Timing is Everything: When Should You Spay or Neuter Your Dog?

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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

Wait…

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

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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

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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?

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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.

 

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~ Doggy Dan 🙂

Doggy Dan

Doggy Dan is the founder of The Online Dog Trainer, a wildly successful online training program for dog owners. His goal is to continue to share his unique approach to dog training with like-minded people who wish to make a difference in the world of dogs. His training methods focus on creating and building the connection between dogs and dog owners, and are shared and used around the world.

14 Responses

  1. We have a 15 month old Golden Lab, who has not experienced her 1st heat yet. We have 1/3 acre, but only a small portion is fenced. There are coyotes in our woods. When our girl starts her 1st heat, would she be vulnerable to male coyotes? What can I do to keep her safe, especially if she has to go out at night ? She has a 10 year old sister, a Golden Irish, and they always go out together. Our City Hall says our girls are safe if they’re over 35 pounds, (they attack adult deer, right???, and they’ll stay away if we re arrange patio furniture! Thanks!

    1. Hi Susan,
      If you are concerned about your dog going out in the night when she is heat then accompanying her outside and having her under control (on-leash) would be a good plan. As the article mentions, male dogs can cover a long distance to reach a female in heat and so it’s a good idea to supervise her or have her housed securely. Coyotes are slight in stature and tend to mainly hunt smaller prey, but it pays to always be cautious if they are present. All the Best, Doggy Dan

    1. Thanks Tim, thanks for your feedback and I’m really glad you liked my Blog! All the Best, Doggy Dan

  2. I already suscribe and find your training methods great. Just for your info, in some councils in Victoria Aus, the registration fee is higher for an unspayed dog. Also in Vic most reputable breeders automatically spay dog at 8 weeks. Otherwise you must sign a contract that you will not breed from that dog. Breeders must notify your council of your purchase. These laws were implemented with the clamp down of puppy farms in Victoria not sure what happens in other states.

    1. Thanks for sharing that information Liz! Those regulations make perfect sense and I absolutely agree with any laws that aim to stamp out puppy farming. All the Best, Doggy Dan

  3. Thanks for the information. We have a Chiweenie, he’s a year old and we going to get him neutered, for health purposes, and to calm him down. This is just what we needed to make that discussion.

    1. I’m glad you found my Blog helpful in making an informed decision about your dog being neutered. At the end of the day we all need to make a judgment as to what is best for our dogs and us, and part of that is to have all the pros and cons listed out in front of us. However, if you have any questions or concerns then speak to your Vet and they will be able to guide you. All the Best, Doggy Dan

  4. I would like to see a very detailed video showing how the harness is put on the dog. I have a puppy miniature poodle. Does this harness prevent the dog from jerking backwards & escaping from the harness? Like I said I would appreciate seeing a detailed video of how to put on the harness and demonstrate how the dog cannot jerk backwards & escaping the harness. Thank you.

  5. I am a married active 75 year old male. I live in the Adirondacks, lots of outdoor activities. Active but slowing down, no more running or mountain climbing. I have owned a few dogs in the past. I am researching dogs right now and kind of like the Spanish Water Dog but still open to other choices that may be less expensive. Can you help me select and prepare for a new member to our family?

    1. Hi David, one of the most important thing when choosing a puppy to suit your family is to focus on the personality of the puppy. Many people will focus on a breed, and it’s fine to have personal preferences here, but when it comes to behaviour it is the personality of the puppy that is most important. For example an owner is after a more sedentary dog then choosing a puppy with a very outgoing and hyperactive personality may not be the best idea, similarly if an owner wants an active driven dog and they choose a cal,er personality puppy. A good breeder will be able to guide you in your selection and should be interested in what type of puppy you are looking for.
      As far as getting everything off on the right foot, and raising a happy and well-behaved puppy, then my website TheOnlineDogTrainer.com shows you very clearly how to achieve this…maybe take a quick look…its a $1USD trial for 3 days…All the Best, Doggy Dan

  6. Hi. Thanks for this post. I had to look into my dog’s records to see if I’d done it right. He’s was 41 lb and 15 months when he was neutered. He’s happy and healthy, thank God. This post was very reassuring, too.

    1. Thanks for your feedback Mary!
      There are so many differing opinions when it comes to spaying/neutering dogs and my Blog was really aimed at informing dogs owners if they are a bit confused by it all. All the Best, Doggy Dan

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