Do you remember Rafiki, from the Lion King animated movie, where he cracks open the baobab fruit, smudges the line on the tree bark, and excitedly says: It is time!
Well, that’s about it when it comes to the German Shepherd’s first heat symptoms. There will be bloody smudges, cracking sounds from chewing, and excited whining from your female GSD.
And, just like they search for Simba to be their new king of Pride Rock, your female German Shepherd will also look for her “king”, but with other intentions.
There are 9 German Shepherd first heat symptoms you will notice.
Some will be more subtle, but there are a few that might keep you up at night or make you a bit embarrassed in front of your friends who don’t have dogs.
Let’s see what are those symptoms…
German Shepherd First Heat Symptoms
First of all, a GSD is a big dog, which means they usually sexually mature later than small dog breeds. This usually happens when a female GSD is from 9 to 12 months old.
However, it is important to know these 9 GSD first heat symptoms so that you can notice them on time because sometimes, a female GSD can become sexually mature and have her first heat cycle when she’s only 6 months old.
And, also… the heat cycle is a natural process that will keep on occurring as long as the female dog is alive. In other words, the only way to stop the cycle is if you spay your dog.
1. Reddish Discharge
This is often the first clear sign a dog owner notices when his female dog gets into heat. We are talking about vaginal discharge. In the beginning, the discharge will be noticeably bloody, but as the days go by, the color will change.
It will go from bloody red, over-reddish, to watery and pinkish discharge at the end of the heat cycle. This is also a normal process. It is not the same as the menstrual cycle in humans.
In dogs, bloody discharge means the female GSD is fertile and ready to mate.
You can use dog diapers or blankets to cover the carpet or sofa until your dog gets out of the cycle. And, the cycle can last from 4 days to 2 weeks.
2. Swollen Vulva
Another normal German Shepherd heat symptom, whether it’s the first heat cycle or the 11th, is a swollen vulva and enlarged teats.
This all happens because of the hormones that are raging in your dog’s body. The hormones are preparing your female GSD’s entire body to mate and be ready for the fertilization of the eggs, and later, the implantation of the fertilized eggs in the uterine wall.
3. Frequent Urination
Male and female German Shepherd dogs do the same thing as any other dog breed in the world – they use urine to tell other dogs what is happening in their life. Through urine territory marking, dogs tell other dogs they are in heat as well.
If your female GSD starts urinating more than usual, it might be one of the symptoms she is in her first heat.
Of course, you will have to look for other symptoms in order to be sure it is a heat cycle and not an infection of the urinary tract or some other health issue.
4. Tail Flagging
The natural tail position of the GSD is set low when not alert or excited. However, when a female German Shepherd has her first heat cycle, she will often curl her tail or set it on the side. That is called tail flagging.
It is a sign for male dogs that she is ready to mate.
These are instinctual behaviors, and it doesn’t matter if there are male dogs or not. A female GSD in her heat will do this whether she is alone, with female dogs present, or with male dogs present.
5. Seeking Male Attention
When you look at your female German Shepherd while she is in her first heat cycle, you will definitely notice her behavior changes when she spots or scents male dogs, no matter the breed.
She will walk towards them, call them, and simply seek attention from all male dogs in the dog park. You have to be very careful when your GSDs first heat symptoms show.
Don’t leave her alone with male dogs, not even for a little while, unless you want some new puppies…
If you have a yard, you might want to put up a higher fence in case your dog wants to jump over it. But, if she does jump over, don’t panic – this article might help: How to stop a dog from jumping a fence, and what to do.
6. Frequent Licking Of The Genital Region
Another German Shepherd first heat symptom is that your female GSD will frequently lick her genital region.
This happens as a result of vulva enlargement, and because of the bloody discharge. She has the need to lick and clean her genital region more often because of this.
You do need to separate frequent licking during the heat cycle, and when it is not a heat cycle. If you notice other signs of heat… great. Nothing is wrong.
However, if there are no other symptoms but the licking – there might be a health issue happening.
7. Nervous Behavior
You might notice one of your GSD’s first heat symptoms to be nervousness or agitation. Your female dog will become restless.
She might whine and cry while carrying toys, she can even hump other dogs or toys, no matter if they are females or neutered males.
She might also pace without lying down, and overall, seem quite different than what you are used to.
You can calm your dog, but eventually, she will get up and act restless again – at least as long as the heat cycle lasts.
8. Loss Of Appetite
This goes hand in hand with the restlessness of your German Shepherd during her first heat cycle. A restless or agitated dog won’t eat as much as when being in a calm or normal state.
This change in appetite is not drastic. It’s not like she will stop eating, but as a dog owner myself – we notice the smallest changes in our dog’s behaviors.
So, you will surely notice this GSD first heat symptom.
As always, you have to check if there are other symptoms present as well. If your dog has no other symptoms but this one – check your dog’s general health.
Your dog won’t be aggressive toward you. She will actually be more cuddly, and she will also seek your attention more than usual.
However, she might get a bit aggressive toward other female dogs. This is normal behavior, and it doesn’t mean your dog is not properly trained or socialized.
Aggression toward other female dogs is another instinctive behavior. It comes from the fact that your dog wants to ensure she gets fertilized, and as such, transfers her genes onto a new generation. She wants to be the alpha female, and she wants to “get rid of” the competition.
Another sign you might see is your female GSD humping other female (or intact male) dogs. This can either be an act of dominance or sexual frustration.
What To Do
Unfortunately, there are not many things you can do to stop the heat cycle when it starts. The only way to stop it (permanently) is to spay your female dog.
The spaying procedure is the surgical removal of the uterus and ovaries. It cannot be undone, so before spaying your dog, think about whether you want to have GSD puppies in the future or not.
The other way to prevent unwanted dog pregnancy is to keep your female GSD far away from any intact male dogs as long as the heat cycle lasts.
If you are thinking about it (spaying), you can check this article to learn about the possible changes after your dog has been spayed: How will my female dog’s behavior change after spaying?
These were the 9 German Shepherd first heat symptoms you can expect, and will see when the cycle starts.
Your dog will surely change her behavior, and it will keep on changing every time she enters the cycle. It doesn’t matter if it’s the first cycle or the second, third, etc. These changes are the same.
But, the good thing is that you will eventually become a pro at noticing these signs. That is unless you decide to spay your dog and end the heat cycle once and for all.
Just remember that the spaying process is permanent.
And, also… all the changes that happen during the heat cycle are natural and normal changes that your dog has to go through.
Some are embarrassing, some are annoying, but they are all something that you will have to get used to if you plan on keeping your female GSD intact.