The onset of sexual maturity (puberty) is triggered by hormonal changes that lead to physical and behavioral changes. Generally speaking, puppies will start to mature sexually between 7 and 10 months of age. There is some variation and every dog is different.
The Adolescent Female Pup
Normally, females have twice-yearly cycles, but there are some females who will come into heat only once a year. A bitch’s first heat may come as early as 6 months of age and as late as 18 months. Most have their first heat at about 10 months.
How to tell when your female puppy is in season
- Swelling of the vulva (external genitalia).
- Frequent licking and cleaning of the vulva.
- A red discharge from the vulva when heat begins. This will continue for approximately 21 to 28 days and will change during the course of the heat from bloody red, to watery thin red, to nearly colorless.
- Increased urination frequency.
- Behavior changes such as unusual playfulness with other dogs or the appearance of some jumpiness, anxiety, or perhaps intolerance. Sometimes bitches get quirky and show insecurities before or during their heat.
- Excessive coat shedding 4 to 6 weeks prior to the start of heat (may be difficult to detect).
When females can get pregnant
The female can potentially be impregnated any time she will accept a male to mount. This is usually at its peak from days 7 through 18 of the heat, but it can be at any time.
Female puppies may have their first season anytime from 6 months of age on, although a later season is more usual in Labradors and Goldens. Signs to look for are swelling or licking of the vulva, or small droplets of blood on the floor or on the puppy’s bedding. If you suspect your female is in season, do not take them out in public, and this includes puppy meetings. Even if males are neutered, the female in season experiences hormonal changes and can act differently than they would normally.
If the puppy is in season, call your advisor or area coordinator. The puppy will board with us for exactly 4 weeks to prevent any chance of unwanted pregnancy.
Female health issues
Frequent urination may indicate a urinary tract infection. If your older female puppy is urinating frequently, it may signal that she is coming into heat. Contact the Foundation for assistance.
Vaginitis is a yellowish discharge from the vulva (external female genitalia), and it is especially common in young female pups. It tends to clear up after heat but if it is accompanied by excessive licking or frequent urination, oral antibiotics may be used. Call the Foundation for assistance.is a yellowish discharge from the vulva (external female genitalia), and it is especially common in young female pups. It tends to clear up after heat but if it is accompanied by excessive licking or frequent urination, oral antibiotics may be used. Call your advisor or area coordinator for assistance.
The Adolescent Male Pup
A male pup may exhibit objectionable behavior as he reaches maturity. If he mounts your leg or those of children or chairs, let him know that this is unacceptable. The best way to dissuade the dog is to give a correction and to distract him by giving him something else to do at the time. Give him a toy, or a bone, or do a little obedience – anything to take his mind off it. If he persists, notify your advisor or area coordinator to receive support regarding the issue.
The male pup may become more territorial as he matures, and you may notice that he may want to start “marking his territory” by lifting a leg and leaving a squirt of urine. We cannot have our guide dogs marking. Prevention of this can often be successful by allowing urination only on flat surfaces and not near bushes or trees. To learn more about correcting this behavior, please contact your advisor or area coordinator.
If your mature male puppy has a copious discharge from his penis, notify the Foundation. Occasionally such a condition requires medication, but most times a small amount of discharge is normal.
All of our puppies being raised can be considered for further evaluation and acceptance into the breeding colony. The dogs accepted into the breeding program must be the best of the best. Therefore, they must be puppy raised to the same standards as the other pups in the program.
Your advisor will contact you regarding breeding clearances. The clearances include eye exams, heart exams, kennel stays, and temperament evaluations. We might request additional clearances done and this process can last until the pup is over a year old.
If you are notified that the pup you are raising is on "breeder hold" it is not a guarantee they will be accepted into our breeding colony. The whole litter, all the males, or all the females of a litter will be on hold and usually one or two of the dogs in the litter are selected.
Spaying and Neutering
If it is time for your dog to be spayed representative of the Guide Dog Foundation will contact you. Your advisor or area coordinator will reach out to you regarding the pup's spay or neuter anytime between 7-15 months of age. Please do not get your pup rayed without permission from the Guide Dog Foundation. X-rayed without permission from the Guide Dog Foundation.
When we call, we will request that your vet takes hip X-rays of the pup (possibly elbows and shoulders, too). Please set up a date with your vet after you hear from the Foundation, and notify the puppy department of the date the X-rays and/or surgery will occur.
The Guide Dog Foundation’s staff veterinarian needs to have a copy of any X-ray for evaluation to determine if the hips are acceptable for guide work. Please drop them off in our lobby or have them mailed to us, to the attention of the puppy department if they are not sent electronically. We will notify you if the pup is released from the program for an orthopedic reason at this time.