Female Dog Behavior


No one knows for sure if there are behavior differences in dogs according to gender. What is known is that a female dog will exhibit certain behaviors depending on her physical status. For example, a dog in estrus behaves differently than one who is not.

Heat Behavior

When a female dog is not spayed, or intact, she will eventually experience a heat cycle, which allows her to mate and reproduce. Depending on the breed, a dog's first heat cycle may start as young as 6 months old to as late as 24 months. Regardless of when a dog begins estrus, her behavior is basically the same and is sexual in nature due to her increased hormone levels. In addition to the physical signs of heat, a dog's behavior will include:

  • Appearing alert and distracted 
  • Acting clingy toward people 
  • Increased urination
  • Elevating her rear toward male dogs
  • Tail flagging or waving.

Pregnant Dog Behavior

If your dog successfully mates, her behavior will change as her pregnancy progresses and she prepares for birth. Days before her puppies are due she'll engage in nesting behavior, as hormones such as progesterone are released. During this time she may wander off to places she normally ignores or she may hide as she seeks the right place to deliver her puppies. She also may be more affectionate or irritable than normal during pregnancy.

Mothering Behavior

A mother dog's job is to feed, warm and protect her puppies. When puppies nurse, a variety of hormones are activated to help control milk production and cement the dog's protective instincts, prompting guarding behavior of the litter. During the first 10 days of her puppies' lives, a new mother dog spends most of her time tending to her brood, nursing and grooming them as they grow. As the puppies mature, the mother remains attentive, though it shifts to watching her puppies as they learn to explore, which is usually starting about three weeks after birth. At this point a mother dog will start discouraging clingy behavior of her pups, preparing them for independent lives.

Occasionally a dog won't behave in typical maternal behavior, but instead may engage in inadequate or excessive mothering. Inadequate maternal behavior includes:

  • Not allowing puppies to nurse
  • Poorly grooming puppies
  • Abandoning puppies
  • Behaving aggressively toward puppies
  • Not stimulating puppies' elimination.

Excessive maternal behavior includes attempting to nurse unfamiliar puppies and guarding inanimate objects, such as stuffed toys. Unusual maternal behavior is often hormone-related and should be reviewed by a veterinarian.

Spayed Dog Behavior

When a dog's ovaries and uterus are surgically removed, she won't experience the ups and downs caused by hormones such as estrogen and progesterone, a factor during her heat cycle, pregnancy and nursing. Spaying a dog doesn't affect her overall personality, however it will change some behaviors. She will not experience the increased urination she may have during a heat cycle, nor will she engage in hormone-related behaviors, such as roaming to find a mate.

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