors to determine whether she is in her cycle at any given time. Signs of these behaviors can help you avoid an unwanted pregnancy during all heat cycles and plan a wanted mating session when the time comes.


Featured Image Credit: Sigma_S, Shutterstock

Rachael Gerkensmeyer

Rachael has been a freelance writer since 2000, in which time she has had an opportunity to research and write about many different topics while working to master the art of fusing high-quality content with effective content marketing strategies. She is an artist at heart and loves to read, paint, and make jewelry in her spare time. As a vegan, Rachael is obsessed with helping animals in need both in her community and anywhere in the world where she feels she can make a difference. Animals also happen to be her favorite topic to write about! She lives off the grid in Hawaii with her husband, her garden, and her rescue animals including 5 dogs, a cat, a goat, and dozens of chickens.

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