Golden Retrievers Heat Cycle Explained

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Written by Teresa Eckert

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You just got your first golden retriever and it’s a girl!  She’s adorable, playful and comes from a great line of golden retrievers. 

An important event in a female golden retriever's life is their heat cycle. It is important to know when your golden will go into heat and how long their heat will last. 

Well, most female pups will not enter their heat cycles until around 6 months (normal for smaller breed dogs).  Golden retrievers are more likely to have their first heat cycle at about 10 to 14 months; with giant breeds starting at 18 to 24 months. 

Keep in mind, these are ranges and it could be earlier or later as every dog is different. It is important to track when your dog has their first heat cycle.  For the most part, their timing should become regular after the first cycle.

Signs Your Golden Is In Heat

On an average, a dog’s heat cycle can last anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks.  Again, all dogs are different and may be exhibit signs at different times. 


We know that your dog is not only experiencing hormonal changes, but visible and behavioral changes as well.  Here are some of the changes you can look for:

  • Swollen vulva
  • Bleeding or discharge
  • Excessive licking of the genital area
  • Frequent urination
  • Abnormal mounting behavior
  • Increased movement caused by nervousness or alertness
  • Nesting behavior
  • Personality changes – more affectionate, clingier, playful

There are different thoughts in regards to the excessive licking in the genital area.  Some believe it is your dog’s way of cleaning herself due to the bleeding and discharge.  While some feel that the area is tender and sensitive due to excessive blood flow. Either way, it definitely helps with the possible mess. 

Stages of a Golden's Heat Cycle

It is important to know your golden’s behavior and signs as she goes in and out of heat. This will help you know what stage she may be in, what is going on with her physically and how to address her needs during each phase. 


Remember every golden is different so the time ranges may vary from dog to dog, as well as, the behavior. 


Stage 1 – Proestrus

  • Stage can last from 4-20 days, average is 7-10 days
  • Swollen vulva – 3 to 4 times larger than normal
  • Discharge – note first day you notice blood – mark “Day 1” on calendar (important for tracking)
  • Pheromones – produced during heat and attracts male dogs 
  • Behavior change – clingier to family, may growl and snap at male dogs

Stage 2 – Estrus

  • Stage can last from 5-14 days
  • Fertile time – actual heat time
  • Discharge – around day 8-9, changes from red color to the color of straw; most golden’s discharge remain pink in color 
  • Instinct to breed, willing to mate, also known as “standing heat”
  • Will move tail to side, signaling willingness to mate, also known as “flagging”

Stage 3 – Diestrus

  • Usually starts at day 24, can last 60-90 days
  • Your golden is not fertile at this time
  • Discharge will go from straw color back to red, and then stop
  • Your golden will still have a scent, so do not take her out until the bleeding has completely stopped.
  • Will not allow a male to mount her, may get aggressive

Stage 4 – Anestrus

  • Final stage of heat cycle
  • Your golden’s body returns to normal
  • Cycle can last 60 to 90 days
  • When it is over, heat cycle starts all over again

Tips to Remember

  • Dogs heat cycle may vary on their size 
  • Heat cycle should become regular after first one
  • Do not let your golden become pregnant during the first heat cycle
  • Signs of heat cycle – swollen vulva, discharge, behavior changes, etc.
  • 4 stages of heat cycle – Proestrus, Estrus, Diestrus, Anestrus

About the author

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Teresa Eckert

Teresa is a co-founder of Golden Retriever Love and is the fur-mom to Annie the Golden Retriever and Remi the Chocolate Lab. Teresa enjoys spoiling her pups and occasionally writing some great content for us on this blog!

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