Sterilization of Dogs. Should one spay/neuter?

It is generally agreed amongst the doggy fraternity that the main reason to breed a dog is to improve the species, either in looks, health, working ability and/or temperament. Breed dogs are therefore carefully selected and matched, and required to meet certain standards e.g. be clear of hip dysplasia, be a breed champion, have a certain working qualification, etc. To breed dogs indiscriminately is unfair not only to the dog, but to its offspring. Every month thousands of dogs in this country are euthanased because the welfare organisations can no longer keep them. Similarly, dogs that are bred with physiological problems results in puppies having a painful and restricted life. E.g. poor temperaments result in biting incidents causing the dog to have to be euthanized; bad hips result in poor movement and veterinarians being forced to recommend that the dog be put out of its misery.

So by all means breed your dog if it meets the following criteria:

  • Pure bred and registered with the Kennel Union of South Africa (or a recognised Federation)
  • Hip score of preferably 0:0 done at 2 years of age (in breeds requiring this)
  • Clear heart score (in breeds requiring this)
  • Free of von Willebrand’s disease (in breeds requiring this)
  • Has at least a “v” grading in the breed ring, but is preferably a breed champion
  • Has a working qualification if it is a working dog
  • Has a sound temperament

You also need to ensure that:

  • You have found a compatible mate for your dog
  • Suitable homes are available for the puppies (preferably before the bitch is mated)
  • You have a suitable room and whelping box for your bitch
  • You can afford the stud fee and visits to the stud dog (which might be in another province)
  • You are capable of raising the entire litter by hand should the bitch die
  • You are prepared to stay with the puppies and care for them and their dam before they move to their new homes e.g. deworming, removal of dew claws, weaning, innoculations, microchipping
  • You have the necessary cash flow to cope with unforeseen expenses e.g. enforced caesarian section, sick puppies, pyometra
  • You have an outside grassed run which the puppies have access to as they grow older
  • You have a suitable contract that allows you to check on your dogs throughout their lives
  • You are capable of killing a puppy if it is deformed when it is born

The wrong reasons for having a litter would be:

  • To “show the children” – rather buy an educational video than bring more unwanted animals into the world

Before you decide to breed with your dog, it would be a good idea to visit the local SPCA and see how many dogs are looking for homes. Recent statistics shows that a dog is euthanized about every 3.2 seconds because nobody wants to take care of it! It would be even better if you could help hold a perfectly healthy dog whilst it is put to sleep, its only crime having been that it was born in the first place.

Neutering/Castration of Male Dogs

Dogs may be sterilized at any age, but to have the greatest effect, the procedure should be performed before the dog reaches an age where hormones start to take effect. Ideally a male dog should be castrated before 6 months of age, which is the average age at which testosterone levels start to increase. It has been scientifically proven that dominant aggressive behaviour and the production of testosterone is directly linked. This applies to both dog-on-dog as well as to dog-on-human aggression. The testosterone level in a dog peaks at about 30 months of age, with the most aggressive incidents occur between 24 to 30 months, so obviously it is preferable to neuter before this time.

Most dog-on-human aggression happens on the dogs’ territory (i.e. at home) and it is usually a member of the family that is bitten. Often these incidents could have been avoided, and would definitely have had a much lesser chance of happening if the dog had been castrated at an early age.

Statistics prove that dogs that are more likely to bite meet one or more of the following criteria:

  • No or poor socialisation – not used to e.g. children, or old people, or hats etc.
  • Usually not able to see out of the property, and are therefore often fearful of new situations
  • Spoilt and have learned that they can rule their owners
  • Often those kept as “security” dogs – i.e. kept in a certain area of the property, and once again lack stimulation (mental and/or physical) on a regular basis
  • Those that have little or no interaction with the family – just a dog to have in the yard, with no knowledge of appropriate behaviour
  • Have been abused – either physically, psychologically or emotionally
  • Not often educated i.e. have not attended a reputable puppy class during the formative weeks (8-14 weeks of age) and have had no further instruction on what behaviours are acceptable to humans and which are not
  • have been allowed to become inappropriately protective towards their owners or environment
  • are restricted in movement i.e. chained or kept in a small cage
  • have been teased and frustrated by e.g. children
  • Injured or have an illness that has not been treated effectively
  • have been taught to bite people i.e. have attended some sort of home defense training with no thought of the long-term effects.

Disadvantages to neutering:

  • A neutered dog may not been shown in a breed ring except in “for exhibition only” classes

Advantages to neutering:

  • Dog will probably live longer
  • Greatly lessened likelihood of cancer
  • Incidence of marking lowered by about 70%
  • Mounting (leg or furniture humping) is lessened by about 70%
  • Neutering lowers aggressive behaviour towards humans by about 65%
  • Neutering lowers aggressive behaviour towards dogs by about 65%
  • Dogs prone to straying tend to prefer to stay at home once neutered
  • Castrated males are more relaxed when left at home and are therefore less likely to develop destructive behaviours
  • Castrated males as much less likely to try and escape from the property
  • Improves dogs’ focus and concentration
  • Easier to work as is not distracted by bitches

Spaying of Female Dogs

Bitches may be sterilized at any age, but to have the greatest effect, the procedure should be performed before the dog reaches an age where hormones start to take effect. Ideally a bitch should be spayed before 6 months of age, which is the average time that the hormonal level starts to increase.

Disadvantages to spaying:

  • unknown

Advantages to spaying:

  • Bitch will probably live longer and will definitely have fewer health risks
  • She will not come into season, (thereby attracting all the neighbourhood dogs)
  • She will not develop pyometra (pus in the uterus) as she gets older
  • she will not suffer from doggy PMS before and after her season, making it difficult to work and/or relate to her
  • She will not have false pregnancies
  • She will not become pregnant
  • You will save on kennel fees as she will not have to be kennelled twice a year when she’s on heat
  • No more blood and/or discharge etc. to clean up when she’s on heat
  • Greatly lessened likelihood of cancer
  • Easier to work as she will not miss several months of the year due to seasons.
  • She will not try and break out to look for a mate when in season
  • Improves dogs’ focus and concentration
  • She will become more predictable, relaxed and amenable – in other words, a much better companion

In conclusion, breeding is not something that can be done with any success without quite a large amount of forethought and planning. It is not cheap and often involves heartbreak and pain. Sure, anyone can put two dogs together and come out with a litter of puppies – that is not difficult at all. But can you ensure that the resultant litter is an improvement on the parents? Can you be certain that they will all live an active and fulfilled life? Are you sure that you have contributed to the gene pool of your chosen breed? (NB the breeding of crossbred or mongrel dogs is considered immoral and is not dealt with in this article).

Assume 6 puppies in every litter just for the sake of argument. First generation produces 6 puppies.

Assume each of those 6 is responsible for 6 puppies (i.e. has co-created ONE litter). Second generation 6 x 6 puppies = 36

Same assumption. Third generation 6 x 6 x 6 puppies = 6^3 (6 cubed or 6 to the power of three) = 216 puppies.

If you went to 10 generations, then, it would be 6^10 puppies = roughly 60.5 million puppies. And that’s assuming each dog has produce only ONE litter!

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