Neutering Fact Sheet

Neutering Fact Sheet
It might even improve your dog's social life.


There is much confusion concerning the physiological and behavioral effects of spaying. Some people feel that spaying will prompt a marked personality change and cause the bitch to become fat and ugly. Spaying has no deleterious effects on the bitch's personality whatsoever. If anything it makes her more predictable, relaxed and amenable-a better companion. It is true that oestrous hormones cause a reduced food intake and higher general activity, and since spaying removes the source of ovarian hormones, spayed bitches may tend to eat slightly more and exercise slightly less. However, you may easily rectify this situation by exercising your bitch a bit more and/or feeding her a bit less!

If you are not going to breed your bitch, have her spayed as soon as possible, and avoid potential complicated and costly obstetrical problems later in her life. A bitch with ovaries and uterus intact stands a progressively increasing risk of developing pyometra (pus in the uterus) as she gets older. It is far safer and cheaper to opt for a routine elective ovariohysterectomy now, than to risk the possibility of an extremely expensive, emergency and life-threatening operation when she is older.

People seem to have numerous hang-ups about castrating male dogs. No doubt a psychologist could have a field day with the owner's projections and complexes. Castration does not make dogs more lethargic. If anything, a castrated dog is more attentive and willing to please its owner, since it is less distracted. Neither does castration cause a marked personality change. And castration does not make a dog a wimp.

The behavioral endocrinology of dogs is quite unique. Whereas the castration of most mammals appears to eliminate secondary sexual characteristics, the masculine characteristics of dog behavior appear to be emancipated from adult hormone levels. Whether or not a male dog will lift his leg when urinating, sniff and mount bitches and be more aggressive than females has all been preprogrammed by fetal testosterone in utero. Adult castration has absolutely no direct effect on urination posture, sexual preference or hierarchical rank.

Castration does, however, exert a number of extremely beneficial behavioral changes. Castrated males tend to roam less than intact males. They are more content when left at home or in the yard and are less likely to develop destructive behaviors or attempt escape. A castrated dog will still urine-mark, using the characteristic male leg-lift posture, but it will do so less often.

Most importantly, castrated male dogs are involved in far fewer fights than their male counterparts with testicles. All dogs have disagreements, and most dogs fight. However, over 90% of dog fights occur between uncastrated male dogs. Strangely enough, castration does not make dogs less inclined to fight, neither does it reduce the dog's social standing vis a vis other dogs. Instead, castration reduces the desire for other dogs to pick fights with your dog. Castration removes the source of testosterone, the male sex hormone which makes male dogs smell male. Thus, castrated males appear to be less of a threat to other males, which consequently will be less aggressive and combative towards your dog. In a sense, castration makes your dog appear to be less obnoxious to others. Furthermore, if other dogs are more relaxed around your dog, your dog will feel more relaxed around them, and thus, he will be much easier to control. ■

Reprinted with permission from How To Teach A New Dog Old Tricks by Dr. Ian Dunbar, James & Kenneth Publishers, 1996 (first published in 1981 by Sirius Puppy Training.)

Dr. Ian Dunbar is a veterinarian, animal behaviourist, and author. He has written numerous books on dog behaviour and training, including Before You Get Your Puppy, After You Get Your Puppy, How to Teach a New Dog Old Tricks, and Doctor Dunbar's Good Little Dog Book. He is Director of SIRIUS Puppy Training, founder of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, and host of the British TV series Dogs With Dunbar. He recently presented a four-day instructor's workshop ("Sex and Aggression, Secrets and Games") in Orlando, Florida, May 6-9, 2004. Upcoming speaking engagements include a three-day dog behaviour and training seminar in Richmond, B.C., April 1-3, 2005, to be presented by Dogsmart and sponsored by Modern Dog. Ian Dunbar lives in Berkeley, California, with Kelly and Claude, Ollie, Dune, Ugly and Mayhem.

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Comments (2)

Very narrow and borderline ignorant article. Read this instead:
Mon, 09/17/2012 - 11:38
Unbelievably stupid, wrong, dumb and ignorant. I dearly hope you've since retired from giving terrible animal advice.
Tue, 02/08/2022 - 11:08

Dog of the Week!

Meet: Dolly