To neuter or not to neuter, that is the question
The word ‘neuter’ is commonly used to refer only to male dogs. However, neuter actually means to take away the reproductive abilities of male or female. As in to make ‘Neutral’, something that was clearly one or the other before. Castrating is done to males and Spaying is done to females. Most dog owners will choose to spay their female dogs, if they are not used for breeding, to avoid unwanted litters or to avoid the messy heat periods of their female dog. When it comes to the males, there is often the question of should I neuter my dog or not?
What are the advantages of leaving my male dog intact? What are the disadvantages? What are the advantages of castrating my dog? I will focus on males in this post.
I personally have always favored male dogs because castration is cheaper and the recovery time is usually effortless. Female dogs can develop complications from a spay operation, as their entire uterus is taken out, a hysterectomy. A male dog is given a small incision on his testicles sack, and the testicles are snipped and pulled out. The result is a few tiny stitches, and it’s all over. I have had only two females, both healed up well but it took much longer. That was many years ago, spaying cost $150 and castration cost about $50. Now the costs have gone through the roof for both genders.
That being said, it was always male dogs that seemed to find us too, and so we had a string of adopted male dogs. When we were given the choice, I would always pick a male puppy for the reasons of cost and recovery. There was never an option of leaving any male or female dog, fully intact. We did not want to deal with the messy female dog heats and the males becoming territorial and wandering off to find females (among other behaviours).
Over the many years of owning and operating a dog boarding business, here on our small ranch, I encountered many fully intact males. Sometimes the dogs were fully intact because the owners had just procrastinated in getting it done. The reasons given were usually… ‘I will get him neutered if he starts to hump other dogs or people’, or ‘I will get him neutered if he starts to wander off’. Sometimes, if the dog was a purebred, the owner might have been holding off because somewhere down the line, the owner hoped to breed his dog to another for a bit of cash.
Oddly enough, there are men who will not neuter their male dogs because they feel their male dog will be ‘less of a male’, and that bothers them. Some feel that neutering their male dog will hurt their dog’s feelings and change his personality. Generally there is also the concern that ‘if I have my dog neutered, he or she will get fat’.
Valid reasons to leave a male intact are few…
1- For breeding– Your male dog is a valuable specimen of his breed, meaning he has exceptional conformation, exceptional talents or abilities, and an exceptional temperament. The dog should have all of these, to be considered for breeding to a likewise female. The offspring from exceptional parents are much more likely to be exceptional themselves. That is what a reputable breeder strives for, to breed dogs that will provide value to their owners as more than pets.
Guide dogs for instance, have to meet very stringent guide lines for temperament and abilities. Police dogs too have to pass certain guidelines in order to be accepted as canine officers. The list goes on and on, for all breeds that are working breeds and others too. Why would you breed a super hyper male dog if what you wanted were offspring that are calm and easy going?. Why would you breed a lazy laid back dog if you wanted a high energy offspring? Does it make sense to breed dogs that have serious conformation faults, that will be compounded in their offspring? No, of course not, right?
2- Your male dog is very laid back, never shows any territorial behaviours etc. I have NEVER met a fully intact male dog that meets this description. I am sure they exist, because there are exceptions to most rules, I just have never met any.
That’s it, those are the only reasons I can come up with.
Valid reasons to neuter your male dog are more than a few...
1- Your dog cannot breed with any unauthorized female dog, creating a litter that may or may not be wanted.
2- Your male dog’s territorial tendencies will be much less, as the testosterone levels are decreased.
3- Your dog’s level of natural aggression will be much less as the testosterone levels are decreased.
4- Your male dog will get along better with other dogs, without his hormones on high alert.
5- Your dog will keep his weight on better, I’ve noticed that fully intact males burn off more calories and have a tendency to be on the too thin side.
6- Generally I have noticed a calming down after the hormones fade, a male dog that was previously too hyper, will be more laid back.
7- The risk of testosterone fueled cancers becomes almost nil
As you can see, I found at least 7 reasons to neuter your dog….. However, and yes there is a however….if you wait too long to neuter your dog, some of the benefits will disappear.
If a male dog has spent years marking territory, and acting the essential male, those behaviours become entrenched. The best time to neuter a male dog is between 6 and 10 months. I usually wait until my male dogs are between 9-10 months of age to allow the hormones to enhance the masculine growth. When dogs are neutered very young, they grow up looking more like a female dog. Females are generally lighter in build, and a bit smaller over all than male dogs. I like my male dogs to look more masculine without all the masculine attitude.
I would not hesitate to neuter earlier though, if I had a male dog that started marking territory early and tried to hump everything that moved. I always have large breeds and they do mature slower than small breeds. I have seen little 4 month old Jack Russells acting like one year old studs!
In summary, your dog will be easier to train over all, easier to house train for sure, will get along better with other dogs, because he does not have the hormones raging through his system. If you feed free choice, male dogs will possibly gain too much weight as they are burning fewer calories. I don’t advocate free choice feeding at all anyway, read my pages on that subject to know why (Basic Manners or What Does a Dog Need). If you find your dog is gaining too much weight, just reduce his food. It’s just that simple! So in answer to ‘Should I neuter my dog?’, I think I have given you 7 good and valid reasons to say Yes, absolutely yes 🙂
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