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03/31/2011

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Lynn

I've had dogs of one kind or another all my life. When I was a child, the ideal family dog was a large, intact dog. Hardly anyone except breeders (not a dirty word back then) and farmers kept bitches, but they were intact, too. They were confined during their heats, and there weren't a lot of 'accidental' litters.

When s/n became fashionable I had some s/n dogs, both genders, but I can't say they thrilled me. After I had a few of them, I started to wonder if the reality was as great as the marketing. I quit taking in s/n dogs, and those I have raised have been intact. I confine the bitches during their heats, have had no 'oops' litters, and the dogs are more fun, more interesing, and I won't sterilize any more, absent medical need.

One thing I've observed since then is that with the steady growth of s/n toward the norm, there have been a lot *more* 'oops' litters, because people have become totally ignorant of canine breeding behaviour. Once s/n was established as the correct way to manage breeding, ignorance grew apace.

The observations in this log have been known for some time, but resolutely squashed by the AR activists, who see pet sterilization as the first step to eliminating pets altogether. They are totally disinterested in the best interest of the dogs, which often suffer poor outcomes if only because s/n most often *does* result in obesity, and obesity is not healthy. Does it really make sense to destroy the animals' hormonal system, most often as juveniles these days, where simple management can do the job?

Let's replace AR mandates with education. Better for our dog's health and well being, better for us. If you don't want to be bothered with managing a bitch's seasons, which requires only vigilance and confinement for a few weeks in the year, do yourself a favor, and get the kids a big, black, intact dog. He'll love you for it.

Beth Cochran, DVM

I think that there are WAY too many variables in an uncontrolled "study" to draw valid conclusions about the effects of spaying and neutering that this paper is drawing, other than the established fact that very early neutering makes dogs taller.

While the physical effects such as bone length can be measured, asking dog owners to evaluate behavior, especially if they have to interpret it, is extremely unreliable.As a veterinarian with a strong interest in behavior, as well as 25 yrs of experience with obedience training and nearly that long instructing, it is obvious to me that most pet owners, and even many people involved in training dogs, don't understand behavior. Additionally, most people keeping intact dogs of either sex are more experienced dog handlers, breeders, trainers, and are selecting for good temperaments in dogs kept intact. Spaying and neutering are much more common now than when I graduated vet school in 1986. The pet population is skewed toward being very heavy on spayed/neutered dogs in this country, vs intact dogs. Additionally, neutered/spayed dogs may have been neutered exactly BECAUSE of some of the negative traits they display.
My experience with my own dogs, German shorthaired pointers and Australian shepherds, has been that neutering males has far more effect on them than spaying females. Because I show in conformation, but do not breed, my dogs are kept intact until they are 2-3 yrs old, then altered. I had one male for whom neutering, at the age of 6, didn't alter his behavior perceptibly at all. My other 2 males were neutered between 2 and 3, and I found them to be MUCH less anxious, stressed, hypervigilant and generally more pleasant to be around than they were intact. I have not ever experienced behavior worsening in my own dogs, or the more than 100 GSP foster dogs I've had through my household over the 18 yrs I've been doing rescue.
As a veterinarian, a trainer, and especially as a breed rescue coordinator, I am completely in favor of spaying and neutering to help with the pet population issues. A "study" of this nature could have extreme repercussions on the pet population. Behavior issues are the number one reason pets are surrendered to shelters. It would be a terrible disservice if this paper was used to justify keeping pets intact to prevent behavior problems.
As a kid, we had intact male dogs. We never considered neutering them. We lived in neighborhoods, the dogs played with the kids, who played outside. The world is a different place for kids and dogs now. Many, many dogs live in apartments, condos, homes where everyone is gone for 8-10 hours every day. Mom doesn't stay at home and take care of the kids and the dogs. The very fact of dogs existing in these types of conditions, being isolated, poorly socialized, inadequately exercised, probably has a much greater impact on their behavior problems than being spayed/neutered.
IMO, there are just too many variables to draw conclusions about the effects of spaying/neutering on dogs from a study of this type.

Janine

There is absolutely nothing wrong with spaying/neutering your pets as long as it is a decision made between an owner and their Vet. I don't think anyone is against fixing pets as long as the decision is based on knowledge, not propaganda.

What I think is a big problem is that people are being misinformed and pushed into fixing their animal at younger ages which has been shown to be detrimental to an animals overall development.

In a perfect world, all owners would be responsible enough to contain their animals, especially females, when they are intact until they reach maturity. Then, if they are not "working animals", get them neutered.

I have a hard time understanding how anyone can think that there are no negative effects of juvenile spay/neuter. How can removing these important developmental organs before maturity not have negative side effects...

Pica

@ Beth Cochran, DVM - If the 'pet population' issue (which is an AR myth, not reality) is your concern, why not simply educate your client owners about canine behaviour and breeding habits? Surely we have more than adequate leash and confinement laws in most places now that few intact bitches are a risk for unplanned litters if confined during their heats?

It's well within most adult's capabilities to identify a bitch's oncoming heat and confine her for the three weeks when she is receptive (in truth a shorter period, but better safe than sorry), and leave her hormone system intact, absent a medical reason to spay?

Why risk her becoming incontinent, which will make her a likely young euthanasia candidate, or consign her to a lifetime of obesity and it's attendant health issues? Surely it is in the best interest of the *dog* to be managed, rather than to subject her to the risks and rigors of an invasive surgical procedure, particularly if she is a juvenile?

Frankly, I see even less reason to neuter a dog; though a loose dog can certainly impregnate a receptive bitch, enforcement of leash and confinement laws should be adequate protection there, and in any case, it is clearly the bitch's owner on whom the responsibility for managing her fertility lies.

There has been a steady increase in 'accidental' breedings, as s/n has been pushed as the policically correct way to manage canine fertility, in my observation. People have no clue as to the breeding habits of dogs, but almost all owners are perfectly receptive to education, if it is offered in a non-judgemental fashion. Offer them *all* the facts, and give them the understanding they need to manage their dogs, and most of them will comply.

Those who don't aren't s/n their animals anyway, so why penalize compliant, conscientious owners and their animals for the scofflaws?

I don't understand why we are so willing to practise medicine - human or animal - by mandate, whether written or by convention.

pet health

this information is vital to me. I really am in gratitude to you for sharing this.

Gail Forrest

though not a 'controlled" study - I am afraid that I as a dog owner of over 40 years and a dog breeder of over 20 years - I have to listen and give voice to the finding and analyisis of almost 11,000 dogs!!! most studies are with very small sampling of dogs - usually 100 more or less - this is the findings from over 10,000 dogs!!! I have long held the opinion that dog owner responsiblity should not be ensured through pediatry S/N, and my own personal obserations over the years have just been validated by this study - level of agression in S/N animals is much higher than those of entire dogs - AGAIN the Vet community and dog owners want to use S/N to cure what is essentially a behavior that can be addressed through training - its easier to pay for a S/N than to put the time and effort into actually training your dog and taking responsility for confinement when a bitch is in heat. this sampling of over 10,000 dogs is too large to ignore and dismiss out of hand

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