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Golden Retriever First Heat and Cycle: Simplified

Last Updated: December 23, 2023

Experiencing your Golden Retriever’s first heat can be a new and sometimes concerning experience for many pet owners. If you’ve noticed that your unspayed Golden Retriever is frequently urinating, has a swollen and red vulva, and is exhibiting bloody discharge, rest assured, these are typical signs of a dog in heat.

A Golden Retriever’s first heat and cycle occur around the age of 9 to 12 months. This is the first time your dog is fertile and ready to reproduce. Your Golden will then go into heat every 6 months. A dog’s heat cycles happen in four phases, but the heat (estrus phase) lasts only 4-15 days.

There’s no need for alarm; these symptoms indicate that your Golden Retriever is undergoing her natural reproductive cycle.

In this article, we’ll guide you through understanding this phase, what to expect, and how to provide the best care for your pet during her first heat.

Golden Retriever Laying Down

Stages of The Canine Heat Cycle

Golden Retriever puppies are known for being gentle, playful, and affectionate. But most dog lovers know that they don’t stay pups for long!

A hormonal change sequence occurs during a Golden Retriever’s heat cycle. The time of first heat marks the onset of fertility, and it’s repeated every 6 months for the rest of your dog’s life. 

While some age-related variations will occur during your dog’s life, a Golden Retriever’s menstrual cycle typically happens in four stages.

1. Proestrus

The proestrus stage in a canine fertility period is the initial period of the cycle and lasts around 4-20 days. The following signs characterize this period:

  • Swollen vulva and teats.
  • Frequent urination.
  • Bleeding – may be more noticeable in some dogs than others. 
  • A darkened lower abdomen.
  • Attracting male dogs, but not necessarily ready to mate.
  • Tucking in the tail to cover her vulva and keep away the males.
  • “Mood swings” whereby your Golden may become more quiet or anxious.

Some dogs may also clean themselves as part of self-grooming, making it hard for you to notice any bleeding that might occur. It’s important to be vigilant during this stage so that you’re aware of the changes happening.

Unlike humans, female dogs do not shed the lining of their uterus due to an unfertilized egg. Canine bleeding is due to increased blood flow to the area in preparation for the fertile stage.

2. Estrus

Estrus is the primary stage in the female Golden Retriever’s ovulation process. It’s when ovulation occurs. At this point, your dog is ready to mate. 

Estrus lasts between 4 and 15 days and is characterized by the following: 

  • Change in the discharge color. This is a pinkish/brownish liquid and not the blood-stained discharge of the proestrus stage.
  • A ‘flagged’ tail, raised and no longer hiding the vulva. This is a direct sign your dog is getting ready to mate.
  • Seeking out male dogs. If your Retriever has become more active and aggressive in seeking out other dogs, this could be a sign they are in the Estrus phase.

Learn About When Your Dog Is In Heat In This Video…

3. Diestrus

The diestrus phase is marked by a rest period. If your dog hasn’t conceived during the estrus period, her body will rest in preparation for the next heat season.

Diestrus in Golden Retrievers lasts around 60 days. Although your dog may still carry the scent of the heat period, her fertile window has now closed.

4. Anestrus

The final phase in the heat cycle chart is the anestrus stage, which lasts around 90 days. This is the period when your Golden Retriever gets ready for her next cycle, which will resume once more with the proestrus stage. 

If you’re planning to spay your Golden Retriever, the anestrus period is the most opportune time. I made a choice to neuter my dog at this stage.

Golden Retriever sitting

Menstrual Cycle Timeline

Golden Retrievers come into heat when they’re around 6 months old. However, it’s typical for some larger breeds to go into heat later than 6 months. Therefore, most Golden Retrievers come into heat around 9-12 months.

Note: Golden Retrievers may also come into heat at a later age. Some dogs will even go into heat at 18 or 24 months. These variations are all within the norm and depend on the individual dog.

While your dog may be in heat, this does not necessarily mean she is prepared to procreate.

“Experienced dog breeders know it is best to wait until the second heat, if possible the third. This gives them time to come fully into the cycle before breeding. ” – World of Dogz

In fact, your Retriever’s eggs are not fully mature for reproduction at the first heat, and waiting for the second or third heat ensures a healthier gestation. By this time, your dog’s body will also be ready for pregnancy. 

Average Heat Period

A Golden Retriever’s first fertility time lasts 4 to 15 days and corresponds to the estrus stage. During these days, your Golden is fertile and can get pregnant if she mates. 

Note, however, that a female Golden Retriever can get pregnant if she mates before the estrus period. This is because canine spermatozoa are mobile in the female’s genital tract and can feasibly survive for approximately 11 days. 

You may have read that a dog’s initial and subsequent heat seasons continue for two to four weeks. This is because many people assume the proestrus and estrus stages of the heat cycle to be included in the heat period.

Tired Golden Retriever.

Signs Your Golden Retriever Is Going Into Heat

You’ll know when your Golden Retriever is in the estrus stage by observing your dog for distinct physical and behavioral signs, including:

  • Frequent urination.
  • A swollen vulva and enlarged teats.
  • A change in the color of discharge (pinkish instead of blood-stained).
  • A tail that is positioned to the side (flagging).
  • A loss of appetite.

Additionally, your dog can become more hostile against other female dogs and show heightened interest in male dogs. Urine marking, excitement, and repeated genital licking indicate that an animal is ready to mate.

“If you have an intact dog and don’t want to breed her, you should keep your dog on a leash while you go for walks at this time because your pet will be aggressively looking for a sexual partner.” – World of Dogz

Caring for Your Dog In Heat

When a Golden Retriever is in the menstrual period, additional love and care are needed. Your dog will change physically and emotionally over the season, so you must give her extra attention.

  1. Keep your dog engaged to distract her from the discomfort of the hormonal changes during the heat period. Playing games, offering treat-filled toys, or taking short walks can help keep her happy and calm.
  2. Keep your Golden away from male dogs, both at home and outdoors, if you don’t intend to breed her. This entails keeping her on a leash during walks, not leaving her alone in the backyard or garden, and keeping her in a separate room in the home. 
  3. Keep your dog from carpeted areas of the home, couches, and bedding during the bleeding phase of the heat cycle. Alternatively, you can use dog diapers to stop the blood from staining possessions. Choose Simple Solution Disposable Dog Diapers from Amazon. These have a better fit due to the stretchable fabric that fits perfectly around your dog. If your dog is trying to lick her genitals while in a diaper, consider removing it for some time to give her a chance to self-groom.
  4. If your Golden Retriever needs extra rest, always allow this. Also, ease your dog’s exercise routine during the proestrus and estrus phases of the heat cycle, as she may feel a bit low-energy and under the weather.
  5. Ensure your dog gets all the recommended nutrients in her meal during heat, including enough fresh drinking water. If your Golden prefers a different meal, consider giving it to her to boost her appetite. However, always consult your vet about changing your dog’s diet, even just for a few meals.
  6. Keep the surrounding environment calm and free of extreme noise or disturbance. Your dog is sensitive to stress during this period and may want peace and quiet.
  7. If your Golden shows extreme discomfort or signs of pain in the swollen vulva, use heating pads to give some relief. I like the RIOGOO Pet Heating Pad as it has an auto power-off function for extra safety, is waterproof, and is machine washable. Consult a vet if the uneasiness or pain doesn’t seem typical.

Note: Clicking the above link(s) will take you to Amazon or an online store where we have an affiliate relationship. If you make a purchase, we may earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

Your Golden Retriever may show unique characteristics and needs during heat. Be attentive and consult your vet about any unusual signs you do not know how to address.  

Golden Retriever Yawning.

Frequency of Golden Retriever Heat Cycles

Golden Retrievers go into heat twice a year, approximately every 6 months, which is typical of large dog breeds. Smaller dogs may go into heat 3-4 times a year, and the largest breeds only once a year. 

There’s an approximate 6-month interval between heat cycles in Golden Retrievers. This may change depending on your dog and her body clock.

How often your Golden Retriever goes into heat may vary and is contingent upon the following factors:


After a Golden Retriever’s first heat cycle, subsequent heat cycles may be a bit irregular initially but will become more consistent with time. If your dog is experiencing irregular cycles, you may want to talk to a vet to determine if this is normal or if there are underlying causes. 

Instead, older Golden Retrievers will have slowed cycles with fewer heat seasons. Despite this, your dog will still experience estrus her entire life and can still get pregnant despite the reduced estrus seasons.


As in humans, gestation delays menstrual periods and fertility seasons. Similarly, the interestrus interval, or the period between estrus seasons, is prolonged in dogs after whelping. 

A study on the effects of whelping and season of the year on the interestrous intervals in dogs reported that some had a regular 6-month estrus interval under normal circumstances, but the interval was prolonged by 58 days in others who went into gestation.


Though seasonality is generally considered a non-factor in estrus frequency in Golden Retrievers and other breeds, it is not an impossibility. This study of a few different breeds raised under a tropical climate found fewer estrus incidences in summer and, consequently, fewer occurrences of fertility and conception. 

Golden Retriever With Her Pups.


Do Golden Retrievers Experience Menopause?

Golden Retrievers don’t experience menopause. Once your Golden’s first heat occurs, she will have heat cycles for life. Even so, the estrus stage of her cycle will become irregular and shorter as your Golden ages. If your dog misses an estrus, you must rule out any medical conditions.

How Long Do Golden Retrievers Bleed When In Heat?

A Golden Retriever will bleed for between 7 and 10 days when in heat. The bleeding stage of the heat cycle is known as the proestrus. The fertile period then follows, called the estrus, and is recognizable as the bloody discharge subsides, becoming pink or clear.

Is a White Discharge Normal During a Golden Retriever’s Heat Season?

Your Golden Retriever should not have a white discharge during their heat season. It could be a sign of an infection in the reproductive tract, such as pyometra. If you notice any discharge other than blood-staining during proestrus and a pinkish or brownish discharge during estrus, have your dog checked by a vet.

Of note is that Golden Retrievers have an increased risk of pyometra, and scientists have even identified the exact gene associated with pyometra.

Must My Golden Retriever Have an Estrus Before Being Spayed?

Your Golden Retriever does not need to have her first heat to be spayed. However, it’s essential to know that sex hormones are a core factor in your dog’s development.

In fact, some studies on the age of neutering have shown that spaying your Golden Retriever before maturity (6 months) can predispose your dog to joint disorders like hip and elbow dysplasia, as well as some types of cancer like mast cell tumors and lymphoma.

Final Thoughts

Your Golden Retriever’s first heat marks the onset of your dog’s sexual maturity. This happens around 9-12 months but can be earlier or later in some dogs.

Once your Golden Retriever has had her first heat, the heat cycles are repeated every 6 months for the rest of her life.

I hope the article has taught you everything you need to know about caring for your Golden Retriever during the fertility cycle, especially showing a little more love for the uncomfortable proestrus changes and keeping her from males during estrus if she’s intact and you don’t intend to breed her. 

Sharon Waddington
Sharon Waddington is the founder of World of Dogz. With over 30 years of experience working with dogs, this former Police Officer has seen it all. But it’s her trusty German Shepherd, Willow, who steals the show as the inspiration behind this website. As Sharon’s constant companion Willow has played a pivotal role in shaping her passion for dogs. Recently, Sharon has become deeply passionate about the plight of rescue dogs and is an active advocate for dog rescue, striving to make a difference in the lives of dogs in need.

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