Does desexing calm a dog?

Does Desexing Calm a Dog?

Does desexing calm a dog? A popular topic among dog owners and a common concern we are regularly broached with – what are the potential behavioural changes when it comes to desexing a dog? The answer to this isn’t straightforward, so join us as we take you through the facts and explore the widespread misconceptions desexing may have on your dog’s temperament.

Does Desexing Calm a Male Dog?

Desexing, often referred to as neutering in a male dog, is a procedure that involves the removal of a dog’s testicles. Male dogs - like humans - produce testosterone, and by removing these reproductive organs, the production of testosterone is dramatically reduced. Dogs reach the highest level of testosterone between the approximate ages of six and twelve months, which is one of the reasons why the preferred age for desexing a male dog is around five to six months, depending on the size and breed. These levels of testosterone play a significant role when it comes to your dog and their behaviour.

It is widely believed that desexing a dog will calm them down – helping them to be less destructive, excitable, boisterous, and so on, and although desexing a male dog can influence their mood and certain behaviours, it does not necessarily calm them down or have an effect on their personality overall. Undesired habits of your dog, including jumping, disobedience and recklessness, are often problem behaviours as a result of a lack of training, stimulation and encouragement to reinforce calm behaviours. These unwanted behaviours will not cease just because your male dog is now desexed; they require behaviour modification, as well as adequate mental enrichment and exercise. The typical types of changes you will see in your male dog after sterilisation are directly linked to the circulation of testosterone, decreasing:

  • Roaming in search of a mate
  • Territorial behaviour, such as spraying/urine marking indoors
  • Dominance aggression towards other dogs
  • Target of competitive aggression from other dogs
  • Mounting and other sexual behaviours/arousal
  • Likelihood of showing aggression in response to threats
  • Risk-taking behaviours and persistence
  • Overconfidence and reduced fearfulness
  • Potential risk of injury, i.e. causing car accident due to wandering

    The benefits of reducing testosterone-influenced behaviour in your male dog are not the only positives regarding sterilisation. As well as population control, desexing your male dog eliminates and reduces the risks of them developing testicular cancer, prostate disease, hyperplasia, hernia and perianal adenomas. In fact, it has been proven that desexed male dogs live longer and have a better quality of life.

    It is also important to mention that while desexing is effective at modifying the testosterone-related behaviours listed above, it will not fix behaviour that wasn’t caused by the production of testosterone in the first place. For example:

    • If your dog is continuing to escape and roam, they may be doing this to satisfy their boredom
    • If your dog still humps, this could be due to overexcitement, stress or frustration
    • If your dog is still spraying/marking, this might be a result of fearful behaviour

    If your dog is exhibiting signs of unwanted behaviours, it is essential to determine if they are influenced by testosterone or are underlying issues that need to be addressed. Overall, desexing is largely helpful in managing and modifying your dog’s behaviour but is not the answer to having a calm male dog.

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    Does Desexing Calm a Female Dog?

    Firstly, let’s note that dogs have no concept of gender identity – they’re not influenced by their ego, and their personality traits aren’t a reflection of their sex; they are simply driven by their respective hormones. Desexing or spaying, if referring to a female dog, involves the removal of both ovaries and the uterus. When female dogs have their reproductive organs removed, they no longer produce oestrogen or go into heat, and as a result, all associated behaviours generally disappear. On average, female dogs reach sexual maturity at around six months of age and usually go on heat twice per year. We recommend desexing your female dog at approximately six months, preferably before they hit puberty. While sterilising provides countless benefits for your female dog, it is not a surgical game-changer when it comes to behaviour modification. Desexing your female dog will not equate to a completely calm, more well-behaved pet, but it can provide some behavioural advantages.

    When a female dog is unsterilised, her hormones can cause various behavioural problems, such as irritability and heightened stress levels. Like humans, dogs can experience PMS-like symptoms when they’re in heat. This increase in hormone production can swiftly turn your usually friendly dog into an aggressive and unpredictable pet. She may exhibit signs of guarding behaviour, become possessive and even suffer false pregnancies. During this period, she will be inclined to roam to find a mate, often making loud cries and noises. Spaying your female dog will eliminate the unwanted behaviours related to her being on heat, as well as:

    • Decrease the risks of mammary cancers, uterine cervical and vaginal cancers and pyometra
    • Prevent unwanted litters
    • Reduce scent marking
    • Lower the risks of fights with other animals
    • Humping (yes, females can hump too)
    • Eliminate vaginal discharge and bleeding
    • Lessen the chances of escaping, causing injury
    • Reduce dominance issues
    • Prevent undesirable attention from male dogs
    • Eliminate potential complications of labour and birth
    • Avoid injury, stress and disease from having puppies
    • Increase lifespan and overall well-being

    One thing to be mindful of when spaying your dog is that their metabolism changes following the sterilisation procedure. The hormones shift and cause the metabolism to slow down. Desexing does not cause obesity – you simply need to adjust your pet’s food intake accordingly as they no longer need to divert food into making hormones. You will often hear other similar misguided truths about desexing your female dog, and it is essential to understand the specifics based on up-to-date information and research rather than myths.

    For a calmer, healthier and less impulsive female dog, sterilisation is a fantastic solution to curb unwanted hormonal behaviours and improve their quality of life.

    There are many benefits to desexing your pet; however, there is no quick fix when it comes to managing their behaviour. While sterilisation supports a happier dog that isn’t overrun by hormones, it doesn’t automatically provide you with a calmer, more well-behaved dog.


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