The first point to make is that there are far more young dogs of either sex, being neutered these days. In my view, it is often a totally unnecessary and counter-productive procedure, based on boosting some veterinary practices’ profit margins. Many practices have annual targets to boost the percentage of dogs being neutered and you owners are at your most vulnerable when you first register your puppy there.

Some offer a free check-up at six months, when surprise, surprise you will be encouraged to neuter your puppy. Others send out computer-generated reminder cards, timed to coincide with the puppy reaching six months. Some are neutering puppies at even younger ages.

Argument and Counter-Argument

Here are some of the main reasons given by vets to encourage neutering, with my thoughts attached:-

It reduces boisterous behaviour.  If your puppy is boisterous, there are generally behavioural reasons for it, due to lack of exercise, stimulation, diet, etc. No need to neuter, which is usually unsuccessful in dealing with behavioural problems. At a time when more dogs are being neutered than ever before, behavioural problems are increasing. I’m not saying there’s a definite link, but see below.

It reduces aggression. Almost always untrue. Fights between neutered males are certainly not uncommon either. If your dog has an aggression problem, neutering will often either have no effect or will make it worse. See a skilled behaviourist, preferably not one recommended by a veterinary practice who will often advise neutering! I know of people in my own breed whose male Rottweilers can’t be trusted around other males and to be brutally honest, it’s more to do with the lack of appropriate socialisation when they were young rather than an inherent issue between males.

Many people for instance in the show world, regardless of breed, end up with so many dogs that it simply isn’t possible for them to socialise them with other dogs and if this isn’t done from a young age, an adult male or a particularly high status female, is much less likely to be accepting of unfamiliar dogs of either sex.

Of course, there are exceptions and I know of Rottweiler owners who go out of their way to socialise their dogs. They get my thumbs up every time. My entire male stooge dog Rudi aged 6 is as high status as they come, but he loves meeting strange dogs, neutered or entire, male or female.

It’s best to neuter early, the earlier the better in order to stop problem behaviours developing. Paediatric neutering is a sure-fire-way to stop your puppy maturing properly, therefore much more likely to retain boisterous behaviour, particularly in the larger breeds. It is also much more likely to lead to certain cancers, diseases and illnesses. Some puppies are being neutered as young as three months old. It is an absolute disgrace. See a skilled behaviourist/trainer.

It calms fearful dogs down. Far more likely to increase fear levels, therefore exacerbating existing behavioural problems.

Prevents unwanted puppies. Of course this is true, but many vets like us to hark back to the days when there were packs of dogs roaming the streets, sniffing out the nearest bitch in season, Lady and the Tramp style. If you have a female who you don’t want to have puppies, of course you might neuter her to prevent the twice-yearly mess on your carpets, but don’t believe all the claptrap about randy dogs hanging around your door like the paparazzi waiting for your precious female dog to exit! It is actually quite simple to manage bitches in season and I rarely, if ever neuter mine, even the elderly ones.

Prevents sexual behaviour from male dogs.  Whilst this is sometimes true and can stop humping and the odd instance of roaming behaviour, I have worked with many clients whose dogs only started humping AFTER being neutered. However, if you have a dog who displays excessively sexual behaviour which you can’t cope with, it is often best to get it neutered.

It prevents mammary and ovarian cancers etc in females, testicular cancer and prostate cancer in males.  Whilst this may or may not be true, one has to balance this up against the actual risk of those diseases in the first place. I have been involved in breeding and showing for most of my dog owning life (more than 35 years) and have never neutered a dog myself, nor have many of my friends and associates in those worlds. You would think then, wouldn’t you, that I might have been made aware of vast numbers of dogs and bitches suffering those diseases, which I certainly have not.

There is certainly evidence to show that neutering of dogs, particularly early neutering significantly increases the incidence of bone cancer, particularly in the larger breeds the risk being greater the younger the dog is. Bone cancer is at its most aggressive in younger dogs too, so when you are being pressurised into having your adolescent dogs neutered, don’t just go along with what your vet tells you. The links at the bottom of this page give more reasons not to neuter.

These things are far more likely to be genetic, so of course if you know it is in your dog’s family, you should carefully consider your options. Pyometra is a more common problem with un-neutered older females, which has specific symptoms. Again, whilst having owned many entire bitches, this is not a problem I have experienced with any of my own females and again there is likely to be a genetic predisposition to this in certain breeding lines. My Rottweiler Tara is approaching her 11th birthday and is still entire. Of course I observe her for any doubtful symptoms, but her age and health speak for themselves.

I do hate the cure-all approach of many vets which seems to be, chop out the offending part as a preventative measure. I’m sure they’d tell us to remove our dogs stomachs as a prevention for Gastric Torsion if they could! All this from a profession who successfully campaigned with the RSPCA for a ban on docking, as a mutilating procedure. The facts of that were that vets were doing very little docking themselves as most good breeders were expert at it. If vets had been getting good income from the procedure, I feel sure they would never have campaigned against it. Hypocritical don’t you think?

All that said, there are vets who actually advise against routinely neutering dogs and these are to be applauded, placing the health and welfare of mans best friend, ahead of their practice’s profit margins. Ditto the need for annual innoculations, but that’s another story!

So when might I recommend neutering of dogs?  In addition to the reasons I give above, there also some cases of aggression between dogs living in the same family, where it can be beneficial to neuter one of them if they are both entire. The rules are different for males and females, so consult a good behaviourist if you are having this problem.

Neutering the wrong one will achieve nothing and will almost certainly make matters worse. Most vets will not even ask you the specific questions required to identify which dog to consider neutering, in cases of sibling or inter-familial aggression. In fact, they would probably recommending neutering both, which would achieve nothing at all. If one of your dogs has already been neutered, then it is unlikely to help in cases of dog aggression within the home, to neuter the other one.

There are other highly respected behaviourists who speak the same language as I do about the damage which wide-spread, indiscriminatory neutering is doing to our dogs, Stan Rawlinson of London being one of them. We should all be able to trust the advice our vets give us about the health and welfare of our dogs, but with a large number of practices their approach to neutering is based primarily on their bottom line I’m afraid – and they know it.

Below is a link to an article by a respectived Veterinary scientist Doctor Karen Becker of Minnesota which you may find of interest. There is also Youtube footage too.

Unfortunately, for some of you reading this article it will be too late and your dog will either be continuing to demonstrate existing behavioural problems post-neutering, or will have developed same since the procedure. God forbid, it hasn’t developed any other serious health issues as a result.

If you are experiencing problems with your adult dog, have a puppy who is developing behavioural issues, or simply want to give it the best start in life you can do no better than contacting Peter and Jayne Mounsey at Ashclyst Dog Training & Behaviour.