One of the main decisions you will have to make when you adopt a new dog is whether to have them neutered or leave them able to reproduce. As a rule, it is a good idea to have the procedure done. It prevents a number of behaviours most owners would want to discourage in their dogs, such as aggression, and helps avoid unplanned pregnancies.
However, many owners have a lot of questions about having their dogs spayed or castrated. Neutering your pet is a big decision, and having to take them in for a surgical procedure is scary, especially if you are unsure about what it entails and how your dog will change afterwards.
There is a lot to consider when deciding whether or not to neuter your dog. Here are some of the topics you should think about when it comes to making your decision, and a few tips for taking care of your pet afterwards if you do decide to go through with the procedure.
There are a number of benefits to having your dog neutered, but there are risks as well. For a start, it is a surgical procedure. All of these carry with them an element of risk, and you might not want to take the chance, just in case the worst happened. That said, neutering is relatively safe overall.
However, there are a number of other issues you might want to consider. Many people might tell you that neutering your dog when they are too young, or too old, can cause cancer. This is disputed, but generally the view of the veterinary profession is that there is no such risk. In fact, neutering female dogs before they reach the age of six months actually prevents breast cancer.
There is also the concern that your dog might begin to gain weight. However, this again is a myth. There is no evidence at all that suggests a dog would gain any weight after being castrated or spayed; this is more likely due to the pet's diet as they mature.
Because of the age at which most dogs get neutered, they might end up gaining weight at around the same time anyway. This is because as they finish growing, they begin to need fewer calories each day, but many dog owners do not update their pets' diets accordingly. Switching to a controlled food plan such as the BARF diet can help with this.
Ignoring the myths, there are several important health benefits that come with having your dog neutered. The most obvious is that female dogs will not become pregnant. There are a number of health risks that come with pregnancy, and spaying them will prevent these.
Neutering your dog can also change their behaviour for the better. There is a common misconception that castrating males can cause serious changes to their personalities, making them feminine and sluggish, but this is simply untrue. However, your dog will become better behaved.
When dogs become sexually mature, they start exhibiting a number of behaviours that many owners would not like to see in their pets. For example, they often become territorial and might want to roam around; increasing the size of the space they consider 'theirs'. They might also spray your furniture to mark their territory.
Male dogs can fight with each other if not neutered, and the smell of a female in heat can drive them crazy. They might become more aggressive if exposed to this scent, and will probably try to find the female, causing them to run off.
Similarly, female dogs will act out when in season. They will try to escape in search of a mate, and will need to be kept away from male dogs at all costs. This period can last for around three weeks, and happens about twice a year, so it can be a real pain.
However, it is important to remember that these behaviours will not disappear if you leave neutering until too late. They are caused by sexual characteristics and hormones, but once your dog gets used to them then they will have become learned behaviours. Neutering them at this point will not magically change their personality.
If this is the case with your pet, you can always train them out of these bad habits. However, this is easier said than done. Getting a dog to forget a behaviour it has already learned is harder than teaching them something new, but it is possible.
Arguments against neutering
So, with all these benefits, why do people refuse to neuter their dogs? One of the possible arguments against the procedure is that it is unnatural, but then again so is every other element of owning a dog. In the wild, your pet would not have a house to live in or an owner to feed them, after all.
Another popular statement is that your dog will be upset at not being able to have offspring. This would be true in humans, but canine reproduction is very different. Dogs have puppies out of instinct, not because they long to raise children. Neutering them simply removes that instinct, which they will not even realise is gone.
Written by: Hannah Dyball