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Spay and Neuter


Anthropomorphism (attributing human feelings to animals) is the number one reason male dogs are not neutered.

Questions I hear regularly in my classes that are all aspects of hormone related behaviors, and also great examples of why males should be neutered early:
  • Will neutering my dog change his personality?
  • What are the risks of neutering my dog?
  • What happens if I don't neuter my dog?
  • Will my dog still lift his leg?
  • Are males ever too old to be neutered?
  • My male is "marking territory" all over my house, how can I deal with this?
  • My male is aggressive toward other dogs, is this normal?
Testosterone is the male sex hormone. It is constantly being produced by the testicles. This is a powerful hormone that creates many secondary sex characteristics that at one time were vital to the survival of wild dogs. These secondary sex characteristics are of little use to the modern dog living as our house companions.

Unaltered or intact males are driven by hormones, driving him to look beyond his boundaries for feminine companionship. While seeking out females, the male will "mark" his presence by leaving urine and fecal scent markings. These marking behaviors make him the target of your angry neighbors, other wandering dogs, unknowing drivers, health risks and even poisoning. While on his mission to find females, this male dog is constantly on the alert for other males that might deter his quest or challenge his authority. Fights between intact males are inevitable, no matter how wonderful they may seem. Even if your male is the only dog in the house and is never, ever allowed to roam and wander, his hormones still affect his behavior. Some of the more typical hormone venting behaviors are barking, chewing and mounting. While trying to be alpha in your household pack, some males may even try to dominate his owners or their children.

Early neutering may delay leg lifting for urination, but it does not necessarily prevent it. This leg lifting behavior seems to be innate in male dogs. Early neutering will decrease the desire to wander, the need to challenge and dominate, the overpowering urge to mark territory and the frustration of not getting all the females on the open market. Neutered males are able to concentrate more fully on their job in life as an obedience competitor, agility competitor or full-time lap dog. Neutered males work harder and concentrate more fully on the task at hand.

Neutering has many health benefits too. Older male dogs, like their human counterparts, are prone to benign prostatic enlargement, which can lead to infection and problems with urination. Unaltered males have more incidents of rectal deviation and subsequent perineal hernias and perianal gland adenomas (tumors of the anus,) and testicular tumors are also fairly common. Neutering can prevent these conditions.

Neutering surgery is simple with little risk. Both testicles are removed through a small, single incision in front of the scrotum. In the majority of neuter surgeries, the veterinarian does not have to go into the abdomen like they would to spay a female. The dog can go home the same day or the following day with little after effects from the neutering. Neutering is most effective if it is done before bad habits become permanent, although later neutering is better than no neutering at all. The benefits of neutering are greatest if it is done before the dog reaches puberty.

A bit more on anthropomorphism. Thinking that taking away a dog's "manhood" is cruel is inaccurate. Your dog will love you more because he won't be thinking about the "girl" down the street. Think of neutering as a gift of freedom from uncontrollable urges and constant frustration.

Neutering is a good thing:
  • Neutering changes the personality in a positive manner. 
  • Dogs do not get fat and lazy from being neutered.  (Dogs get fat and lazy from too much food and too little exercise.)
  • Adult males can be neutered safely. Better to neuter while they are healthy than be forced into surgery as a senior dog.
  • Territory marking comes on after puberty and is extremely difficult to correct. Neutering before puberty will solve this problem.


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