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.

55 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.

      • 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.

    • Healthier? Says who?? Intact dogs are more prone to cancer. Even if your guy is super mellow, those hormones will kick in at some point and he WILL catch the scent of an in season female and do whatever he had to, to get to her. Is it really worth risking losing your baby by taking away those hormones thus making him no longer attracted to female estrus..

      • Healthier? Says who?? All new studies since 2017 are proving that intact dog’s CAN be healthier then fixed dogs. Also comes down to the owner I know many people with intact dog’s male and female all are living very healthy lives. So don’t act like its the devil to not fix your pet.

    • So when he gets prostate cancer? Yeah that’s smart. I think you need to do a bit more research on the subject.we waited until our dog was about a year old before we neutered. That was to make sure he got a good dose of hormones for growth purposes. But in no way is it healthier to leave him intact indefinitely.

      • Ask yourself a question and answer honestly. Use logic and don’t spit out ignorant things you hear people spreading. Is it healthier for a human to be neutered? What makes you think that it’s any different for a dog? Every organ has a purpose. If you unnaturally and unnecessarily remove it, there will be consequences. I’ve seen so many dogs grow and change in my life. I haven’t heard a single case of cancer for intact dogs. I have heard tons of medical issues from spayed and neutered dogs. My first dog was a male who never bred and he died extremely old of old age!! If you can’t handle being responsible for your dog then neuter/spay by all means. Just note, it’s out of convenience not for their health so don’t kid yourself. Do some research and use critical thinking.

    • I agree with you. Intact dogs are much healthier. It is a proven fact. Take the German Shepherd as an example. Some say that if you don’t spay your female she will get a reproductive cancer. Perhaps it’s true however depending on the age at which you spay your female she may develop cancer due to the spaying. If your dog is prone to cancer and you don’t care for it properly (the right food, exercise, etc.)…it will get cancer. Not spaying or neutering has nothing to do with it. Also….large female dogs are at risk for spay incontinence, again depending on what age you spay. Spaying and neutering has been pushed on the public because of irresponsible pet owners whose dogs get out of their control and run loose thereby getting pickup and placed in an animal shelter. You can’t have dogs in heat and intact males together in a shelter. It would be a place of total chaos. In Europe “very few” dogs are sterilized. But again…if you are an irresponsible dog owner….GET IT STERILIZED.

      • thank you. I have been shamed for not spaying my dog.
        If you took my uterus out I would be saved from uterine cancer too. My dog is 12 and she has never let another dog mount her or come near her.

        • Wow, never spayed and she’s 12? Did you keep her home for the three weeks of her heat? How have her heat cycles changed over the years as she has aged?

    • Our 8 year old intact Golden has never wandered, anywhere. We didn’t neuter because we had considered breeding, since he is from a Champion hunting line, is a fabulous hunting dog, extremely gentle, loving, smart and gorgeous.
      At age eight we are having to decide whether to neuter him now, since he is undergoing another surgery for a giant lipoma.
      I don’t have any issue with neutering per se, just adding more discomfort to him by making him have multiple incisions. Anybody else have any experience with this?

      • Yes. I had a Spinone Italiano with prostate cancer. I always intended to neuter him at 7 or 8 (as I read once they hit 9 they are more prone to prostate and testicular cancers). But 7 turned to 8 which turned to 9 and then it was too late.
        He died at 11.

    • Hmmmm… Very interesting. Nobody here says that we should neuter male and female humans… just to protect them from all sorts of cancer! And many of you mention the uncontrollable sexual behavior of intact dogs. But that’s nothing compared with the mess that human beings do with their sexual activity! Yeah, right! Hormones…

    • It is healthier and I totally agree with you on keeping dogs intact. I have a Rottweilers and these breeds are prone to cancer. If they are fixed before about 7 years the chances of cancer go up exponentially. the chance of cancer goes up in all dogs fixed but for Rottweilers it is a lot higher because the are prone to it. Fixing dogs does not protect them from cancer it gives them cancer,

  2. I wish I could print this. It is great information and I am trying to convince my neighbor not to become a backyard german shepard breeder. He thinks the dog is going to give birth and he will make a bunch of money. He paid $900 for his dog. How many fools like him does he think are around?

  3. I had a female in heat, locked in the house with the windows partially open. While we were gone, a male came in our fenced yard, and they did their best to tear the screens from the windows to get to each other. All my dogs now get “fixed” as soon as possible.

  4. We have had two golden retrievers in the past 40 years. Both males were intact, and we never noticed any problems with them trying to get to any females. We did try to breed our first one once, but it was unsuccessful. We were all “virgins” and needed someone with more experience. After reading this, I probably would neuter another dog if we got one, though that’s not in the plans now.

    • I would NEVER neuter the dog without reason. I mean if he was agressive or anything of the sort, i even hate how it’s called ”fixing” a dog. Oh so stupid.. Besides.. i’m planning on breeding my dog when he’s older.. just not with her sister whom we’re trying to stop him from getting prego.

  5. Neutering a male dog will naturally make testicular cancer impossible, but it does have undesirable side effects. Studies (and my own experience with my last male OES) indicate that neutered purebreds are 25% more prone to osteosarcoma. In long haired breeds, like my OES, neutering makes them more prone to skin and coat problems, such as hot spots.
    additionally, neutering too soon causes joints and bones to grow more, and be weaker, than if the dog is intact, as the hormonal signal to growth process is absent.
    Neutering is not just a sterilization process, it removes a primary source of hormones that regulate growth and other developmental aspects of dogs and other species.

    • The age at neutering makes a big difference in health, according to studies I’ve read about. Too soon is not good, but that doesn’t mean never is better.

      Owners of intact animals must also remember that pet overpopulation results in millions of pet deaths a year, and many of these would be prevented by more pet owners spaying and neutering responsibly (not too soon, not too late). And if you are determined to become a breeder, you’d better really study dog genetics and understand how to breed for temperament and health as well as conformation so that you help to improve the breed. If you’re not dedicated to serving the needs of dogs, please don’t do it.

  6. I am forced to comment,,,intact males are not more prone to “cancer”…do your research people…taking the testosterone from a male dog forces his other glands to produce more…causing a host of problems…we don’t neuter men as babies because they might get prostate cancer do we, …cause that’s the only cancer an intact dog is more prone to get.,,just start having them examined yearly and if there is any prostate swelling…neuter them then…

  7. Lotsa hostility in this comment section….
    How prevalent is prostate cancer to begin with? Does anyone even know?
    And if intact males are more likely to get it, then *how much* more likely?
    This article could elaborate with just a bit more pertinent facts to help people make informed decisions.
    One thing I know for sure is that male dogs can indeed get prostate cancer at any given time for no discernible reason whether they are intact or not. Maybe neutering does decrease that risk, but by how much is the question at hand. If prostate cancer is super uncommon to begin with and the increase of risk is small enough or negligible then that would change the conversation here.
    There are a plethora of other health AND even some behavioral/emotional benefits that come with keeping a male intact. There can also be some drawbacks as well. Weigh the pros and cons of each before jumping to conclusions and decide which positive aspects appeal to you and what you are or aren’t willing to tolerate from the negative column.
    The most important point that really needs to be made here is that people and dogs are all very different and should be respected as individuals.
    Its incorrect and unethical to pass judgement on a pet owner based on whether they decided to neuter or not. Every dog is different and “you’re way” of doing things, whichever you choose, isn’t the “only way” things should ever be done.

    • Well said. The sun can give you cancer too, just sayin’.
      But in all seriousness, I do believe it to be somewhat more of a safer choice to get your male altered especially when socializing is concerned.
      Despite being an owner of an intact male myself. I did have plans of getting mine neutered but it just wasn’t a priority at the time. He’s 11 years old now with a clean bill of health but I can not risk having him off-leash in some places because he will go after an in-tact male.
      My Yorkie who believes to be Bull-Mastiff is about 14 pounds soaking wet with ears the size of antennas, he also thinks he is the only one allowed to have his balls. Nevertheless, he’s still perfect in my eyes of course.

  8. My dogs are all intact. The male visits my son when the girls are in heat, unless I want a litter of puppies. Raising puppies is a chore, but I enjoy every minute of it, and my girls seem happiest when they have a litter of puppies. Then- they totally lose interest in them after a couple of months, thankfully, because I had originally worried about them grieving their loss. I think that if you wait until 8-10 weeks, this isn’t a problem.
    Anyway, I had a very bad experience when I was breeding miniature beagles. I was referred by the local beagle club, sanctioned by AKC to a breeder who had beagles, and two males were miniatures. I took my female to this recommended breeder, and she had to have a hysterectomy at 5 weeks because the puppies were almost as big as she was. I am sure that the miniatures were not interested in doing the job, so she used one of her larger dogs. So, I would never allow my females anywhere near any male dog but my own. And, I figured out that, not only are papers irrelevant when considering the value of a dog, since breeders can tell you anything, but papers are also irrelevant when considering the value of a breeder.

  9. The truth is that the vast majority of dogs won’t get testicular cancer. My eldest Lab bitch had a Laproscopic (keyhole) spay, and some people tried to tell me that a full spay was better as the dog couldn’t get Pyrometre (excuse spelling), but I chose the less invasive procedure, and Polly was fine in a few days. My younger Lab, which we hope is pregnant, will have the same later this year.

    • Hello RustyNuts,
      I’m sooo interested in the laparoscopic procedure you mentioned. Where? How? Please share. We have a household of two purebred collies, girl and a much younger boy. She joined us at 5 years of age and we survived the first heat because the boy had no idea what to do, being only 7 months. I am on the side of keeping dogs intact but we don’t want pups, so the less invasive surgery with keeping some of the reproductive organs intact would be ideal.

  10. I guess none of you understand that when you neuter a male dog, or desex I should say, the not well equipped adrenal glands are forced to produce testosterone. Why? Because he needs testosterone to live a healthy life. Problem is the adrenals often become sick for having to perform a function they are not intended to. Neutered male dogs often develop Addison’s disease and die young. The thinking of removing the testicles to prevent possible prostate cancer is ludicrous. Should we remove all human testicles for the same reason? Shame on you. If your an irresponsible pet owner then sure better to neuter your dog. But call it what it is. It’s not for his health. Let’s remove all the breasts in the world and eradicate breast cancer! Human logic at its finest. SMH

    • Interesting. I am the owner of a 15 month male Aussie who is intact. He is completely submissive to all “neutered males” and never mounts any other dogs in social situations. My vet advised me NOT to neuter until 8 years and only if to prevent a medical condition. I have no interest in breeding, either. My issues are with the General US Public that is shaming me for not neutering. Our local rural 5 acre dog park has a sign that requires dogs to be spayed or neutered. My dog never has shown any aggression, but has been a target of Neutered Males being hostile to him. Thus, I am shamed and blamed for breaking the laws. I don’t understand why my submissive intact male is the victim here? Yet, I cannot fight City Hall. I often feel that people in the US are brainwashed into thinking all dogs and cats must be altered. It’s gotten ridiculous. Even out in the country.

  11. I need to know… Does a female dog stay in heat after mating? I have a Boxer/Pug mix, 7 years old. I’ve been very good about not letting her around male dogs. However, my daughter is not as careful. She was with my daughter when she began her heat cycle, I believe she might have mated with her male. But she went back into heat and was having a clear discharge. She is even producing milk. Could she be pregnant? Or are the see just normal signs of a heat cycle?

  12. I’m planning to keep my lil’ doggy intact until after 12 months.

    The plan is to get a litter, we’ve got a match lined up between my male pup and one of my brother’s dog’s daughters. The goal is to keep both bloodlines around and in the family. The mum is due to come in heat around the time my lil guy hits 13 months, so it should work out.

    I’ve also done some research, and it does seem to be that delaying neutering until after the male dog finishes puberty has better long term benefits for the dog around a range of health issues for the rest of the animals life.

    A big reason why the industry standard is to de-sex at six months is because that’s when a lot of male pups will become fertile and may start straying to find a mate, which can lead to stray puppies. The primary concern there is to keep the stray animal population under control – and that’s 100% the right proprity in the general case.

    But in cases such as my little guy where I can guarantee that he can’t get out to stray and make unwanted puppies, the literature reads to me that delaying until after puberty is in the interest of the animal long term.

    He’s 9 months old now. No marking or behavior problems yet. So long as he holds steady until after we get a litter, he gets to have a second puppy in the house from that litter, giving him a son/friend to play with, which is a big deal.

    The hardest thing has actually been the socialization and stimulation. I’m really lucky to have an employer that can provide flexible working hours, and I’m really close. I come into work early so I have a longer lunch break that gives me time to get home, eat, walk him, and then get back to the office after he’s had a bit of stimulation. But it’s hard not being able to drop him off to doggy daycare like I used to when he was smaller.

    Once the little pup is in he’ll have a friend at home, and once they’re both neutered they’ll be able to go to daycare together again. It’s a bit tough for the next couple of years, but once it evens out they’ll reap the reduced health risk for the rest of their lives. As their owner, I truly believe that’s in the best interest of my current and future animals, and I’m fortunate to be able to still provide them with the attention and care they need during their formative years.

    But for other owners, your mileage will of course vary based on your context. If I wasn’t able to drop home in the middle of the day to keep him stimulated, I’d make the call to neuter early to keep him in daycare, because it’s tough on such a highly social doggo being home alone every day.

  13. I am getting my baby girl spayed in August:( Belit will be 8 months and getting a full hysterectomy:( I have researched and there is no other option for keeping her from having pups. I have a male 6 months older then her. Griffith. Who will remain intact. He is healthy and happy and will live a long funtastic life. They both will. Its already a major surgery and decision for the owner to decide on or their baby. Lets not add cancer to try and sell it. Most of us know thats the responsible thing to do. For our own pets.
    Have a great day/evening.

  14. Our Vet informed us about the significant risk prostate cancer after neutering a dog. We lost 3 of our male dogs after neutering them. One to prostate cancer, one to hemangiosarcoma, the other to lymphoma. While one could say the risk are great for testicular cancer if the dog is intact—testicular cancer is curable., Prostate cancer is not.
    I also know as a Physiologist -playing with hormones always significantly increases your dogs risk of mast cell cancers and other metabolic challenges. There are case studies and research to support this. A dog and cat owner owes it to themselves and their pet/s to do their homework, research, and educate themselves on the subject and for care of their pet/s. We will never neuter or spay our dogs going forward. We have an intact male standard poodle and intact male golden doodle!

    61314_Pets_Lead Article_VizslaStudy.pdf

  15. For those wanting to keep your dog from being bred but don’t want to remove vital hormones look into Vasectomy and Ovary Sparing Spay.

  16. How can so many people, all of you, be so short sited and self centered?? The result of absolute gender neutralization (terminology/verb.) is absolute extinction! Who wants memories, pictures and stories grandpa told to be all there is known of dogs and cats within 2 generations of today’s general public? Its our children and their children will first taste the bitterness of our sterilization efforts. No procreation = no babies = species gone. That’s forever folks! People, lets deal with the people who dont properly deal with pets!! And deal with our pets as the pet should be treated!!! Dogs and Cats, who next.. Us???

  17. Same risk of cancer with humans but not many neuter themselves or their kids because of the risk! I know it’s not as simple but i’ve been just shocked with the fact that many Australian labradoodle breeders do early spay and neuter I think at 8 weeks it might be earlier! They call it healthy and cancer preventative!

  18. is it necessary to the male and the female dog will knot after mating? I have a dogs after mating they knot but not to long, can a female dog will get pregnant even if they knot not to long?

  19. I’m confused why people keep comparing spay/neuter dogs to humans. There are many, many, MANY things that we do with pets that would be insane to do to humans.

  20. im not here to argue either way. but i have seen firsthand how full shelters and pounds are. and how unequipped they are to deal with dogs left that people don’t want to take care of, but obviously want to breed. spay/neuter is saving a lot more dogs than choosing not too in my humble opinion. each to their own tho!

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