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Will Neutering a Dog Change Its Behavior?

Picture of a dog outside

If you were planning on neutering or spaying your dog because it might make him or her more manageable behavior-wise, this might not be the best reason to do it. 

Naturally, there are many advantages to early neutering or spaying, and one of the most significant ones is that the procedure more often than not prevents cases of cancer that affects the reproductive system. However, when it comes to changes in your pet’s behavior, there are some studies that suggest that neutering, especially later in the animal’s life might make no difference in terms of their aggression.

In this post, we’ll look at whether this is a myth or not, whether the age at which the dog is neutered or spayed impacts their behavior or not and if it’s still a good idea to have the procedure done.

Why would your dog’s behavior change after being neutered or spayed?

We often associate levels of testosterone in an animal’s body with aggression and dominance. It’s true that testosterone does have a significant impact on a way a male or female dog behaves, especially if there are other dogs or animals inhibiting the same space. 

Late neutering doesn’t have the effect that you might be aiming at. As a dog ages, the endocrine system begins to do its job properly, and there is no indication as to whether it stops doing so just because the reproductive glands are removed (the testes or the ovaries). 

However, if the dog is performed the procedure early on in his or her life, somewhere around the 5 or 6-month mark, the operation could prevent aggression and dominance. 

The evidence

There have been some studies performed on large numbers of dogs. One of the best-known and recent ones, from 2018, analyzed the behavior of over 13,000 dogs. This study focused on discovering whether the behavior changed following the procedure in terms of several types of aggression and whether it re-appeared or disappeared completely.

You are going to be disappointed if you think that spaying or neutering your dog once he or she has reached adulthood is going to make any serious changes in the way your pet behaves.

According to the study that we’re referring to, approximately 90% of the dogs exhibited the same aggressive behavior toward known people, a percentage of 87.8% continued being aggressive toward strangers, and a percentage of 86.1% dogs maintained their aggressive behavior toward other members of the canine species.  

In fact, the study proved that dogs that were neutered or spayed between the ages of 7 and 12 months became even more aggressive toward strangers than they were before the procedure. 

Even though the number of dogs from the study was large, the results can’t speak for every dog in the world. However, this evidence suggests that performing this surgery has little to no effect on the way a dog behaves afterward. 

Does neutering or spaying your dog make any difference when it comes to your pet’s health?

The short answer to this question is yes. Both in males and females, it’s widely known that performing the procedure as early as possible in their life can actively prevent ovarian and testicular cancer. Moreover, the procedure even prevents anal gland adenocarcinomas, another type of severe cancer.

On the other hand, neutering or spaying your dog does come with a series of risks, too. The anesthesia and the surgery themselves have risks, but there is increasing evidence according to which dogs that are performed gonadectomy on are exposed to other forms of cancer, especially compared to intact dogs.

For instance, neutering or spaying your dog might even increase his or her risk of developing some types of cancer, many of which are severe and have a high degree of malignancy. Here are some examples of cancer that a dog that is neutered or spayed is at a higher risk:

  • Mast cell cancer
  • Hemangiosarcoma
  • Lymphoma and lymphosarcoma
  • Osteosarcoma
  • Prostatic carcinoma

Will your dog be calmer following the procedure?

It can take anything from six months to years for the operation to have a significant effect on a dog’s endocrine system. 

It’s true that intact dogs have a much higher likelihood of exhibiting roaming behavior, which puts them at risk of coming in contact with other animals (and getting diseases from them) but also puts them at risk of sustaining a vehicular injury. 

Dogs that are neutered and spayed are less likely to be as active as they were before the surgery, and that’s not just because of the recovery period. 

You might have heard by now that neutered or spayed dogs have a higher chance of developing obesity due to a decrease in physical activity. This is true. Unfortunately, that also makes them more prone to developing medical conditions such as orthopedic disease, both because they don’t get enough exercise and because there is more weight effectively pushing down on their joints. 

Some studies have shown that neutered and spayed dogs have a higher likelihood of developing serious conditions such as patellar luxation and hip dysplasia

Should you neuter or spay your dog?

If puppies aren’t a part of your plan and you’re looking to prevent the forms of reproductive cancer that female dogs, in particular, are most exposed to (ovarian, uterine, and mammary cancer), you should probably spay or neuter your canine friend as early in their life as possible. 

Nevertheless, that also means that you ought to take your dog in for regular checkups, just to be able to prevent the forms of cancer we’ve mentioned in this article. Moreover, you have to pay attention to Fido’s weight so that it doesn’t have any negative repercussions on his or her musculoskeletal system. 

But if you were thinking that the surgery can make a considerable difference when it comes to your dog’s behavior, it’s probably not going to happen. 

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