How to Get a Male Dog to Eat When a Female Dog is in Heat

Last Updated: October 27, 2023

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Most dogs are quick to scarf down whatever you put in front of them. Mealtime is their favorite part of the day, and most canines are eager to chow down as soon as they can. So when your dog suddenly shows disinterest in its meals, things can get pretty worrisome.

Dog owners who own or live near an unspayed female know this struggle all too well!

Male Dog wont eat While a Female Dog is in Heat

When those female dogs go into heat, males can go crazy.

The female pheromones are so potent that male dogs can sometimes forget to act like they usually do. Suddenly, the things they love most no longer matter. That includes eating!

Male dogs are notorious for starving themselves when they're in the presence of females in heat. While a day or two of fasting isn't going to cause much harm, an entire heat cycle of not eating can lead to weight gain and health problems.

So, what do you do?

Understanding the Female Heat Cycle

If you're not familiar with what happens when female dogs go into heat, here are the basics!

Essentially, a heat cycle is a window of time when females are most receptive to breeding. They release pheromones, which are irresistible to males.

Most female dogs will also experience discharge, much like a human menstrual cycle.

The pheromones are meant to signal any male in the vicinity. In the wild, it was the only means to attract a mate. While you can't smell those hormones, male dogs certainly do!

The scent is quite potent, so you don't even have to have a female dog in your home to cause trouble. It could be your neighbor's unspayed dog that could be triggering your male pup's behavior.

Heat cycles usually occur about twice a year. Small dogs may have up to four cycles a year, while larger dogs might only have one. It varies from one pooch to the next.

The cycle can last anywhere between two and four weeks, which is why your male dog's response to it is so dangerous. Avoiding food for that long could present severe health issues.

Related read: 11 Tips to Calm Down a Female Dog in Heat

Why Do Male Dogs Refuse to Eat?

The culprit in this situation is those potent pheromones!

When we say that they are strong, we mean it! The scent is so distracting that male dogs will do everything to get to the female.

It's not uncommon to see male dogs jumping fences and destroying barriers.

That's why you have to be careful if you own an unspayed female dog. A lack of supervision and control can lead to an unexpected pregnancy!

Ultimately, because they're distracted, it's as simple as that!

You might notice some other weird behaviors, too.

Some male dogs will exhibit symptoms of an illness. For example, they might start vomiting or showing some slight aggression.

We recommend separating the dogs if you're not sure whether those symptoms are due to those female hormones or an actual illness.

Typically, symptoms subside when the pheromones are not within detectable distances. If those issues still occur, seek a vet's help!

Related: Common Reasons Why a Dog Won't Eat

7 Ways to Get a Male Dog to Eat Around a Female in Heat

It's a pretty interesting thing to think about: Your male dog is so enamored with a female's scent that he's refusing to eat! In any other context, it would be a pretty funny situation.

But when your prince's health is on the line, it's anything laughable. Luckily, there are some easy solutions to get your dog eating again.

1.  Create Physical Separation

Here's a quick and easy fix.

Separate your unfixed male and female.

Provide as much separation as possible. If the male and female live in the same house, things will get tricky. But it's doable.

dog eating in seperate room

Consider feeding your dogs in separate rooms. 

You can even take the male outside while keeping the female secure in a faraway room.

We don't recommend bringing your female outdoors unless you're there to watch over her.

With some separation, you may be able to take the pheromones out of the mix. When your male dog doesn't detect them anymore, they may be more inclined to eat.

2.  Rid Yourself of the Scent

If you interact with the female, make sure to get rid of the scent.

It doesn't matter if you touched her or not. Being in the same room can make some of those pheromones stick to your clothes.

Take a shower and do a wardrobe change!

It's important to ensure that leashes, collars, blankets, and any other accessory that might hold her scent aren't in the same room. Those items can carry her smell, making it seem like she's right there with the male.

Related: 10 Smells that Repel Dogs

3.  Mask the Scent

When your male can no longer smell the aroma, they should regain the urge to eat.

4.  Use High-Impact Treats

Sometimes, all it takes is a little bit of encouragement.

This technique is hit or miss. Some dogs will respond to treats, allowing you to break their distraction. However, others won't even consider those tasty treats.

Zuke's Mini Naturals Chicken Recipe Training Dog Treats

To improve the odds of this treat working, use high-impact goodies. We're talking about real meat or protein-rich training treats.

They have better quality ingredients and are tastier, making them more appealing to dogs.

Use the treats to lure your pup in! You can even drop a few into their food bowl to encourage them to continue eating.

5.  Consider a Longer Term Vacation

This might seem a bit like overkill, but it may be your only option.

A long-term stay away from the female dog can solve the issue immediately.

If a neighborhood female dog is in heat and you can't control where it goes, you might have to resort to this option to keep your furry friend healthy.

Take them to a friend's house or let them stay at a boarding facility they've used in the past.

A few weeks away will ensure that your dog continues eating despite the local dog's blast of pheromones. Fido won't even know about it! He'll be too busy having fun during his getaway!

6.  Wear Him Out

Here's another easy trick that can make all the difference.

Dogs with too much energy are usually the ones that go crazy the most around female dogs in heat. So how do you solve that issue?

By wearing him out with exercise and play!

Go for a long run or intense play session before dinner.

Use up that energy supply, and your dog will want to eat every drop of food you provide. They need it to regain energy.

Not only that, but some dogs will immediately go to sleep, ignoring those smells completely.

7.  Think About Spaying and Neutering

If all else fails, you can always consider spaying and neutering your dogs.

Spaying will get rid of heat cycles completely. Meanwhile, neutering eliminates the urge to chase females in heat.

You can do one or the other. Or, you can spay and neuter both of your dogs. Doing so can help keep their behavior in check and enables you to do your part to keep the pet population under control.

Related: Dog Neutering Aftercare


Watching your dog react to a nearby female in heat is undoubtedly an interesting experience. It changes their personality completely, making them forget their usual routine.

The infatuation can get so bad that your dog ignores their beloved food.

Fear not! You can try these tips to snap your dog back to reality and get him eating once more.

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About the author 


Steve is a writer with over 10 years of experience in dog training and nutritiion.

His goal is to educate dog owners about the ins and outs of canine behavior as well as keeping up with the latest scientific research in the field.