Welcome to another installment of “Debarking Pet Myths,” our monthly series that addresses common myths, misconceptions and old wives’ tales about dogs, cats and their nutrition.
It’s a common belief that if you want to tame your wild dog, you need to get him neutered. But does neutering an energetic, overly aggressive or misbehaving dog actually help keep him in check?
Well, it can. But it really depends on the nature of the perceived “misbehavior.”
Surgically removing a dog’s testicles can cause changes in behavior, but only behavior that is driven by male hormones, i.e., testosterone. If your dog keeps busting out of the back yard, neutering may help keep him contained if his urge for freedom was driven by an intense need to visit the neighborhood ladies. Other behaviors that may be hormonally driven, like aggressive sexual behavior toward people or other dogs, “humping” or marking territory with urine, can be curbed through castration.
Other behaviors, however, not so much.
Energetic does not mean “bad”
Many “bad dog” behaviors are the result of a dog simply being energetic, and that is not a bad thing nor a thing that can be cured by neutering. A dog who refuses to stay cooped up or one who destroys property or plays too rough may just need more exercise and training, which are not mutually exclusive. You can deplete a lot of that pent-up energy through physical activity, but don’t discount how effective mental stimulation can be when it comes to calming an overactive dog.
In fact, most behavioral issues (good and bad) have nothing to do with male hormones at all. Personality, trainability, energy level and temperament are almost exclusively dictated by genetics, environment and training. A dog like a husky is always going to be energetic and prone to destroying the odd couch if that energy isn’t exhausted in more productive ways, whether his testicles are intact or not.
More exercise, training and even “brain games” can be far more effective at curbing many perceived bad behaviors than neutering. That said, you can always lower the chance of some of these behaviors by neutering, because some activities are hormonally based.
Consider neutering no matter what
While neutering is not always the answer, it is something to consider no matter your dog’s energy level or behavior. In 2013, neutered male dogs were found to live 18 percent longer than unneutered male dogs. Neutering contributes to a potentially longer life span because it eliminates the occurrence of testicular cancer and decreases the risk of your dog developing an enlarged prostate gland, prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate gland) and perineal hernias.
Additionally, neutering your dog (or cat, while we’re on the subject) helps reduce pet overpopulation that results from unplanned and unwanted litters. Remember your dog escaping the backyard in search of ladies? Neutering can solve two problems at once.