12 Signs Your Doberman Is in Heat

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Female Doberman experiencing her heat cycle resting on the tile with her owner.

There are many ways to tell if your Doberman is in heat. This is critical information for a breeder to know as this can dictate the timing of the dog’s reproductive cycle and help determine when the mating process should occur. But not surprisingly, even Doberman owners who aren’t breeding their dog will likely want to know exactly when their dog is going into heat because there are certainly some changes (including moodiness, for example) that female Dobermans go through while they’re in heat.

When a female Doberman is in heat, hormonal changes in the body will cause her to exhibit physical and behavioral changes including swelling of the vulva, bloody discharge, mounting behaviors, and increased irritability.

When your dog is in “season” (another word for being in heat), many owners need to accommodate this by putting a female dog diaper on their Doberman, keeping her separate from other dogs in the house, or even pampering their dog to make up for some of the discomfort she’s feeling.

There are a few signs that can display in female Dobermans that will help you determine if she’s in heat. While most will display both behavioral changes and physical changes, some may not display any behavioral changes at all. Below are some of the common signs that can help you determine if your Doberman is in heat. The more of these signs your Doberman is displaying, the more likely she’s in heat.

1. Swollen Vulva Region

Swelling of the Vulva region in a Doberman is the earliest and one of the most consistent signs that a female Doberman is beginning her heat cycle. The vulva is the outer-most portion of the female reproductive organs and is located just underneath the anus. It includes the opening of the vagina. In Dobermans, the vulva will become larger and may also appear red in color. This usually occurs right before your Doberman goes into heat.

2. Vaginal Bleeding and Discharge

Another one of the most common physical signs that a Doberman is going into heat, is a bloody discharge coming from the dog’s Vulva. After your Doberman has entered her heat cycle, this bleeding may decrease.

The discharge may eventually turn from a red color to a straw-colored discharge. This is generally considered normal and is an indicator that your Doberman is ready to breed. You may think this is an obvious sign to look for, but it can be difficult to notice in Dobermans at times as they generally like to stay clean and may be constantly licking this area as a way to cleanse themselves. That brings us to the next sign.

3. Frequent Licking

A Doberman that is frequently licking her underside around her vulva may be nearing her heat cycle. This is due to your dog trying to clean herself from the discharge. This behavior is more common in Dobermans than in many other breeds.

Not all female Dobermans will engage in this behavior, but it could help you determine if she is nearing or if she has entered into her heat cycle if you do see it, especially if it is accompanied by blood.

4. Changes in Urination Behavior

If your female Doberman is in heat, you may notice that she’s frequently lifting her leg or squatting in a different manner than normal when she’s urinating. She may also be urinating in different areas than she does normally. Instinctually, this is a way they “spread their scent” (her pheromones) in an attempt to find a mate.

Any sudden changes to the location and manner in which your Doberman is urinating may be a sign that she is about to be in season. This is often seen as short moments of brief urination on objects in a dog who usually empties the entirety of her bladder in one squat.

5. Increased Anxiety or Agitation

Dobermans who are in the beginning stages of their heat cycle may develop seemingly abnormal behaviors that they don’t normally display. You may notice your dog hiding under the table, cowering, or acting more irritated. Your Doberman may also bark more frequently or even have bouts of aggression.

6. Mounting Behaviors

Your Doberman may display mating behaviors such as mounting objects or other dogs while she’s in her heat cycle. Mounting an object or another dog without any other signs does not necessarily mean that your Doberman is in heat, however. When a Doberman is in heat, mounting is typically accompanied by some of the other signs on this list.

7. Unusual Tail Positioning

The way your Doberman positions her tail can also be an indicator if she’s in heat. Near the beginning of your Doberman’s heat cycle, she may be tucking her tail more often in an attempt to protect her swollen vulva region. This is especially true when other dogs are nearby.

However, later on in her cycle, her tail may become raised or she may hold her tail to the side in the presence of males, as this would be needed for mating.

8. Tucking or Raising Her Rear End

A female Doberman who is early in her heat cycle will often tuck her rear end, or even sit down more frequently when other dogs approach. This is done in an attempt to protect her vulva. However, later in the heat cycle, she may be noticeably more inclined to raise her rear end up, especially when male dogs are in the area.

9. Appetite Changes

Your female Doberman may show appetite changes around the time that her heat cycle begins or a ways into her heat cycle. She may start experiencing an increased or decreased appetite. Although this is normal during a heat cycle, in both cases, you may want to consult with your veterinarian if your Doberman is experiencing changes in appetite just to be safe as this can also be a sign of other health issues.

Just be sure that you’re always feeding her a quality diet of food that has a proven track record with other Doberman owners.

10. More Affectionate

During her heat cycle, you may notice that your female Doberman wants to be closer to you and wants more affection from you. She may seek you out more or follow you around your home. She may even be more vocal than she was before, especially if you aren’t giving her the attention she desires.

11. More Irritable

Although some female Dobermans become more affectionate, there are also some that may become more irritable. Even still, some Dobermans may experience severe mood changes that cause them to switch back and forth. A grumpy Doberman may be agitated more easily and may even show signs of aggression.

It’s important to show a bit extra caution if your Doberman is becoming more irritable around this time, especially if she’s had issues with biting in any manner in the past.

12. Roaming or Running Away From Home

When your female Doberman is going through her heat cycle, her hormones are kicking her natural instincts into overdrive. These instincts will likely be stronger than any previous training she has been put through. Take this into consideration if you’re leaving your dog unsupervised in the backyard or taking her away from home for any reason (such as for a walk).

Female Dobermans in heat may attempt to, or will, run away. This could be to get away from a male dog that has sensed her or to find a mate. It’s important to take extra precautions during this time, even if your dog is usually extremely trustworthy while off-leash or left alone.

Her First Heat Cycle

Once your Doberman has matured, her hormones will begin to change. She will experience an increase in estrogen that will lead her body to release eggs from her ovaries. If mating were to occur, the eggs may become fertilized.

The first heat cycle for a female Doberman can occur anytime after 6-months of age, however, most won’t experience it until 9 to 12-months of age.

When it starts, typically your Doberman will go into heat twice a year, according to the AKC. Prepare for the heat cycle to last around three weeks in duration. During this three-week time span, your Doberman will go through different stages of heat. If you have any questions or concerns about the heat cycle of your Doberman, it is important to get in touch with your veterinarian.

Stages of Heat

There are several stages of heat a female Doberman will go through:

  • Proestrus Stage – The first stage of heat is considered the proestrus stage. This stage lasts around one week. The eggs that are in the ovaries are almost ready to be released and estrogen levels within your dog’s body will begin to rise. This is the stage when the vulva may show visible signs of swelling and discharge may be present.
  • Estrus Stage – The next stage is called the estrus stage and lasts around nine days. This is the stage where the eggs are released from the ovaries. Hormone levels continue to change and fluctuate. If your Doberman is around a male dog, you may notice her raising her tail up or shifting it to the side. During the estrus stage, it’s possible for your Doberman to become pregnant. The estrus and proestrus stages are what are called “heat”.
  • Diestrus Stage – The next stage is referred to as the diestrus stage. This stage allows your Doberman’s body to prepare for her pregnancy if she is pregnant or to help her body return to normal if she isn’t. If your Doberman does not become pregnant, then she will continue to go through cycles of heat until she’s spayed or becomes pregnant. A Doberman that’s pregnant will not go through another heat cycle until she is no longer pregnant.
  • Anestrus Stage – The final stage is called the anestrus stage and is the stage after pregnancy. This can also be referred to as the inactive stage. Sexual behaviors are not seen during this stage. Your Doberman will need time to recover after her pregnancy and she will not be ready to breed right away.

These various stages of heat are outlined in great detail by the DPCA here if you want more information.

Female Doberman with swollen nipples watching over new puppies.

A Doberman’s Last Heat Cycle

Female dogs, including Dobermans, do not go through a menopause stage of their lives. In other words, they will continue to experience their heat cycles throughout their lifetime.

Although the time span between heat cycles will increase as your Doberman gets older, according to the AKC, your female Doberman will be fertile until the end of her life and will be able to get pregnant unless she is spayed.

Missed heat periods can be an indicator of illness. Dobermans experiencing missed heat cycles should be seen by a veterinarian.

When You Can Breed a Female Doberman

A female Doberman can be successfully impregnated during the estrus stage of her heat cycle, which lasts about 9 days. This stage occurs about a week after her vulva swells and discharge is first seen. During this stage, she may lift her tail or move it to the side while in the presence of male dogs.

Your Doberman will not be able to, and will not want to, breed in all the stages of heat. This is the only stage when any female dog can become pregnant as this is when the egg can be fertilized.

It may be difficult to determine when your Doberman is in this stage of heat. Generally, the female dog will act more interested in male dogs and will present herself to a male dog if she is ready to breed.

If you suspect your Doberman might be pregnant, take a look at these 5 signs your Doberman is pregnant to find out!

False Pregnancy

A false or phantom pregnancy, scientifically known as a pseudo-pregnancy or pseudocyesis, is a common occurrence for female Dobermans. This phenomenon occurs because of increased levels of progesterone (pregnancy) hormones circulating within the Corpus Luteum.

When this happens, you will notice physical signs of pregnancy such as swollen nipples and even milk production, vomiting, and/or fluid retention. Behaviorally, with a false pregnancy, you will typically notice lethargy and mothering behaviors along with possible aggression.

“Symptoms of false pregnancy usually begin four to nine weeks after the previous heat period and mimic the symptoms of true pregnancy. The reason for false pregnancies remains a mystery.”

Ernest Ward, DVM, VCA Hospitals

False pregnancies can vary in appearance, even in the same female Doberman. There is generally nothing to worry about and your Doberman should return to normal quickly. At times though, mammary gland infections and skin inflammation in the areas near the mammary glands can occur. If this happens or if your dog appears physically ill, you should seek the help of a vet.

Comforting Your Doberman While She’s in Heat

Your girl may seem uncomfortable often during this time, and it can go a long way to provide her with some additional comfort.

  • Keep up on her hygiene. Routinely check to make sure that her hygiene is kept up on, especially near the vulva region.
  • Provide her with a safe space. A place away from all humans and other pets, where she can go to relax and get away from a situation she may be uncomfortable with. Some female Dobermans will want to hide when they are in their heat cycle.
  • Reduce outside stressors as much as possible. This includes reducing or eliminating unusual or starteling noises, loud children, or anything else that she tends to react to.
  • Speak softly. Even small things to reduce stress, such as speaking softly to your Doberman and offering reassurance can do a lot to calm her.
  • Give extra attention when desired. She may not be in the mood for extra love and attention at all points in her heat cycle, but at times she could become clingy and need it in higher amounts than normal. Try to provide this for her.

The personality and mood changes of your Doberman may be hard to decipher and deal with. Just know that this is a unique time in her life and she may not be acting like her typical self. If she ever acts out aggressively or her behavior is worrisome, get into contact with your vet who can offer you advice or schedule your Doberman an appointment.

Hygiene While in Heat

While your Doberman is in heat, you may want to pay a little closer attention to her hygiene. It’s important that your Doberman remains clean during this time. The skin of the vulva is very sensitive and also very susceptible to infection.

Once the vulva is swollen, this becomes even more true. Dobermans instinctually like to stay clean and many will clean up after themselves, however, it’s still a good idea to check the area to make sure there is no dried blood or other colored discharge. To help keep your Doberman clean, you may want to consider trimming the hair around the vulva and the anus.

Some Dobermans will be quite clean and tidy with themselves, while others may be neglectful. There are dog heat diapers that could help to catch the discharge from your Doberman, although they can take some getting used to by your girl. A brand called PetParents makes a popular diaper (see them here on Amazon, or here on Chewy).

These pants do act as somewhat of a mating deterrent for male dogs, but they shouldn’t be relied upon as the only prevention method as they can easily be circumvented by intelligent dogs like the Doberman (especially when they’re determined due to strong mating instincts).

Multiple Dog Considerations

If you have multiple dogs in your household, you will want to take extra steps when your female Doberman goes into heat. While other female dogs could potentially be an issue, most of the issues lie with male dogs in the household.

When a female enters her heat cycle, a male dog may become territorial and aggressive. This could be towards both the female Doberman, other male dogs, and at times even humans in the house.

If you don’t want your female Doberman to become pregnant and there is a male dog in the house, you will have to make sure that they remain separated during her heat cycle. A male dog who wishes to mate will do everything he can in his power to get to the female who is in heat.

This can cause the male to act aggressively and go to great lengths to escape confinement. Don’t underestimate a male Doberman who senses a female nearby who’s in heat. They’ve been known to chew through doors to get to the female on the other side. So make sure any barriers are strong (they’ve even been known to successfully mate through certain fences, like chain link fence), and the more physical distance you can put between your male and female, the better.

When You Should See a Veterinarian

In general, it’s a good idea to get in touch with your veterinarian if you see anything of concern in your Doberman, but below are some specific times when you may want to reach out to your vet.

  • To get a professional estimate on when your Doberman will go into heat.
  • If your Doberman is displaying severe bouts of aggression and/or behavioral changes
  • If you’re noticing some behavioral signs of heat, but she’s not displaying any physical signs.
  • If you have any questions or concerns about her heat cycle or pregnancy.
  • If you see anything unusual or unexpexted in her heat cycles.

Your vet will likely perform a physical exam and ask you questions about her progression through her heat cycle. It’s always a good idea to keep a log of what you observe (and when) for this reason. Your vet can inform you of any conditions that may be present and rule out some of the more serious ones. They should also be able to definitively determine whether or not your female Doberman is in heat.

Related Questions

Can I separate two Dobermans while they’re mating? You should never separate two Dobermans who are mating as this can cause damage to the genitalia of both dogs. During mating, the male dog’s limb will be swelling while the muscles of your female dog will be contracting. This means that they are essentially stuck together until the mating process has finished.

At what age is a Doberman’s first heat? A Doberman’s first heat cycle most commonly occurs between 9 and 12-months of age. However, it can occur as late as 15-months of age.

How long does a Doberman stay in heat? Female Dobermans typically stay in heat for around three weeks but can get pregnant only during the roughly 9-day-long Estrus stage of their cycle. They may experience one to three heat cycles a year.

How old does a female Doberman have to be to breed? A female Doberman is sexually mature enough to be bred once she experiences her first heat cycle, which is usually between 9 to 12-months of age. However, it’s generally best not to breed her until she’s at least 2 years of age.

John Walter and Cooper, his Doberman Pinscher.

About the author

John Walter is a Family Doberman Specialist, holds a CPD certification in Canine Communication, and is an active dog trainer specializing in the Doberman Pinscher breed. He's been quoted in Doberman Network Magazine, Bark Magazine, Doberman Dispatch, and he's the founder of Doberman Planet. Learn More

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