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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My 9 month old girl, Maya, has come into her first season. We didn’t spot the signs immediately as her vulva is very furry and points downwards so we didn’t see swelling until we started to see spots of bloody discharge and it’s still not very obvious even now that we’ve seen more spotting. The earliest we saw the discharge was 26th December but that was literally one small spot So 8 days ago. She’s started whining to go out in to the garden all the time and has started digging for England which is out of character. it’s 13 years since my last lab bitch had a season so I can’t recall if this is expected at this stage in her season. Our garden is reasonably secure - fenced on two sides, high hedge at the bottom and no access from the front other than through the house but I have a niggling worry as to whether a misalliance might have occurred. We can see her when she goes out in to the garden and go with her most of the time. We’ve reduced exercise and I’m doing short lead walks away from areas where other dogs are exercised and have had no encounters so far. I may be fretting about nothing but we’ve never bred from our two previous bitches and managed their seasons until both were spayed so I don’t have much experience with this. We’ve followed previous advice to allow a season before spaying and are working to the same plan with Maya. I wanted to check with those on the forum who do breed and have dealt with bitches in season that the whining to go out and digging are symptoms of her season and not an indication that she’s gone through mating. Apologies if I’m panicking about nothing.
 

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I’ve not bred but have had and still have entire bitches (and an entire dog). In my experience, they’re all different. Yes, the digging and attempts to escape and vocalisations sound normal to me. I’ve had bitches that have and haven’t done this.

i would now not take her out at all for the next week or so and keep an eye on her at all times. It’s time for brain training and activities at home.

If you’ve any real suspicions that she might have been mated, go to your vet and seek advice sooner rather than later.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks Maddie, That’s reassuring. I can’t see that she will have mated as I went all around the garden again this morning and there isn’t a way for a dog to get at her that I can see. A part of the mystery has been answered this morning as she started digging this morning right under my nose and started eating the mud! I thought she was starting to exhibit nesting behaviour and she’s digging to get at soil. I think I’ve fretted about nothing. I’ll take on board the point about ceasing exercise now. Thanks again.
 

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The earliest we saw the discharge was 26th December but that was literally one small spot So 8 days ago.
Allow for the fact that she might have been in season for a couple of days before you noticed, she is still only on day 11 or so of her season. Not all bitches ovulate on the same day, some earlier, some later, but day 14 always used to be considered the peak time for mating. So really, unless she started her season quite a bit earlier than you thought, or she ovulates very early, it's unlikely that she could have conceived yet. But in any case, nesting in the garden would be VERY unusual. My worst was my Mandy who always had a phantom and regularly started nesting around 55 days after her season finished.

We’ve reduced exercise and I’m doing short lead walks away from areas where other dogs are exercised and have had no encounters so far.
I would not take her out now until the season is finished. She is approaching her peak now and the last thing you want is followers following her scent back to your door!

This was a bit I wrote about seasons a while back:-

The first thing to remember is that all bitches feel their seasons differently so making hard and fast rules of both identifying the start and the finish difficult, but saying that, there are plenty of little signs if you know what you are looking for.

Starting at the beginning, if you are around males at all, they can often tip you off up to 6 weeks before by increased interest. Not wild interest but a bit more sniffing of her than usual. I’ve had bitches who get very slap happy in their working on the run up to seasons, not really got their mind on working, but others would work right up to the day! (But by the same token I’ve had bitches who will start working happily the day the season finishes but others who always finish up with a broody 60 days!) You often find bitches will start urinating more just before or during the season, in effect they are scent marking, a sort of, “Hi boys, I’m here!) Add to those symptoms, the vulva swells, usually a few days before the season begins. (Although very occasionally not until the season actually starts.)

OK, I know all that sounds a bit vague, all maybe’s, occasionally’s and sometimes, but such is the nature of ladies! What I’m saying is, look out for the subtle differences, particularly from around 6 months on. As soon as I start to get the feeling that the season is imminent I start on the “Toilet tissue test.” When a bitch is in season she starts losing a bloody discharge from her vulva. In the initial stages there is not a lot of discharge, but when sleeping it collects inside, to drain out when she stands. So shortly after first standing after sleeping I give her vulva a wipe with a toilet tissue. This makes it so much easier to find. But remember, it does take a minute or so to drain out, so don’t be in too much of a hurry to wipe her. The earliest I’ve had a bitch come into season is 5.5 months and the latest 14 months. But those are not the extreme limits. I’ve heard of bitches starting well before 5 months at one end and as late as 2 years at the other extreme. (Though I do wonder when a bitch comes in for the first time at 2 years old, whether the bitch might have had a very mild season earlier which the owner missed?)

The season it’s self lasts for approximately 21 days, although on rare occasions it can drag on for 28 days. The bloody discharge normally builds up during the first week, usually becoming paler and more watery during the second week and at this point the discharge may stop, or might continue for the entire time. But don’t be fooled! Even if it does stop she is still in season and is actually reaching her peak! In fact, if you were mating her then it is the 12th to 14th day when they are usually at their most receptive. Don’t be surprised if she is rather quiet during her season. It is not always the case but some can be very subdued. They often drink heavily. (Natural really when you remember they are losing body fluids.) They also tend towards rather more urinating. It’s all perfectly natural and nothing to worry about.

During the season it’s safer to not take her out, and certainly NEVER off lead. If I do take mine out during the early part of the season I put them in the car and drive a way down the road to break the scent trail back to the house. I walk them on lead around a local industrial estate where I know there will be no other dogs. But I never take them out during the second week to the end of the season. In fact many bitches really don’t want to do much during that time so it’s no great hardship.

It’s never easy to determine the exact end of the season. It’s something which just gradually fades away. Even the swollen vulva does not go down straight away, and in fact never does return to the size it was before the first season started, she is a lady now, not a baby! For this reason it pays to be a little careful when you first go out after a season. I normally take mine out after 21 days, but take them at a time and to a place where I’m not likely to find other dogs. But after 28 days I relax and get back to normal.

So you see, it’s not an exact science. But don’t be frightened of it. The little signs will be there, it’s just that until it happens for the first time you will not really be sure which of the signs will apply to your dog. The thing you will find if you read some of the posts on here is that after the event most are saying that things were far easier than they thought.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks John, that’s really useful information and we’ll definitely follow yours and Maddie’s advice not to take her out now. She is definitely more subdued than usual at times and seems to want to mooch on us more and wants cuddles whilst sitting in laps which is no mean feat at her size. I think this is the last time I’ll have to deal with all this as we will have her spayed and I can’t see me having the energy to cope with a puppy at any time in the future!
 
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