Knowing when your Bernese Mountain Dog will go into heat isn’t so straightforward. We have many owners message us about this very topic!
This article explains everything you need to know about your Berner’s heat cycle, their first heat, the signs to look out for, and how to help.
When Do Bernese Mountain Dogs Go Into Heat?
Bernese Mountain Dogs typically experience their first heat between 8-18 months of age.
It’s rare that any will go into heat before 8 months, but it is possible it takes longer than 18 months.
Large breed dogs like Berners nearly always enter heat much later than small breeds.
How Often Do Bernese Mountain Dogs Go Into Heat?
Bernese Mountain Dogs usually go into heat once every 6-8 months.
In general, most dogs go into heat every six months once a regular pattern establishes. However, for large breed dogs like Berners, it may be a little less frequent…
Some Berners will go into heat every 6-8 months, but for others it may be every 8-10 months.
How Long Does The Heat Cycle Last
Bernese Mountain Dogs remain in heat for around 21 days (3 weeks). This can vary by a few days.
The first 8-10 days Berners will not be fertile, the last 8-10 days she’ll be fertile and ready to mate. After this, it takes another 7 days to return back to normal.
Extra info: AKC heat cycle duration
Signs Your Bernese Mountain Dog Is Going Into Heat
Something many owners are worried about is how they’ll know when their Berner’s first heat is coming… Thankfully there are several signs to be on the lookout for.
Signs your Berner is going into heat:
- Blood spots / bleeding
- Swollen vulva
- Discharge (blood colored)
- Tail tucked covering backside
- Aggression towards male dogs
- Changes in normal behavior
It’s important to remember that it could be any of the signs above that your Berner first displays.
Knowing this, it’s crucial to be on the lookout for any of them around the 6-month mark.
Four Stages of The Heat Cycle
In order to truly understand what’s happening when your Berner is in heat, it helps to know the four stages of each heat cycle.
The first stage of the heat cycle is the proestrus stage. This stage lasts around 8-10 days and your Berner will NOT be willing or ready to mate.
Signs of proestrus:
- Tail tucking
- Swollen vulva
- Increased licking around the genital area
- Aggression towards males
- Bleeding / discharge
- Changes in behavior
The second stage of the heat cycle is called Estrus. This is perhaps the most notable stage because now your Bernese Mountain Dog will be fertile and ready to mate. This stage lasts another 8-10 days.
Signs of Estrus:
- Holding tail to the side
- Swollen vulva
- Bleeding/discharge may slow down
- Receptive towards any intact male
- Aggressive towards female dogs
- Frequent urination
The third stage of the heat cycle is called Diestrus. This is when your Berner’s body slowly returns to normal. This typically takes another 7 days.
If your BMD has mated successfully, her body will remain in the diestrus stage for the duration of the 60-70 day pregnancy.
Signs of Diestrus:
- Vulva will slowly return back to normal size
- Discharge slowly stops
This is considered the resting stage. Technically, your Berner remains in this stage until her next heat cycle begins in another 6-8 months.
Extra info: Estrous cycles in dogs VCA Hospitals
Tips To Help Your Bernese Mountain Dog In Heat
Something owners are most worried about is knowing how to care for their Berner while they’re in heat.
The following tips will help make the whole process stress-free and easy to manage. Being prepared is key!
1. Have plenty of old towels ready
Yep, it’s true that these 3 weeks during heat are going to be fairly messy for most.
To save your carpets, couch, and your Berner’s bed, it’s best to lay down plenty of old towels wherever your Berner resides the most.
Old/spare towels are your best friend during heat so stock up on them beforehand. This will make cleaning and maintaining hygiene levels much easier.
2. Expect changes in behavior
One thing that owners usually aren’t ready for is a weird change in behavior.
Admittedly, it’s quite unsettling observing your Berner have mood swings, going from overly affectionate to giving you evil stares…
It’s important to inform the family that mood swings and random behavior is normal during heat cycles.
Sometimes she’ll be extra clingy and loving, and other times she’ll want nothing to do with anyone… Our advice is to support her when she wants, and give her space when she wants.
Rest assured, her behavior will stabilize shortly after her heat cycle.
3. Supervise her outside
Whenever your Berner goes outside it’s crucial to supervise her, even when it’s in your own yard.
During the first two stages, her scent will travel far and other dogs will be attracted to her. It’s not uncommon to hear stories of male dogs breaking into yards in order to mate.
Additionally, during the second stage (when she’s fertile) it’s common that female dogs will take it upon themselves to find a partner, which means escaping or running away.
This might sound bizarre, but it happens all the time.
Avoid a nightmare situation by supervising your Berner whenever she’s outside in the yard.
4. Adjust exercise routine
Due to similar reasons above, it’s important to adjust her exercise routine.
Some owners (with large yards) may choose to exercise their Berner solely at home for a few weeks to avoid unwanted interactions with dogs in public. This can prevent nasty fights and unwanted pregnancies.
For those that will still need to exercise their Berner in public, try to pick the least busy times and always keep her on the leash.
5. Keep her bed area clean
Dogs tend to lay in the bed a lot more during heat, which means it’s going to get dirty very quickly with blood and discharge happening.
To keep bacteria to a minimum it’s crucial to wash her bed area every other day.
This is why it helps to place old towels down in her bed. This way you can pop them in the wash and rotate clean towels easily.
6. Be ready for food refusal
It’s possible your Berner will experience appetite changes while she’s in heat.
To keep her eating and receiving the nutrition she needs it helps to be ready with some tasty incentives.
If your Berner starts refusing food, try any of the following:
- Add plain meat broth to her kibble
- Add a small amount of wet dog food to her kibble (careful with calories)
- Add a small spoon of peanut butter to her kibble (dog friendly)
- Reduce treats throughout the day (treats can ruin appetite)
- Ensure she stays as active as possible
7. Consider scheduling a vet appointment post-heat
While not mandatory, it’s still a good idea to schedule a vet appointment for when her heat cycle finishes.
Although extremely rare, there are some known health complications that may happen after a dogs first heat cycle.
As Berners should have a routine vet appointment every 6 months anyway, it makes sense to time it with the end of her first heat.
When Can Bernese Mountain Dogs Get Pregnant?
Bernese Mountain Dogs can get pregnant from their first heat cycle. However, this is not a recommended time to breed any Berner.
It’s recommended to wait until the 3rd or 4th heat cycle before breeding. This allows the Bernese Mountain Dog to mature both physically and mentally before taking on the stress of pregnancy.
Waiting this long also allows for better detection of health issues in the adult Berner. Breeding dogs too young increases the risk of passing on health issues to the offspring.
Additionally, breeding too young can cause many behavioral issues in the mother that can be hard to resolve in the future.