Spaying and Castration
Over the recent years spaying/neutering is a subject that is often discussed among our field of work – Behaviour and Training. It is seen by the public and some medical professionals as a quick fix to solve behavioural issues. Unfortunately in a high percentage of cases it makes matters much worse and we are called in by desperate owners to help them overcome the behavioural issues, such as increased aggression and increased fearfulness to name a few.
The unnecessary or negative behaviour that the animal was initially demonstrating is a stress manifestation of trying to make all the decisions to ensure survival in a man-made environment that it does not understand and depending on its personality or character is how it handles this responsibility.
Unfortunately what is left after neutering in this instance is an animal that feels he/she has to over compensate for the lack of the chemical that helps them do this role. This adds to the stress hence why behaviour becomes exaggerated. It is advisable to work using a calm, consistent positive training method with the dog before neutering to establish his/hers trust that you will provide, protect and make all the decisions to ensure its survival, so that he/she no longer feels the need to do this role.
It is also advisable to look at every case as an individual and take into account breed, age, temperament, family set up/lifestyle and the reasons for getting it neutered. This is to ensure we get that timing right for that particular dog. Neutering too early can have extremely devastating consequences, during adolescence growth hormones are stimulated to promote the closure of growing bones and increase bone density. Therefore dogs neutered before puberty tend to be much taller, disproportioned and prone to leg, cruciate problems and it’s been noted a higher increase in hip dysplasia. It can also increase the risk of bone cancer and hemangiosarcoma by up to 5 times. I have seen many dogs never mature and are always puppy like in behaviour, general boisterousness and unruliness. In dogs that are nervous or fearful it can make matters worse and result in aggression and being very highly strung, when ideally what they need is a training programme that works on de-stressing them and works on building their confidence so that they can learn to make good appropriate choices on their own with an owner who they can trust.
I do fully endorse responsible spaying and neutering in dogs to stop un-wanted pregnancies, however suggested age would be from 18 months onwards so that the dog has been given a chance to mature both physically and mentally. Again each case should be looked at as an individual and sometimes there maybe different circumstances that need to be taken into account, however it should be known and made known that castration/spaying is NOT a quick fix or the answer to many problems. It should be a decision that needs to be carefully considered by dog owners and they should take into account all of the above and then talk it over with different types of professionals, Vets and Behaviourists etc so that you come to the right decision for your dog and do not have to live or suffer with the consequences.
If you any questions regarding this article or your dog please do not hesitate to contact me: Natalie Finch – firstname.lastname@example.org
This article was written for The Labrador Rescue Trust Magazine and was published is the winter 2010 issue.
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