Today I’m sharing my experience living with an intact male dog. My yellow Labrador Retriever, Rip is almost 2 years old and he is an unneutered male dog.
For the most part, living with an intact male dog is pretty uneventful and not much different than living with a neutered dog.
Should I Neuter My Dog?
I’ve never had a strong reason to get my dog neutered, so that is the main reason why I haven’t.
I am not opposed to getting him neutered and may do so in the future if I believe it is healthier for him or if some behavioral issues come up such as wandering. So far, so good.
Intact male dog meaning
People will also call an intact male dog an unneutered male dog.
If a dog is “intact” it means he has not been neutered. Neutering a dog means surgically removing his testicles, which of course is his main source of testosterone.
This can potentially reduce some hormone-driven behaviors such as humping and eliminate some health concerns such as testicular cancer. Obviously it also prevents the dog from breeding.
There are health pros and cons for choosing to neuter a dog or not. These can vary by breed and the individual dog.
This post is not about the pros and cons of spaying a female dog.
For most breeds, there are health benefits of spaying a female dog after her first or second heat cycle, but this article is about living with an intact male dog.
Living with an intact male dog
I’ll go over some of the common issues that might come up if you have an intact male dog.
Most of these have not been an issue at all with my Lab. This is why it’s important to consider your individual dog’s personality, energy level, health, breed, age and other factors before you decide to have your dog neutered.
I am not for or against you choosing to neuter your own dog. That is a personal choice.
1. People will ask when you’re going to neuter your dog.
Most people in the United States will have their pet dogs spayed or neutered, so some friends and family members naturally ask me if I’m going to have Rip neutered.
Usually this is just out of curiosity or they might be wondering if they should have their own dog neutered.
If I want, this can be an opportunity where I educate people on spaying and neutering. I can let people know the health benefits of choosing not to neuter and how you can be a responsible dog owner either way.
Usually I just say I don’t have plans to neuter him, and leave it at that.
2. Neutered dogs might growl at or hump your intact dog.
It’s fairly common and I’d say normal dog behavior for neutered male dogs to treat intact males differently. The reason for this is they are reacting to the intact dog’s scent, especially if they have not been around an intact male before.
In our case, neutered male dogs sometimes growl at Rip in passing on leashed walks. It’s also a reason I’m careful about bringing him to any dog parks. I don’t want to put him in a position where other dogs are growling at him.
Neutered male dogs tend to hump Rip, as well. Pretty obsessively actually.
My own neutered dog humps Rip occasionally. We’ve had a couple of neutered male dogs visit us and they humped Rip as well. They did not try to hump my neutered dog, and they were not as fixated on sniffing my neutered dog.
Rip doesn’t care when other dogs hump him. He usually makes a game out of it and runs around the yard! But some dogs will understandably whip around and growl or snarl when a dog is trying to hump them. This can easily trigger a fight between any two dogs.
This is where intact male dogs get a bad reputation of being aggressive, but sometimes it’s the neutered dogs that are actually the problem.
3. Some intact dogs hump other dogs.
Some intact male dogs will hump other dogs or they might try to hump your leg, dog beds, furniture, your kid, etc.
My Lab has never tried to hump me, a dog bed, furniture or my other dog.
He does not hump other dogs in general, except for one family member’s dog who is another intact male.
So, not ALL intact males try to hump everything (but a lot of them do). My neutered dog does more humping than my intact dog.
Some female dogs also do a lot of humping, whether they are spayed or not. There are a lot of different reasons why dogs hump each other. Hormones are only one reason.
4. Intact male dogs usually mark more often.
Both my male dogs pee on things, but my intact male definitely marks more frequently than my neutered male.
He is also more interested in sniffing where another dog has peed, and he does a teeth chattering behavior to help smell and taste the pee better. Sometimes he will even lick the other dog’s pee.
He has never once marked in the house! Thankfully my diligent puppy potty training with him seemed to be enough as he’s never once lifted his leg in the house
At one point I did talk with Rip’s vet about neutering him because of his excessive marking during walks. It was getting on my nerves at the time.
His vet advised me not to neuter him if his marking outdoors was my only reason for doing so. A lot of dogs mark, she said. Males and females will mark. Spayed and neutered dogs will mark. Neutering a dog will not necessarily stop or decrease his marking. I knew she was right.
I’m extra careful with Rip when we compete in agility. I don’t want him to try to mark the equipment. So, I always take him out for a quick pee break outside before it’s our turn to run, even if he was just out 30 minutes ago. I don’t need to be as careful about this with my neutered dog.
When I take Rip to someone else’s home, a hotel or a store, I also make sure he gets an outdoor pee break first and I watch him closely or keep him on a short leash. So far though, he hasn’t tried to mark indoors.
5. Some dog parks and dog daycares do not allow intact dogs.
Some dog parks, boarding kennels and dog daycares will not allow intact male dogs. This is because neutered males will unfortunately often react to their scent and hormones as I mentioned earlier.
You might be able to find a boarding kennel that will allow your intact male dog, especially if they have the ability to keep dogs separated in their own kennel space.
If you find a dog daycare that allows your intact male dog to play, leave them a nice review and tip them every once in awhile!
As for dog parks, I find that most of them in my area do not have rules against allowing intact male dogs. They usually just say no female dogs in heat.
Still, it’s my responsibility to keep my dog safe. Even though he tries to avoid conflicts with other dogs, I don’t want him to feel like he has to defend himself against a rude neutered dog.
So we don’t visit dog parks very often and if we do, we select quieter parks with large, open areas so we can walk around and keep moving.
6. Some intact dogs will roam or wander.
I do not have experience with a dog who wants to wander or roam. I’m sure you’ve heard how intact male dogs will do anything to get to a female dog in heat. I’m sure this is true.
We recently moved to a house with a large fenced yard. The gates have some gaps where my dogs could slip through if they really wanted to, but so far they are not interested in running off.
Obviously I want to keep my intact male dog away from female dogs in heat. So far, this has been a non-issue. Most female dogs are spayed or kept away from males when they’re in heat anyway.
7. Some intact male dogs fight with other males.
Intact male dogs have a reputation of being more likely to fight with other dogs, but this is not necessarily true.
When talking with our vet, she did say that if my dog was showing any aggression at all, then neutering him would potentially decrease his aggression.
But, my intact male is not aggressive at all. He goes out of his way to avoid conflict with other dogs, often lying down during greetings or wagging his tail while other dogs sniff him.
My neutered male is the one more likely to start fights when he meets other dogs. A lot just depends on the individual personality of your dog, his energy, socialization, etc.
8. Intact male dogs leave a little more discharge.
A male dog will sometimes have small amounts of discharge from his penis. This is normal for all male dogs but I notice more of it from my intact male. It’s a gross yellowish-green color and I occasionally see small drops of it on the floor or on his bed.
9. Living with an intact male dog – It’s easier to keep them lean.
My Lab is only 2 years old so he has his youth on his side as well! But, he’s been a very fit and lean Lab. In fact, it’s hard for me to bulk him up. People comment on how he’s not a “chunky” Lab like they’re used to seeing.
Both my dogs weigh about 62 pounds and are active but my neutered dog eats 4 cups of food per day while my intact dog eats 5 cups per day.
10. Pressure from the “dog sport world” to keep your dog intact.
I compete with my dogs in agility and we do a lot of running together. One of the reasons I wanted to keep Rip intact was for the health benefits. Intact males generally have fewer joint issues than neutered males.
I also pheasant hunt with my Lab, and in the hunting dog world, there is even a little pressure to keep your dog intact or you are not seen as “serious enough” about the sport. Of course, this is silly, but it’s just an observation I’ve noticed.
This is also something I’ve noticed in agility, although a little less so.
Of course, many people hunt or compete in agility with their neutered dogs and are very, very competitive and successful. It’s a personal choice whether to neuter your canine athlete or not.
Should you have your dog neutered?
This is a personal choice and I recommend you research the health pros and cons as well as some of the potential behavior issues mentioned in this article.
It’s a good idea to consult with your dog’s vet and to get a second opinion if your vet seems to be giving you a blanket answer. If you got your dog from a breeder, he or she may also be a helpful resource.
When deciding whether or not to neuter my Lab, I scheduled a brief phone call with his vet to get her professional opinion. I told her I did not want to neuter him but I would if she believed there were health benefits for him.
Small risk of testicular cancer in dogs
My dog’s vet told me there were not any strong health benefits to neutering my dog. She said the risk of testicular cancer in dogs is rare and not a reason to neuter him.
If a dog gets testicular cancer, she of course would recommend neutering at that time and she said that type of cancer rarely spreads, especially if caught early enough.
As far as behavior, we looked at these questions:
- Does he wander? No
- Is he aggressive? No
- Is he mounting other dogs? No
- Does he mark in the house? No. But he marks a lot outside.
Because I answered no to all of these questions, his vet said she did not see a reason for me to have him neutered unless I wanted to, of course.
I talked with my dog’s breeder as well. He suggested that the marking outside be controlled through obedience training.
It’s something we’ve been working on but doesn’t really bother me anymore now that we’ve recently moved to a more rural area.
OK, now we’d like to hear about your own dogs!
Living with an intact male dog – do you have an unneutered male dog?
Let us know your experiences in the comments!