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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Why Neuter?

I know this is a highly debated topic in the dog world, but it's a decision that so many others must face in owning pets that I thought maybe it would help to share our reasons behind our decision.

Well as of Monday we went ahead and had Jack neutered. 

Jack is Recovering Nicely From Surgery!
The hardest part is keeping him from being active for 7 - 10 days! Except for the first day home, he's been completely pain free. He doesn't seem to understand why we keep him on a leash and don't allow him to run or jump, but so far so good! His incision site is nice and clean and so far healing beautifully.

When we are not home and at night, we keep him in his crate with a soft cone on his head for comfort and to prevent him from licking his incision site.

During the day since we are supposed to be attempting to keep his exercise down I have him on a two ended leash so that I can clip him to my waist, or tether him to things like the coffee table, island in the kitchen, or post on the back deck - this helps to prevent him from jumping up/down on the couch, wrestling with Dante & Ziva, and keeps him from stair running. All of which are forbidden according to the vet until at least day 5!

Right......So a few honest to goodness husky temper tantrums, and lots of fun chewy toys later we seem to have found a routine.

He's not a fan of the cone, but we're using lots of positive reinforcement with it so he is actually pretty good about shoving his own head inside the cone with zero struggle! The cone again - we're only using when we can't supervise him to prevent chewing/licking.

The reasons we chose to neuter Jack:
  • Jack is at least a year old.
  • Jack has some behavioral issues associated with being intact.
    • He attempts to mount every dog he sees, no matter how many times we pull him off, redirect him, give timeouts, reward different behaviors etc..He can't seem to help himself. In Jacks case this is not dominance based or play induced mounting it is simply sexual over arousal and frustration.
      • Chomping, drooling, when watching Dante or Ziva.
      • Obsession to sniff even lick pee, eww gross!
    • He is very easily overstimulated and aroused.
    • Jack runs away, and has terrible focus.   Intact dogs (especially males) are more likely to wander in search of potential mates. Intact males are also more easily distracted by scents including, but not limited to pheromones.
      • Neutered males tend to have better focus and self control.
  • We are not keeping Jack he is a foster, even if he ends up in a wonderful family we do not want him to be bred in the future. Not only is he not a purebred, but we don't know his health history or that of his family, and we do not want to contribute to more puppies in the world who need homes.

Should you spay/neuter your dog?
This is an important decision you make regarding the health and lifestyle of your dog.

Photo Attribution: RoBeE via Flicker
Reasons people don't want to spay/neuter:
  • Concerned that their dog's personality will change - This is a long standing myth.
  • My children should witness our pet giving birth - their are plenty of videos online you can watch please don't contribute to the pet population just for this reason.
  • I want my dog to be protective - a dog's personality is both genetics and how he/she is raised, not sex hormones. Most dogs have a naturally protective instinct that neutering will not decrease.
  • "It's his manhood!"  -  Dogs and cats do not have a sexual identity or ego the way humans do. Your pet will not experience an identity crisis or emotional reaction when spay/neutered. His/her personality will remain the same.
  • "I'll find good homes for the babies."  - Ok, but will those good homes spay/neuter? You can only control your decisions not the decisions of other people. Your pets puppies and kittens, or their puppies and kittens, could end up reproducing animals that end up on the street or in a shelter.

Being a rescue advocate, who encourages adopting a dog from a rescue or local human society I cannot in good conscious agree with the choice to own an intact male or female dog unless the dog is from a reputable breeder and is going to be bred in the future.
Many breeders require puppies who are not suitable for breeding be spayed/neutered. This prevents health problems from being passed on to future generations and ensures that only the best of health and temperament continue on.

Photo Attribution: West Midlands Police via Flickr
Rescues and shelters spay/neuter before adoption to ensure that their dogs aren't bred in the future.

It is important in my mind to have responsible registered breeders, in order for us to breed dogs that are healthier and have wonderful personalities.

Having different breeds are also important because of the strengths and weaknesses that are generally associated with the dog breed. Certain dogs are better at specific tasks like tracking, bomb/firearm detection, drug detection, and different medical service tasks. In looking for a dog to do a specific job both breed and personality of the individual dog are considered.

Besides the obvious one of preventing yet another litter of puppies/kittens their are other reasons to spay/neuter your dog or cat.

Reasons to Nueter
In dogs and cats - males mark their territory by spraying urine. Neutering before this is a habit is most effective but even if you choose to wait it can help to decrease this behavior. One thing I noticed right off with Dante and Jack is that Dante prefers to pee standing with four feet on the ground, similar to a racehorse stance unless he is going out of his way to "mark" something like the tip top of the bush that Jack just peed on. Jack on the other hand is constantly walking around lifting his leg, being very careful to mark all the key spots around the perimeter of the yard - he then walks this perimeter and consistently hits those same spots.

Neutering reduces sexual behaviors such as mounting, masturbating, and excessive licking of themselves or others. More on mounting, in Jack's case he was mounting out of sexual arousal - he had zero self control and we're hoping that his recent neuter will help decrease this behavior. But it's important to note that dogs mount for different reasons, frustration, dominance, puppies mount during play to instigate a game, and dogs will mount due to lack of proper socialization.
Mounting in the doggy world is rude! Properly socialized, well balanced dogs do not mount during play. Mounting during play occurs when a dog becomes over aroused and doesn't know how else to express himself.

Neutering eliminates the chance of testicular cancer.

Neutering can help to prevent hormonally influenced (sexual frustration) aggressive behaviors. Experiences early on in life, and genetics play a role in aggression, but neutering a young male decreases the likelihood of him developing dominance aggression. Both male and female dogs regardless of breed have the ability to show aggression but the statistics show that intact (un-neutered) males are most likely to show aggression. According to the CDC sexually intact males are 2.6 times more likely to bite than neutered dogs.
Photo Attribution: Foundation Animals Service
More on that though, even if your intact male isn't aggressive himself, other dogs may see him as a rival and attack him.

Intact dogs tend to roam. Male dogs will travel miles to find a female in heat if he catches scent of her pheromones.

Neutered males have longer attention spans because they are less distracted by pheromonal stimuli. Rather than looking for females and rivals they pay more attention to you - this is why most service males are neutered.

Reduced risk for ovarian, breast, prostate cancer and reduced risk of perianal tumors and hernias in older dogs.

Research has shown their are good reasons to wait until your dog is older to spay/neuter.

Photo Attribution: Anita Ritenour via Flickr
Spay/Neutering too young can delay the closure of growth plates.

In a study involving Golden Retrievers - dogs spayed or neutered under a year of age were significantly taller than those spay/neutered after a year of age.

Dogs spayed/neutered before puberty tend to have longer limbs, lighter bones, narrower chests, and narrower skulls than intact dogs of the same breed.

Females and sometimes males who are spay/neutered too young have an increased risk of urinary incontinence.

The bottom Line -

What it seems to boil down too, is that especially for canine athletes (agility dogs, flyball, sled-dogs, etc.) their are legitimate reasons to wait until after puberty or at least until your dog is one year of age to spay or neuter so that you don't risk damaging their growth.

Personally I believe the benefits outweigh the potential risks.

If you choose to keep your animals intact please be responsible and keep your animal supervised., Thankful Thursday Weekly Blog Hop, pet centric

More Reading
Ron Hines, DVM, PhD - Aggressive Dogs Info
Dr. Lila Miller, DVM, ASPCA - Why Neuter?
Association of Pet Behavior Counsellors - Canine Aggression
Pets Web MD
Dog Mounting & Dog Dominance Behavior, Pat Miller
Canine Sports Production - Chris Zink, DVM, PhD, DACVP, DACVSMR
Neutering your Male Dog - Pros and Cons. Michele Welton
Benefits of Neutering Male Dogs - Drs. Foster and Smith, Inc. Race Foster, DVM
Human Society of the United States - Myths and Facts


  1. I'm really thrilled that people are looking at all the nuances involved in spaying and neutering. I believe it's very important. But I understand why many people wait to do it until a dog is older (it's what Honey's breeder recommended for her). It all comes down to making responsible decisions for your dog.

    I'd also like to see other forms of birth control become more prevalent.

    Hope Jack continues to heal quickly. He's a lucky, lucky boy to be fostered by you.

    1. Thanks Pamela! He's a lot of work, but it's fun work!

      I believe it's very important for pet owners to make informed decisions regarding the health and wellness of their pets. Since we adopted both Dante and Ziva they were all ready spay/neutered when we got them. But knowing what I do now, in the future if we ever have our own puppy we'll most likely wait until he/she is at least a year old, mostly just for growing reasons. :-) But I've had dogs my whole life and we always spay/neutered when they were young and we never experienced any bad side effects of health problems resulting from it.

  2. PepiSmartDog: thank you for such an informative post on such an important topic. I personally think all pets are better off being neutered because they are not saddled with frustration and constantly fighting urges to find a mate. it also helps them have an enjoyable family life.
    Its all very well for people to say they don't believe in neutering, but I often wonder if they ever think about the ramification of their 'pet' producing offspring and what happens to those animals. As animal rescuers, we are very much in favor of people getting their pets desexed.
    Thank you for joining our Thankful Thursday Weekly Blog Hop again and for your input on our logo. :=o)
    Hope to see you in the hop again this week too. *waves paw*

    1. I agree 100%!
      If you're not going to breed your animal I really don't see a point in keeping them intact, it just adds an unnecessary aspect of frustration to their life, and yours.


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