If you have a young or unspayed female dog, you may be worried about attracting wild animals when they’re in heat.
Is this a legitimate cause for concern? If so – what can you do about it? Let’s take a look at everything you need to know about dogs in heat.
What Does “In Heat” Mean?
When a female dog is in heat, it means that they are in the oestrus phase of their menstrual cycle; the time when they are at their most fertile and sexually receptive to males. Their cycles last for around 6 months, meaning it only happens twice per year. The oestrus period in particular usually lasts 1-2 weeks. That said, it can vary from dog to dog and may be longer or shorter.
Like humans, dogs begin to experience their menstrual cycle from puberty, or around 6 months of age, although this can differ depending on the breed and the dog. If the dog remains unspayed, meaning their reproductive organs are not removed, their cycles will continue until old age.
Unlike humans, dogs don’t go into menopause as they get older. Their fertility levels will drop and their menstrual cycles may get fewer and further between, but they don’t usually stop altogether.
Will A Dog In Heat Attract Wild Animals?
When a female dog is in heat, they secrete certain hormones that male dogs can sense, and this is how they are able to find appropriate mates in the wild.
So, you may be wondering – will a dog in heat attract wild animals? Well, the answer is yes and no.
Non-canine animals like bears will not be interested in your dog. However, wild canine animals such as wolves, coyotes, and foxes may follow the scent back to your dog.
It is dangerous?
Attracting wild animals is dangerous because should they be interested in mating with your dog, your dog will likely feel threatened and react aggressively, and then the animal could become violent. Your dog will likely be no match for a fox, a wolf, or a coyote and could get seriously injured.
Wild animals can also carry all sorts of contagious diseases and conditions that your dog may not be protected from, such as parasites, mange, distemper, hepatitis, and rabies. If your dog is small, the animal may even decide to try and hunt them as prey.
In addition, you probably don’t want wild animals becoming interested in your property, especially if you have a family.
So, how can you protect your dog and your property from wild animals, and what should you do if a wild animal approaches your dog?
How To Protect Your Dog
Here are the best ways to protect your dog from wild animals.
Spay your dog
The best way to prevent your female dog from attracting wild animals is to spay them. Most vets recommend spaying female dogs at around 6 months old. If you’re not going to spay your dog, keep reading for the best tips on protecting your pets from wild animals.
Keep track of your dog’s cycle to know when they’re in heat and practice recall with them so that they come to you when called, just in case you need to retreat inside the home or away from a wild animal. You can do this by calling your dog’s name and rewarding them when they come to you.
If you live in an area with lots of wild animals that pose a threat, supervise your dog when they’re doing their business outside, especially at nighttime.
Most wild animals are less likely to approach if there are humans around, and if one does come, at least you will be there to help your dog.
Bring them indoors at night
The best way to protect your dog from wild animals is to bring them indoors at night. It’s a well-known fact that most wild animal attacks on domestic pets happen at night, so keep them safe by letting them sleep indoors.
Stay close on walks
To protect your dog whilst out on walks, keep them on the lead in new places in areas where wild animals are common. Keep them close when they are off the lead, and practice recall just in case of an emergency.
How To Protect Your Property
Guarding your home is just as important.
Fence your yard
Foxes and coyotes can jump three feet in the air, and some wolves can jump up to 12. So, be sure to fence your yard with fences at least 6 feet high, and put some anti-climb spikes on the top to prevent them from climbing over.
To prevent wild animals from entering your property, try using deterrents, such as solar-charged infrared and motion sensor garden devices that emit flashing lights and ultrasonic sounds to scare wild animals off. The only downside to this is that it could frighten your dog, too.
Or, you could try scent repellents such as fox repellent sachets; these work by making foxes think your garden has already been territory marked by another fox. Simply mix with water and spray over the entrances to your garden. Alternatively, you could try soaking rags in ammonia, cayenne pepper spray, or vinegar and placing them at the entrances of your yard. Just make sure your dog doesn’t lick it!
What To Do If A Wild Animal Approaches Your Dog
If a wild animal enters your yard and approaches your dog, make yourself known and appear threatening. You can do this by:
- Making and maintaining eye contact with the animal
- Waving your arms above your head and around your body to make yourself look big, or waving large objects around
- Making loud noises with your voice and household objects; the best way to do this is by shouting in a low-pitched voice and hitting kitchen pots and pans with cutlery
- Walking towards the animal, unless it is a wolf, in which case, slowly back away and calmly encourage your dog to follow you inside, then quickly close and lock the door behind you
- Throw rocks, sticks, or nearby objects at the animal, or better yet, if your garden hose is close by, turn it on and spray the animal
- Retreat back to your home as soon as possible, whether the animal backs away or not, and call your dog to follow you
- Use a weapon – as an absolute last resort if you fear for your safety
- Turn your back on the animal
- Stop looking at the animal
- Runaway – this could encourage them to chase you
Female dogs can attract wild animals when they’re in heat. To protect them and your home, use our top tips and spay your dog when your vet recommends it.