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Reasons not to spay or neuter a dog

My dog Ace was neutered before I adopted him, and I had my two cats neutered because I thought that’s just what you do.

With my future pets, I will not be taking these decisions as lightly. I will carefully look at the individual pet and consider all sorts of factors such as the animal’s age and breed and what sort of diseases he or she may be prone to.

Admittedly, convenience will also be a factor. For example, I’m also not sure I’m up for dealing with a female’s heat cycles, and maybe that alone makes me irresponsible (or at least selfish?).

For this post, I interviewed two dog owners who have chosen not to spay or neuter some of their dogs. I do not believe dog owners should have to give a “reason” for keeping their dogs intact, but these women kindly shared their reasoning for the sake of educating others.

Reasons some dog owners choose not to spay or neuter

Zippy and Marley

Studies show potential health risks of spaying and neutering

Many of you are aware of the studies that just keep coming out about the potential longterm risks of spaying and neutering.

Lisa Runquist has chosen not to have two of her poodles spayed because she is concerned about those potential risks.

She is concerned about her dogs having an increased risk for joint problems and an increased risk for certain types of cancer if they are spayed.

She is right to be concerned.

For example, in a study on golden retrievers, males neutered before 1 year were twice as likely to get hip dysplasia, wrote Dr. Patricia McConnell on her blog The Other End of the Leash. This group was also three times as likely to get lymphosarcoma.

The research also found that female goldens spayed at 1 year old were four times more likely to get cancer of the blood vessels than intact females (or early-spayed females).

Runquist said she does not have plans to spay her dogs in the future, unless there is a specific medical reason to do so.

“I love my dogs and want them to live long, healthy and happy lives,” she said.

[quote_center]”I love my dogs and want them to live long, healthy and happy lives.”[/quote_center]

clover_2Border terrier breeder Tegan Whalan is also concerned about the correlation between spaying and neutering and joint injuries, specifically cranial cruciate ligament tears.

One of her border terriers, Clover (pictured), has had three litters and is now retired at 6.5 years old.

Whalan does not plan to have Clover spayed.

“Her mother was spayed at about 7 years old, and then pretty soon after busted both her cranial cruciate ligaments,” Whalan said.

She has also referenced the golden retriever study on her blog and believes spaying Clover would be too risky.

“If for some reason I do decide to risk it, I’ll be getting pet insurance first,” she said.

Being ‘responsible’ has nothing to do with spaying and neutering

One of the main reasons people are encouraged to spay or neuter their dogs is to prevent unwanted pregnancies. This is the “responsible” thing to do, or so we’re told.

[quote_right]”Responsible dog ownership is about keeping your dog physically and mentally healthy …”[/quote_right]

Realistically, there are ways to keep our dogs from breeding without having them altered. You know, like keeping them on a leash.

Runquist said her dogs are never allowed to roam, even when they’re not “in season.” And really, isn’t that what any responsible owner would do?

“I am not an irresponsible owner and will treat my dogs in whatever way I and my vet determine is best,” Runquist said. “It really is not anyone else’s business.”

As a registered breeder, Whalan said she rarely gets told that she is “irresponsible” for keeping her dogs intact. However, she is frequently accused of being irresponsible for suggesting that others might also keep their dogs intact.

“It’s ludicrous to me that ‘responsibility’ is about committing your dog to a convenience operation,” she said. “Responsible dog ownership is about keeping your dog physically and mentally healthy and making sure your dog doesn’t negatively impact on the community.”

She added, “Gonads have moot to do with this!”

Just because a dog is intact doesn’t mean the dog will be bred

Landy“There seems to be some confusion between pets being entire, and pets being used for breeding,” Whalan said. “They are different things!”

She said there are plenty of reasons to keep your dog intact, and “that does not have to include because you want puppies.”

For example, her 6-year-old deerhound named Landy (pictured) is not neutered.

“That’s not a spring-chicken in deerhound years,” she said. “He’s entire because I believe in ‘don’t fix what isn’t broken.’”

She said she has had Landy for six months, and he causes her no trouble as an intact male.

“I see no reason to de-sex him,” she said.

Whalan lives in South Australia and when the government there proposed that all animals that failed a temperament test would have to be spayed or neutered, she and a friend formed a small protest called “Entirely Friendly.”

Entirely Friendly is now a Faceook page. The group rejects “compulsory de-sexing” and advocates for intact dogs and their owners, according to its page.

And what about responsible breeding?

Many people do not know there are responsible breeders out there who work to advance their breed, Runquist said. At this time, she does not have any intention of breeding her own dogs.

“Many good breeders spend significantly more than they will ever recover from the sale of pups,” she said.

Plus, the breeders she knows will always take back a dog if the purchaser decides they don’t want it, rather than allowing it to be surrendered to a shelter.

Whalan is a good example of a breeder who admittedly does not make money from her puppies. She is also heavily involved in rescue work and even has her own rescue group, Leema Rescue. You can read more about how breeders and rescues work together in my interview with Whalan here.

What do you think?

If you choose to spay or neuter your dog, there is nothing wrong with that. I just want all dog owners to understand this is not such a black and white issue, and you do have a choice in the matter.

When we start using labels such as “responsible” or “irresponsible” based on little information, we are not helping the dogs and we are not helping each other.

Are there any reasons why you would choose not to spay or neuter your dog?

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Noreen Nugeness

Wednesday 11th of August 2021

I have a beautiful 6 year old Shih Tzu named Benji who is the love of my life. I've had large breeds of dogs, German Shepherds, Collies, and even a little dog, a Shnoodle. I've never had any of them neutered, all males, and they did well. When I got Benji we decided not to have him neutered because we didn't want to take away his parts that he was born with because there was no proof that it would benefit him in any way. His temperament is beautiful and loving. He is a people pup and I would never want to change his adorable personality. There is no rule or law where we live to have our baby neutered so he will stay intact. The Vet never made an issue of it either so I assumed it was okay and acceptable. Recently, I found a small gland as the Vet referred to it as and said it was an Hormonal Gland due to not being neutered and that he could have prostrate problems down the line. I hope and pray this isn't the case and definitely won't have him neutered now at this age. I think it would be too risky since we lost another pet under Anesthesia. I would like to know if you ever heard anything like this and if I should get another opinion about the gland as the Vet referred to it as. He said it wasn't anything serious but every time I brush his tail, I can see it and hope it's not painful and that it won't be a health issue down the line. Thank You so much for your input as I am grateful for any information and/or opinion you are able to provide. Sincerely, Noreen Nugeness

Sara

Thursday 19th of July 2018

I have a mixed Border Collie , she recently had her second heat cycle , and I still can not make the decision whether to spay her or not , she doesn't show any signs of misbehaviour , she of course is not allowed to roam around because im a little overprotective towards my dog , and I freak out when she's off leash . But I do take her hiking and swimming and she does a lot of excercise and gets a good amount of freedom in the wild , if anything goes wrong or an unneutered dog tries to approach her Im always there to prevent such accidents . Now during her heat cycle she might hump a pillow once in a while but she's gently put back in place whenever she does that , she's never aggressive towards me or any other person or animal and she doesn't show any signs of missbehaviour. So I'm a little torn , she's perfectly healthy , she doesn't bother me at all during her heat cycle , she doesn't like wearing diapers and she cleans herself very well so i don't force her to do so , she even has this weird thing to lick the floor whenever she makes any blood spots which she rarely does , and she cleans it up immediately without being told to do so , so tell me why try to fix a problem that doesn't actually exist ? I am more concerned about the cancer thing , in fact it terrifies me to think that she might someday get sick and tortured like that because of my unability to make a decision , I do not intend to let her breed and if I do Im sure I'll take all the necessary precautions and provide safe homes for all the puppies . But if I do spay her , does that garantee that she will live longer and healthier ? Wouldn't that be absolutely unnecessary since she is showing no signs of missbehaviour ? Is spaying just something made up to control unwanted pregnancies and has no actual health benefits for dogs? Or is it really what they claim it is ? I have a really nice , calm wellbehaved clean female dog that I love so much , so tell me what should an unexperienced owner like me do in such case ? I have read almost all of the available articles out there , did some long research of the matter , but nothing seems to be that convincing , next week im going to talk it out with my vet as a last option , and may god be with all of us owners that still can't figure out what to do .

Lindsay Stordahl

Thursday 19th of July 2018

There is no right or wrong answer, Sara! You just do what seems best based on your unique situation. Sounds like things are fine as is so no need to spay unless that is what you want to do. Here are my other articles on this topic I think you'll find helpful:

https://www.thatmutt.com/2013/08/23/is-spayingneutering-the-healthiest-option-for-my-dog/

https://www.thatmutt.com/2017/01/14/what-is-the-best-age-to-neuter-a-dog/

MNJ

Tuesday 19th of April 2016

I think one of the most perplexing things to me is that the same people who scream that spay/neuter must be mandatory are completely against docking and cropping.

So they're all for an invasive surgical procedure that literally removes a significant factor in a dogs growth and development because they find people too irresponsible to keep their dogs contained and away from unwanted mating, but a simple procedure that is done with little to no pain or side effects is considered barbaric?

I don't know if you've ever tried doctoring the split open blood flinging tail a Boxer who's back yard breeder was too irresponsible to dock. She split it simply because she wagged her tail too hard. No accident or crazy incident, her injury was cause by wagging her tail against furniture. Their tails are skin and bone and once a wound is open, it is so hard to close up. Her owners had to take her in as and adult and put her under and do a real surgery just to dock her tail. Something that could have been prevented by a simple procedure at 2 days old turned into a year long painful, bloody, and expensive experience. There are a reason some breeds are traditionally docked and cropped. It's not just because one day someone woke up and said, "wow my dog would look so cool if I took off it's tail".

I think people have the right to decide what is best for them and their animals and that includes if they want to de-sex or dock/crop.

We have had one intact male for 9 years with two intact females. Never had we had an accidental litter. Never have our various show friends in their decades of experience had an accidental litter. It is possible.

People ask why our labs look so much different than the ones you commonly see. Again, we can blame poor breeding practices that have no regard for the standard here, but that isn't all there is to it. Now there are some very talented field lines that do have the taller thinner look to them, but I think a big part is that this is really a breed that fills out as they mature. Our labs are broad and thick muscled. Dogs from the exact same litter and same genetic contributors where one was neutered young will look incredibly different than their entire counterpart. If you remove the hormones from a prepubescent boy, are they going to grow up to be the huge muscled athlete? Why would we think animals would be different? Of course they're going to mature differently without the bulk of their reproductive system.

I'm really interested in the new research coming out about what de-sexing our animals is really doing to them. I think we should have the freedom to choose, but as most things are, I don't think it is as black and white as it once appeared to be. I'm so glad to be seeing people writing about it!

Kris

Wednesday 30th of July 2014

I really dislike when people bring unneutered dogs to the dog park. They misbehave. They are aggressive and they hump. I have a beagle that is very submissive and avoids all fights. Any time an unfixed dog is at the park they seem to find my beagle and lock onto him, and it's the aggressive dominant behavior that really bothers me. These dogs crowd my dog, stand over him, they bite his neck and force him from running away which is clearly what he's trying to do. That's to say nothing of the humping behaviors. I often have to physically separate the dog from mine, just so my can run away to a different part of the park of we can just leave. I witness the owners of these dogs act blissfully ignorant even when this behavior occurs with multiple dogs over a time period. It is ALWAYS an unfixed male dog with these behaviors. I have yet to see an unfixed dog at the park NOT behave this way. So if you don't want to fix your dog FINE. But either don't bring him to dog parks or keep a VERY close on him and do not allow him to be a bully. You guys ruin it for the rest of us!!

Lindsay Stordahl

Thursday 31st of July 2014

That sounds so frustrating. Many dog parks have rules that only spayed and neutered dogs can be in the park. Any owners of unaltered dogs want to share your thoughts on this? Do you think this is fair? I personally have never brought an unaltered, mature dog to an off-leash park.

One thing to keep in mind is that the dog park in general is often the worst representation of dog owners. Maybe the dog park you visit is different, but in my experience the owners at these parks are not the most responsible overall. It doesn't surprise me that the owners allow their dogs to bully your dog.

I don't like it when other dogs try to hump my dog at the park either, so I always intervene - before it even happens if possible. And if my dog ever tries to hump another dog, I always intervene and stop him. So I agree, it's frustrating when some owners do not do anything to control their dogs, whether the dogs are spayed or neutered, or not.

slimdoggy

Wednesday 9th of July 2014

Great post - I'm glad people are being more thoughtful about this rather than lock-step doing it. It does make a big impact on the health and longevity of some animals. 'Responsible' is the relative term here though...so many people aren't.

Lindsay Stordahl

Wednesday 9th of July 2014

I like to think most dog owners are responsible. Unfortunately, some aren't, and they make all of us look bad.