Ahh the cone of shame…
Spaying and neutering household pets is a common, and well-praised, practice.
It reduces the risk of accidental breeding, which could land even more dogs in shelters.
And up until recently, it was recommended that you spay or neuter your dog as soon as physically possible, or around four to six months, which many shelters still do today to prevent unwanted litters.
However, research is starting to show that waiting to get your dog spayed or neutered might be better for their growth and overall health.
What happens if you get your dog fixed too soon?
It all depends on when your dog reaches their sexual maturity. Spaying or neutering prior to reaching that maturity could affect your dog’s development, affecting their musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, and immune systems.
Sex hormones are very important in proper development of any animal, and household pets are no different.
If your dog is fixed too soon, it could lead to joint issues like hip or elbow dysplasia and even some cancers like lymphoma.
That probably sounds scary to you, but let me be clear…
The benefits of spaying or neutering your dog outnumber the risks of doing it too early. So even if you’ve already spayed or neutered your pup or you’re planning to do it early to prevent an oopsie, you’re still doing what’s best for your dog.
Having all the information can help you make the best decision for your pup.
So, before we get into the best age for your dog to be spayed or neutered, let’s talk a little bit about all those benefits.
Benefits of Having Your Dog Spayed or Neutered
I’ve already mentioned it, but if your dog is in situations where unwanted breeding might occur, spaying or neutering is the surefire way to prevent this from happening.
Aside from breeding prevention, spaying and neutering your dog delivers a heap of health benefits.
If you have a female dog, spaying will greatly reduce her risk of developing mammary cancer…a cancer that’s fatal in nearly 50% of dogs.
Similarly for males, neutering your male dog eliminates his risk of testicular cancer entirely.
Behaviourally speaking…spaying and neutering can help avoid unwanted behaviors.
For females, that means your pup won’t have heat cycles and you won’t have to deal with howling, crying, or erratic activities that come with those hormonal shifts.
For males, this means you won’t have to worry about your dog constantly marking inside your home or roaming around to find a mate.
Spaying or neutering can help prevent infections, like uterine infection, that can be costly to treat.
So I must emphasize that it IS a good thing to get your dog spayed or neutered.
But…when is the best time??
The Best Age to Spay or Neuter Your Dog
The short answer is…the best time to spay or neuter your dog is when they reach their physical maturity.
Now…I say the short answer because it’s much more complicated than that, as different breeds of dogs reach their sexual maturity at very different times.
For example, small dogs and toy breeds mature very early, around six to nine months old. Smaller dogs are less likely to suffer from the adverse effects of early spaying or neutering, simply because their body is maturing at a faster rate.
The larger breeds mature much later, and for them you’ll want to consider waiting until they’re older to spay or neuter.
I’m talking over one year old.
That’s because some large breeds don’t mature until they’re 16-18 months old!
To break it down for you…
If you have a small-breed dog, they will likely experience no issues with getting spayed or neutered early on.
If you have a large-breed dog, there are many risks associated with spaying or neutering too early, so it’s best to wait until they’re older (1+ year) to get them fixed.
If you have questions, it’s always best to discuss them with your vet.
Let’s say you’ve decided to wait until your pup is older to get them spayed or neutered. How do you keep them out of trouble in the meantime?
An intact dog will require your constant supervision.
Unspayed female dogs attract male dogs (even from miles away), so you’ll want to keep an eye on her at all times so stray dogs don’t come wandering into your yard. A fence can help tremendously, and I’ve even seen people carry an umbrella on walks to ward off any male suitors.
Unneutered male dogs can get forceful. With all the testosterone coursing through their bodies, if a nearby female is in heat there’s no way to predict how an unneutered male dog might act. Keeping an eye on your dog and always having them on a leash when outside can ensure that they don’t try to break into a neighbor’s yard to mate with another female.
What About Dogs with Behavioral Issues?
You might have heard that neutering your dog can help curb some of their aggression. And there is some truth to that (as I just mentioned how unneutered males can become forceful).
So, if you’re finding that your good little boy is becoming more and more aggressive, then getting them neutered earlier might be the best solution for you.
That being said – with proper training – many male dogs can remain intact and have wonderful dispositions. A lot of behavior issues boil down to how you handle your dog…do you have a solid training foundation, and does your pup view you as the leader of the house?
When you have an appropriate relationship with your dog via training, you can let them know what behaviors are acceptable (playing a friendly game of tug) and what behaviors are not (marking inside the house).
If you want to set a strong foundation of training for a lifetime of learning, I would love it if you checked out my Dog Calming Code™ program.
It centers around the relationship you have with your dog, and helps you communicate with them in a language that they can understand.
So you both walk away with trust, friendship, and best of all, an obedient dog that will listen to you anywhere.
And remember, the best time to get your dog spayed or neutered is when it’s best for you…
…but if you do have a larger breed you might want to consider waiting until they’ve fully matured to avoid any health risks.
~ Doggy Dan