Sexual maturity

The sexual maturity in dogs can be defined as "puberty" and goes often accompanied by behavioral changes. Achieve in direct comparison smaller dogs often reach sexual maturity much earlier than larger breeds.

Males become usually sexually mature between the sixth and eighth month of life. The sexual maturity by females tends to the 6th to 15th month of life. These are big changes for the dog as they go from a puppy to a adult dog. 

Basically dogs are individuals and develop their sexual maturity differently.

Sexual maturity by males

Normally, during development in the womb, the testicles in male dogs begin to migrate from the area of the kidneys towards the scrotum. They follow a cord that guides the testicles there. The testicles pass through the inguinal canal, which is still open, and finally enter the scrotum.

It is no exception if the male has not completed testicular descent within the normal 6-10 weeks. However, you should monitor it and discuss it with your veterinarian.

However, it also happens that the testicles descend in males a little later. If the puppies are handed over, it cannot be predicted in advance when and whether the testicles will descend.

By the onset of puberty at around the age of 6-8 months, however, the testicles should have descended; later on, descending the testicles is usually no longer possible, especially since the inguinal canal closes.

However, it can also happen that one or both testicles do not descend. This happens due to various factors. The fact is, however, that a defective testicular descent in dogs is genetically determined. Certain breeds such as German Boxer, German Shepherd, Yorkshire Terrier, Chihuahua, Miniature Schnauzer, Poodle, Dachshund, etc are more likely to be affected by cryptorchidism.

The testicles that remain in the abdomen have an increased risk of tumors in later age. The dogs usually should be neutered, and the testicles removed from the abdomen. If the testicles have not descended on both sides, the male cannot produce sperm. But the male dog has a sexual desire in equal measure. If only one testicle is left in the abdomen or in the inguinal canal, the male can sire offspring, but due to heredity it is a reason for exclusion from breeding.

In addition to the descent of the testicles, the onset of marking behavior between the 5-8 months of life is a sign of the male's sexual maturity. Furthermore, a pubertal behavior can generally be felt in the males - he tests his limits and questions rankings. In young males at the beginning of puberty, there is often increased mounting. It can happen that he mounts human legs, stuffed animals, other dogs (especially young males).

At this stage, many desperate owners see spaying as a last resort. However, it should be noted that neuter is not a miracle cure and must be carefully considered in each individual case.

The male sex drive often decreases significantly after the end of puberty. He needs control and consistency during this phase, so he becomes much calmer after sexual maturity.

However, sexual maturity is not identical to breeding maturity if the male is sexually and physically capable of being used for breeding. At half a year or 8 months the male would not be fully developed - therefore the national association and/or the breed club prescribes a minimum age for the first use of breeding.

Sexual maturity by females

The first heat is the clearest sign of a bitch's sexual maturity. Most bitches have their first heat between 6-15 months of age. In some cases, however, it can take up to 20 months for a bitch to come into heat. In general, we can state that the bitches reach about 2/3 of their total weight before they become sexually mature.

The first heat can still be less pronounced, so it is often not immediately noticeable.

Once the female is matured, there are usually 2 heats a year. On average there is a gap of 6-8 months between heats. But even here there are exceptions. Every female has her own cycle. In some breeds, the intervals are even different - for example, the Basenji or the Thai Ridgeback, like the wolves, only comes into heat once a year.

The heat is a natural process in sexually mature females and lasts until old age. As already mentioned, the female's first heat does not have to be quite pronounced and typical.

Since the bitch is only just becoming sexually mature and is not yet fully developed, it can come to a silent heat. Despite the hormonal changes, no external signs such as swelling of the vulva or discharge are visible. In this way, the bitch can go into heat without being noticed. In other cases, the typical signs that are also visible from the outside appear, but subside after a few days and reappear - this is the so-called split heat.

The better we know about the heat of our females, the more stress-free this time can generally be twice a year.

Even before a female is in heat, we can see in her behavior that she marks more often than usual. She sometimes even raises her leg when she is squatting and scent marks every few steps. The males react with interest in advance and sniff the bitch. The males often show a kind of flirting with ears pricked in front of the female, trampling with the legs.

Many females are like changed when they are in heat. They are less accessible and try to see a potential partner in everyone. They are more restless, and also find no rest.
Some females, on the other hand, become more clingy and demand even more spoiling than usual. They sleep more and seem a bit melancholic and lazy.

As a rule, females clean themselves extensively during heat. Of course, it also depends on the strength of the bleeding. If necessary, you can put the female in heat panties to prevent the discharge from ending up on textiles. It's important to get your female used to her panties before she goes on heat.

The most important thing during the female's heat is to keep her away from unneutered male dogs (especially on the standing days). In the meantime, the female should only go for walks on a leash, and it is best to avoid places where there are many other dogs. It is best to warn the oncoming dog owners during the walk in advance that you have a dog in heat with you. The female smells very interesting for the males not only during their standing days. Even before and after ovulation males can harass the females, which is very stressful for everyone involved.

The false pregnancy

The false pregnancy is not a disease but a hormonal emotional and physical change in the female. The fact that our females develop a false pregnancy after heat is due to their genetic make-up. 

Looking back to the wolves and their pack life. The wolves live together in packs, in which there is a fixed hierarchy. Each position in a hierarchy is associated with rights but also duties in pack life. Only the she-wolf is allowed to have cubs. However, the young are cared for by the entire pack. Female wolves who do not have cubs take care of the offspring and also nurse them. The wolves produce milk by increasing the hormone prolactin. A pseudopregnant she-wolf - just like our bitches - shows the same hormone level as a pregnant she-wolf - or bitch - after 4-8 weeks of heat. Female wolves have a seasonal cycle in a pack, so it is ensured that when the cubs are born, the other female wolves can also act as nurses. 

Even if our females no longer need this behavior, a false pregnancy can occur in all females. In fact, smaller dog breeds are more likely to be affected than large ones. A pseudopregnant female feels like a mother-to-be and shows typical emotional and physical changes. Thus, after 8-9 weeks after the heat - when a mated bitch would have her puppies - the bitches who are considered to be pregnant often carry toys, stuffed animals, etc. together as if these were replacement puppies. They exhibit nest-building behavior, mothering, guarding and protecting these surrogate pups. 

The females are often restless or very affectionate, some tend to be aggressive. Some will not move from the nest and will even refuse to feed. In addition to these emotional changes, there are also physical ones. The mammary glands swell and milk production occurs, especially if the teats are licked often. With heavy milk production, there is a risk of engorgement or even mastitis. 

On average, the pseudopregnancy lasts 2-3 weeks, up to 30 days. 

To a certain extent, we can call pseudopregnancy normal. However, some females become so attached to their role as mothers that they and those around them suffer as a result. The best solution to reduce symptoms is distraction: walking often, exercising more, putting away toys. Feeling sorry or too much affection can increase the feelings of a mother. The female should be prevented from licking her teats so that she does not additionally stimulate milk production. Any manipulation, massage or expression of milk additionally stimulate milk production. 

Most of the time, this goes away on its own after a few weeks, and the teat gets smaller again. It is best to reduce the amount of food for a few days so that the false pregnancy passes more quickly. However, if the female appears very apathetic, shows aggression or if the milk production increases too much, it is best to take her to the vet. He can help the female with homeopathic remedies and a prolactin inhibitor. 

In the case of females who suffer too much from pseudopregnancy, you also have to think about castration. However, castration is not an immediate measure during a false pregnancy. When the ovaries are dehydrated, progesterone levels plummet in an instant. As a result, the prolactin level rises just as quickly - so immediate spaying leads to quite pronounced pseudopregnancy symptoms. Because the pseudo-pregnancy is not based on any hormonal malfunctions, in less pronounced cases one can wait until the physical and behavioral abnormalities go away on their own. The false pregnancy does not necessarily occur again in the next cycle. However, the symptoms are similarly strong after each heat. 


Neutering is often thought of as a panacea for behavioral problems and is heavily promoted - whether for mounting, disobedience, "dominance". Spaying can solve some problems, but it can also create new ones.

Spaying does not replace dog education or training.

Most dog owners hope that neutering will solve behavioral problems, which are usually less hormonal. Neutered dogs do not break their behavioral habits after surgery or hormonal treatment. They continue to show their antipathy towards other dogs educational weaknesses, and they also act in a gender-typical way. However, they can also develop anxious behavior as a result of castration, since the body's own hormone is then missing.

Before resorting to neutering (be it not for medical reasons or because of unwanted reproduction stray dogs) it is important to analyze the dog as an individual - with its insecurities, with its social skills and factors influencing behavior. 

You as the owner are asked to think about it before a neutering, with the involvement of your veterinarian, dog trainer but also your breeder. It is very important that you educate yourself about the purpose and purpose of sex hormones in dogs. 

Neutering only brings about a positive change if that one dog, regardless of gender, has a real problem with sex hormones. A spaying does not make a dog "better" or "tolerable" - please do not expect a miracle from an operation or from the insertion of a hormone chip. 

Pro spaying

  • reproductive control 
  • medical reasons: pyometra, prostate diseases, mammary tumors, testicular tumors, one testicle, fractures in the inguinal canal or next to the anus, tumors around the anus, inflammation of the foreskin, pseudopregnancy with pronounced behavioral changes
  • specific behavioral problems driven by sex hormones: sexual hyperactivity, marking around the house, male quarrelsomeness when females are in heat, "bitchyness" and female hypersensitivity during heat

Contra spaying

  • medical side effects: increased risk of mast cell tumors, cardiac and spleen tumors, bone tumors, lymphomas, incontinence and bladder tumors, dysplasia and cruciate ligament tears, diabetes, obesity and coat changes
  • possible changes in behavior and behavior where neutering may make it worse: disturbances in housebreaking, general aggression towards other dogs, generally less interest and attention in obedience, mounting on various objects, other dogs and people, resource defence

Early spaying or late spaying?

The timing of spaying a female is a subject that is often disputed. 

Spaying before sexual maturity, i.e. before the first heat, is called an early spay. 

Advantages: Reduced risk of mammary tumors, the sex drive does not arise at all, the female is spared heat and false pregnancy. Females that have been spayed early are often more playful and peaceful. 

Disadvantages: the female does not develop a healthy gender identity, which can lead to problems with other dogs and behavioral problems in some females. The bitch's development will be stopped, she will not develop into a mature, adult bitch, both physically and mentally. Greater risk of urinary incontinence. 

We call spaying after the first or second heat a late spay. 

Advantages: the female fully develops into an adult dog, is more mature and has a healthy gender identity. 

Disadvantages: who are only spayed after the second heat have a significantly higher risk of breast cancer. coat change occurs more often in late spayed females than in early spayed ones.