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*Please note that this article does not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of As in all matters related to your dog, please use your better judgement.

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by David the Dogman

Some owners fear to have their male dogs castrated because they believe it will cause them to get fat. Castration won't be the cause. Over feeding will be the reason. A castrated dog has an increased appetite and, if owners give them more food, then they will get fat. Keep to the same feeding levels as before castration and normal exercise and there will be no problem. However behavioral problems such as scenting a female on heat from a mile away and doing everything possible to get to that female could be greatly reduced or eliminated in a castrated dog.

Castration reduces testosterone levels so he is less likely to be attracted to other male dogs. Aggressive and dominance tendencies will also be reduced or eliminated. Neutered males still lift their legs but are less inclined to mark their territory They are also less prone to certain cancers and prostate problems but they will still mount. American research has shown that there is a 70% improvement in behavior after castration. Indeed it could be argued that it is cruel for uncastrated dogs not to be allowed to fulfill its natural urges.

Question: Is it best to spay a bitch before her first heat or after her first heat?

Answer: A number of vets may suggest that a bitch should be spayed at about 5/6 months. Whilst writing this the American Veterinary College is now recommending as young as 8 weeks. However I have found that this can have some behavioral effects in the second or third year. I recommend that it is best not to allow a female to come on heat. This is not a complicated operation. Most owners are unaware that a females behavior will start to change due to hormone influence about 8 weeks prior to the heat. There are a whole host of opinions including preseason spaying and not to spay at all. I recommend that bitches should be spayed shortly before the first heat if they are not to be used for breeding. She will live longer and not suffer mammary tumors or have phantom pregnancies where a dog imagines it has pups and produces milk. Neither will she have the mood swings from which all unspayed bitches suffer. This is supported by The Royal Veterinary College UK, the American Veterinary College.

Question: I have heard it is better to let my female have one litter of puppies.

Answer: A female does not have to have one litter of puppies. The myth that they need to do so may be responsible for the death of thousands of dogs each year as unwanted animals are euthanised in overcrowded shelters. The RSPCA reports that of all dogs born, half will not live to see the age of two years. They grow too big, out of fashion, develop behavior problems due to incorrect feeding, no training or socialization. Having a litter is not necessary for a female to feel 'fulfilled'. If the reproduction hormones are eliminated through spaying the bitch feels no urge to reproduce.

Question: I have a female boxer called Lady she is 3 years old. Her teats have swollen and the vet informed me she is having a phantom pregnancy, she has never had sex. Is this usual and what would you recommend?

Answer: A phantom pregnancy is when a female imagines and goes through all the symptoms of believing she is pregnant. Females will store toys and treat them like young puppies, her teats will get large (enlarged mammary glands )and she will even produce milk. Her Abdomen will swell and her appetite will change. The behavior is not good during this period.

At whelping time she will be very hyperactive and very excitable, she will pant and even tremble. She will curl up to her toys (puppies) varying symptoms are restlessness, whining and crying. Some females will go off their food and expect a lot of abnormal behavior. Females will become very affectionate to the family. Your vet should see the female who will no doubt recommend to reduce her diet and fluid intake, since the more she drinks the more milk will be produced. Dried food is best and plenty of exercise to keep her bowels moving so as to excrete all the excess fluid produced by her body.

A phantom pregnancy is not to be considered a neurotic tendency, but should be considered as normal behavior due to an abnormality of the ovaries. Another theory is that the wild only the dominant female in the pack will be covered by a dominant male of her choosing. The other females normally produce milk for the litter which can be in excess of ten puppies. The other females in the pack produce milk to help the mother to feed the puppies. I would not be surprised that another female in your area in about one kilometer has had puppies and your pet is producing milk for them. Your vet will treat your dog, and then I would recommend that she be spayed, so that she will not suffer again. Having a phantom pregnancy does not mean that the bitch is sterile and unable to be mated and bear a litter.

Question: I have a beautiful Husky, he was castrated when he was 6 months old and yet he still tries to mount dogs, even male dogs, is there something wrong, because I thought that castrated dogs did not do this?

Answer: Castration will not make any difference to his behavior, I have known castrated dogs that have penetrated females on heat. The mounting of male dogs is also a form of masturbation. I would have a word with your vet, maybe he will consider some female hormone to calm him down.

Sexual & Behavior Tendencies

The Female
Bitches are more affectionate and easier to control than the male dog. They are about thirty percent smaller than the male and whatever their breed, tend to be more gentle with children.

The bitch will come into season about every 6 months and this will last for around three weeks. The female is receptive to mating and extremely attractive to dogs that will instinctively try to mate with them. A good clear sign that a bitch is coming into 'Season' is that she will produce a discharge; initially a bloodstain, that will be deposited wherever she sits or lays. She will spend a great deal of time licking her vagina.

Be assured that your home will attract the local male dogs that will camp outside your home for about three weeks. Expect howling throughout the night to attract her attention.

The female will attempt to escape at the first possible opportunity so it is wise to keep all doors closed and secure, especially when greeting your guests. I have known bitches that have chewed their way through doors during the night to escape to get to the male dogs.

Do not underestimate the great heights that male dogs can climb and jump to reach a bitch on heat. During this period it is well known that the male dog can be extremely aggressive and would well attack you if you tried to send him away.

If you are not going to breed from your bitch it is best to consider having her neutered a few months before her first season. Veterinary Colleges have endless scientific proof that the female will live longer and the likelihood of mammary tumors is negligible. She will certainly not put on weight.

The Male

Male dogs whatever their breed tend to be more dominant than the female. The adult male has an instinctive urge to escape and wander free from home for periods ranging from an hour to several days or weeks.

Often a clear sign of a dominant male although house trained, will show when he starts to lift his leg in the house and urinate on walls and furniture. He does this to scent-mark his territory and to affirm his dominant status. This type of dog should be castrated.

Owners of dominant dogs should spend time re-enforcing their own dominance and insisting on absolute obedience. This can be achieved through a training club where you can learn how to control the dominant male when he meets another dominant male dog.

Dogs that are confined and not allowed to roam can develop sexual frustration and will mount the human leg and even mount children who crawl on the floor. This is intolerable and very dangerous to a child.

The best way to deal with this is to discuss the problem in an honest way with the vet who might consider either using a female hormone to try to counteract the condition or to castrate the dog.

I personally recommend castration for all dogs that are not to be used for breeding purposes. A castrated dog is happy and is free from worry and frustration. He will be more pleasant to have around, less likely to fight other males and more submissive to the wishes of the human pack leader. By having a dog castrated in no way alters any other instincts. He will guard, hunt, work, and retrieve.

The best time to castrate a male dog is around five to six months before he starts to lift his leg. Your vet will advise when your dog is suitable for this minor operation. Within twenty-four hours your dog will have fully recovered from the operation.

Commitment, Firmness, but kindness.

by David the Dogman

David is a Canine Behaviourist who works and lives in Marbella, Spain. Tel/Fax (00345) 2883388. His web site is located at: David has his own radio and TV shows, and writes for many newspapers and magazines. David has been working with dogs for many years and started his career in Israel, working on the Border Police. He has been involved in all forms of training, including air sea rescue, air scent work, and has trained dogs for finding drugs. David has devoted the past 10 years to studying behaviour and the very passive approach. He does not use choke chains, check chains, or any form of aggression.

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*Please note that this article does not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of As in all matters related to your dog, please use your better judgement.

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