The decision to castrate a dog is a difficult one for many pet owners. It is important to understand the potential risks and benefits associated with this procedure before making a decision. In this blog post, we will explore the question of whether castrating dogs can make behavioural problems worse.
Castrating young dogs
Owners are being told by some Veterinary Surgeons, that they should be castrating their puppy at 6 months of age. The other problem is owners are told they can’t bring their dogs to doggie daycare or other similar facilities because they require the dog to be castrated after 6 months of age. Owners are then forced into a situation where they feel they do not have a choice. Every dog is an individual and some may have behavioural issues so castration isn’t always the best option for your dog.
I always tell my clients to wait until 18 months of age for small and medium dogs and up to 2 years for the larger breeds. If your dog is healthy and everything is going along nicely why even get them castrated? Do not try to fix what isn’t broken. (unless there is a health reason) Unfortunately, the other mistake some owners can make is getting their dog castrated when their dog already has behavioural issues, such as nervous reactive behaviour, humping, hyperactivity, not coming back in the park etc. only to find out later down the line their dog’s behaviour has worsened since being castration.
Dogs go into adolescence around 6 months of age, (teenage years) and their hormones are changing. This is normally the age some owners want to give up on their dog and re-home them to rescues or worse in some cases dogs can end up on the selling page’s getting passed around, or getting into the wrong hands unfortunately.
So why do dogs seem like they are doing ok in their training until they get to teenage adolescence? This is because their hormones play a big role, the increase in hormones plays a crucial role in brain development. This is why you should never rush into castrating your dog when they are coming into adolescence as this may disturb the brain development and affect behavioural and social maturity which can take up to 36 months for dogs to reach. I would recommend letting your dog mature, being patient and consistent with your training, and getting help from a dog trainer if you’re struggling with behavioural issues because rushing into castration isn’t going to fix the problem. I promise you will come out the other side if you give your dog a chance and try and understand they are going through a difficult hormonal imbalance, just like teenagers but you don’t get rid of them or put them up for adoption! Dogs also should be part of the family and are a big commitment for the rest of your life.
When your dog enters adolescence please try and stay patient with your dog and do not try and rush everything. Some dogs can become nervous or more sensitive entering adolescence or start to disengage with you and get easily distracted by other things in the environment such as the smells of other dogs. This is why I recommend using a long training line to practice your engagement training and build a bond with your dog. Letting your young dog have too much freedom and access to other dogs and people too soon can be very damaging to your dog’s training. If you do see an increase in your dog’s sensitivity, then you need to potentially quiet things down for your dog and lower the criteria. If you find your dog disengaging with you go back to some basic training exercises. Research has shown that adolescent dogs can become less responsive to their owners when in their adolescence period. This is perfectly normal so try to stay calm and chill, getting frustrated and shouting at your dog definitely isn’t going to help and your relationship can break down.
Aggression and Anxiety
I often get calls from clients, telling me their dog has become aggressive or more fearful and reactive recently. I will always ask the question has your dog been castrated and at what age? They usually answer yes normally and they say I had him castrated about 6 months of age because we thought this would help his behaviour but his behaviour has increased and become a lot worse making him more difficult to train. Dogs with any behaviours such as fear, aggression, reactivity, or nervous behaviours should not be castrated. Testosterone is the male sex hormone produced by the testes in large amounts and by the adrenal glands in considerably lesser amounts. It helps to maintain mental strength and cognitive function so removing testosterone in an already nervous or aggressive dog may decrease their ability to cope with their behavioural problems. Castration at an early age has been linked to increased anxiety in male dogs, thus it can make some behavioural problems worse.
Every dog is an individual, so your dog should be assessed by a trained behaviourist to see what’s the best way to move forward with your dog. It’s sorting out the behaviour first, before rushing into castration. Far to many owners get their dog’s castrated around 6 months of age thinking this is going to solve the issues. Only to find out some behaviours have got worse. Also, it is important to rule out any medical conditions with your Vet. The other option if you are really set on castrating your dog is chemical castration because it’s only temporary and lasts between 6 and 12 months meaning that it’s completely reversible. The treatment comes in form of an implant that is injected under the skin.