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Can Neutering Your Male Dog Solve His Behavior Problems?

Would you like to minimize or prevent some serious health and behavior problems for your dog? Veterinarians encourage pet owners to have their pup spayed or neutered at an early age, usually around 4-6 months. In fact, one of the first questions a pet insurance company will ask applicants is whether or not their dog is spayed or neutered. Specifically, non-neutered (intact) male dogs have a higher risk of developing numerous diseases later in life such as testicular cancer and prostate disease.

Health Benefits of Neutering

  • Can reduce attraction to females, roaming, and mounting. Roaming can be reduced in 90% of dogs and sexual mounting of people in 66% of dogs.
  • Marking with urine is a common territorial behavior in dogs. Neutering reduces marking in about 50% of dogs.
  • Inter-male aggression can be reduced in about 60% of dogs.
  • Dominance aggression can sometimes be reduced but behavioral modification is also needed for complete elimination.
  • Territorial aggression and predation are not influenced by neutering.

Neuter for Better Behavior

neutering your dogIn addition to health concerns, intact male dogs may cause their owners stress because of behavior problems related to their testosterone levels. Even miles away, male dogs can smell a female in heat. They may choose to work very hard to escape from their home or yard in search of the female. Un-neutered male dogs are at a much higher risk for being hit by cars, getting lost, fighting with other male dogs, and often suffer other accidents while traveling far from home.

Even intact male dogs that are safely confined in their home or yards behind a secure physical or electronic fence can become frustrated when they are unable to pursue a female. They may exhibit aggression and other undesirable behaviors toward their owners.

In general, neutered dogs make better family pets. Experts say that roaming is reduced and virtually eliminated in 90% of male dogs. This happens regardless of the age at the time of neutering. Aggression between dogs, marking, and mounting are decreased about 60% of the time.

Consider having your male dog neutered at the earliest age recommended by your veterinarian. However, neutering should never be used as a substitute for proper training. In some cases neutering only reduces the frequency of certain behaviors rather than eliminating them entirely.

Keep in mind that the only behaviors affected by neutering are those influenced by the male hormone, testosterone. The dog’s personality, ability to learn, train, and hunt are the result of his genetics and upbringing, not his male hormones. Other characteristics including the dog’s degree of masculinity and urination postures are predetermined during fetal development.

Your Dog Won't Mind

Although testosterone levels fall to near 0 levels within hours of surgery, the dog will always be a male. You can’t change genetics. The dog will always be capable of certain male-typical behaviors. The only difference is that he will not display them with as much conviction or dedication as before. And despite our human tendencies to feel sorry for him, a dog is not self-conscious about his body or appearance. After surgery, your dog likely only cares about where his next meal is going to come from.

Dr. Nicholas Dodman, veterinarian and behavior specialist at Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, likes to use the analogy of a light with a dimmer switch to describe the behavioral qualities of a neutered dog. He says, “Following castration, the switch is turned down, but not off, and the result is not darkness but a dim glow.” 

Neutering your male dog not only helps to control the pet population, but it also has valuable behavior and medical benefits. It can minimize numerous unwanted behaviors, prevent frustrations, and improve your dog’s quality of life. You can think of it as a one-time expense in exchange for a lifetime full of happy memories.

References

  1. Dodman, Nicholas. Dogs Behaving Badly: An A-to-Z Guide to Understanding and Curing Behavioral Problems in Dogs. Bantam Books, 1999, page 186-188.
  2. Overall, Karen. Clinical Behavioral Medicine for Small Animals. Mosby Press, 1997, pages 262-263.
  3. Murray, Louise. Vet Confidential: An Insiders’s Guide to Protecting Your Pet’s Health. Ballantine Books, 2008, page 206.
  4. Landsberg, Hunthausen, Ackerman. The Handbook of Behaviour Problems of the Dog and Cat. Butterworth-Heinemann, 1997, page 32.
  5. Handbook of Behaviour Problems of the Dog and Cat G. Landsberg, W. Hunthausen, L. Ackerman Butterworth-Heinemann 1997.
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Thanks for the information about spaying and neutering. We had a 105 pound black lab growing up. He was like family to us and we were a little worried when we needed to have him nurtured. However, like you said, it can help male pets exhibit better behavior. Thanks for your detailed and cited article.

My dog was very much taken up to me unit I had to move back in. Living With my family. Well or 2 male dogs that weren’t fixed were constantly humping each other all the time they got neutered Maybe about 4 months ago. Ever since then my loving dog tghat had never shown an ounce of an ounce of aggressive to me nor anyone else ever before I’m very concerned about this. Now he acts like he never what’s anything to do with me and has been attacking me and won’t let me live him any more. I don’t understand what I’ve done to get him like that to me everyday. Here is my dog. Please I really need some help with his aggression and he never held our attacks other that lives I I’m my family home. It’s always just me.. Plz help- Kandis.  Cell number is (205)-743-8893.

Hi Kandis,

You need to talk to your vet or a behavior specialist if you’re experiencing issues with aggression. It may or may not be related to the neuter or to lifestyle changes like your big move.

If your vet doesn’t recommend someone to help, here’s a good resource to find a board-certified veterinary behaviorist: http://www.dacvb.org/about/member-directory.

Good luck solving your dog’s behavior problems!

I need to find out what an aggression test for a dog 11 months old would consist of. I have a st Bernard he barks at the neighbors. they had there first baby and now he scares their baby b barking. these are very well to do {hit oil granny clampet type people} I am a single mom almost 60 my youngest [s 17 they want ,e to say my dog is viscous and keep him muzzled he hs never bitten he still does not know how to growl. it will cost over 6000.oo to do all they ask of me I love this dog. I need an independent impartial person HOW AND WHERE DO I FIND SOMEONE that I can afford?

Hi Diana,

I’m sorry to hear about the problems you’ve been having with your dog!

Talk to your vet to get a recommendation for a professional trainer.

The Association of Professional Dog Trainers also has a local trainer lookup feature on their site: https://apdt.com/.

Good luck!

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