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The Listen Dog Blog

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Castration - When It Will Help and When It Will Not

By listendogtraining, Dec 18 2016 02:04PM

When dealing with problem behaviours with their dogs - particularly male dogs - many owners believe, or have been assured that castration is the answer to their problem. Whilst it's true that yes, castrating a male dog can indeed help eradicate some unwanted behaviours, there are many instances in which it will have no effect whatsoever.


As a general rule, castration is more likely to solve an unwanted behavioural problem, if that problem is sexually dimorphic – which means that it is more common in, or specific to, one sex as opposed to the other.


Roaming is a good example of this; this is the act of a male travelling to find an acceptable bitch in season in order to mate. This is noted to be reduced in 90% of cases post-castration.


Scent marking is another good example of a sexually dimorphic behaviour, as it is a male behaviour, influenced by testosterone, and therefore much more likely to be affected by castration. Ben Hart at the University of California notes that urine marking in the house reduced in 50% of cases, with a rapid reduction in 20% and a gradual reduction in 30%.


Inappropriate sexual behaviour, such as excessive mounting or humping of other dogs, people or even objects is also related to sex hormone, and it is noted that post-castration, dogs displayed less mounting of people in 60% of cases.


It must always be noted however, when considering castration, that if the unwanted behaviour cannot be attributed to testosterone, then castration is not the correct solution at all. For example, if a dog is behaving aggressively due to fear rather than sex hormones, then behavioural therapy is the route to take in order to improve the situation.


If in doubt as to the root cause of your dog's behaviour always seek out professional behavioural or veterinary advice, to ensure you make the best decision for you and your four-legged friend!


Should I Castrate My Dog Or Not?


There are arguments on both sides regarding whether or not castration is acceptable. Those opposing may cite that it is unnatural to strip a dog of its reproductive capabilities, and deny it the experience of indulging in the accompanying hormone-related behaviours. Some people believe that it is cruel to never allow a dog to fulfil his instinct to mate, or that denying a bitch the opportunity to ever experience motherhood will leave her in some way discontented. Surgery itself is never without risk, and many might argue that it is not worth putting your dog through potentially life-threatening surgery, when they are in absolutely no state of ill-health.


On the other hand, castration and spaying remove the risk of some cancers of the reproductive organs entirely, and so could be argued as a preventative surgery of potentially life-saving benefit. And from the dog’s perspective, we must also look at the world in which we are asking our dogs to live in, and the social rules we expect them to conform to.


In the wild, for example, it is perfectly natural and acceptable for wolves to attack other wolves they encounter on their turf – whereas we as owners would be quite disgruntled if our dog showed such aggression to every dog he passed on his daily walk.


Competition over resources is also natural in the wild, whereas in a home environment, a dog who becomes dangerously possessive over his food bowl is most unwelcome.


There is also today’s rate of dog abandonment to consider – with rescue centres full to the brim and healthy dogs being euthanized every day, is it morally just to allow your dog to potentially produce more puppies whilst there are already so many dogs out there in desperate need of loving homes?


And if you plan not to castrate but also never to breed... then take a moment to consider how frustrating the experience of being forced to pass by a bitch in heat can be for an entire male!





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