Should I Spay Or Neuter My Dog?

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Sam Basso
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Most animal welfare advocates promote spaying female and neutering male dogs. First, because most people don’t want to breed any puppies. Second, because they have been told that dogs will be less likely to have future health problems such as cancer. Third, they do it because they’ve been told the dogs will have fewer behavioral problems. And lastly, because they have either been made to fix their dogs by the breeder, shelter, or convinced by their veterinarians.

So, what should you do? Here is my opinion…

I am NOT a supporter of automatically spaying or neutering all dogs. I believe some dogs should be kept intact, and some dogs should be spayed and neutered. I also believe the owner should be the one to make that decision, and they should be informed of the facts of the positives and negatives.

Don’t Want Puppies. There is a huge pet breeding problem in the world, not just in the United States. So many dogs are bred that even well meaning people can’t take them all in. This is not a new problem. Even 75 years ago, every state in the US was killing tens of thousands of homeless dogs a year. If you love dogs, you can’t help but be upset about this. The question is how to address the problem. Clearly, passing more and more laws doesn’t work. Breed bans, for example, are an attempt to prevent the ownership and breeding of certain so-called “dangerous dogs”, such as pit bull terriers. But these laws have been proven to kill innocent good dogs; not make the community safer, and they don’t stop the breeding and importation of pit bull terriers into the communities. Mandatory spay and neuter laws have not reduced the pet overpopulation or euthanasia rates anywhere. Places where mandatory spay and neuter laws have been enacted have actually seen an increase in dogs dropped off at shelters, picked up by animal control, and put to death. Breeding restrictions by breeders and rescue organizations haven’t worked either. The regulation and outlawing of puppy mills hasn’t stopped the problem. Breeder regulations haven’t stopped the problem. Limitations on the number of dogs a person can own haven’t stopped the problem. So, we have been going at this from the wrong direction all along.

The problem is that nature finds a way to preserve any species, even when dealing with a domestic dog. When you try to completely contain reproduction through enacting laws, the need to reproduce will find a way out of the legal box you are trying to construct. No law is going to prevent animals from having the urge to reproduce. We also can’t pass enough laws to prevent humans from acting the way we want them to. The prisons are full of people who knew what the law was and purposely decided to do something else. The more laws you pass only affect the law abiding person, but those who won’t abide by the law will still do whatever they want to, and will still be negligent. This is also the problem with the extremists, animal rights advocates that want to ban all breeding and ownership of domesticated animals, including dogs. They assume that if you outlaw it, that the problem will go away. But, dogs were domesticated thousands of years ago, and there is no way to prevent the domestication of the wolf. Even a wolf can be made into a passable pet with some proper work. No one wants to admit that, but it is true. They have been obedience trained, used as sled dogs, hunting dogs, and so forth.

What Dogs Should Remain Intact? The only good way of dealing with pet overpopulation is to impress upon people, through public education, the benefits of only breeding high quality domesticated dogs using modern genetic principles. Then, having a better no-kill shelter and rescue intake and adoption process to find homes for the dogs that are homeless. It is important to impress upon people that a well bred dog is easier to own, less expensive to own, is more fun to own, healthier, and more wanted if the dog ever becomes homeless. The current way dogs are bred is 100 years out of date. Obsolete. Breeders are NOT using modern genetics to breed better dogs. We are NOT breeding better dogs, and in fact, purebred dogs are getting worse over time. You can’t keep breeding the same dogs to the same dogs for decades and expect the dogs to remain healthy or temperamentally stable or desirable. We also aren’t making enough effort to turn responsible dog ownership into a status symbol. People with well bred, well trained dogs should be given more social attention and prestige. Raise the social value of having a great dog, and more people will aspire to breed and own great dogs. Regarding shelters, they have become killing factories. The no-kill movement is showing the way out. Rescue volunteers and groups are doing a good job, but they often have bought into the idea that the solution is more animal rights laws, and have bought into animal rights propaganda. So, they are unintentionally making the problem worse, by excoriating breeding, and not realizing the problem is more on the demand side of the equation. The focus should be on educating the public about getting a great dog; why only great dogs should be bred; why dogs in shelters and rescue can be great dogs; and promoting programs that identify good breeders. We also need to get out the idea that training is a must for all dogs. Many dogs end up in shelters because of a lack of proper training. There is too much pop psychology when it comes to dog training, where people follow the latest fad celebrity dog trainer. There is too much “do it yourself” dog training. It is important to impress upon people that if you can’t afford to properly train a dog, then you shouldn’t get a dog.

It is pretty easy to prevent a dog from having puppies or making puppies. We all know how. I really don’t want puppies. I don’t want some other dog to have unwanted puppies. I know how to supervise and contain a dog to prevent these things, and so do you.

Dogs Will Be Healthier. Being intact is not a disease. If being intact was lethal then we’d all be dead. If being intact was such a cancer risk, then all those wild animals would have gone extinct long ago. Dogs that get diseases from being intact HAVEN’T BEEN BRED PROPERLY, and should not be bred in in the future. Modern genetic testing and proper, modern genetic breeding practices could easily solve this problem. If you want a healthy dog, then buy a good dog from a good breeder. If your dog has questionable genetics, if the risk is high enough for a fatal disease if your dog is kept intact (and you’d need to see some verifiable scientific data on your breed, and on that line of dogs), then by all means spay or neuter your dog. Some breed clubs keep registries of the types of diseases their breed has, how long the dogs lived, and which individual kennels the dogs came from. So, will your dog be healthier if spayed or neutered? Maybe yes and maybe no. But, to make that claim about all dogs is… well, it is a lie. It is a falsehood promoted by animal rights activists so they can ban the breeding and ownership of all domesticated animals. And the veterinary industry lobbying groups can’t be counted on to be truthful on this because they aren’t using verifiable facts to back up their statements, and because they financially benefit by spaying and neutering dogs. Even though individual veterinarians are good and responsible people, I don’t believe that when you are discussing the economic interests of an entire group you can discount the forces that might override good judgment. So, I don’t think your veterinarian is recommending spaying and neutering just to make a buck off of you. But, I do believe that group behavior can cause their representative organizations to do things, and advocate for things, that aren’t necessarily in your best interests. We need more honest information before this can be used as a valid reason.

Another concern is when is the best time to spay or neuter a dog. That is partly a medical question that I’ll leave to the doctors, but many people are disappointed when their adult dogs look skinny and bony because they fixed their dogs as puppies. It is especially evident with Great Danes and Mastiffs. More and more breeders are telling buyers to postpone fixing their dogs until they are older. My opinion is that this is wise advice. I wouldn’t want to do anything that would cause physical deformities in my dog.

Intact dogs are messier. When females go in heat, the smell stinks. There is blood on the floor for 2 weeks, and you have to keep them confined so that they don’t escape, and so that the blood and stink doesn’t get all over your furniture and carpets. Intact male dogs pee a lot more, and so it makes house training more difficult.

Dogs Will Be More Well Mannered. Are you aware that spaying a female dogs greatly increases the chances that the dog will become more touch sensitive, fearful, more aggressive towards family and strangers, beg for food more, lick more, more likely to eat and roll in dog poop, more lethargic, self groom, and bark excessively? For neutered male dogs, did you know they will be less likely to be aggressive towards strangers, more likely to bark, more likely to steal food, less energetic, more fearful of handling, more aggressive towards the family and strange dogs, more likely to lick, more likely to beg for food? The only upside in terms of behavior, is that it generally makes the dogs less energetic, and that the male dogs will be less aggressive towards strangers and less likely to urine mark in the home. Fixed dogs are also more likely to get fat, both from a lack of energy and because the lack of hormones makes them hungrier.

All police dogs are kept intact. We don’t see them running the streets breeding with the next door neighbor’s Cocker Spaniel, do we? So, breeding can be prevented. Police dogs are kept intact so that they can do their job better.

We have all forgotten what it is like to own intact dogs. Intact IS NATURAL, and we need to relearn what it is like to have intact dogs. We are messing with behavior when we spay or neuter dogs, and as you can see, it can make for a lot worse behaviors. How many dogs end up in shelters, abused, left alone in the back yard, and so forth because they are now fixed? How much more is spent on dog behaviorists because dogs are spayed or neutered?

An intact male or female dog is more dog to manage. They are more intense in many ways. They can be less obedient to commands. So, spayed and neutered dogs will often be less active and obey commands better, but then again, more likely to engage in unwanted biting or other behaviors that might cause a person to get rid of the dog. I rarely see a dog that is given away because it doesn’t always Sit on command. But, I see a lot of dogs given away because of the behavioral problems listed above. So, by fixing the dogs, we are preventing some dogs from breeding, but not stopping the overpopulation problem. But, by fixing dogs, we are also setting many of them up to be given away and put to death because of behavioral problems.

If you have multiple intact dogs in your home, then it requires more supervision. Females in heat have to be kept apart from intact males, so it is a not so fun game of “Musical Chairs”, keeping them in separate rooms. Females tend to go into heat twice a year, and it lasts 2 to 3 weeks. Males need to be kept apart when females are in heat to prevent fights. Males need to be securely housed when you are away, and normal crates won’t hold them in… they will break out to get at the females in heat. So, you have to decide if you want to deal with all of that.

Limited Social Opportunities. Most doggie daycares and off leash parks won’t allow your dog to participate if your dog isn’t fixed. They don’t want dog fights and they don’t want the potential for unwanted puppies. So, you are going to have socialization challenges as your dog gets to be an adolescent. If you don’t continue to socialize a dog, they can be come less sociable with other people and animals.

I’ve Been Made To Spay / Neuter My Dog. Good, responsible breeders don’t want dogs bred that they feel won’t improve the breed. I think that is completely rational. Breeding is NOT for novices. Most likely, you shouldn’t do it. You will breed a worse dog than the one you own, and you will create dogs that no one else wants either. Shelters and rescue volunteers and rescue groups don’t want you breeding dogs. They know you aren’t a breeder. There is less demand for mixed bred dogs. Mixing breeds results in dogs that have mixed traits, so that they are harder to place in homes. Mixed traits can sometimes result in a dog developing neurotic behaviors. For example, an experiment was done in the 1950’s, breeding dogs that air scented game with their heads high off the ground, with dogs that ground scented game with their noses along the ground. The offspring were very troubled when in the field, in conflict between having their heads held high and low. It really wasn’t pleasant to watch. Similarly, have you ever seen some of the crazy skeletal problems that can result from mixing one breed with another? No one wants you breeding deformed dogs. Thus, there is no good reason for the random breeding of any dog, whether a purebred dog or a mixed bred dog. Veterinarians also know you don’t know what you are doing, and they don’t want you to be breeding dogs with health or temperament problems. Basically, they are saying they don’t trust you to be a responsible dog owner. And if you would allow your dog to breed, they are probably right.

So, it is your choice. I’m not going to tell you what to do one way or another. But, it is time to inject some honesty into this discussion for a change.

I will say this, if you are going to be part of the problem, and are more likely to create more unwanted dogs, then spay or neuter your dog. No one who has visited a shelter can stomach seeing all the dogs that are killed every week for no other reason than the fact that there are too many dogs. You may have to spend more on training, socializing, supervising and containing your dog, but that is probably a good trade off for you.