When is the best age to neuter a dog? It depends on the dog.
When to spay or neuter a dog is a personal choice between the dog’s owners and the dog’s vet (and sometimes a contract with a breeder or shelter).
There are pros and cons to spaying or neutering a puppy or dog of any age.
When I purchased my weimaraner puppy from a breeder I agreed under contract to have him neutered by 14 months, and that was OK with me.
Remy is 10.5 months now and I had him neutered on Monday. I thought it would be helpful for others to hear about my decision, and please feel free to share your own examples in the comments.
When is the best age to neuter a dog or puppy?
Personally, I wanted to wait as long as possible before neutering Remy because the newest research says it’s healthier for most dogs to remain intact as long as possible, ideally their whole lives. I’m thankful our vet keeps up to date with the latest research and he actually encouraged me not to neuter Remy at all.
With a larger breed like Remy, my main concern was the direct relation between early neutering and increasing the dog’s risk for joint problems and bone cancer down the road. Since my dog will be very active as my running partner and potential agility dog, I took this seriously.
I’ve already written well-researched posts on the pros and cons of spaying and neutering dogs. You can read those here:
Health benefits of spaying and neutering:
- For females, a spay surgery removes her uterus and ovaries, eliminating her risk of ovarian cancer, eliminating her risk of an infected uterus (pyometra) and reducing her risk of breast cancer.
- For the males, remove the balls and you eliminate the risk of testicular cancer.
Health risks of spaying and neutering:
(This is just a short sampling. Read my full post with references here.)
- Spayed and neutered large-breed dogs are more likely to develop bone cancer
- Spayed and neutered dogs are more likely to develop hip dysplasia
- They’re more likely to tear their ACLs
- More likely to have adverse reactions to vaccines
- Spayed females are more likely than intact females to have urinary incontinence.
It doesn’t take a doctor to figure out that hormone-producing organs affect many areas of the body beyond reproduction.
OK, but what about behavior?
My readers outside of the U.S. are shaking their heads now.
In so many countries, people generally do not spay and neuter their dogs and the dogs do not have behavioral issues. At least, not any more so than spayed and neutered dogs.
Do you notice that when a neutered dog is aggressive, his behavior is blamed on either the owner or a lack of training?
But when an intact dog is aggressive, his behavior is blamed on the fact that he has balls?
With my dog Remy, I would’ve neutered him sooner had I noticed any obvious behavioral issues.
We have not had any trouble at all with:
These behaviors can generally be managed with training, socialization and controlling the environment, but every dog is different. I do think spaying/neutering can at least help with managing certain behaviors. But it’s not a magic fix.
With Remy, he unfortunately does try to hump ME on occasion when he’s excited, and he’s very “up close and personal” with sniffing people and dogs. He also humps Ace’s dog bed.
I do hope these behaviors will decrease at least a little now that he’s neutered, but I’m not counting on it. Update: Neutering did seem to stop this behavior entirely.
Other factors in my decision:
By now I hope it’s obvious there is no best age to neuter a dog or puppy. So much depends on the individual dog.
Here were some additional factors for me:
High activity with field training
Since we’ll be starting some more focused field training with Remy this winter and hunt tests in the spring, I simply wanted to get the surgery over with so he’d be recovered by the end of January for field training.
In the United States, there are stereotypes against intact male dogs and they are generally not allowed legally in dog parks, off-leash dog beaches, dog daycares, etc. I board my dogs and I want Remy to be able to play in the dog daycare groups.
Aggression from neutered dogs
This was actually a big factor.
I’ve noticed the majority of other dogs tend to show aggression to Remy. It’s mostly due to his immaturity and explosive energy, but I have to think it was also due to him being intact.
People tend to blame the intact dogs for aggression, but it’s often the neutered dogs that are the issue. I notice neutered dogs show aggression around Remy, and that comes down to poor socialization.
Anyway, Remy loves other dogs and unfortunately most tend to posture and growl/snap at him or even bully him or try to attack him. I’m hoping now that he’s neutered other dogs will be more accepting of him.
It’s a myth that neutering a dog will decrease his energy, but hey, if Remy happens to have 5% less energy, I’ll take it! We’ll see.
What about unwanted litters and being ‘responsible’?
This was not a factor at all and is really a non-issue for San Diego.
We live in an area where there are not stray dogs running around, let alone dogs in heat. Most dogs are kept indoors as pets and are leashed in public. It would’ve been selfish for me to neuter Remy just to “prevent unwanted litters.”
It could’ve been different had we lived somewhere else, but the responsible thing to do in our case was consider the health and best interest of our own dog.
But enough from me.
Remy is recovering well and surprisingly it’s been fairly easy to keep him quiet. But we can’t wait until he can RUN again in a few days!
Now I’d love to hear from you …
What were the main factors in your decision about if and when to spay or neuter your dog?
What would you say is the best age to neuter a dog or puppy?