Dog behavior after neutering

Myths and Facts About Behavioral Changes in Dogs After Neutering

Many dog owners opt for getting their pets neutered for a variety of reasons ranging from not wanting to breed the dog to a number of health benefits. This Buzzle article highlights the behavioral changes that take place in a male dog once he is neutered.
Did You Know?
Almost 4 million animals across the United States animal shelters are put down every year because they cannot find homes. Neutering helps curb these numbers by preventing unnecessary litters.

Neutering a male dog does bring about a change in his behavior. Some changes are positive, while some are undesirable. The changes also depend on many factors like the age of the dog, the post-surgery medication that is prescribed, and the change in the dog's lifestyle after being neutered.

What is Neutering or Spaying?

Spaying or neutering, also called altering, is a surgical procedure that prevents the animal from reproducing. Spaying actually means removing the ovaries, and it is a term that is reserved for female dogs. When dogs reach puberty at around 3½ months of age, they are like teenagers. Small dog breeds like Chihuahuas, Yorkshire Terriers, etc., are adolescent till one year of age, medium-sized dog breeds like Labradors, German Shepherds, etc., for about two years of age, and large dog breeds like Newfoundlands, Saint Bernards, Great Danes, etc., for up to three years of age. It is difficult to control adolescent dogs when there is a female in heat nearby. Males have been known to stop eating and sleeping if they are living in the same house with a female in heat. In such cases, the vet may recommend neutering the male to avoid any severe health issues due to this behavior.

The Need for Neutering

Intact dogs (those who are not neutered) often exhibit a variety of behavioral changes once they reach sexual maturity. These behavioral traits are ruled by the hormone testosterone. They include the following.
  • Urine marking of his surroundings to let other dogs know of his territory and presence.
  • Roaming, which means trying to leave the house in search of a female in heat.
  • Mounting other dogs, people, and objects.
  • Showing aggressiveness towards other male dogs if a female in heat is in the vicinity.
Due to these behavior patterns, the vet may suggest that you get your dog neutered. This process is carried out on dogs as young as 6 months before they reach sexual maturity, because they have not yet experienced this behavior. When both the testicles have descended into the scrotum, then a minor surgery is advised. The dog will recuperate very quickly after the surgery, when one or both the testicles are retained inside the abdominal cavity. Dogs who are strongly driven by testosterone levels in their blood will take some time to show a change in behavior.

Although it is also done on older dogs, the issues may continue even after surgery if the dog has been behaving that way for quite a while. Also, the risk of complications during the recovery phase goes up with older dogs, especially with those who weigh a lot.

Behavioral Changes After Neutering

One should keep in mind that neutering does not change the attitude of the dog towards people. There will be a decline in the urine marking, roaming, and mounting, but it may not go away altogether.

Some neutered dogs may become calmer and quieter than before, while some may remain the same. The intensity of change varies from case to case. Puppies may continue to show some sexual activity that they exhibited before neutering as they become adolescents. Neutering shows reduced frequencies of dog fights and other dominant tendencies. However, the dog will continue to be territorial.

There are cases where dogs have become more aggressive towards people and animals after being neutered. However, no studies have been able to conclusively link the two. There are some reasons that are believed to cause the aggression in recently neutered dogs.
  • As the dog will be in some amount of pain after the surgery, he may become defensive as a means to protect himself. An injured animal is a weak one, susceptible to being preyed upon in the wild, which may be making your dog aggressive. In this case, it is best to consult the vet and get the pain medications changed if required.
  • Another reason may be that, as the dog nears complete recovery, he may begin to get bored sitting around. If your pet who is used to daily runs or jogs is asked to take complete rest after the procedure, then all his pent-up energy may be making him jumpy. You should consult your vet about this, and take his/her advice on how to start up your dog's daily routine again.
There is also a chance that your dog is still traumatized from the entire experience of the vet, the surgery, and accompanied pain. Give him at least a week to calm down; be with him, assure him that you love him, and try to make him feel as secure as possible. If there is no change even after 8 to 10 days, then it is best to take the help of a behavior expert. Most importantly, do not go ahead with the procedure if your dog is in an agitated state of mind; let him calm down first, as going ahead with the procedure in this state will only increase his anxiety.

Some Misconceptions: How Will Neutering Change My Dog?

Myth: My dog will no longer guard the house after neutering.
Fact: Neutering doesn't affect the basic temperament and intelligence of the dog.

Myth: My dog will feel less manly after being neutered.
Fact: Neutering will not change your dog's personality. Dogs do not feel such things; owners do.

Myth: My dog will become depressed.
Fact: Dogs do not feel sad or depressed about the inability to have puppies. Male dogs do not even participate in the rearing of the litter.

Myth: My dog will become fat.
Fact: It depends on how much you feed him. Due to a reduced metabolic rate, neutered dogs need to be fed 25-30% less calories.

Myth: Neutering will fix all the issues in my dog.
Fact: Any personality or behavior issues will not be automatically 'fixed' by neutering. They will require separate treatment.

Myth: Neutering is expensive.
Fact: There are many low-expense neutering options available. The cost of neutering your dog is less than the expenses incurred in 10 to 12 months on taking care of a puppy.

Pros and Cons

The benefits of neutering include some health benefits like reduced chances of hernias and testicular tumors, lesser chances of encountering prostate problems, reduction in testosterone-related problems like epilepsy, and also changes in the above-mentioned behavior issues like urine marking and mounting.

As there is a flip side to every coin, neutering also has its share of cons. These include chances of the dog becoming less playful, gaining weight if a proper diet is not followed, and possible health issues like hip dysplasia, osteosarcoma, hypothyroidism, and hemangiosarcoma.

Neutering is not something that must be taken lightly. It is a major change for your dog. Thus, weigh the pros and cons, consider its necessity and usefulness, and definitely do not go for it just because a lot of other people are, and so you think that you too are "supposed to". Make an informed decision after consulting your vet, and go ahead with it only if you think it is right. Remember, you are making a major decision for another life here.