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Should I Spay or Neuter?    

By Jane Johnson of Bluegrace Portuguese Water Dogs

Reprinted with permission

It’s quite a common question that gets asked, and it is important that you ask it. In our society, breeding dogs is not a right. It is a privilege that far too many people take for granted. We are the guardians of our dogs, and we must ensure when we breed that we do the best by them and the best for the new puppy guardians. The reality is that unless there is a specific reason to breed your dog, it should be spayed or neutered at an early age to prevent unwanted pregnancies, minimize aggressive male behavior and to lessen the chance of some forms of cancer.

My recommendation is that puppies are altered between 2 and 6 months old. There is always a small risk associated with any sort of surgery, but there is far greater risk associated with allowing a bitch to breed or with owning and managing a dog with an aggressive sex drive. There is significant evidence showing that younger pups manage the surgery better than older dogs.

Male Puppies

It is a myth that every dog should keep its testicles to maintain its “manliness”. Dogs do not need to breed. It doesn’t make a dog any better if it does breed, and it certainly doesn’t make its Guardian a better person! It can make any dog much more difficult to manage if it is not neutered.

If your male dog is not neutered, you will often see the following:

  • They will urinate on everything and anything – including all furniture, curtains, shoes, and handbags in your house.
  • A major change of behavior around bitches “in season”. Once a dog has actually had sex, this behavior can be magnified significantly on future occasions when coming in contact with fertile bitches.
  • Many dogs will actively seek fertile bitches, breaking out of seemingly secure fences and houses.
  • Often dogs not neutered will seek out neutered males to mount. You can imagine the outcome that this can have in terms of aggressiveness (not to mention your embarrassment).
  • Sometimes the dog will refuse to eat whenever they smell a fertile bitch.
  • Male dogs can sometimes be quite aggressive to a female in season.
  • Male dogs seeking to fulfill their sexual drive will often mount anything that moves.
  • Male dogs can howl and cry while a bitch is in season within smelling distance of them.
  • Often males will exude an appalling smell related to the sex hormones when a bitch is in season. It is surprising just how major the behavior change in dogs can be when bitches are in season. As an old-timer mentor said to me recently – “A male may actually attempt to kill any other male who he thinks will mate a bitch near him.” Don’t wait until your dog starts getting sexual drives before you neuter him. In many cases, once the dog starts the behavior associated with attempting to breed, it can stay even after the neutering has taken place. Additionally, as the Guardian of the male dog, you are equally as responsible as the Guardian of the bitch for any puppies that are born. This means you have an ethical responsibility for life to rescue any of those pups if they ever cannot stay for any reason with their families

Female Puppies

It is a myth that every bitch should have at least one litter. In fact, if every bitch did have one litter, when you do the math, you’ll quickly realize that this means that there would be a huge number of dogs in the world, far more than we have already. As it is now, our pounds and humane societies are over-fl owing with unwanted pets. All these unwanted pets mean that it is the unfortunate job of a few people to spend each and every day putting those dogs to sleep permanently.

If your bitch is not spayed, you will often see the following:

  • A major change of behavior in her when she is “in season”. This can be moodiness through to aggressiveness, particularly if she is trying to find a male dog.
  • She will bleed usually for about 3 weeks, although this could be longer.
  • She will often be aggressive to other dogs and may mount any other female that she finds. This behavior can go on for some time.
  • Her body will undergo hormonal changes.
  • Sometimes the bitch will refuse to eat, or change their eating behavior in other ways.
  • Male dogs can sometimes be quite aggressive to a female in season.
  • Other female dogs can sometimes be very aggressive towards a female in season.


Additionally, in order to prevent her from getting pregnant, you will have to lock her up for the three or more weeks she is in season. Please note – bitches and dogs will mate through fences if they get the chance. Depending on the breed, bitches may come into season every 4 months (sometimes every 3 months), or longer. During this period great vigilance is required to ensure that the bitch does not get pregnant. This can be quite a harrowing and worrisome ordeal for all involved. All of this can be prevented if the bitch is spayed.

When you get to this point, you need to ask yourself, “is this really worth it?” Frankly, in the 99% of cases, it is not. Do yourself, your family, your dog and your neighbors a favor by getting him or her spayed or neutered.

Removing his or her reproductive capacity will not change the basic disposition and temperament of your dog. Neither neutering nor spaying will by itself turn your dog into an obese, lazy animal – that is the result of excess food and inadequate exercise.

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