A female dog in heat emits such a powerful scent that male dogs from 3 miles away can smell it. A lot of the information you’ll find online offers snake oil salesman solutions to masking the scent of a female dog in heat. While you can safely and responsibly reduce the smell, no man-made scent is going to eliminate the natural odor calling card of the canine reproductive cycle.
We’ve fact-checked and investigated all the suggestions you’ll find online and took them to an expert in the field of canine breeding.
How Dogs in Heat Emit Scent
Let’s start with how the heat cycle and scent production work.
A female dog starts her heat with telltale signs of bloody discharge, an enlarged vulva, and different personality traits like becoming extra needy. During the first part of the heat, the female is bleeding but isn’t open to mounting. She’ll adamantly defend her genitals.
She’s going to urinate a lot, and that’s how she sends the main message to male dogs that she’s open for business.
Dr. Jerry Klein, Chief Veterinary Officer at the American Kennel Club explains how it works. “When a female goes into heat, she produces and emanates an extremely strong pheromone smell mixed with her urine which helps notify males that she is in the area.”
Doctor Klein says you might not even notice the smell at all. Even if you can smell it, to male dogs it’s going to be exponentially stronger.
READ MORE: Can a dog in heat get pregnant while bleeding?
I Want to Mask the Scent. How Do I Do That?
For those wondering “Why would you want to mask the scent?” Here are a few reasons.
- Waiting for a female dog’s first heat cycle to pass before getting her fixed
- Desire to breed with a certain dog, but want to keep other dogs away
- Financially cannot afford the procedure, but want to keep the dog from getting pregnant
Whatever your reason is for keeping the dog in her reproductive cycle, let’s go through the truth, myths, and risks of masking the scent.
The Making Scent Options
There are plenty of products you can find online for a low price that promises to keep the male dogs away from females in heat. Some people offer homemade remedies. We took these options to Dr. Klein at the ACK to get his take on the different options.
The theory is that products like Vicks Vapor Rub have such a potent smell, it will mask the scent of a female dog’s pheromones. Some suggest applying to the dog’s back, others say applying to the genital area works.
Dr. Klien explains, “The smell is not fail-safe. Additionally, these medications can cause irritation around the affected skin and many dogs will try to lick the affected area, which is irritating and harmful to the tongue and esophagus when liked and ingested.”
Add Chlorophyll to the Dog’s Water
Breeders and pet store owners might say that adding chlorophyll to the dog’s water helps add it to the urine and mask the smell. Don’t take their word for it.
“Chlorophyll tablets given daily to females in heat have also been advised without true scientific data,” Dr. Klein says.
There’s the suggestion that a female dog in heat wearing doggy diapers will be less likely to spread their scent. The diapers do serve the purpose of keeping the dog’s bloody discharge from getting on your carpet or furniture. Dr. Klein says wearing diapers is best done for hygiene and cleanliness.
Bathing the Female Dog in Heat
A good bath should do the trick, right? Not necessarily. In fact, it could have the opposite result, according to Dr. Klein,
“Though frequent bathing would seem to eliminate the scent of a dog in heat, in my experience, it dissipates the scent and my male dogs are more attracted than ever to a newly bathed female in heat. I would keep her clean for hygiene sake but not necessarily to prevent attracting intact male dogs.”
Frequent bathing can also irritate a dog’s skin, and if a dog doesn’t like water, you might make an already cranky dog that much more displeased. You can keep the area clean with safe dog wipes without having to go into the bathtub.
Covering Their Urine Outside
You aren’t going to be able to stop the natural instinct of a dog in heat from urinating a lot, and if you don’t take them outside often you’re going to have a mess inside. Some people opt to cover the potty spots outside with a homemade mix.
“A spray bottle diluted with bleach or vinegar may temporarily mask the scent, but any good-blooded male dog will be able to smell the scent underneath at some point,” Dr. Klein emphasizes.
It might be worth trying this, as it won’t hurt your dog, but it’s just a mask and not a removal of the scent.
Should I Wait to Spay My Female Dog?
It was long said that a female should be spayed at 6 months of age. Most animal shelters won’t let a dog go home without being fixed. PETA reports there are 70 million homeless dogs and cats in America, so controlling the pet population is important.
However, new research shows that spaying a female dog before their first heat – which shows adult maturity in the dog – could lead to bone and joint issues down the road. We asked Dr. Klein of the AKC his expert opinion on that.
“Recent scientific data suggests that waiting until a female is mature, especially in some of the large and giant breeds, may reduce the likelihood of medical issues further down the road in life. This is less true of small and toy breeds, where spaying at 6-9 months of age is considered acceptable.”
Dr. Klein punctuates that you should wait at least one month after a dog’s heat cycle to get her spayed. Doing the procedure while a dog is in heat increases the risk of hemorrhaging.
What Should I Do about the Male Dog in My Home?
You see your pets as siblings, and a sibling would never try to mate with a sibling in human logic. Dogs don’t work that way. Any intact male is going to be attracted to a dog in heat.
The most basic step would be to separate them into different parts of your home. However, the urge for intact males is so strong they’ll break down doors, chew through walls, and dig under fences to get to the female. They aren’t being bad dogs, they are just driven by instinct.
Ideally, you could move the male dog to a loved one’s home during the heat cycle. You might struggle with that, as you want your pets close, but look at it this way – keeping them in the same space is going to drive your male dog crazy, keep you laser-focused at all times during the weeks of heat, and risk the two of them connecting. Once dogs connect, you cannot pull them apart.
If you have a neutered male in the home, he doesn’t have the strong drive to mate as much as an intact male. However, he might still have the urge. The good news is, even if they do connect, the neutered male dog is “shooting blanks”, so there isn’t a risk of pregnancy.
The Scent of a Dog
You can try all the varieties of ways to mask the smell of a dog in heat, but there’s not going to be a 100% way to stop the smell. You, as a human, have no way to know if the scent is being masked, as dogs have a smelling power 40 times stronger.
Nature is more powerful than any product humans can sell online for a few bucks. The best way to keep male dogs away from a female dog in heat is to limit their exposure to the dog physically.