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Managing homes with intact dogs can be a real pain in the butt. If you have both male and female dogs, it’s not unusual for the social dynamics in the home to get tense when the female is in heat.
In today’s Ask a Behavior Consultant, we’re answering a question about this problem. Our reader asked,
“My female dog came into heat this week and now my two male dogs can’t be in the same room without attacking each other. We have been keeping them apart but it’s so stressful because we want to be a family.”
– Sincerely, Intact Issues
The Great Spay-Neuter Debate
More and more people are choosing not to spay or neuter their pets in some parts of the world – or they’re choosing to delay these surgeries until the dogs are done growing.
Leaving your dog intact is very common in Europe, but it’s still relatively unusual in the US.
There’s a lot of different research out there about the potential health benefits and risks of spaying and neutering. I’m no vet, but Dr. Jen Summerfield is.
In her podcast (see link above), she laid out the research surrounding health and behavior risks for “fixing” dogs vs. leaving them intact. It’s a great listen!
I don’t necessarily think that ALL dogs need to be spayed and neutered. Responsible owners can absolutely manage having intact dogs without producing unwanted litters. I may leave my next dog intact – at least I’m planning on fixing him or her after (s)he’s done growing.
Consider Spaying Your Dog
That said, if your dog’s sexual status is causing problems in the household, it’s probably time to consider spaying her.
Every time your female dog goes into heat, for example, her risk of mammary tumors (breast cancer) increases. After just two heat cycles, your dog’s risk of breast cancer sits at 26%.
Plus, it can be a bit tricky to manage a house full of intact dogs. It can definitely be done – but if you’re not careful, accidental litters are possible.
This is an expensive mistake with all of the veterinary care your dog will need during her pregnancy, whelping, and puppy raising – let alone finding good homes for the pups.
What to Do if Your Dog’s Heat Cycle is Causing Fights
If you are unwilling to spay your dog for showing, breeding, or health reasons, then we’ve got to figure out another way to solve this problem.
Separating your dogs might be your only option if your dog’s heat cycle is causing fights.
The good news is, most female dogs only come into heat about twice per year. Their heat cycles usually last 1 to 2 weeks.
In the case of our reader, this is the route I’d suggest if spaying isn’t an option.
If you can get a friend or family member to watch one male dog, great!
Otherwise, you’ll need to get baby gates, crates, and exercise pens. Depending on the severity of the fights, you’ll want at least two barriers separating the dogs at all times.
This is called crate-and-rotate. It’s certainly not ideal. But this is a just-get-through-it sort of situation.
For example, you could let one male dog hang out in the kitchen with a baby gate separating him from your other two dogs, who are in crates in different rooms. The doors between those two crated dogs are closed, too.
Once your female dog is done with her heat cycle, you can slowly reintroduce the dogs using a parallel walk method. But take it slow!
If you just let the dogs back into an uncontrolled shared space again, there’s a good chance a fight will break out.
This process is a total pain. But unfortunately, fights between male dogs are pretty common when a female is in heat.
There’s not much to do about it other than separate the dogs or spay the female. Even neutered male dogs might fight around spayed females!
Kayla founded Journey Dog Training in 2013 to provide high-quality and affordable dog behavior advice. She is a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant who’s worked with hundreds of private clients, thousands of shelter dogs, and dozens of working detection dogs. Kayla’s dog and cat behavior advice has been featured in NPR, the Chicago Tribune, and Pet MD. She’s an avid adventurer who is currently doing #vanlife on the Pan-American Highway with her two border collies and a cat. Aside from running Journey Dog Training, Kayla also runs the nonprofit K9 Conservationists, where she and the dogs work as conservation detection dog teams. You can get 1:1 advice with a Journey Dog Training team member here.
Hi. I have a fixed 5 year old male yorkie. And a 10 month old Female Rotweiler she is on heat now and keeps attacking the yorkie. I have separated them for now . What should i do?
I have 2 males that have never been apart from me. They have been together for 4yrs without fighting. We now have a 9 month old female that just went in heat. Now they are fighting. Should I take the female or one of the males to my son’s. I’d take the female if I know these to brothers would not try to kill each even if she gone.
The article outlines my main suggestions – if you’d like more personalized help we’re taking online clients!
My boy yorkie is neutered my female went in her first hit . He keeps attacking her bite her head . Is this because of her period.
It is possible, I would keep them separate for now to avoid stress.
Can someone help? I have three intact males and I am watching my friend’s spayed female daily. The males have been fighting awfully, today was the worst I’ve witnessed. When she first came around she was not spayed. Is she the source of the fighting even though she’s spayed? Even when she isn’t there? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
Hi Brittany, it would be irresponsible of me to speculate without a full conversation. Are you interested in getting 1:1 help?
My female dog came into heat last week and now my two male dogs can’t be in the same room without attacking each other. its bad they are so agreessive. We have been keeping them apart but it’s so stressful because they keep finding ways to get to each other, how long will its take befor they stop and get along again, befor they were unseperable
Hi Danika, unfortunately I can’t say for sure. Continue to keep them separated for now and once her heat has completely passed you can attempt a reintroduction. Attempting too soon is likely to backfire.
I have two intact male dogs and 1 female dog, which is currently in heat. Ever since i introduced her to the household 6 months ago.. the males no longer play together. The younger male acts terrified of the older male now. With her separated, the older male still gets triggered out of no where and fights my younger male till he bleeds. What is causing this out of no where? The males have been around each other for a year. Got the younger male as a puppy as well.
Hi Kylee, we’d be happy to help you get to the bottom of this in a one-on-one consultation. You can find the link to that in the menu above, but unfortunately we can’t get into specifics of your case in the blog comments section.
I have 2 male dogs one is 8 an other is almost a year.An just recently they have started fighting..We have separated them but we hated to do this…Could a neighbor female being in heat cause this behavior?
It’s unlikely, but possible. It’s more likely that it’s due to the younger dog reaching social maturity.
I need help I am living a nightmare I have a pitbull that I have had since he was a puppy he is now 10 years old and was neutered when he turned one I also have a three-year-old female husky I have had since she was a puppy I want to breed her so I have taken her to two different male huskies and she did not take so I purchased a nine-month-old husky mail and now my female husky is in heat the two males are fighting so bad I separated the males the male husky locked up with my female husky several times and now I have them separated because they are locking up too much so now I have a neutered pitbull and husky female together because they’ve been together for three years and now she is beating the crap out of him even though he is neutered there’s a lot going on and too much to text I would extremely be interested and some one on one help or maybe advice on the phone
Hi Doris, you can book a call with us at the link in the menu!