Stop Judging Me – I’m Not Castrating my Dog
I always assumed that when I got a dog I would neuter it. After all, everyone tells you that you should, so they must be right. When my husband and I talked about getting a male dog, we had many discussions about whether or not we would have him castrated and my opinion was always ‘yes, definitely‘, but when he asked why, I didn’t really have an answer for him.
Rescue shelters insist on spaying and neutering their dogs for population control and to prevent unwanted litters being born. Dog trainers and behaviourists suggest neutering in order to make your dog more biddable. So, it was with some surprise that when we visited Bruce’s breeders for an interview they insisted that we wouldn’t get a puppy from them castrated.
I was more than a little surprised. The breeder made his case – castration is unhealthy for the dog in multiple ways, behaviour problems are rarely solved by neutering (just look at show dogs – all intact, and some of the best behaved dogs around), and they don’t get sexually frustrated f they don’t know what they’re missing out on.
It gave me a lot to think about. After all, this went against everything I had ever been told. So, in the weeks leading up to bringing Bruce home I worked through mountains of research. By the time I was done, I had made up my mind. I won’t be castrating my dog. Here’s why.
1. Hindered Physical Development
Bruce is by no means a small dog. He’s a strapping and active young lad who needs muscle strength and healthy joints to support his frame. Castration messes up hormones and prevents young dogs from developing properly, meaning they can have painful joint issues and not fully develop physically, setting them up badly for the rest of their lives. They are much more likely to develop joint diseases. If you do want to castrate your dog, I would strongly suggest waiting until he is at least two years old, to ensure he has fully physically developed.
2. Heightened Risk of Cancers
Surprise surprise, if your male dog doesn’t have testicles he won’t get testicular cancer. That doesn’t mean that he will get cancer if he has them. People in support of dog castration often make a case that neutered dogs have a lower risk of testicular cancer, but the truth is they have a heightened risk of many cancers. Neutered dogs are twice as likely to develop bone cancer and five times more likely to develop blood vessel cancer.
3. Reduced Behaviour Problems
I once met another dog walker in the park who told me that he castrated his dog at 4 months old to stop him from marking on his walks, as the walks were taking too long. The idea that anyone would would remove a dog’s body part to make life more convenient for the owner is beyond cruel. Many people use neutering as a replacement for correct and consistent training, but they will more than likely be in for a big shock to find that their castrated dog still isn’t house trained, or won’t sit when told.
Some of the world’s best trained dogs, such as show dogs and police dogs, are intact. Unless your dog has a hormone disorder which is making them aggressive or show overly sexual behaviours, then neutering will do no more than proper training can. In fact, studies have found that castrated dogs often develop fearful behaviour, aggression and heightened reactiveness. The earlier a dog is castrated, the more likely they are to have phobias, aggression and anxiety, as well as showing unwanted sexual behaviours such as mounting and marking.
There is a huge stigma attached to having an intact male dog. Other dog owners have no issues with telling me that I’m irresponsible, that he’ll be calmer if I get him castrated (he’s an adolescent Airedale Terrier – he’s supposed to be bouncy!), he’ll get cancer and die young, and that they could never have an unneutered dog because it’s too much of a nuisance. I can almost taste the judgement when people ask when I’ll be neutering him and I say ‘never’. I actually used to lie and say ‘oh when he’s a bit older’ because I got so sick and tired of the lectures from strangers. Now though, I’m proud of the fact that my dog is intact; he’s healthy, well trained and happy. What’s wrong with that?
I am lucky, because my vet also believes that Bruce should stay intact and sees no need to get him castrated. However, not everyone is as lucky, and there can be strong pressure to put your dog through the surgery. If you have a dog or are getting one, and you are considering whether or not you should spay or neuter your new pet, then please take the time to do your research and make up your own mind. Don’t let anyone push you into castrating your dog if your instincts tell you otherwise, and if you do want to spay or neuter your pet then please consider doing it at a later age so that they are better set up to have a healthy and long life. This article provides excellent factual information on the risks associated with early castration, and is well worth a read. I also love this balanced piece on the health pros and cons of neutering.