Features February 2013 Issue

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.

[Updated May 22, 2018]

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

You'd be surprised at the distances and obstacles intact male dogs will cross in pursuit of a female in heat.

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.


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.

intact male dog

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.

Comments (45)

IMHO there is no need to neuter a male dog. I've never had a neutered male and all of my bitches kept their ovaries and just had their tubes tied. I think there are a lot of people (cough...women) out there who would neuter all males if they could.

Posted by: Victor_Tepes | February 9, 2019 7:57 AM    Report this comment

Fixing your dogs is best no matter what the situation though. You don't want any accidents

Posted by: saralee1583 | January 29, 2019 11:46 PM    Report this comment

To the owner with the intact two male pitbulls and intact female mastiff. Intact male dogs are more likely to fight regardless. Add a intact female to the mix and watch out. Just like on the animal channel, they are posturing and fighting for the female. "Coitus is brief but profunctory." If you are going to mix multiple males with one or more females, you really must fix all the dogs. An intact male and intact female can get along. But add an intact male and the males will fight for the female. Add an intact female and the females will fight for the male. You cannot have this. They will not stop.

Posted by: saralee1583 | January 29, 2019 11:43 PM    Report this comment

My family have had an unspeyed male and unspeyed female dog in the same house for about 10 years. They have never mated, the bitch never pregnant from any dogs and the male never shows any aggression; I have noticed that the bitch is likely to warn off my male dog when she is in heat, rather than prostrate herself for him. Not sure why this is but it works for me.

Posted by: GuerillaV | January 19, 2019 11:26 AM    Report this comment

It is only my personal opinion that intact dogs will sick to breed always, this will not change with age until they are very old. It is also my personal opinion that herding breeds are particularly eager to breed (in my experience). I do not believe that intact dogs are more aggressive. With proper training they can be very sweet. I think it is mostly up to the owner when to fix their pet or if to do it at all. My only opinion is that it should not be done too early. I had 3 rescued dogs with health problems which could be linked to early fixing. Check out UCDavis research on this subject. They collected a ton of data and have a convincing case that fixing your dog before two years of age nearly doubles the risk of some health problems. All you have to do is google and see for yourself.

Unfortunately, rescue organization are completely oblivious to these facts. And yes, these are facts based on data. These people fix pups as early as 6 weeks of age! This pretty much guarantees urine track infections for the rest of their life in females. Needles to say, there is a higher risk of more dangerous issues. So, after rescuing 4 dogs in my life, we are now looking to buy from the breeder simply because we can't find a rescue place which would work with us.

Posted by: gesiona | October 29, 2018 9:02 PM    Report this comment

My bitch Athena is the love of my life. This is her second heat. And it has been on point. At exactly 6 months was the 1st and now again exactly 12th month. I am so upset with myself as I know she doesn't understand what is going on. She also had a pseudo-pregnancy after her first gestation. She lactated A LOT. Nested using my clothes. I was very worried. She is cross boerbull/Ridgeback. The neighbour has an intact white German Shepherd male. His behaviour is very strange. Please I need help!
Athena I rescued at 2 weeks from the highway. So the two alsations next door see her as their 'baby' I think. However the male is either being like a father over his lost child (as I keep her away from them now), or he wants to mount her. Last night I allowed hom to see her as he has been howling for her. He stands at guard at my house. He will come over early like 06h00 to check on her. When they met last night Athena wanted it seemed for me to hold her. The alsations was adorable. He was so happy to see her. He cleaned her ears licking the insides oF her ear so mucheck. But he was continuously trying to smell or get his nose near her bum! And then he started to lick the vulva which freaked me out and Athena also didn't expect it.
Is this a sign of "love" and "care", or is he wanting to perform the reproduction act!

Also she seems not to want to eat...

Thank you everyone. I look forward to replies.


Sran Patrick

Posted by: Sean Patrick | August 16, 2018 12:16 PM    Report this comment

I have two intact dogs, a female and a male. Non of these are true for me. The female has been intact for 6 years and I have never had a problem with a male trying to get at her. We walk her while she is in heat with out problem. The bleeding is minor, a few drops a day throughout the week. She does not wear a diaper as she keeps herself clean and does not leave blood anywhere in the house. The male is very sweet and gentle and they love each other very much. He has never escaped my yard to chase a female in heat. I know Breeders have these problems, yet I wonder why that is... Maybe the dogs they are breeding have undesirable qualities about them? My two intact animals do not mark in the house, are not aggressive with other dogs, and I have literally never had a problem with either of them. They are both Siberian huskies, of show quality and with good blood. I hoped to have a litter of pups but neither seem motivated to mate at all. The only point here I agree with is that people are not friendly towards intact males or females once they learn they are intact. And yet as a professional dog sitter/walker I interact with many different dogs and the spayed and neutered ones are generally a lot more aggressive and crazy than mine.

Posted by: misselenias | July 16, 2018 8:46 PM    Report this comment

I've always had rescue dogs and I've always had them spayed/neutered or received them spayed/neutered. I always had it done when they were young as recommended by my vets at the time. It has never prevented them from mounting/ dominating. Some were more aggressive towards other dogs, others were not. I've always believed it is important to neuter/spay to maintain the dog population because there are so many homeless and unwanted pets and irresponsible pet owners who think dogs are disposable. That being said, I recently adopted a 2yo beagle from a local woman who could no longer keep the dog. He is intact and very calm, very sweet and well behaved. I started looking in to neutering and I found many articles on the benefits of waiting to neuter/spay and the necessary hormones for health that they receive by a deferred alter. I read further and found an article about research that has has been showing increased aggression and behavior changes in neutered/spayed dogs (Posted by Psychology Today. Google it) which made me pause and reconsider neutering at all. I've always thought spay/neuter was the only option as a responsible dog owner and now I think it may be case by case. Maybe spay neuter is the right choice for some and intact is the right choice for others...
At this point I would really like to have my dog attend daycare 1x a week but there don't seem to be any options for intact males to attend daycare here in nyc.
Everyone looks at me cockeyed (as I did with people previously) and the judgment by others is harsh. It's a tricky situation because that is my main issue really. He is perfect with kids, with people, with other dogs, he's calm, he's healthy. I'm not sure what to do.

Posted by: Joce | June 28, 2018 7:59 AM    Report this comment

We did not spay our 10 year old female Australian shepherd, Sapphire, until she developed a mammary tumor. We always thought we would breed her at least once, but that never happened. Her heats were not awful and she kept herself clean. Never had to use a diaper. She did have issues with false pregnancies and depression at the 8th week of her cycle. After finding out her tumor was cancer and directly due to hormonal fluctuations, we decided to spay her and remove her mammary gland. We were very lucky. She is 11 now and very healthy and happy. No personality changes which many owners fear after spaying. We just spayed our other 3 year old Australian Shepherd. She experienced horrible mood swings and gained weight during her false pregnancies. We were definitely going to breed her, but decided to forego bc we worried about her health. I have to mention, no male dogs were ever interested in either dog while they were in heat, probably bc most males are neutered nowadays. Their bleeding wasn't an issue at all. Their depression during false pregnancies was tough. Pyometra was always a worry. If you aren't breeding, why keep them intact? Too many risks.

Posted by: Cnoz | May 24, 2018 10:16 AM    Report this comment

What else can we remove from our dogs for convenience or some weird habit? Ears, tails, dew claws, vocal cords: no problem in the USA. I am still waiting an article on this in the WDJ, have asked for it several times over the years but it was never addressed. After all, the magazine is called 'Whole Dog Journal', not 'Incomplete Dog Journal'.

Posted by: Wolfy | May 22, 2018 6:11 PM    Report this comment

Please can someone give me some insight... I have 4 dogs all intact. 2 females 2 males. Bull Mastiff-8 years old female, pit bull-9 1/2 years old male, bull mastiff/pit mix-2 years old male, & a pit- 7 months old female. Both my males are trying to kill each other over my bull mastiff so I had to seperate them. But my bull mastiff is NOT in heat. They have been like this for months, but just the other day is when it got bad. Can someone please tell me why they are doing this???

Posted by: Phoenix1738 | May 9, 2018 12:35 PM    Report this comment

Our 9 year old Australian Shepherd intact female was diagnosed with a mammary adenocarcinoma in December 2016. The vet told me her chances were 50 percent higher for developing this cancer and also for uterine cancer, pyometra bc she is intact. We were going to breed her, but moved to a different state and decided not to. I thought she was so healthy being fed only organic foods from day one. We also run her daily, give vitamins, green supplements, raw dried foods and treats. We opted to spay her and have the tumor removed. The scar is huge and she suffered for a couple of weeks, but all is clear as of today after she had an ultrasound. We have another female Australian Shepherd age 2. We will be spaying her this summer as I never want my dog to go through this pain ever again. If you do not breed your female, please spay her after the age of 2 so her joints have less of a chance being affected.

Posted by: Cnoz | February 15, 2017 7:52 PM    Report this comment

From what I've read the pros and cons of neutering are 6 in one half a dozen in the other. Ive had dogs all my life and my first two were neutered and spayed very young, which i believe had adverse mental and physical effects on their lives years later. Currently i have two male huskies, one 3 and a half the other only a few months old. I have decided to keep them intact. The three year old is not aggressive but has been trying to hump the puppy for a month or so now and is crying a lot. My question is, is he in pain? Will the urge to mate subside? I am a caring owner who wants my dogs to live as fulfilled a life as possible but i am concerned my dog is now uncomfortable. Any advice would be appreciated thank you.

Posted by: Robbb_22 | January 21, 2017 9:17 AM    Report this comment

I have two german shepherds, and a pitbull mix. My male shepherd is not neutered. I don't walk them together, as they are unruly, and not very socialized or trained. The females, my shepherd and the pitbull mix, are spayed. Both of the shepherds have socialization issues, aggression towards dogs and people that visit me. My female who is fixed is extremely aggressive towards other dogs, even though she is fixed. My male shepherd is great on walks, but not very good with home visitors. I am hearing conflicting messages about fixing him. Some say that he needs to be fixed to eliminate his aggression and dominance and some say that the behavior will still continue since its behavioral issue as well and he needs training. I feel really bad to fix him now as he is 6 years old and I don't want to have any medical problems since he is very health so far. It is my female who is fixed that has all kinds of health issues, including thyroid disorder. Can my male be trained to welcome guests and not be aggressive and or dominant towards other dogs?

Posted by: Vinny'smom | October 10, 2016 1:12 PM    Report this comment

I have a male who has been neutered, but everytime my female goes in heat he hooks up with her. He's bigger than she is and will continue to do this for two or three weeks. It's a job to keep him off of her. I'm wondering if this will cause her to have problems if and when I decide to breed her? I know she can't get pregnant but I would like to know how, if any, I can break him from this? After she starts going out of estrus she will cry and whine when he does it like it hurts her. It's almost as if he's raping her Cuz he's bigger and stronger than she is. He's still a miniature poodle but she is so much smaller.

Posted by: Poodle momma | October 2, 2016 1:42 PM    Report this comment

Would you castrate your 8 year old son just because you don't want to deal with his wild oats in puberty? Would you have your 4 year old daughter undergo a full hysterectomy?
Don't have a child or a dog if you don't or can't parent it through even the challenges of reproduction. Being fully responsible means just that FULLY! Time to wake up people. Forcing spay and neutering is one step closer to limits on how many children you can have and castrating them.

Posted by: 3puppies | September 12, 2016 8:16 AM    Report this comment

This is on the subject of deciding to spay or neuter but quite different but IMPORTANT. I just lost my 16 month Airedale girl. She was playing with an16 month male not neutered. I sat with them all day and kept telling the male to stop humping my girl. As soon as he would stop she would jump on him and it would start all over. They played 2 days and then cried all day (neighbors) through the fence so they played the following day. My female was a tom boy and the vets words were she over exerted herself.

She came in from the yard and played all night jumping around. The next am she couldn't walk on her 2 back legs. I raced her to the vet who did laser surgery and acupuncture and I laid with her all afternoon. They tried to stand her up and she was PARALYZED. OMG am I just that dumb that I did not realize my baby who never ate toxic treats or food, a mission in itself, that now my Airedale baby is gone. I brought her home and boy her tail wagged and wagged as soon as she hit the outdoors as they carried her out of the vets on a stretcher to my car. She looked out the window all the way home but once she got home she just kept trying to get up and that night she died as I laid by her.

People must realize that a male dog humping a female CAN PARALYZE THE FEMALE. I have heard this happens to dogs, a woman working at Kmart told me her mom's 4 yr old dog playing with a male 2 yr old dog who was humping her female and same thing, the female was paralyzed, nerve damage to her back legs.......I NEVER HEARD OF SUCH A THING. This has got to be written and told before more tragic stories like these happens again. HOW COMMON IS THIS? I would have never put her in harms way, she never cried once and jumped on him as he left all the way out the door.


Thank you for your dog journal news.


Posted by: dinger | September 8, 2016 2:49 PM    Report this comment

I own four large dogs in all. Two boys and two girls. Two of them were spayed/neutered at a very early age on the advice from my then vet. They both have had joint problems from a very early age. They are not overweight. My other two dogs weren't spayed/neutered until they each were about five years old. They have no health problems of any kind are are very active and athletic dogs. When my male was still intact he never scent marked in the house. There were never any behavioral problems either. The only reason they were spayed/neutered was because there was no way to keep them apart while my female was in heat.
I also have a seven year old grand dog who is intact and he has no health or behavioral issues. We take him to the dog park and it is never a problem.
I grew up in Germany and I don't recall anyone spaying or neutering a dog back then. And there were no stray dogs. I believe that pet owners need to act responsibly whether their dog is intact or not.

Posted by: Chopper | September 5, 2016 2:39 PM    Report this comment

Regardless of your opinion or knowledge on the subject of spaying and neutering, if you believe what someone here has posted that there is no dog overpopulation, you need to visit animal shelters and animal control centers around the country, not to mention all the animal rescues. Millions of dogs are euthanized annually due to overcrowding at municipal pounds. The US also take in rescued dogs from Europe and from the dog meat trade in Asia. After natural disasters, abandoned pets fill the rescue organizations. To claim glibly something of which you are ignorant does a disservice to all the dogs languishing in jeopardy in shelters because then people won't bother adopting in the erroneous belief that the shelters are empty.

Posted by: Czerny | September 5, 2016 1:49 AM    Report this comment

We waited until 18 months to neuter our Airedale and ensure the development of masculine characteristics. However, it was a bit tricky in obedience class because he would pee on the shoes of other owners as we were talking! At 12 he died of a vascular tumor wrapped around his heart and lungs, a tumor common in older neutered males. Needless to say, I was upset by the cause as no breeder or vet had told us about the consequences of neutering. I realize intact males can also get cancers.

Posted by: Vyse | September 4, 2016 4:02 PM    Report this comment

If commenters mentioning studies could provide links (or mention authors and publication dates) for those studies, I would so appreciate it!

I wish there were more large published surveys and statistics available about the reported health and behavioral pros and cons of spaying/neutering different types of dogs at different ages, and taking in to account environmental factors such as diet and exercise.

It seems to me that all the published studies I've read that show benefits one way or the other are done on such small (under 100 dog) sample in just one geographically area. For me that doesn't hold much weight applying them to the rest of the world's dog population.

My first dog was adopted from the spca in France, he was 2 years old, un-neutered, a 40-lb spaniel mix. I was a terribly irresponsible owner and he ran away multiple times. He was neutered at 4 years old after his genitals were mauled by another intact dog who's owner was letting him run off-leash in Central Park, Manhattan (I'd learned to keep him on-leash by then). I'd avoided neutering him as I thought it would diminish his wonderful personality, instead I was thrilled at how it didn't affect him visibly at all, other than making him He died suddenly from lung cancer at age 11.

My next dog was spayed at age 8 months when I adopted her from the shelter. She was a 50 pound Lab mix, I called her my little billy goat for her climbing abilities. Developed spay-induced incontinence at about 5 years old which was easily controlled with inexpensive medication. At age 13 she started getting arthritic and her ACLs went one after the other, and while healing at age 14 her spleen ruptured killing her, likely a tumor.

My 3rd dog is now 14 years old, and he was neutered at age 4 months by the shelter. He's an 80 pound mix, shelter said Great Dane and Pit Bull but likely more Boxer Lab Pit. He's been the healthiest dog of all my (and my family's many) dogs. Only within the last 6 months has he started to slow down with some spinal arthritis. No one that meets him believes he's 14. Vet says his hips are "perfect" and while he is a tall dog that didn't seem to bother him and it certainly didn't bother me. He was incredibly athletic and muscular, could easily clear jump up into a raised grooming bathtub (he loves baths), and could run like the wind.

So based on my experience and those of my friends and family, health-wise I'd be happy to adopt a dog even if he was neutered as a puppy.

Posted by: crystal.luka | September 4, 2016 3:32 PM    Report this comment

I breed dogs because I like to breed dogs.. no guilt no shame. all of my dogs stay intact , especially the males. Bitches I usually spay at around 7 or 8 if at all.

Posted by: doug williams | September 4, 2016 3:17 PM    Report this comment

I bred my Weimaraner during her second heat. Her behavior during both heats was not changed at all. She had nine puppies,
One was stillborn and another was found dead one morning, off in a corner. Both of these pups were examined post mortum and nothing overt was found. That vet was a long time Weim. Owner and breeder/shower and was extremely helpful to us during the whole process. After nursing and placement of the pups in good homes Gretel was spayed.
Again I have to say her behavior was essentially unchanged. She was calmer,yes, but she was now 2 1/2 yrs old. She was a great pet, good hunter, and an exceptional guard dog. She got spayed because she was MY dog not my husbands. He was a no spay/no neuter guy. Which brings me to his English Setters, male and female. His male died due to a tragic accident while hunting and I thought this would be a good time to spay the female but know, he was going to do some research looking for a good male.
He is still looking for a male when we are ready to move into our new house. While we moved we had to kennel female because our kennel was not yet complete at the new house. When we went to pick her up and bring her home the groomer grabbed us and told us that she had found a lump near one of her teats. It was very small, so God bless her for being so thorough while grooming her. Of course we took her to the vet and surgery was scheduled for the next day. Sure enough it was breast cancer. Not too long after she had a couple more breast lumps removed but we knew it was going to spread.
She bounced back from her surgeries and was enjoying the extra attention that comes with being an only dog. About 3 mos. later she abruptly stopped eating and I noticed a small amount of discharge near her vulva and back to the vet. The exam showed that the cancer had spread to her uterus and ovaries. She was humanely euthanized and we ere bereft. My now husband had been told several times that bitches that were not spayed ran a risk of developing breast cancer and she did. Within an18 mo. period we lost two young wonderful dogs.
I, for one, now have all my dogs and cats spayed and neutered. I push the timelines out as far as I dare preferring to have them get as much growth and development as possible.
I have adopted from local shelters and I still BUY my beloved Boston Terriers from a small number of private breeders that I know to be highly reputable and feel no shame. When I adopt or buy a dog it's for life come rain or shine. I have a list of people who have agreed to take care of my dog if something should happen to me. Everyone that owns a pet should think about doing that. The alternatives can be gruesome .

Posted by: Her Woofness | September 4, 2016 2:31 PM    Report this comment

Just so you know, humans are NOT infertile during their period!!! Ffs!

Posted by: Jenimac21 | September 4, 2016 2:23 PM    Report this comment

I can appreciate that people want to do what is best for their dog. I do too. There is nothing I wouldn't do for my animals. But the bottom line is that by far the majority of people are not responsible when it comes to companion animals. That is why shelters and rescues are overflowing with dogs and cats. Not to mention all the strays roaming around. As someone who has spent over 35 years volunteering in shelters and with rescue groups you cannot believe the number of people who bring in unplanned litters saying, "we were going to get her spayed, but we didn't get around to it" or "she got out" or "we didn't know she was in heat" and other lame excuses. IMO spay/neuter should be required by law. There is no such thing as responsible breeding as long as hundreds of thousands of animals are killed annually, in this country alone.

I would like to add that spay/neuter being the norm now days is somewhat of a fallacy. That depends entirely on the area in which you live. For instance, in the greater Puget Sound area of Washington, it is the norm. However, on the eastern side of the state, unaltered is the norm. When I volunteered after Katrina, I was appalled that very, very few animals were altered.

Posted by: KKBaker | September 4, 2016 12:41 PM    Report this comment

Do your research about the health risks of spaying and neutering. Responsible ownership and management will prevent puppies. The health risk of not spaying and not neutering are overstated as vets depend on these routine surgeries for their business. Western Europe does not routinely neuter and spay and yet, you don't find litters in shelters, nor is it easy to find a nice dog in a shelter. In all the years I lived there I never found a stray dog. I cringe when 8 week old pups are spayed and neutered. They don't develop their genitalia well, leading to inverted vulvas and underdeveloped penises. Males grow up way too tall and do not develop muscles. There are procedures as a compromise for males: Zeutering (google it). Longer coated dogs lose the luster of their coats as well.

Posted by: Wolfy | September 4, 2016 12:24 PM    Report this comment

If you can't handle the responsibilities of owning an intact dog, then don't get one one. Mutilating dogs with unnecessary surgery for human convenience is NEVER a good reason. And to the person who anonymously went on and on and about dog overpopulation, do your research, that's not the case any more. Dogs are being shipped all over the country and imported from other, third world countries to meet the demand in many areas. Also, please explain to me how my intact dog, who is never loose and will never be bred, has any effect whatsoever on dogs in shelters, brought there primarily by their irresponsible owners for behavioral problems. A responsible owner does not submit his dog to unnecessary surgery and does not dump it rather than take the time to train it. We DO have a huge overpopulation of people, but we don't castrate or sterilize our children.

Posted by: GiftofGalway | September 4, 2016 12:16 PM    Report this comment

Reading through all the comments, there is a common theme. Responsible pet owners who decide to delay or decline spaying and neutering giving their reasons for doing so. These are not ignorant people contributing to pet over population, these are people educating themselves on the available choices.

I am hopeful that modified spay and neuter, vasectomy and ovary sparing uterus removal will become more widely available soon. It seems to be the best of both worlds, no unwanted litters and the endocrine system remains intact.

Posted by: jennifer m | September 4, 2016 12:11 PM    Report this comment

The other aspect of spaying and neutering which must be taken into consideration is the age at which you do it. In giant breeds such as my own, spaying or neutering is not advised until the dog is around 2 years old and amost mature. Giant breeds don't fully mature until around 3 to 4 yrs old, but at 2 their growth plates have usually closed and their joints and bones have stopped growing. If you cut off the sex hormones before the dog is mature, then you run the risk of causing problems for the dog in the future. The nastiest of those problems is osteosarcoma. Vets seem to have differing opinions of when to neuter or spay and it seems there are as many opinions as there are vets. However, you will find that virtually every experienced giant breed owner will say the same thing. I have had many conversations with my vet about spaying and she doesn't hold with my views about when is the right time. My youngest dog (whom we had from a puppy) who is 3 yrs old is a show dog so she is in tact. I have no problems with keeping her safe from the attentions of male dogs. It is impossible for her to escape from our yard and also impossible for any other dog to get in. My older female came to us at 2 yrs old (She's been with us for two and a half years now) and I found out after she came to us that she was spayed at a year which is worrying to me. The owner was an inexperienced first time giant breed owner and followed the advice of her vet. So I am going to be keeping a very close eye on her in the future.
It is also recommended that "large" breeds are not spayed or neutered until at the youngest, but 14 to18 months to 2 yrs is preferable.

Posted by: Trainergirl | September 4, 2016 11:22 AM    Report this comment

Congratulations to those challenging the tyranny of spaying/neutering. It certainly has its place in the scheme of things but the reflexive demand on it as a cultural criteria for responsible pet ownership has gone too far. More evidence is indeed revealing its risks. Consider what it means to catastrophically tear out an animal's sexual apparatus. Partial procedures such as vasectomies are an alternative, as are less invasive procedures for female dogs.

Posted by: rrpjr | September 4, 2016 8:56 AM    Report this comment

jesseowen99- You're really over thinking this family reunion thing. So you're taking an in heat female to the family reunion with a few intact males? Happens all the time all over the world. Keep them all away from alcohol (especially if they are all under age) and stop by the 7-11 for a case of doggie condoms, because you know it's going to happen if you take her....

Posted by: Seanfullmer1 | September 27, 2015 12:21 AM    Report this comment

I selected a Lab for his obedience/agility potential. As he developed I noticed that he was an incredibly handsome dog who seemed to meet or exceed the breed standards. Against all of my former experience, I entered him in conformation and he has done exceptionally well. He'll receive his championship soon. Had I neutered him early as our vet suggested this would not have been possible. Breeders tell me that early neutering has profound effects on bone development. If my old rescue Lab, neutered at 4 months, were to be used as a case study that might prove true. He has grown long and lanky with many osteo-tumor issues.

My unneutered puppy is doing well. He goes to day care every day and has actually been put in charge of crazy puppies. When a puppy gets too much for group play, they pull him out and put him one on one with my Lab. Being unneutered has not been an issue at all.

He is very curious about the world around him, however, so I take lots of precautions to make sure he is secured.

My take is: most dogs need to be neutered (but please discuss with vet about when is the best time for bone development). Most (99%) of dogs should not be bred. But if you have a dog who has breeding potential, give him or her that opportunity to help improve that breed.

Posted by: lmcgowan | September 23, 2015 10:05 PM    Report this comment

As a new subscriber and first-time commenter, I want to thank you for being brave enough to tackle this controversial (and heated) topic.

I think part of the "heat," in the comments at least, comes from a failure to differentiate between cases and venues in well-meaning, passionate attempts to solve many complex problems with a single "best" approach that doesn't exist in reality.

My personal concern is how best to safeguard the health and happiness of ONE little male Shih Tzu - for concerns as varied as vaccinations, dental care, grooming and when or whether to neuter.

Since I am allergic to most dog breeds, I have owned Shih Tzus since grad school - over 35 years ago now. My last, an 11 pound intact female who delivered one litter of 3 pups, lived to be 19 years old, and was amazingly healthy. Prior Shih Tzus, all fixed, lived to an average of 14 years, and were primarily healthy for most of their lives. I am currently looking to make decisions for a 10-month old, 10 pound puppy who will not get more than half a pound larger, if that.

I work from home, so this pup gets a great deal of time and attention, travels with me for most errands, is already well trained and well behaved on-lead and off, a real charmer who is amassing a fan club from our city neighborhood walks. He is welcome in establishments that don't normally admit dogs, since he is content and quiet in his carrier on a shoulder strap (his "home away from home" since the day I brought him home, at about 3-1/2 months).

He is VERY rarely left in my large, ground-floor apartment alone to "get loose" - even if he could figure out how to jump up and out of closed windows that are hip-high on my 5'8" frame. I guess there is a one in a million shot that he might add to the population problem, but I sincerely doubt that he would add to the "unwanted dog" problem in any way that would be my concern if I were a shelter or rescue worker, or if he were one of the larger or more aggressive breeds.

I can't help but wonder if most of us who dedicate time to trolling the web for research and advice are higher-than-average-level informed and responsible dog parents who have concerns and questions similar to my own - many of which, I imagine, will be situation and breed specific.

I believe it would be most helpful to the majority of us if more vets, breeders and owners alike were willing to help us stay up-to-date on all sides of the latest information and/or research without pushing us to a solution that is born out of confirmation bias in far to many instances (overlooking items that don't support what one already believes in favor of those that do, often unintentionally).

I TRULY appreciate both the tone and the points of view expressed in your open-minded article.

(Madelyn Griffith-Haynie - ADDandSoMuchMore dot com)
- ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder -
"It takes a village to educate a world!"

Posted by: ShihTzuMom | September 3, 2015 12:00 AM    Report this comment

Reason to spay and neuter?
Simple. How many dogs/puppies get put down every day in shelter because of the huge overpopulation crisis? For every one puppy being born it means one is left to suffer on the streets, die of starvation or disease. So imo can you call yourself a dog lover if you risk killing dogs/puppies just because you refuse to fix your dog for your own reasons?

Actually if you dont spay/neuter there are FAR more cancers and diseases out there a dog can get then just the ones they get if they are fixed. By spaying a female BEFORE her first heat you greatly reduce a certain cancer. And pregnant females can have a ton of complications that can lead to their death. I have heard of far more females dying from pregnancy complications then spaying. Neutering is by far safer then spaying.

Unfixed males can be aggressive yes but of course not always. However unfixed females can cause even fixed females to be aggressive towards them and likewise to unneutered males. I know a lot of dogs who are aggressive towards unfixed males and females. Most strays will be aggressive towards the male for sure, and a dog who is adopted from the street and fixed will still have that urge to fight unfixed males. If your dog isn't neutered be prepared for dog fights so if you refuse to neuter him, stay OUT of the dog parks or go to places where others wont be.

IMHO its wrong and selfish to not spay/neuter your dogs because of your own selfish reasons. Its not just about behavior, its about the reality of the sheer number of unwanted animals being born. A male dog can produce alot of litters if he got out, and guess what, he will try to get out. You have on hand a sexually mature dog who is frustrated cause he can't do what his body is urging him to do. Which is reproduce. Or a female that you MUST be on guard with when she's in heat. You wont be able to enjoy walks cause you will have to watch her, during her heat she could NOT go to the dog park. Stray males or any male will be very persistent to get to her to breed, including climbing the fence to get to her.

Posted by: ... | August 9, 2015 1:13 PM    Report this comment

I have a 4 year old female Golden Retriever. I lost my last two girls to Giansarcoma (spleen removed and chemo but not a good outcome even though they fought hard)
I did a lot of research about spaying and how this particular cancer risk increases with spaying so I have left her intact. My other girls were both spayed. I hope others start looking into this option, I dont know how through her life this will work out but believe I should not spay if it is going to increase her risk. She is never left alone and Im sure she does have heats but they are not messy, just some licking etc. and I wouldnt care even if they were. Her health is much more important to me than cleaning up or taking extra care with her. I look for other peoples comments on not spaying, any advice would be appreciated.

Posted by: Lola | April 7, 2015 8:24 AM    Report this comment

All the male dogs of my youth and childhood were left intact and were never a problem. They never marked in the house, and they were not aggressive with people or dogs. Now in my sixties, I have my first intact female, co-owned. She was bred once, both parents health tested, titled, etc., and had one litter, all eight spoken for before they were born. I have been surprised by how easy it has been. I live in a city of about 150,000 that charges extra on licensing intact dogs, done through the veterinarian's office, and not once have I found a male in or near my yard, and never during her regular walks has a male accosted us.
Although I don't intend to breed again, because of health concerns, particularly cancer in this breed, I have kept her intact. One thing your article did not mention is the risk of pyometra for intact females. It can be a killer, and I'm always horrified by the number of back yard breeders with older, intact females who have never heard of it until their female needs emergency surgery because of it.

Posted by: Margaret T | April 7, 2015 7:12 AM    Report this comment

I had a canine vasectomy performed on my Standard Poodle three and a half years ago (he's five years old now). He may have been the first in Rhode Island to have this done. At the time I did a lot of research while postponing neutering until maturity - after the growth plates closed. One of the studies I read suggested although neutering eliminates the possibility of testicular cancer, there's a significant increase in the risk of osteosarcoma (bone cancer) in neutered dogs. I also read the "humping" behavior was seen more often in neutered dogs. I don't know how true the latter is but I've never seen my dog hump anything. He's healthy and muscular. I'm so glad I chose to have this procedure done rather than lopping off perfectly healthy, testosterone-producing testicles. The procedure seemed to benefit my dog and allowed me to be a responsible pet owner (win-win). I don't understand why the canine vasectomy and tubal ligation are not the norm for our furry companions.

Posted by: Bob | April 6, 2015 2:43 PM    Report this comment

I owned a (large) male Boxer for 12 years and he was never neutered. He was a lovely dog with people especially kids but tended to be a bit grumpy with male dogs. Both him and me had a very happy life together. However I now have two bitches and a male dog and all have been neutered, I think it's more common now because of the increase in people dumping the unwanted dogs I would agree with neutering for this reason xx

Posted by: Deb Munday | April 6, 2015 8:28 AM    Report this comment

That's why, at 2 yrs old, my female golden retriever is intact, but I still have reservations about spaying her inspite of her behavior. Could overvaccinating ause behavior problems? I know it caused allergies as that deceiving Dr. Bitch encouraged me to do the distemper/ parvo instead of titering. Dr. Ronald Schultz said overvaccinating can jeopardize your dog's life and cause allergies and couple of months after, we've been stressimg out

Posted by: akcBrandy2 | October 17, 2014 9:28 AM    Report this comment

Please discuss this with your Veterinarian & any other "dog people". The more people bring up their concerns about conventional spay & neuter, the more attention vets will pay to the demand for alternatives such as vasectomies & ovary-sparing spays. There are very few vets out there who perform these procedures. Thank you :v)

Posted by: Chicago | July 11, 2014 6:21 PM    Report this comment

My family and i are going to a family party in two weeks, my female dog lily has just come into season and its nothing new for us however at thtis party there will be 3 other dogs 2 of which are make we were planning on taking my lily due to us staying over night but we dont want to risk anything.
Should we leave her at home?
Take her with?
Is it not safe for her to go up?

Posted by: Jessowen99 | June 28, 2014 10:27 AM    Report this comment

My male dog is intact - he came that way when I rescued him from the local Vet / shelter. He had only just come in from a foster home (the girl who fostered him found him wandering on the street, no one claimed him) so I suppose they hadn't had time to neuter him yet.

My dog doesn't mark, roam, mount, and shows no aggression to humans but he does fight with other male dogs. I don't think he was properly socialized as he's wary of female dogs too (won't fight with them but clearly doesn't trust strange dogs at all). He's a very timid and well behaved dog in all other respects and I wouldn't want to risk him in an operation (there's always a risk of death under anesthesia) on the hope that it will reduce his dog aggression.

It IS possible to live comfortably with an intact dog, not every male dog will mark or mount things. I think its probably best to wait until the dog is old enough to start displaying these behaviors before you take the decision to neuter, it may be that your intact dog won't display any of these problem behaviors at all.

Posted by: Miss Cellany | November 25, 2013 9:07 AM    Report this comment

Personally I am extremely excited that so much "conventional wisdom" is being questioned and rethought and a second look being taken. It started with training methods, now "we" are taking another look at how spay and neuter is practiced.

Hopefully we can take a second look at the negative breeding perception next.

Posted by: matthew | April 17, 2013 2:26 PM    Report this comment

With my first ever dog, I have been doing a LOT of research about nearly every aspect of care and training for dogs. Just prior to my appointment to take Sonny Boy in to the vet for neutering (who the office girl said would charge extra if he was over 6 months of age...still haven't researched this logic) I began reading the material available on why I should NOT neuter my dog until at least one year to 18 months of age. This was information from a variety of sources (I always cross-reference and research a variety of sources, before making any decisions like this.) including papers written by veterinarians and information provided by dog breeders' associations, specifically for my breed of dog. It seems to be confirmed that early neutering has been the long-time "knee-jerk" admonishment to having a pet, for obvious reasons of not wanting the sad situation of unwanted/uncared for pets populating our world. A closer look reveals that if you own a pet and are keeping it leashed, crated, or otherwise controlled at all times, therefore preventing any unwanted future litters, it is actually to the pet's health benefit to postpone any neutering until the animal has had the benefit of necessary hormones in its system that allow for him to develop normally (structurally, etc.) preventing future fractures due to uncontrolled and abnormal growth of limbs, as well as significantly increased susceptibility to hip dysplasia and cancers. I am still doing my research, and am open to hearing everything :) but have at least decided to postpone the neutering until 12 months of age, at least. It may not be the most convenient for me, but I care more about the health of my dog than a few months of inconvenience for myself.

Posted by: Unknown | March 20, 2013 12:27 PM    Report this comment

Spaying and neutering is not entirely benign. More and more studies are coming out showing increased medical & behavioral problems with neutered- especially pre-pubescent neutered-- dogs. Vets need to be more transparent and discuss ALL ASPECTS of neutering instead of just pressuring everyone to neuter. It should be a case-by-case decision made by owners and vet staff. Of course this is not going to be the reality (nor should it be) with rescues, but folks are not informed of the risks and I don't think that's right either.

Posted by: KELSI P | March 12, 2013 1:21 PM    Report this comment

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