Keeping Your Dog Intact

By not spaying or neutering your dog, you might be biting off a little more than you can chew. Here are 9 important facts to consider if you decide to keep your dog reproductively intact.

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If you decide to delay spaying or neutering your dog, for whatever length of time or whatever reason, here is something else to consider- Some people just may not be cut out to deal with an intact male or female dog in their household. Here are some caveats and considerations:

1. Female dogs bleed when they come into heat.

Female dogs do not get menstrual periods like humans, as some people mistakenly believe; they come into “heat,” or “season,” once or twice a year – the three to four days in their cycle when their unfertilized eggs ripen. (Though both biological processes involve bleeding, it’s inaccurate to compare a woman’s monthly cycle, which is an infertile time, to the heat in the female dog, which is quite the opposite. Dogs get pregnant while bleeding.) Some dogs cycle every six months; more primitive breeds, such as Basenjis or Tibetan Mastiffs, come into heat only once a year.

Get more facts on dogs in heat at Dogster.com.

2. Female dogs can only get pregnant when they’re in heat.

A dog will begin her heat cycle after about 6 months of age. Some females will show physical signs of readiness – their discharge will lighten in color, and they will “flag,” or lift their tail up and to the side. Others will show no behavioral changes; still others will “stand” and accept a suitor at any time in their cycle, even days before or after they are fertile. If you cannot be absolutely certain of identifying the signs of heat in your female, and securing her during this time, spay her. Intact males are frighteningly persistent in reaching the object of their desires; they will hurl themselves through glass windows, and might even attempt (and succeed) at breeding a female through the wires of a crate.

eager stray dogs

3. Unneutered male dogs can get forceful.

You cannot leave a female in heat unattended for one moment outside, not even in a fenced yard. Whether or not she is in that narrow window of time when she can get pregnant, she might attract a male, and they might breed anyway. There is no way to predict how a male dog will act when a nearby female is in heat. Though dogs have been mating for millennia, it is not a process that is without risk of physical harm to one or both dogs.

4. Unspayed female dogs will attract stray males – from miles away.

If there are stray dogs where you live, walking a female in heat is asking for trouble. Ideally, have a secure, fenced area where your female can do her business, always supervised by you. If you must take her out in public to walk her, carry an umbrella that you can open to ward off unwelcome males, but know that you still might not be able to keep them apart.

5. Unspayed females need to wear sanitary pads while in heat.

Dogs stay in heat about three weeks, but the female will neither bleed heavily nor bleed every day. Nonetheless, to protect your carpets and furniture, it is smart to invest in “bitch’s britches,” which are dog-proportioned panties that can be fitted with a disposable sanitary napkin.

FEMALE DOG WEARING SANITARY DIAPER
© Willeecole | Dreamstime.com

6. You cannot keep intact males and females in the same house.

If you have an unneutered male dog in your household, and you want to let your female go through one or more heat cycles before spaying her, the smartest and safest thing is to remove one of them for the duration of the female’s heat. It is difficult to describe the stress, restlessness, and sheer loss of sanity that a male dog can exhibit in the face of a female in standing season. It will be close to unbearable for you, to say nothing of him. Plan a vacation for one of them, ideally the male. (And if you plan to use a boarding kennel, females in heat will be too big a disruption there in the event other unneutered dogs are there, too.)

7. You cannot spay a dog while she is in heat.

Once your female has started her heat, don’t change course. Many veterinarians are reluctant to spay females in the middle of estrus; the uterus, preparing for pregnancy, is very vascular, and the risk of internal bleeding is higher. Instead, schedule spay surgery at a hormonally “quiet” time, ideally midway between heats. Depending on the individual dog, unneutered males can be trained through consistency and positive reinforcement not to urine-mark in the house. Ditto for discouraging “humping.” Do not tolerate these behaviors at any time.

8. Unneutered male dogs are always fertile.

As with unspayed females, unneutered male dog behavior must be under your control and supervision at all times. It is the height of irresponsibility to allow them to wander. Unlike females, unneutered males can procreate all the time, and they can create a neighborhood population explosion in no time at all.

9. Intact dogs are less welcomed in public.

Remember that in the larger world outside your door, intact dogs are the minority. By choosing to have an unneutered male (in particular, because he is visually easy to identify), you restrict your options and access to different environments, including dog runs and doggie day care. You will likely be required to explain and defend your decision not to neuter your dog; be prepared, be polite, and have a very thick skin.

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Pat Miller, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA, grew up in a family that was blessed with lots of animal companions: dogs, cats, horses, rabbits, goats, and more, and has maintained that model ever since. She spent the first 20 years of her professional life working at the Marin Humane Society in Marin County, California, for most of that time as a humane officer and director of operations. She continually studied the art and science of dog training and behavior during that time, and in 1996, left MHS to start her own training and behavior business, Peaceable Paws. Pat has earned a number of titles from various training organizations, including Certified Behavior Consultant Canine-Knowledge Assessed (CBCC-KA) and Certified Professional Dog Trainer - Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA). She also founded Peaceable Paws Academies for teaching and credentialing dog training and behavior professionals, who can earn "Pat Miller Certified Trainer" certifications. She and her husband Paul and an ever-changing number of dogs, horses, and other animal companions live on their 80-acre farm in Fairplay, Maryland.

162 COMMENTS

  1. My Golden is 3 years old and intact. I plan to keep him that way. It is healthier. He does not mark. He is not aggressive. In fact, he is so calm, we check that he has a pulse sometimes …. just kidding. He doesn’t hump my older female dog, only a stuffed elephant. I understand that some intact males can be a handful, but my guy is super-mellow and will remain intact unless I see that neutering is needed.

        • Cancer is a genetic issue, it has absolutely nothing to do with if a dog has their balls or not. Neutered dogs can still get cancer as much as any other dog. Boxers and Rottweilers are very cancer prone. The same as GSD’s are prone to hip dysplacia due to bad breeding endorsed by the AKC. My dog is 11 years old now and is intact with just 1 ball he was born with and is 100% healthy. How about trying to think for yourself for a change and not be a sheep following the herd? Might be a good idea.

          People only neuter dogs because they lack the common sense, foresight, and critical thinking to care for a dog. That’s all there is to it.

          • An intact male is more likely to get testicular or prostate cancer. If he’s neutered her will never get prostate or testicular cancer because they no longer have those organs.

          • SO MANY YESes to your response! Also, people don’t even think about the food they give their dogs! They wanna be lazy and just feed them dry crap food and processed food and think not mutating their dogs is the reason for their cancer. It’s like someone eating Mc donalds their whole life times and saying that mutating their bodies is gonna save them! how does that make ANY sense? Vets like to make money so they don’t even question this insanity. Innocent dogs are healthy and complete as they are they just need to exercise and eat good food like all other living beings. You’d think this is a no-brainer but NO! boils my blood

          • Did your vet tell you it was dangerous for your dog to not get neutered do to he has only one testicle? My vet just told me that and im so scared to have him neutered Ive never neutered any of my fur babies.

          • So thanks! It is really all scare, cause fear. Also lie! My breeder for my amazing 5 yo intact boy never neuter’s his boys. He say, makes a problematic dog. To neuter a dog. But so many people who are not responsible. So it gets done. But we who are in the know, and do not do this. Also know too train the dog. is all bout training . Dogs, never trained, will be not be in control. My fuji, when he was taken care of , by his breeder, at 3 yo, for our vacation. Never bothered his females’ that were in heat, when he was there. A matter, once again of training .Also making sure the breeding of the dogs are with parents that are not a mean, problem dog, also what a top breeder will do.

          • Eric, you are spot on with your comment. There’s a lot of myths out there about Neutering dogs. Unfortunately I have come across a lot of behavioural issues with males due to castration.

            It’s about critical thinking and doing your own research.

          • Correct, and thank you! It is an old wives tale about neutered/spayed is healthier! Those gonads are for more than just reproduction, those hormones impact all the major organs as well! Without them and especially if done at an early age, can enhance a chronic illness, including cancer!

          • Also large breeds need the testosterone to reach full size.It helps their joints,bones to grow properly.Ive always had my dogs fixed accept for 2 of them.What kind of dog do you have ?Is it a working dog or do you intend to breed?I agree with this gentleman you must do your homework.Bloodlines,dna, genetics, temperament the breeder your getting them from or a rescue or pound the most info you can get.Dont ever buy anything from the Amish they take advantage of people without knowledge.I paid $3500 for my last dog but I see Amish,back yard breeders selling same breed starting at $900.You get what you pay for,the money you spend trying to help/save your dog you will spend more than I did ,most likely you will end up putting down a young dog with poor genetics.If you disagree with me that’s fine but please do the research.

          • AGREED.

            People want to talk about prove this and that when they know there are arguments and research made for both the intact and those whom those humans mutilated.

            Because information is always interpreted and different for everyone…this is about respect…

            This is about the golden rule. The golden rule applies to all beings.
            Societies create small worlds…with small minds…with small spaces or “large” that they call life and expect nature to fully comply?

            It’s no wonder some humans are thankfully learning the same pain and karmic consequences of such actions, and what better way than a global plague right? c0v1d

            When nature has had enough and it has had enough…it wont be long till the animals have had it…and rightfully so…

            They say its a population issue…wrong…its a confined style of living issue…

            They say its rampant diseases…wrong… its misinformed info and unhealthy foods…

            Every excuse that they have towards nature is only a lens as to the real problem…and that is the selfish self imposed contradictions and limitations humans have been taught to live that many cling onto thinking they are free and wise…when really…the right thing to do is always felt…

          • Cancer can be genetic but not always. Most cancers are caused by uncontrolled replication of cells that did not go through cell division correctly. (Abnormal cells)
            Cancer is a very tricky subject and is unpredictable in many different ways. I am not against fixing animals but I’d like you to spread the correct information. Spaying or neutering can help because they are removing organs which means just one less place cancer can occur, so of course the rate of cancer will drop. I’m leaving my male intact because we are going to do sports and messing with hormones before they’re finished growing will cause issues with their development. If we weren’t doing sport then I’d have him neutered because his balls will serve me no purpose if I’m not breeding.

          • Agreed old wifey tales on in neutered dogs my boy is 3 years old and I don’t plan on getting him nuetered neither .I’m a camping man and have yet to take my boy with me but I intend to hopefully he will not run away from me .

        • Not true not proven. Do all intact humans get cancer or is it what they eat? I have never neutered my dogs and never had cancer. They get a good diet of real food and lots of enzymes and probiotics. I have lots of energy from my dogs, I don’t get that I don’t care attitude. When you do performance sports you want that high energy.

      • It is healthier please google “dr Karen Becker” on YouTube and search for her anti dog neutering video. You’ll learn a lot about the health of your dogs. Neutering dogs is ONLY beneficial to the owner not the animal. Dogs are exposed to more types of cancer by neutering. Please do some research. You might have already given your dog a lesser life span by blindly listening to one vet or popular belief.

        • Exactly. Unless there is a medical necessity, the ONLY reason people neuter their dogs is for human convenience, even if that convenience is the misguided belief that neutered dogs are healthier. There are plenty of studies out there about the negative aspects of neutering. It’s not that hard to do some research. I guess following like sheep is just easier. The US is the only country that automatically neuters its dogs as if it were the normal thing to do. What is “normal” about ripping out an animal’s healthy organs for no reason other than human convenience?

      • Yes!!! Hormones are a very necessary part of boilocical function. If a human gemale is “spayed” she gets osteoperosis, atrhritis, is MUCH more likely to develope high blood pressure, heart disease, hot flashes, certain kinds if cancer and other health issues. It is SO DAMAGING, in fact, that tens if millions of dollars a year are spent in hormone therapies to compensate for the loss of hormones. Humans are mamals, are we the only mamals that need a natural hormone balance to be healthy? Ummmmmmmm…. duh!

      • Oh shut the hell up about that. There is NO WAY cutting off the genatalia that the animal was born with is ‘healthier’.

        Castration is not the answer for your dog’s health. It makes you feel better. –Also, for the comment about facing people in public. I would love it if some moronic ‘Karen’ or ‘Darren’ came up to me and gave me shit about my dog not being neutered. They need to mind their own business.