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Golden Retriever First Heat and Cycle: What To Expect

If your Golden Retriever hasn’t been neutered, and you’ve observed that your dog is frequently urinating and has a swollen and red vulva with bloody discharge, there’s nothing to worry about; your Golden Retriever is just 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.

Even though it may seem complicated, you may quickly spot these changes by watching your dog. It will, however, be easier for you to understand the changes occurring if you are aware of what the initial heat and cycle entail.

This article will cover:

  • What happens in a Golden Retriever’s first heat.
  • When a Retriever’s first heat occurs.
  • Signs your dog is in heat.
  • Caring for your Golden Retriever when in heat.
Golden Retriever First Heat

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So, if you want to know all about your Golden Retriever’s first heat and what to expect, you won’t be disappointed. Let’s begin!

What Happens When a Golden Retriever Goes Into Heat?

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 heat cycle typically happens in four stages.

Stage 1: Proestrus Stage

The proestrus stage in a Golden Retriever heat cycle 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.

Stage 2: Estrus Stage

Estrus is the primary stage in the female Golden Retriever’s heat cycle. It’s the heat period or ‘season’ and the fertile phase of the cycle 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…

Dog Periods: When your dog is in heat and bleeding
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Scientists can also identify the estrus cycle of female dogs by vaginal cytology to achieve a higher fertility rate. This technique is based on determining the type and quantity of six types of cells during the different stages of the estrous cycle, which will differ due to hormonal changes in the vaginal mucosa.

Stage 3: Diestrus Stage

The diestrus phase in a Golden Retriever’s heat cycle 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.

Stage 4: Anestrus Stage

The final phase of a Golden Retriever’s heat cycle 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 in this stage of her first heat cycle.

Golden Retriever Heat and Cycle

What Age Does a Golden Retriever Come Into Heat?

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.

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 depends on the individual dog.

Even while your dog may be in heat, this does not necessarily mean that she is prepared to procreate. Experienced breeders of Golden Retrievers 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. 

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. 

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How Long Are Golden Retrievers In Heat?

A Golden Retriever’s first heat lasts between 4 to 15 days and corresponds to the estrus stage of the heat cycle. 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. 

It’s possible that you’ve 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.

“But, strictly speaking, a dog’s heat period is the estrus phase. This is when she’s ready to mate and is fertile enough to get pregnant.”

World of Dogz
Tired Golden Retriever. How Long Are Golden Retrievers In Heat?

What Are The Signs of a Golden Retriever Going Into Heat?

You’ll know when your Golden Retriever is in heat 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 Golden Retriever 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.

How To Care for a Golden Retriever In Heat

When a Golden Retriever is in heat, additional love and love and care are needed. Your dog will change physically and emotionally over the season, so you’ll need to give her extra attention.

Here’s how to care for a Golden Retriever in heat:

  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 shows the need for 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 from the usual, consider giving it to her to boost her appetite. However, always consult your vet about changing your dog’s diet, even if just for a few meals.
  6. Keep the surrounding environment calm and free of extreme noise or disturbance. Your dog is sensitive to any form of 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 from Amazon 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.

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. How To Care for a Golden Retriever In Heat.

How Often Do Golden Retrievers Go Into Heat?

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 months 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. How Often Do Golden Retrievers Go Into Heat?

Golden Retriever Heat Cycle FAQs

Below there are a few Golden Retriever heat cycle facts to quell any concerns you may have since getting to grips with everything about your dog’s first heat and cycle can be challenging.

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 heat 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. Find her on Linkedin!