Join Date: Nov 2009
Location: Erie PA
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There is no rule of thumb when the girls have their first heat cycle. They can have it anywhere from around 6 mos old up until 14 mos old. Your breeder should be able to give you a guesstimate as to when most of her girls typically have their first heat cycles. For example, ours usually have their first heat from 10 mos to a year. We have had a few come a little earlier and some as late as 14 mos. They are all "normal".
While a girl can be "in heat" without a discharge(it is called a silent heat because there isn't blood) it is rather uncommon and not at all common on a first heat cycle. The heat cycle starts when you see blood. There will be some swelling and they will also usually start to clean themselves more however, wiping a tissue across the vulva will give you a smear of blood and often the first sign is tiny droplets of blood on the floor.
Heat cycles typically last between 3 weeks to a month. The discharge will start off as a brownish colored blood and then change to a more red color and then change yet again when they are in standing heat(and would accept a male dog) to the color of straw and then a bit more color comes back before they are finally done bleeding. I recommend people keep them away from male dogs for 4 weeks once they see blood. Don't be lulled into a false sense of security that if your girl lives with neutered boys, they won't breed her or try to breed her-they will and they can also "tie". The only thing a neutered male dog cannot do is get them pregnant.
If you have more than one dog of different sex, you can usually trade with a friend or family member and send one to them and then you can watch their dog while they are on vacation or something. Another option is boarding one of them and yet the last option is just keeping them separated.
The girls are not in pain while they are in season. Maybe a bit crampy for a few days, but other than that, you should not notice any changes other than maybe a bit clingy from the hormones.