Are you thinking of neutering your dog?

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There’s a lot more to neutering than just preventing procreation. A huge lot more. But people seldom consider these side-effects in their dogs when deciding to get them “fixed”.

I actually hate that term “fixed”. It suggests that the dog arrived in some way faulty and has to have his or her insides rearranged to make him or her acceptable. This is crazy!

The dog arrives in a perfect state. If we want to alter our dog to suit ourselves, we should be prepared to admit this to ourselves and not in some way blame the dog for being wrong.

There are times when neutering is a good idea and times when it is a very, very bad idea. I’ll break these down for you, in terms of the effects.

How will neutering affect my dog’s body?

There are some medical issues where neutering is the wisest or only course to keep the dog healthy - or just alive. Infection of the uterus in a bitch, and an undescended testicle in a dog would be two of these. One is acute, the other chronic.

There are arguments that this or that cancer or condition is more likely in an unneutered dog. But there are arguments of equal weight which say that this or that other cancer or condition is more likely in a neutered dog. The percentages are tiny in either case.

The other thing to consider here is how removal of the sex hormones affect the physical development of the dog’s skeleton. The growth plates close with sexual maturity, somewhere around 9-18 months of age. So the effect of early neutering - before this age - can be relative elongation of the long bones and consequent disruption of articulation in the joints. The net result can be less efficient movement (no good if you got your dog for working or performance) and then joint problems in later years (no good for anyone).

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For this reason alone I think that neutering of either sex shouldn’t be contemplated till the dog is sexually mature. For bitches that would mean a few months after the first season at the earliest. Dogs would need to be 10 months to 3 years, depending largely on the size of the breed. The larger the dog, the longer it takes to mature.

I have now reached the limit of my medical knowledge, so I’ll move on to an area where I’m more comfortable!

How will neutering affect my dog’s mind?

The key thing for me is the effects neutering can have on how your dog is, on a day-to-day basis.

Many people believe that neutering their dog will calm them down. In fact, studies have shown that the opposite is true! Your neutered dog or bitch is likely to be more excitable than an intact dog. So please kick that one to the kerb.

Is neutering your dog the automatic next step? Think again! Neutering can have a lot of unwanted effects on your pet, many of which you may not know about! | FREE EMAIL COURSE | #aggressivedog, #reactivedog, #dogtraining, #growlydog, #doghealth, #dogneutering, #dogspaying | www.brilliantfamilydog.com

There has been a lot of scientific research over recent years. Studies have to cover a lot of dogs for a lot of years to be of any use, so they take a long time to emerge. I list a load of them in the Resources below. 

My main interest is how neutering can affect reactivity. As you’ll see from some of these studies, neutering can have a big impact on this!

“It has been shown, in a number of recent scientific studies, that neutering - especially early neutering - will increase sound sensitivity, touch sensitivity, fears, and aggression, in both males and females. In some cases that increase is “significant” or “highly significant”. People-directed aggression in females, for instance, was significantly elevated in the neutered bitches studied. (See the Resources Section for chapter and verse on this.) That’s what those studies found. A lot more research is needed to get more answers, and these studies can take years to produce reliable results.

These unfortunate outcomes are - of course - not guaranteed to happen if you neuter your dog! But it’s important to be aware that they just may happen. And if they complicate an already complicated situation, that’s not helpful.

Neutering has the potential to make your dog worse.”

From Essential Skills for your Growly but Brilliant Family Dog

In brief, neutering a dog when he is experiencing fear of anything in the world around him (i.e. he responds to novelty or movement with barking, lunging, trembling, hiding … any action that does not demonstrate confidence) has the potential to make him MORE fearful.

And neutering a female who is already showing fear of other dogs has the potential to make her reactive to people as well after spaying.

You’ll see the facts and figures in the studies below.

If you’ve already neutered your pet, that’s water under the bridge. You can’t change it now.

BUT if you’re happily planning to neuter your dog simply because you think society expects it of you, or your vet suggests it as the automatic next step, please think again.

Once it’s done, it’s done. And if it changes your beloved dog’s nature and makes life harder for both of you, then you’re up the creek without a paddle.

But you have to neuter your dog, don’t you?

And what about the chief reason usually given for choosing to neuter? It’s to do with reproduction. Preventing unwanted puppies. It could also be to prevent bitching, wandering, fighting in males. But responsible management will do this for you! If you’re reading this post, it’s unlikely that your dog is wandering abroad without you knowing where he or she is.

Since neutering became the big thing - the answer to the stray dog problem - has anyone noticed the shelters getting empty? Irresponsible dog-owners will neither neuter their dogs nor contain them. I’m afraid there’s a lot of “preaching to the choir” here. And the fallout is that a lot of dogs’ lives have been unnecessarily altered for the worse, because of only partial education.

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing

You need to see the whole picture before making what is essentially a fundamental and momentous decision about the future of the dog in your care.

I’m suggesting that you need to change your mindset from neutering being an automatic next step for your puppy to seeing that you have a choice in this.

In some European countries it is considered barbaric to mutilate dogs, and neutering of either sex is usually only done for medical reasons. At the other extreme we have cultures where people are vociferous in declaring that all dogs should be neutered and it is our duty as a citizen to do this. I’ve had people writing to me from these countries asking if that’s a thing? You can actually NOT neuter your dog? Unheard-of.

In case you think I am on a mission to ban neutering, I can tell you that only one of my four dogs is entire at the time of writing. You have to decide what is right for your situation. I just want you to realise that there’s more to this than meets the eye, and you do have a choice.

RESOURCES

The effects of neutering on health and behaviour: a summary



Neutering Causes Behavior Problems in Male Dogs

Behavioral and Physical Effects of Spaying and Neutering Domestic Dogs (Canis familiaris)

Summary of findings detailed in a Masters thesis submitted to and accepted by Hunter College by Parvene Farhoody in May, 2010

 

Evaluation of the risk and age of onset of cancer and behavioral disorders in gonadectomized Vizslas

AVMA, Vol 244, No. 3, February 1, 2014

M. Christine Zink DVM PhD, Parvene Farhoody MA, Samra E. Elser BS, Lynda D. Ruffini, Tom A. Gibbons MS, Randall H. Rieger PhD

 

Non-reproductive Effects of Spaying and Neutering on Behavior in Dogs

Deborah L. Duffy PhD, and James A. Serpell PhD

Center for the Interaction of Animals and Society, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania

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