What Your Vet and the Rescue Centre's May Not Tell You and why you should never spay or castrate early
Neuteringcan make for a better and more affectionate family pet. It is a medical fact that spaying and castration can prolong the life of our pets and may reduce the number of health problems in later life. Females can benefit from spaying by reducing the incidence of uterine, mammary, and ovarian cancers. It can also reduce the incidence of uterine infections such as Pyometra.
Castrating a male reduces the risk of prostate and testicular cancer. They are less likely to develop unwanted behaviour's such as marking, sexual aggression, and mounting, they are also less likely to escape, roam, or fight with other dogs.
Some vets recommend that our dogs are spayed or neutered anywhere between 5 to 16 months. In America some are being done as early as 8 weeks and they routinely neuter at between four and six months. Many of the Vets, Trainers and Behaviourists in both America and the UK are recommending this course of action, without understanding the numerous problems this advice may create.
Some rescue centre's such as the RSPCA often spay and neuter as a matter of course, whatever the age. In fact I have written an article pointing to the fact that a few of our "Welfare Societies" are neutering both male and female dogs as young as SIX WEEKS. And some breeders are doing it at the same age so that the owners cannot breed from these poor dogs later. This is especially prevalent in some breeders of Labradoodles, but other breeders are involved as well. May I recommend that you never buy from a breeder that is prepared to mutilate a tiny puppy this young.
I know of a case recently, where the breeder sold siblings (two dogs from the same litter) which on its own is a recipe for disaster, and something very fewgood breeders would ever do. See But to compound the problem she had both of them neutered at six weeks. The buyer was warned but chose to ignore that advice.
It is not just the owner that will suffer. As these poor little dogs start to grow and start to reach maturity. They will become more and more anxious, distressed, and frustrated. It is these poor dogs that will unfortunately be impaired for the rest of their lives, both physically and mentally. It is an absolute travesty that we can allow these people to do this to young pups.
What happened to the five freedoms under the Animal Welfare Act of 2007. Where number three of the five freedoms states. "The need to to exhibit normal behaviour patterns" How can these poor pups exhibit normal behaviour patterns when they have had this start in life.?
I have some very serious reservations about neutering even at six months, but six weeks is ludicrous, I believe that for the behavioural health of our dogs this advice and practice must stop. See the RSPCA article.
There have been numerous scientific studies on the beneficial outcome of neutering, especially on a physiological level. But none I can find on a psychological and behavioural level.
I noted some six years ago that the incidence of frustration, lack of attention, and puppy like behaviour, appeared to be far more prevalent in dogs that were castrated and spayed at a younger age, rather than those that were allowed to mature naturally before attempting this operation.
As behavioural consultants and obedience trainers, I find that we are treating many more cases where dogs are displaying (paedomorphic) tendencies. That is puppy like behaviour's in adult dogs, which I believe is related to the incidence of early spaying and neutering.
I also observed that bitches spayed too early, may be far more interesting to intact males; unwanted male attention can cause the female to become aggressive and protective of this attention in adulthood.
I asked the members of PAACT
“The Professional Association of Applied Canine Trainers”
to start to monitor the dogs they were treating and to record the time they were spayed and neutered. Their feedback appeared to bear out my initial findings.
With regard to neutering, I believe that males should not be castrated until they have been cocking their leg for at least one month, and should be at least 10 to 27 months of age (depending on size and breed). The larger the breed then the later they mature,. therefore something like a German Shepherd would be much later than the 10 months stated. Probably more like 17 months. Unless of course there are medical or serious behavioural issues to take into consideration.
In females, I believe that they should have at least one season; but preferably two, then wait approximately 3 months after the season before considering spaying, allowing the internal organs to settle down after the season.
It has also been observed that young female dogs that show aggressive tendencies towards owners, especially before the age of six months; often demonstrate increased aggression after spaying.
Spaying removes the production of progesterone, which is a natural calming hormone and a Serotonin uplifter. Spaying may therefore escalate any observable aggressive behaviour, either to humans or other dogs.
Despite popular belief spaying does not calm a female dog down. It may help to calm certain behaviour's in males, but not female dogs. How could it when you are removing hormones that raise serotonin?
Many vets and rescue centre's will neuter a male dog before they have cocked their leg. It is at this point dogs start to seriously mark territory. Not the half-hearted attempts we see in immature dogs. The immature castrated dog may squat for the remainder of it’s life, and may be more interesting to intact males.
There appears to be a testosterone surge at between 10 and 24 months depending on breed and size, which clearly turns on a dormant hard-wired program that establishes this cocking behaviour. Male dogs also produce Progesterone.
Progesterone and testosterone switches on many of the hard-wired behaviour's we see in maturity and are not isolated to just one action, therefore other functions that are not so obvious may be switched on at this time.
These may have social implications and behavioural effects that aid in the development of dogs psychological and physical growth. If we switch these off by neutering or castrating too early, we may be denying the opportunity achieve both mentally and physically the dog’s full adult potential.
Progesterone receptors are found in brain cells, in nerve sheaths and in bone cells, In both male and female dogs. indicating that progesterone is involved in their function. It also appears to be involved in a range of other biological activities. Therefore neutering before both physical and psychological maturity may have numerous other long-term detrimental effects.
Many dogs that have been neutered early, appear to retain far more juvenile characteristics than those neutered when mature. In other words, they retain perpetual puppy like characteristics, whilst this may appear to be initially endearing, who would really want a dog that shows low concentration levels and frustrated puppy like behaviour for the remainder of its adult life?
Because early neutering removes sex hormones, this delays maturation of “osteoclasts” resulting in the delayed closing of the growth plates of the long leg bones creating leggy taller than average dogs, thereby increasing the risk of some orthopedic disorders such as cruciate ligament disease, Hip problems and possibly bone cancer.
It was long believed that eunuchs (castrated humans) were castrated to stop them being interested is the ladies of the Harem. However they were also used as palace guards, because of the affect neutering has on the “osteoclasts” these eunuch's were therefore appreciably taller, making them more imposing as guards and soldiers.
It has been observed that Spaying can significantly increase the risk of urinary incontinence in bitches. Early neutering also increases risk of urethral sphincter incontinence in males (A. Aaron et al., Vet Rec. 139:542-6, 1996.)
In conclusion, I am all for neutering, but at the right time, thereby allowing your dogs to reach full maturity in both body and mind. I believe that a full psychological and physiological set of tests and experiments should be scientifically undertaken, to study the effect of early castration and spaying on all our animals, not just dogs and cats.
These findings though purely observational, have also been borne out by observation and experiences of behaviourists and trainers who are members of PAACT “The Professional Association of Applied Canine Trainers” An organisation dedicated to enhancing and bringing together the two main canine disciplines of obedience training and behavioural therapy. It is PAACT’s belief that to be able to work with dogs on a professional level, you need to be versed in both of these disciplines.
Article written by.
Stan Rawlinson MTCBPT. MPAACT
Chairman and Founder Member
Professional Association of Applied Canine Trainers.
Contact details for PAACT
0208 979 2019