Spaying and Neutering Dogs Too Early A Stark Warning

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Spaying and Neutering Dogs Too Early A Stark Warning

by Stan Rawlinson



Spaying and neutering can make for a better and more affectionate family pet. It is a medical fact that spaying and neutering 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, ovarian cancers and uterine infections such as Pyometria.

Neutering 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, and are 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 at 8 weeks old. Many rescue centres such as Battersea Dogs Home and the RSPCA/ASPCA spay and neuter as a matter of course, whatever the age. My colleagues and I at PAACT The professional Association of Applied Canine Trainers, have some serious reservations about this advice and practice.

There have been many scientific studies on the beneficial outcome of spaying and neutering on a physiological level, but none I can find on a psychological and behavioural level.

As behavioural consultants and obedience trainers, we find that we are treating many more cases where dogs are displaying (paedomorphic) tendencies. That is puppy like behaviours in adult dogs, which we believe could be related to the incidence of early spaying and neutering.

We have also observed that bitches spayed too early may be far more interesting to intact males; unwanted male attention may cause the female to become aggressive and protective of this attention in adulthood.

With regard to neutering, we 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 16 months of age (depending on breed and size), unless there are medical or serious behavioural issues. In females, we believe that they should have at least one season first, though preferably two; then wait approx 3 months before considering spaying.

Many vets and rescue centres 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, the dog may also show low attention spans and frustrative puppy like behaviour.

There appears to be a testosterone surge at between 10 and 16 months depending on breed and size, which clearly turns on a dormant, hard-wired program that establishes this cocking behaviour, many hard-wired behaviours 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 spaying too early, we may be denying the opportunity to achieve both mentally and physically our dog?s full adult potential.

It has also been observed that young female dogs that show aggressive tendencies towards owners may demonstrate increased aggression after spaying. Spaying removes the production of progesterone, which is a natural calming hormone.

Progesterone receptors are found in brain cells, in nerve sheaths and in bone cells, indicating that progesterone is involved in their function. It also appears to be involved in a range of other biological activities. Therefore spaying before both physical and psychological maturity may have 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 initially appear endearing, who would really want a dog that shows low concentration levels and frustrated puppy like behaviour for the remainder of its life.

Because early neutering removes sex hormones, this delays maturation of ?osteoclasts? resulting in delayed closing of the growth plates of the long leg bones, thereby increasing the risk of numerous orthopaedic disorders such as cruciate ligament disease and possibly bone cancer.

It can also 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, as an organisation we are for spaying and neutering, but at the right time, thereby allowing your dogs to reach full maturity in both body and mind.

These findings have 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 Chairman of PAACT The Professional Association of Applied Canine Trainers

Stan Rawlinson Dog Behaviourist and Obedience Trainer, who has owned and worked dogs for over 25 years, starting with gundogs then moving to the behavioural and obedience side of training companion dogs. He now has a successful practice covering Greater London, Surrey, and Middlesex.

Stan is recommended by numerous Vets, Rescue Centres, and Charities. He writes articles and comments on behavioural issues and techniques for dog magazines including Our Dogs, Dogs Monthly and K9 Magazine and Shooting Times.

He is also the founder member of PAACT The Professional Association of Applied Canine Trainers.

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