Nothing lures in a pack of male dogs like a female in heat.
Unfortunately, this can also make things difficult for you on morning walks and increase the risk of an accidental pregnancy.
So what steps can you take to mask your dog’s scent without locking them up?
According to our research, these are the 12 best ways to mask the scent of a dog in heat:
1. Use menthol spray or balm
The easiest and most effective way to mask your dog’s scent is to apply some menthol to their body. For one, dogs hate the smell of menthol. And second, you can find a bunch of menthol products (sprays, lotions, balms) in almost any pet shop.
Apply some menthol between your dog’s shoulders and tail; the strong smell masks your dog’s scent—keeping males at a distance.
Apply some menthol before taking them out for a walk. Just be careful not to apply it on broken skin or areas your dog can lick easily, as menthol can cause digestive upset if consumed.
2. Clean your dog’s privates frequently
During their heat cycles, female dogs will have a discharge that can spread their scent. By cleaning their privates, you can both mask their odor and prevent bacterial infections.
We recommend using a scented shampoo specifically for dogs’ privates. Also, ensure the shampoo is pH balanced as harsh chemicals can irritate delicate skin in those areas.
First, take your dog to the bathroom and pour warm water over its rear end. Gently shampoo the area while wearing a glove and remove any visible residue on the fur. Then, rinse the area with water and dry it with a towel.
Most dogs will naturally be grumpy during their heat cycles and protest when being washed. If you have trouble with the first method, you can use dog grooming wipes to clean their private parts instead. Using wipes is more convenient and saves time vs. washing and drying your dog 2 to 3 times a day.
3. Try doggy colognes and perfumes
Perfumes and colognes are another way to mask the scents of a female dog in heat. You can find numerous dog-exclusive perfumes in pet shops and online stores free of alcohol and parabens (ethanol is toxic to dogs).
Some contain aloe vera and vitamins to nourish your dog’s skin and make their coat healthier. Just pick one that smells good to you and gently spray it over your dog’s body from a distance of 6-8 inches, especially on their tail area.
Although a perfume or cologne won’t completely mask your female dog’s odor, it will prevent every dog in your neighborhood from going haywire. Plus, it never hurts to have your dog smell like fresh lavender!
4. Add chlorophyll to your dog’s water
Dog owners use a nifty trick that greatly reduces the scent of female dogs in heat. They add chlorophyll to their water. Chlorophyll is a natural deodorant that travels through the body and absorbs all bad odors from the urine of canines.
Fortunately, any owner can implement this tip as chlorophyll is available in almost every pet shop.
You can feed your dog chlorophyll with their food or water. Buy some tablets from your local pet store, measure the required dosage, and crumble them into your dog’s regular meals. Or, you could get chlorophyll in liquid form and mix it into your pup’s water.
For the best results, start dosing your dog a few weeks before their heat cycle begins to give the herb enough time to soak all pheromones from your dog’s urine.
Chlorophyll has other health benefits, including:
- Detoxifying the body
- Fights infections
- Reduces the risk of cancer
- Heals wounds quicker
- Promotes digestive health
- Boosts the immune system
5. Apply essential oils
We’re all familiar with the therapeutic benefits of essential oils, and they are also quite effective at masking the scent of dogs in heat. The powerful aroma of essential oils travels quite far and can distract other dogs from the odor of your female.
Here are some of the safest essential oils you can purchase for dogs that can help you mask their odor:
Never use essential oils in their pure form; dilute them with olive, avocado, or coconut oil before application. You also don’t want your dog to ingest the essential oil, so only apply it where they can’t reach, such as the back of their neck.
Certain essential oils can be dangerous or even toxic for canines. Try to purchase pet-safe options and avoid the following oils in all cases:
- Ylang ylang
- Sweet birch
6. Regularly bathe your dog
No dog likes a bath. But a few extra showers can be worthwhile when limiting your dog’s scent. It can help eliminate any discharge that would otherwise get stuck in your pup’s coat and spread pheromones around.
Try using a scented shampoo as a double-action solution to cover your dog’s natural odor. Most vets recommend bathing dogs once every month, but you can safely give them a quick shower 2 to 3 times a month if they don’t suffer from dry skin or coat problems.
7. Spray enzymatic odor removers around the house
Discharge can become a big problem during a dog’s heat cycle. It can leave tough stains on furniture and emit pheromones that attract male dogs. But with an enzymatic cleaner, you can kill two birds with one stone.
Spraying some on urine/discharge spots will not only make it easier to remove the stain, but it will also break down the odor molecules. If you own male and female dogs, we highly recommend using enzymatic cleaners to avoid a romantic male.
8. Spray ammonia in your yard
When your dog goes to pee in the yard, they can leave behind their heat scent, which will be detected by other dogs in your neighborhood. And the last thing you want is to have strays roaming in your garden or triggering every male in a mile’s radius.
Luckily, you can always use ammonia in these situations. The strong odor of ammonia will mask nearly all of the pheromones from your dog’s pee, protecting your pup from any curious males that might stray into your home.
9. Avoid taking your dog for walks
When in heat, female dogs emit a pheromone that other canines can detect from up to five miles away! Any male dog that gets a whiff of this scent will become aggressive, agitated, and whine loudly.
Moreover, if they fail to mate, the male dog will become stressed and might even lose its appetite. That’s why keeping your dog at home during their heat cycle is recommended. Not only will it spare other owners from worry, but it will also prevent any male dog from accidentally mating with your female.
10. Put diapers to catch discharge
Cleaning up after your dog’s discharge is crucial if you don’t want to ruin your carpet or spread its odor. Fortunately, there are several doggy diaper options designed specifically for this purpose.
Make sure you’re buying the right size, and change it regularly after they become soiled. It’s also a good idea to keep the diaper on when taking your dog for walks to prevent accidental mating.
How female dog heat cycles work
In simple words, a heat cycle is the pet-equivalent of periods. It is also referred to as ‘Estrus’ and first occurs when a female dog reaches puberty. During this time, your dog will undergo several body changes and make it known to other males that she is ready to become pregnant.
Owners must take precautionary measures during this period to avoid accidental pregnancy. Your pup will also need extra love and care so they can pass through the cycle easily.
When do dogs experience their first heat cycle?
Most female dogs will reach puberty and experience their first heat cycle at six months. But for smaller breeds, this figure can be lower. Similarly, large and giant breeds will have their first estrus cycle later, somewhere around 18 to 24 months of age.
Luckily, dogs don’t go through heat every month as humans do. Most canines will experience just two cycles a year, depending on their size. A smaller dog might have estrus thrice a year, while a larger dog will be in heat just once a year.
You can expect each heat cycle to last around 16 to 18 days. Again, this range can vary depending on the size and breed of your dog.
Signs of heat cycle in dogs
When dogs enter a heat cycle, they display several signs and symptoms hinting they are in season. Probably the first one you will notice is the bloody discharge. This discharge will contain more blood in the first few stages but will become lighter in color as the cycle progresses. You might also notice that your dog’s vulva has become red and swollen
Since females are motivated to mate during heat, they will be giving hints to other canines. One of the ways they do this is through peeing. The pee of a female dog in estrus contains pheromones that signal she is in heat. These pheromones are only detectable by other dogs.
Because dogs possess an incredible sense of smell, they can smell these pheromones from up to five miles away! If you take your female out for walks during their cycle, you will also notice them being overly friendly with other males. Keep an eye on your dog during this period and restrict their outdoor access if you want to avoid pregnancy.
Do female dogs stop having heat cycles?
Unlike humans, canines do not reach menopause. They will remain fertile and continue to have heat cycles till death. Having your female spayed will stop it from coming into heat.
In a spay operation, the ovaries and uterus of a female dog are removed, sterilizing them for life. As bad as it sounds, the operation has a very high success rate and is known to increase the lifespan of dogs.
But the benefits don’t stop there. Since your dog will no longer have heat cycles, it also won’t have to experience any symptoms or behavior changes. You won’t have to worry about masking your dog’s scent, protecting them from accidental pregnancy, or cleaning up their discharge.
According to research, spaying dogs also reduces their risk of developing certain diseases, such as:
- Pyometra (Urine infection)
- Breast cancer
- Uterine or ovarian cancer
Veterinarians recommend getting your dog spayed before their first heat cycle, which is around 6 to 7 months of age. It normally takes 5 to 7 days for your dog to recover from spaying.
Are neutered dogs attracted to females in heat?
Yes, a neutered dog will still be attracted to a female in heat and be able to mate with her. But due to their lower testosterone level, most will not engage or behave as aggressively as a non-neutered dog.
Do dogs get period cramps?
No, female dogs don’t get period cramps like humans. However, they will face some discomfort due to the discharge and seek more attention from their owners. If your pup is crying excessively during their heat cycle and seems in pain, it’s best to get them checked by a vet.
Should dogs have puppies before being spayed?
There is a common misbelief that having at least one litter before spaying will make a female dog calmer. However, there is no scientific proof or evidence of this phenomenon, and most vets recommend spaying females before their first heat cycle.
How to tell if your female dog is pregnant?
If your female mated during their heat cycle, they will begin to lose their appetite in the two weeks that follow. Moreover, their nipples might also become swollen, and they sleep more than usual.