I often talk to new puppy owners about getting their dogs neutered. There seems to be endless conflicting advice from vets and other professionals regarding this topic and not in regards to if it should be done, but WHEN.
I will start with if it should be done?
Yes it should be done; nearly all professional dog people and anyone with any common sense will understand that all dogs should be neutered. It will come as no shock that vets push it heavily and that’s because spaying and castration are a bread and butter income for vets but there is much more to it than that. Dogs do not need to breed; we have too many dogs as it is (UK dog population stands around 9 million) and far too many of them are unwanted.
Most people who have a new dog shouldn’t even consider breeding from it unless they are extremely experienced in caring for and raising dogs. I say to my clients that they should be focussing on making the dog the best it can be before even considering breeding from it. Unfortunately dog breeding is a big business and if there is money to be made people will take advantage. When people bring home their new French bulldog they have just purchased for £1500+ and I mention getting the dog neutered you can see their dreams of making a quick buck diminish with haste. The old saying goes “if you make money out of breeding dogs, you aren’t doing it right” I truly believe this. The most common thing I hear when people (mostly men) try and justify not castrating boys is “how would you like it if someone cut off your balls”! This is utter tosh! I have many dogs castrated and I can guarantee you they have no idea they are gone after the initial healing. No dog mopes around dreaming of his lost manhood!
I’m not going to go into any detail regarding the health benefits or risks of neutering as this is best left to Veterinary professionals; my view comes purely from a behavioural stand point.
The biggest and most notable outcome of dog castration is how well the dogs interact with other dogs, especially other males.
Simply put, its makes them nicer to other dogs. Dog on dog aggression is a huge problem and a horrible experience so anything we can do to limit it should be done. It’s worth noting here that most dog on dog aggression is fear based but the two are often very interlinked. Dogs that are entire tend to be more wary (fearful) of other male dogs, they see them as a threat. The hackles go up and they do the ‘stand tall ‘pose and the next thing you know it’s all biting and barking! The other dog may have been a young male who is just checking things out and then bang he’s being attacked. The outcome of this encounter is now two possibly fear aggressive dogs.
The next benefit of castration is focus; dogs that are looking to mate do not focus well on us. When you are trying to teach your dog that all important recall and he’s too busy with his nose in an inappropriate place or trying to hump, it makes things difficult. The dog is overrun with an innate desire to mate so of course his focus will be elsewhere, castrated dogs are much more likely to retain their focus. Other benefits can include reduced humping and less straying when out on walks, it will not ‘Calm the dog down’ this is a myth I’m afraid!
When it comes to spaying Bitches the benefits are more physical that behavioural but I do believe it tends to make them more sociable with others dogs, especially when the bitch is in season. The worst dog fight I have ever witnessed was between two bitches, one of which was in season. The mess and smell that bitches create is the biggest benefit of spaying and also not having to worry about interest from males during their season.
So we have covered the IF now it’s time to discuss the WHEN….
When it comes to bitches I would recommend speaking to your vet but generally it should be done before the bitch is two years of age, some vets will spay before the bitches first season and other will insist they have one season. I don’t see the difference between the two regarding behaviour benefits so whichever your vet recommends.
The’ when’ in dogs is far more of a controversial topic and my personal view is they should be done at no later than 6 months. The counter argument you may hear from vets especially regarding larger breeds is that the dog’s growth can be stunted by removing the testosterone this early. I have spent a long time around dogs and have seen literally thousands; I have never yet come across a dog that has had stunted growth due to an early castration. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen and I’m sure there are examples to be found but I’ve never seen one.
I recommend getting dogs castrated as early as possible to see the full benefits, once the testosterone starts to take hold it’s difficult to reverse its psychological effects. Think of it this way……he will never miss what he never had! People often wait until there is an issue then hope that castration with solve everything, don’t risk it, and get those balls off ASAP! If you must wait then 18 months should be the absolute latest as in my experience if you do it after this you are mostly wasting your time if you are hoping for a behaviour change.
Get it done and get it done early! Until the next time, enjoy your dogs!! That’s why we have them!!!