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.

Human hand holding dog's pawIt 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.

Dog gazing sunset in countrysideThere 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.

Joy
About me

Joy Jewell is a London based dog obsessive and style connoisseur. Joy has worked in the fashion and beauty industry as a writer for nearly a decade, and decided to fuse her two loves – style and canines – to create Paws and Prada in 2014. If you would like to talk to Joy about anything from blogging to puppy training then drop her a line at [email protected] or find her on Twitter @PawsandPrada.

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16 Comments

stephie
Reply March 17, 2015

I love that photo with your hand and Bruce's paw...if that is the 2 of you. Would you feel the same way is Bruce was a female. I only ask because as we both know females have their periods. We didn't want Bobby desexed but he is actually our inlaws poodle and they did because they said he would pee inside but I just dont think they took the time to train him not too. We have joint custody of Bobster because I love him so freaking much and I cant got without days of seeing him and cuddling him and having him over for sleepovers. I love that little poo.

    Joy
    Reply March 17, 2015

    I don't know how I would feel about it with a female dog. I would do separate research and talk to breeders and my vet and then make a decision. Honestly, I think that every situation is different. I am very much against early neutering and spaying, but I think that whether or not an owner does it at all depends on the individual dogs and their situation. To me, behaviour problems like marking are rarely a good enough reason to neuter - as good training can prevent that from ever being an issue. But, each to their own!

Sam
Reply March 18, 2015

My first male dog was an amazing placid Bull Mastiff I never wanted to get him de-sexed because he was so placid he never had any intention on jumping other dogs, and was a beautiful dog. He sustained a huge cut to his leg while out walking with my flat mates, and the vet mixed them up and castrated him instead of fixing his leg!!! Legs just say he was then a huge problem - he would climb my 6 ft fences and go walk about, he then had aggression issues I had never seen before in him.

However I can understand why it is recommended due to unresponsible pet owners, who let their dogs roam, let them mate with every dog they see, do not train their dogs and I have also seen the effects that testicular cancer can have on a male dog that has not be desexed.

    Joy
    Reply March 18, 2015

    Hi Sam - firstly, thanks for your comment and welcome to Paws and Prada!

    Your story is horrifying! What an awful thing for you and your dog to have to go through, and it can't have been easy having a such a large dog with behavior issues. The poor guy!

    I absolutely agree with you about owners who let their dog roam - although in an ideal world irresponsible dog owners shouldn't be allowed to have dogs, but if they are going to have them then neutering is the way forward. Or perhaps we should start castrating their owners - maybe that would knock some sense into them? ;)

Michelle
Reply April 3, 2015

Thanks for this article, I too am contemplating getting Barney castrated but am putting it off and I have no real reason why, other than I am not comfortable with it. He is a lovely happy boy and everything I've read indicates to me that castrating him doesn't have many pluses for him. Although because we got him from Battersea we are supposed to have him castrated, he wasn't already done because he was only 11 weeks when we rehomed him. I have an appointment booked for him but I am reluctant to go ahead.

    Joy
    Reply April 3, 2015

    Hi Michelle,

    Thank you for your comment. It's a very difficult situation that you are in. I know that Battersea take this very seriously as obviously their priority is to prevent unwanted litters. My only suggestion would be to perhaps see if you can get a letter from your vet explaining that you are a responsible owner who will not breed your dog, and that it is best from a medical point of view if he is not castrated. Are you in London? If you would like the details of our vet, who supports our choice not to castrate then drop me an email - [email protected]

      Michelle
      Reply April 6, 2015

      Hi Joy
      Thanks for your reply and the offer of your vets details. We are in London and I have spoken to my vet at length about this issue and my reluctance - I have read many articles which to me do sway me towards neutering - my vet too, is very supportive of our decisions, she is a great vet, listens and responds with both sides of an argument, we have a good relationship with her and she knows we are responsible owners. There is of course the fact that because we rehomed Barney from Battersea, then we agreed to have him neutered. He is already 18 months, I have left it this long because I was aware of the issues on growth etc in doing it too early and we really do not have any problems with him. His walker thinks he is highly sexed, he will always be interested in female dogs more than males and there is also the other argument of intact dogs are more likely to be stolen. It is a difficult decision for us to make and for the moment, I think we will hold off and review in 6 months time. Strangely, I have never been asked when I am getting him done! Thanks for the article, I read both the linked articles and am always keen to read other opinions on this every emotive topic.
      Warm wishes
      Michelle
      www.scruffylittleterrier.com

Verity - Jack&Pep
Reply April 29, 2015

This is a really interesting article Joy, and is actually the first I have been exposed to that comes at the topic from this angle. Currently, I still hold a pro-neutering opinion (which is probably based more out of cultural norms in Australia, rather than informed decision making), but you make some really valid arguments which I will definately consider the next time I bring a new dog into my home. Thanks for the point of view!

    Joy
    Reply April 29, 2015

    You are so welcome! I was always pro-neutering too, until I started looking into it more. There are definitely issues that need to be weighed up against each other for each dog and individual, so that the owner can make an informed choice.

Lindsay Pevny
Reply May 12, 2015

I'd only recently realized that there was an argument in favor of keeping pet dogs intact!

Recently, I've been feeling guilty because Matilda is over a year old now and hasn't been fixed. But, now I'm realizing that I've made the right decision - she's had a chance to develop into an adult. But we've also been able to keep her indoors, and her heat is not very messy because she's tiny. Still, with her size, I don't want to risk her getting pregnant with big babies, and I don't want to keep locking her up every few months, so I'll have her fixed eventually.

My old dog, a male westie, was fixed at just a few weeks. I don't think he needed surgery at such a young age, and he still marked and humped legs all his life. We also didn't have any unfixed female dogs running around the neighborhood then. He died of brain cancer at 10, but that could have been from cheap kibble or bad luck.

    Joy
    Reply May 12, 2015

    Thanks for dropping by and commenting Lindsay! I'm looking forward to your site launching.

    It's great that Matilda has had a chance to develop and grow, so you really shouldn't feel guilty. I'm glad if I've relieved some of that guilt!

Rachel
Reply October 4, 2015

I got my beautiful Theo castrated and wish I hadn't.

He is a lovely boy who is kind and gentle. Everyone was telling us we must. Mostly based on the fact he barks at dogs when he wants to play and the won't share toys.

Neither of these things have gone away total but the more he plays with dogs the more he's learning to share by playing with dogs his size (we only met little dogs on walks for a long time)

Whenever got our family Dogs growing up castrated and never had a problem with them.

I would never let my dogs wonder we have six foot fences around our garden etc.

I know we will get more dogs in the future and I'm not sure I would get them castrated.

    Joy
    Reply October 4, 2015

    Hi Rachel, thank you for your comment. I think it depends on the owner, the dog, and their circumstances - it's great that you would consider keeping any future dog intact!

Alison
Reply March 2, 2016

I never got Eddie castrated, he is calm and placid and to me it just did not feel right. So glad someone else agrees, the vet keeps telling us we should

    Joy
    Reply March 2, 2016

    Absolutely! 99% of the time, how a dog behaves is about training and nurturing, not hormones.

Gina
Reply January 16, 2017

Great article and lucky you have a vet who supports your decision. We have a gorgeous Rottweiler who is the gentlest bear you've ever met but every time we go to the vet, we get a lecture about how we're putting him at risk of testicular cancer. My mum and other family members were concerned at first about our decision but when they see what a stable and beautiful temperament he has, they can see there's no need to change him. I have a friend who desexed her dog at just 4 months and at one year, he developed major aggression issues that seem like they steam from fearful behaviour and he can no longer be around other dogs. Thanks for sharing more information on this topic x

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