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« Weekly Roundup - Week Ending 9/18/11 | Main | Ideas I love: Lobby Dogs at the Fairmont »

September 21, 2011


Lori S.

I wonder how many people who read this thinks that they are learning cause/effect relationships about behaviors. For example, the altered dogs who were more sensitive to touch than their unaltered counterparts. I wonder if the unaltered animals were more likely to be shown than the altered ones and so the unaltered ones were given more training/socialization in allowing strangers to touch them. As you've pointed out many times before, there are just SO many factors that shape a dog's behavior that I hope that no one sees any of the results from this study as a reason not to alter any more than it is a reason to alter. Thanks for sharing this study. Interesting stuff.


I would be very cautious about pointing out correlation from a survey. This is not a rigorous scientific study that eliminates all variables. To date, there is not ample evidence that castration increases aggression.

I'll read the complete study, but there is still a lot of difficulty in garnering biomedical data from a behavioral survey.


Lori/Marji - -a very fair statement about whether this is all causal, or just correlation. I had intended to put in a note about this in the post (I will go back and add) because obviously this is a factor -- as well as the reality that it is reliant on owner-evaluation of the behavior and not scientific evaluation.


I went to a seminar awhile ago presented by Dr. Chris Zink, who is a big name in veterinary sports medicine. Now, she will be the first person to tell you that her talk is directed toward a specific group of dog owners, those who are active dog sport participants, but it was very important to her that we speak truthfully about the benefits and risks of spaying and neutering.

She also talked about this study, as well as one from 2009 done by the Viszla Club of America. She also said that 11 of 13 scholarly papers written on behavior in connection to spay/neuter have determined that spay/neuter is detrimental. I don't have any citations, unfortunately.

I feel very strongly that spay/neuter is not and should not be a cookie-cutter issue. Hormones are important for so many reasons, and it makes sense that taking those hormones away, especially in a developing pup, would alter more than just fertility.


Thanks Katie -- interesting. A few of the studies are included in the link I provided -- but not some of the newer ones.


I alter my bitches when they are mature for my own convenience.

I also altered six month old bitches (my first pit bull, and a rescue pit bull) and never observed any adverse affects in those two particular dogs. They both lived longer than any other dogs I've owned, coincidentally.

I had a rescue pit bull bitch that was already spayed at five months when I got her and she developed ACL problems, but there's no way to know if she would have had the same problems otherwise.

As far as I know purebred cat breeders send their kittens to new homes already spuetered and have not noticed adverse side effects in cats like we've seen in dogs, but the physiology is completely different.


I have to wonder how often dogs end up poorly socialized because the owner thinks that the spay/neuter is doing all the work for them. So many variables involved.


that is a very good question, woody.

i can't count the number of times i've come across somebody with a young, unaltered dog with behavioral problems who says 'oh, it's not a big deal: this behavior [food aggression, object guarding, marking, humping, dominance, fear of other dogs, etc.] will end as soon as we get max fixed.'

and of course, six months later, the dog is doing the same exact thing, despite being spayed/neutered. only it's a lot less cute, because max is now bigger and stronger and more set in his ways than ever (btw, the worst humper i have ever come across was a neutered scottish terrier mix).

the only 100% sure thing you accomplish by spaying and neutering your pets is making sure they don't accidentally reproduce. behavior is far more complicated, and rarely a quick, ahem, "fix."


Thank-you so much for considering an academic source and sharing their findings.

A recent study (2008) in Queensland ("Report on the validity and usefulness of early age desexing in dogs and cats") considered early age desexing and suggested this may not be best practice for dogs, particularly female dogs. The research you've considered here may is another reasons to reconsider desexing of female dogs, at least.

I think there is a very loud mantra that exists, saying that responsible owners desex their dogs - and there is a stigma for owning undesexed dogs. This is as almost as pressing as any logical reason for desexing pets.


I thought Woody has a great point and the more I think about what W and arrowhead said the more it worries me...

Remember when people were saying "there has been no fatality by an altered pit bull". I thought that was asking for trouble at the time because I thought that statement alone promoted that altering pit bulls would ensure their safeness thus promoting BSL MSN. Well then, that woman was killed by her two altered male pit bulls when she was trying to break up a fight. While I believe altering males will decrease agression between them, once they LEARN to hate each other then altering won't magically erase that.

So to w & arrowheads point - if the owners of those dogs believed that altering would magically solve the behavior problems could that false belief lead to that woman's death? I might be stretching it a bit on this incident but at this point saying that altering will make a safer dog is unproven at best and a flat out lie that is jeapordizing people's safety at worst.

I believe most dogs/cats should be altered and most would benefit from it - not to mention most people do NOT want to deal with heat cycles. There is no reason to make stuff up when there are still plenty of benefits.

Shoshannah Forbes

Just wondering- did the study take into account the age of the dog at the time of the alteration?

I would imagine (but it's just a guess) that the effects of spey/neuter will be different in a puppy, and adolescent, and a mature adult.


Shoshannah -- the study doesn't make any note of differences based on the age of alterations. Age of the dog at the time of surgery does seem to have health implications, so it would stand to reason that it might impact behavior too...but the study does not cover that.

Connor Keating

Thank you for this post. I have just neutered my 1 year old Doberman and I've noticed a significant improvement in her behavior and thus I want to ask you if you can recommend out of experience some special accessories for neutered dogs. Both things to keep him happy and items to help cure her scar sooner.

Angeloncalldog Rescue

Then there is the other affect, no more puppies to end up in shelters.

When we bring in unaltered dogs, male or female, the reaction from the team we have, is obvious, they react to the scents and posture of the new comer.

We gradually introduce them, and then the newcomer, is altered and peace returns.

We have seen differences in all ages, some males, regrettably still mark inside, even after altering and we have seen some male or female who still exhibit no change, in attitude, but through behavioral modification, most can be worked out.

Spaying and neutering reduces the pet population, which should be at the top of the to-do list.


I spent a lot of time socializing our new timid shelter dog. We were making great progress. Against my better judgment, and because I was compelled to do so by her adoption contract, I spayed her. One month later, it is as if I had never spent any time carefully desensitizing and socializing this dog. I have spent a lot of time with this dog and absolutely believe that her reversion to being scared of everything has something to do with the spay surgery - it's the only thing in her life that has changed.


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