Are you considering spaying or neutering your dog to change their behaviour?
You may hear a buzz of conflicting rumours about sterilization surgery. You may have heard that it could solve your dog’s behavioural issues, or you might be concerned that your dog will be worse off, never to be the same again.
Fortunately, the effects of spaying and neutering on dogs has been studied extensively for the past couple of decades. There’s no simple answer to this question, but we can help you understand the science behind it so you can make an informed choice for your dog.
How Will Spaying Or Neutering Change My Dog’s Behaviour?
Studies are conflicted about how dog’s behaviour is influenced by sterilization surgery.
One source, which included data from over 10,000 dogs, showed a strong positive correlation between spaying and neutering and aggression, fear and anxiety. Dogs who were fixed younger than 12 months seemed to be at an increased risk of behavioural issues.
If your dog already has a behavioural issue, whether they’re showing signs of aggression, anxiety or seem difficult to train, spaying or neutering is not a reliable, or even promising solution. While these issues can, in part, be influenced by hormones, there are so many factors and possible underlying causes.
Work with a professional trainer who uses positive reinforcement methods for behaviour modification. Healthy Houndz dog training in North York and Toronto uses modern, science-based methods to help dogs feel more confident and resolve common behavioural issues.
Can Neutering Stop Urine Marking?
There is evidence that neutering before puberty can reduce urine marking. However, a male dog who is neutered before puberty can still mark. It’s even possible for female dogs to develop a habit of lifting a leg to mark objects with their urine. Intact males may have a stronger urge to mark inside your home.
However, urine marking, alone, is not the best factor to base your decision on when and if to neuter your male dog. This unwanted behaviour can be resolved through training. In the meantime, a belly band will prevent your dog from urinating indoors.
Does Spaying And Neutering Make Dogs Lazy or Overweight?
There is a strong, well-known positive correlation between spaying/neutering and weight gain.
That does not necessarily mean your pet will gain weight after surgery, at least not if you’re not careful. Your dog’s hormones affect their metabolism, appetite and activity levels. You can encourage your dog to stay active by going for longer walks and setting up indoor activities.
What We Recommend
The best choice for your dog depends on your unique situation and your priorities.
When you get your dog from a shelter or rescue, their policy may be to only adopt out dogs that have been spayed or neutered. So, you may not have a say in the matter.
If you feel there is a strong chance that your dog will be able to escape your home and mate with other dogs, spaying or neutering may be a priority for population control. Intact dogs have a stronger drive to roam and find a mate. However, even spayed and neutered dogs need to be secured with a leash, a tether, or a real fence – not an “invisible” fence.
If you’re able to keep your dog secure, and you’re able to choose when to spay and neuter, it’s best to wait until your dog is fully grown, if you decide to do it at all. Small dogs reach full maturity by 16 months of age, while giant breeds can take up to 2.5 years to fully mature.
When it comes time to spay and neuter, ask your vet if they offer alternative sterilization surgery options. It is possible for male dogs to have a vasectomy and female dogs can undergo an ovary-sparing spay, so they will not be able to reproduce, though their body can still produce all of the same hormones.
Managing Your Intact Dog
If you plan to wait until after your dog is mature to spay or neuter, you’ll need to take a few simple steps to prevent unwanted pregnancies.
Males are fertile as early as 6 months of age, and will continue to be fertile throughout their entire life. A male can sense a female in heat up to 3 miles away, so your male may feel compelled to roam.
Your female may experience her first heat as early as 4 months, though the average is 6 months. You will not always notice blood and swelling until midway through her cycle, though she will be most receptive immediately after the bleeding has stopped. She may try to roam when she is receptive. To be on the safe side, avoid off-leash dog parks, hiking areas and beaches for at least three weeks after the first sign of bleeding.
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