What I would do with my dog doesn’t mean it’s the best or correct choice for you and your dog.
— Dr. Nancy Kay

If you've determined that, yes, you are responsible enough to prevent your dog from producing unintentional litters, here is the next set of questions to consider when determining if, when, and how to neuter/sterilize your dog.

1. Will you be able to successfully manage/cope with your intact dog's heat cycles and/or other sexual behaviors? And, how might this impact other dogs living in your household?

spay neuter advice

Your intact female will have a heat cycle approximately once every six months. This will create some changes in behavior along with the telltale bloody discharge (drips from vulva) lasting up to 10 days or more. When going through her heat cycle, your dog may interact differently with you and other dogs in the household. She may become whiny and less interested in the things that normally make her happy. At 45-60 days or so following her heat cycle she may experiences a phenomenon called pseudopregnancy (false pregnancy) during which she believes she is having puppies. She may demonstrate nesting behavior, reclusiveness, and aggression towards you or other dogs in the family. Dogs experiencing pseudopregnancy may stop eating and become lethargic. They may even have some milk production.

Your intact male may demonstrate sexual behaviors such as roaming in search of female dogs in heat, mounting behavior, and excessive urine marking, both indoors and outdoors.

2. What is your dog's intended career path?

spay neuter advice

Are you wanting purely a pet or do you plan for your dog to participate in conformation shows, obedience competitions, pet facilitated therapy or athletic endeavors (rally, lure coursing, agility, rally)? If pursuing athletic endeavors or a career in the show ring, leaving your dog intact may be the best choice. If your dog will be involved in pet facilitated therapy or will simply be a couch potato, your leaning may be more towards neutering. What you hold as the intended purpose for your dog is simply one more factor to consider when weighing in on if, when, and how to neuter/sterilize your dog.

3. Has spay/neuter research been performed on your particular breed?

spay neuter research

Take a look at the breed-specific spay/neuter research presented on this website. If your breed of dog is represented, be sure to pay close attention to the study results. Thus far, spay/neuter research has involved large breed dogs: German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, and Vizslas.

Do these research results apply to other large breed dogs or similar breeds? For example, might the German Shepherd results also apply to Belgian Tervuren? Unfortunately, while it is tempting to extrapolate the research results to other breeds and similar sized dogs, we don't yet know if it is reasonable to do so. However, the results are something to consider and discuss with your veterinarian when making the decisions of if, when, and how to neuter/sterilize your dog.

neuter canine behavior

4. Consider what we know about how neutering impacts behavior.

For years, veterinarians have been recommending neutering at a young age as a means of preventing undesirable behaviors, particularly in male dogs. In fact, several studies have documented the opposite. For example, a 2018 study on the effects of neutering on aggression and involving more than 13,000 dogs, showed that those neutered between 7-12 months of age were more likely to demonstrate aggression towards strangers. In 2014, a study of Vizslas determined that dogs neutered before 6 months of age demonstrated a higher incidence of aggression.  A 1976 study documented that, among undesirable male behaviors (roaming, urine marking, aggression, mounting), the only one consistently reduced by neutering is roaming. Take some time to read through the research presented on this website to learn more about the potential impacts of neutering on canine behavior.

5. What diseases/medical issues do you most want to avoid?

spay neuter advice

If you've had other dogs, you may feel particularly strong about avoiding a specific disease with your current and future dogs. For example, if you've lost a dog to breast cancer, you may want to do everything possible to avoid this with your current dog. And neutering will certainly play a role in this. Take a look at the section titled, "What's at Risk?" in the research drop down menu to learn about which diseases are impacted by neutering.