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CANINE CONNECTION: Snips and spays won’t sap pet’s spark

Sterilized pups retain renewable energy source

Today we are going to have a little canine anatomy lesson.

I am often asked the question of whether or not neutering will calm a dog down and my answer is simple . . . no, neutering a dog will not calm him down.

Neutering is a surgical procedure that involves the removal of the testicles of a male dog. Female dogs’ testicles are not removed – yes, this may seem unfair but its because they do not have any to begin with. Female dogs have a uterus and ovaries that are surgically removed during a procedure called spaying, spayed or to spay. The word spayeded is not a word, stop using it.

The main job of testicles is to make and store sperm and produce an androgen called testosterone. Females also produce testosterone but in much smaller doses by the ovaries and adrenal glands.

Besides aiding in the production of sperm, testosterone is also responsible for sex drive, bone mass and development, fat distribution, muscle size and strength and finally red blood cell production. None of which has anything to do with energy, except for maybe if there is a significant decrease in the production of red blood cells once a dog is neutered as red blood cells carry oxygen and remove carbon dioxide from the body. So if a dog is lacking energy due to the reduction of the production of red blood cells as a result of neutering, its not a good thing. It is called anemia.

Although a bit off topic, testosterone is directly related to the uniform closing of the growth plates. Uneven growth plate closure due to neutering before a dog reaches sexual maturity relates to the uneven growth of bones, which means compromised bone density and joints. Early neutering is also related to cancers such as osteosarcoma . . . bone cancer. I’ll just leave that there for you all to consider and hopefully investigate further.

So, as you can see, testosterone has a lot to do with sex drive and physical development and unless it’s a medical condition, it has nothing to do with energy.

Behaviourally, neutering does reduce a dog’s interest in sex, which in turn reduces the energy for marking territory, seeking a mate, the energy used to display dominance behaviours related to mating rituals and energy for behaviours displayed between rival males. These are all sexually related behaviours and their corresponding energy output is also sexually related. In a nutshell (pun intended) a dog may seem calmer after neutering due to the reduction of stress and anxiety caused by the constant focus on sex.

Neutering does not stop aggression. Aggression is a learned behaviour and it is not related to whether a dog has testicles or not. An unneutered dog is not any more aggressive than a neutered dog. But if either dog is poorly socialized, lacks leadership or proper boundaries, they will learn to use aggression to get what they want.

Dog owners need to recognize when aggression begins to rear its ugly head and deal with it appropriately. Aggression usually starts with a young dog who is testing boundaries in general – as teenagers often do.

The immature dog will be very forward, and pushy towards other dogs in an obnoxious, often relentless way. It is a dog that does not respect the personal space of other dogs.

Although conflict may not necessarily arise initially, the pushy behaviours begin to escalate over time and eventually aggression is displayed.

A dog’s energy or, in other words, its ability to sustain mental or physical activity, is directly related to genetics, not their testicles or lack thereof. There are certain breeds that have been genetically altered through selective breeding practices to have high levels of energy because their working heritage demanded it of them, such as border collies, Australian cattle dogs, Australian shepherds, kelpies, Belgian malinois, German shorthaired pointers (most hunting/sporting breeds really) or any dog mixed with these working dogs.

All of these breeds worked for humans in some capacity or another and were required to be tireless, fearless and what is often referred to as having a lot of heart, meaning they never gave up and always managed to find that extra wind when the going got tough. Neutering will not calm these dogs down but exercise will. Exercise along with some mentally stimulating activity such as tracking, nose work, herding or hunting will drain that energy barrel.

A calm dog is achieved through exercise and training, not through surgical sterilization.

Joan Klucha has been working with dogs for more than 15 years in obedience, tracking and behavioural rehabilitation.