Aside from animal population control, one of the most widespread reasons in North America for de-sexing a dog is the common perspective that doing so will create positive changes in the pet’s behavior. The opinions on this subject vary widely among experts and around the world. Many veterinarians and humane specialists wish to minimize uneasiness about the possible changes by assuring you that the results are positive. Researchers, however, are using comprehensive studies to convince you to reconsider.
A brief perusal of the topic will demonstrate that activists for neutering want to dispel any notions that the operation could result in negative behavior. Some articles even tout that the possibility of seeing regrettable changes in your pet can be dismissed entirely as a myth. When over 56% of all dogs entering shelters are put to sleep though, you can see why one would hope to debunk any negative information surrounding this procedure.
Pet-owners may express concern that their dog will grieve the loss of his masculinity or show signs of depression over the removal of his testicles. This is not something you should worry about. “Manhood” is not a quality that dogs possess and this is merely a product of the human imagination being projected onto the animal.
By neutering your dog, you are simply alleviating him of urges and tendencies that are related to a sexual need. The changes you will see are the reflections of a need that no longer needs to be met in his life.
What to Expect
Most experts agree that by taking away such a key element of hormone-regulation, you are bound to notice some alterations. In the first 24-72 hours post-surgery, any change you see will be attributed to medication and general soreness. As the anesthesia wears off, your dog may be sluggish and lethargic, but this is not permanent.
Many advocates of neutering will insist that any long-term changes in behavior that your pet may face will range from insignificant to entirely positive. Generally, the consensus is that the positive results you can expect in your dog’s demeanor are a good reason to sign up for the operation.
It Won’t Change All Bad Behavior
Pet behaviorists will caution that the hope of behavioral improvements should not be the sole factor in opting for this surgery. If behavior modification is the primary reason you are interested in the procedure for your pet, a more appropriate action would be to have your pet assessed by a veterinarian to rule out any physical or medical causes. If there are none, you should seek a professional who is certified in pet behavior. These experts can teach you how to work with your canine to achieve the best conduct possible.
For those same organic reasons, research confirms that age matters when it comes to neutering and subsequent behavior. Veterinary observations suggest that removing sex-organs while a dog is young is preferable because doing so may prevent aggression before it forms bad habits. A dog that is older may not exhibit much change however, because his behaviors are more likely caused by habit than hormones.
Research Suggests Less Optimistic Outcomes
Despite the large number of professionals promoting neutering for good behavior, recent research suggests that the behavioral outcomes of neutering contradict common assumptions. Between two prominent studies in the United States, a total of 15,984 dogs were tested for behavioral changes in consequence of neutering. One study, published by Deborah Duffy and James Serpell, tested two groups of dogs, and another study, written by Parvene Farhoody tested a third group.
Using the Canine Behavioral Assessment Research Questionnaire as a standard, both studies were strikingly consistent in the conclusions that were drawn. Each one revealed that instead of becoming less aggressive, as many pet owners assumed would be the case, these dogs became distinctly more aggressive. Dogs were one-third more likely to exhibit fearfulness and sensitivity to touch, and eight percent more likely to show increased excitability. These inferences are shocking when you consider that the prospect of positive behavior is a key point used to persuade pet-owners to spay and neuter their animals. Still, these changes could be linked to the trauma of undergoing and recovering from surgery.
When you neuter your dog, you are likely to see some type of behavioral change, but the changes will be limited to two origins; hormones and trauma. The most positive changes will occur from the former. Because of hormones, you may see more laid-back behavior, and fewer displays of sexually-driven urges and tendencies. The more negative changes like anxiety or heightened aggression may result from either origin, or both. Learned behaviors, personality, or conduct related to environmental factors will not be influenced when a dog is neutered.
Cesar’s Way. (n.d.). Spay and Neuter Myths. Retrieved from Cesar’s Way: https://www.cesarsway.com/dog-care/spay-and-neuter/spay-and-neuter-myths
Patel, C. (2012, June 25). Neutering: What’s Behaviour Got To Do With It? Retrieved from Dog Star Daily: http://www.dogstardaily.com/blogs/neutering-what%E2%80%99s-behaviour-got-do-it
Stanley Coren, P. D. (2017, February 22). Are There Behavior Changes When Dogs Are Spayed or Neutered? Retrieved from Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/canine-corner/201702/are-there-behavior-changes-when-dogs-are-spayed-or-neutered
Welton, M. (n.d.). Neutering Your Male Dog- Pros and Cons. Retrieved from Your Purebred Puppy: http://www.yourpurebredpuppy.com/health/articles/neutering-male-dog.html
Zeltzman, P. (n.d.). What to Expect After Dog is Fixed. Retrieved from Dog Time: http://dogtime.com/dog-health/spay-neuter/5450-after-spay-neuter-phil-zeltzman-faq