Should I Have My Labrador Neutered: the latest evidence

59
62936

Neutering Labradors and other dogs is a topic which comes up regularly.

In my email inbox, in the comments section of the website, and on the forum, where we have recently had quite an in-depth discussion on the subject.

“Should I have my Labrador neutered” and “when should I have my dog neutered” are two very different questions, but both come up with equal frequency.

Regional differences in attitude to dog neutering

Whether or not you should neuter your dog, male or female, is a very personal decision, yet in many countries, the answer is often presumed in advance.

In the USA and Australia, routine neutering is very much standard practice.  The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals claims on their website that you will “gain medical and behavioral benefits by having your male dog neutered”.

In most of Scandinavia neutering  is not routinely practiced and in some parts it is actually illegal to neuter a dog without good reason.

A look at the pros and cons of neutering your dogWhere I live in the UK,  while neutering is fairly common, it is by no means an inevitable outcome for all dogs, and many dogs here are left entire.

Americans visiting our forum and asking what is the best age to de-sex my dog, are often surprised to hear than many of our members have entire dogs.  And even more surprised to have their assumption that neutering is best for their dog challenged.

Different opinions on neutering

Many people will tell you that there are health benefits to neutering your dog.

And this is true.

Many people will tell you that there are health benefits to leaving your dog entire.  And this is also true.

Some people will tell you it is essential that you neuter your dog. This is not true.

Others will tell you that it is essential that you do not neuter your dog. This also is not true.

Getting at the facts about neutering

It is a confusing topic and one that can generate quite strong feeling, with people being very convinced that their stance on neutering is the right one.

And of course, it can be quite hard to hear others claiming that something you and all your friends have done, is actually harmful to dogs.

So it is not surprising that this topic causes arguments online, and that the subject is often left unresolved, with everyone more muddled at the end than they were at the beginning

What those caring for puppies and young dogs need, is the facts about neutering.  The evidence about what the likely effects of this procedure will be on their dogs.  And because people often have a bias on this issue, evidence can be difficult to find.

Looking at dog neutering evidence

There have been some quite large studies recently that look at the effects of neutering on various aspects of dog health and behaviour.
chocolate labrador

What I would like to do in this article is ‘zero in’ on this evidence, so that we can compare the advantages and the disadvantage of neutering in a factual way.

We’ll be looking specifically at the effects of neutering on behaviour and on physical health

You’ll find me using the word ‘may’ and ’might’ quite a bit, because I want to be objective and not claim ‘this is so’ if we are not sure, or if we only know that ‘this is so’ in certain circumstances –  in one particular breed of dog for example.

At the end though, I will stick my neck out a little bit, and give you my own personal conclusions.

Reasons for neutering dogs

I think that it is important to look first at reasons for neutering.  Because you need to know why you are neutering your dog, in order to ensure that the results you get are what you wanted.

And of course, no-one wants to fork out for an expensive operation, or cut bits off their dogs for no good reason and with no benefit.  We need to know if it works!

The four most common reasons given for neutering dogs are

  • Birth control
  • Health
  • Behaviour
  • Convenience

Reason 1: Birth control

Preventing pregnancy is the reason most often given by members of the veterinary profession for the routine neutering of dogs.

At one time when dogs roamed the streets unsupervised (and in locations where this is still common place) neutering was an important part of resolving the problems of dog over-population.

Most of the people that ask me about neutering however, do not leave their dogs free to roam the streets or countryside. Their dogs are kept in a secure garden and exercised under supervision.

This practice has become essential in the UK and other densely populated countries, where the increasing volume of traffic over the last half century has made our streets far too hazardous for dogs to run free.

So, aside from convenience, which we’ll look at below, the most common reason that people chose to neuter their dogs is not because they are afraid their dog might mate or get pregnant, but because they believe that neutering will confer benefits to the dog (and his family) in terms of health and behaviour.

Reason 2: Health benefits

If you are intending to neuter your dog in order to keep him or her in good health, it is pretty important that neutering will actually achieve this!

And this is where the real controversy lies.  Let’s look at why neutering was so widely recommended in the UK until recently.

Cancer in bitches

For some time, neutering was widely promoted as a way of preventing dogs from getting cancer.

Studies  showed that neutering bitches before the second season for example, greatly reduces their risk of getting mammary cancer, and early neutering, before the first season, almost eliminates that risk entirely.

This made neutering seem like a very good idea.

More recently those studies have been called into question.  But twenty years ago, almost all vets recommended neutering female dogs on this basis.

Pyometra

Then there is pyometra. I have personal experience of this horrible disease as two of my spaniels contracted it.

You can find more information here:  Pyometra – how to make sure your Labrador is safe  – but simply put, pyometra is an infection of the womb that around a quarter of all entire female dogs will get at some point in their lives.

The older the bitch, the greater the risk. And pyometra can be fatal if not treated promptly.

There is no question that the risk of pyometra is almost completely avoided if your bitch is spayed. However public awareness of this condition is still not widespread so it is not necessarily a common reason for dog owners to chose to spay their female dogs.

Reason 3: Better behaviour

So, that brings us to male dogs.  It stands to reason that a dog with no testicles, cannot get cancer of the testicles!

Labrador liegt am Boden und lacht

But the main reason that people neuter male dogs is not for the health benefits, though they usually believe there are some.

It is because they believe that neutered male dogs are better behaved or have nicer manners than their oversexed hormone fuelled counterparts.  But is it true?

Concerns about male behaviour

Here are some of the behaviours people worry about in mature entire male dogs

  • Roaming
  • Aggression
  • Humping/mounting
  • Marking/cocking leg

Neutering male dogs was believed to prevent or reduce a whole range of behaviours associated with or thought to be driven by, the hormone testosterone.

Removing a dog’s testicles was presumed to be an excellent way of preventing these behaviours.

However, recent studies suggest that these conclusions are not supported by evidence.  We’ll have a look at those in a moment. Finally there is reason 4.

Reason 4: Convenience

Though not everyone is willing to put their hand up and say so, convenience is quite a common reason for neutering bitches.

It is definitely inconvenient when your entire, mature bitch comes into season.

For three to four weeks you cannot walk her in public places, and she has a bloody vaginal discharge which will stain carpets and furniture.  This usually means relegation to the kitchen or other rooms with washable floors.

Working dogs

When the dog has a job of work to do, dogs such as guide dogs for example, this inconvenience becomes life-altering for the dog’s carer.  It basically means that the dog cannot do its job for a period of time.

So for many service dogs, this consideration will over-ride any other concerns.

Dogs in day care

Some day care centres may stipulate whether or not they will take entire dogs.  If you go out to work and have to leave your dog in day care, then this will be an important consideration for you.

There we have it.  Four reasons to neuter a dog: birth control, health, behaviour and convenience.   Now let’s look at if neutering actually achieves what it is intended to do.

Is neutering effective?

Neutering clearly renders dogs infertile, so we don’t need to address the birth control aspect here.  And there is no doubt that neutering removes the inconvenience of caring for a bitch in season.

But what about the health, and behavioural benefits that lead so many people to neuter their dogs?

Does neutering really protect dogs from the risk of serious illnesses like cancer, and does it really improve the behaviour of male dogs?

Let’s look at some recent studies. These are studies on which veterinary professionals and informed dog owners are now relying in order to make decisions about neutering.  First we need to quickly look at the question of how we can best evaluate the evidence we have.

Evaluating evidence

Some interesting studies have now been published which contain data on health and behavioural differences between neutered and entire dogs.

These studies  are beginning to influence expert opinion, in the UK at least, on the value and appropriateness of neutering our pets.  I have picked four of these studies to discuss here.

There are other studies too, but I have chosen these four because they cover the largest sample of dogs.  Large samples help to reduce the chances of the results being arrived at by coincidence

However, the size of a study is not the only aspect to consider when evaluating evidence. And these studies are by no means perfect.

The best evidence

In an ideal world we would be able to compare large numbers of dogs which would be randomly allocated to a ‘neutered’ or ‘not neutered’ groups.

Dogs in the neutered group would be castrated at the same age and all the dogs in the trial would be assessed at intervals throughout their lives by someone impartial.

It would be even better if the observers making the assessments didn’t know which dogs were neutered. This could be achieved by cosmetic surgery on neutered dogs in the form of artificial testicle implants.

However, realistically, this is simply not going to happen, so the evidence we do have is all we have at the moment.

Study no. 1

The first study is a summary of findings detailed in a Masters thesis submitted to and accepted by Hunter College by Parvene Farhoody in May, 2010.

The research was carried out in the form of a questionaire which the owners of over ten thousand dogs filled in.  The C-BARQ questionaire asked 101 questions aimed at looking at how neutering affected behavioural and physical characteristics of the dogs in the survey.

The results of the study were surprising because they showed that contrary to the prevailing view, neutered dogs were more aggressive, fearful, excitable and less trainable, than dogs which had not been neutered.

You can read the full study here:Behavioral and Physical Effects of Spaying and Neutering Domestic Dogs (Canis familiaris)

Study no. 2

greenies for dogs
This was a study of over 2500 Hungarian Viszlas published in 2014, by Christine Zink, Parvene Farhoody, Samra E. Elser, Lynda D. Ruffini; Tom A. Gibbons, and Randall H. Rieger.

The study showed that dogs which were neutered had significantly increased odds of developing mast cell cancer, lymphoma, all other cancers, all cancers combined, and fear of storms, compared with the odds for sexually intact dogs.

The younger the age at which the dogs were neutered, the earlier the mean age at diagnosis of mast cell cancer, cancers other than mast cell, hemangiosarcoma, lymphoma, all cancers combined, a behavioral disorder, or fear of storms.

You can read the full study here:Evaluation of the risk and age of onset of cancer and behavioral disorders in gonadectomized Vizslas

Study no. 3

This next study is an older and smaller version of the first study. It was published in 2006 by Deborah L. Duffy, and James A. Serpell.  It also used the C-BARQ questionnaire.

It found that urine marking was reduced in neutered dogs but like the 2010 study it found that most behavioural problems were worse rather than better in the dogs which had been neutered.

You can read the full study here: Non-reproductive Effects of Spaying and Neutering on Behavior in Dogs 

Study no. 4

This study published in 2013 included 759 Golden Retrievers. It looked at the effects of neutering on joint disorders and cancer.

Hip dysplasia and cranial cruciate ligament tears were more common in early neutered males and females. As were several different forms of cancer.

For example, almost 10 percent of early-neutered males were diagnosed with lymphosarcoma, 3 times more than intact males.  You can find the abstract for this study here

Another study comparing Labradors with Golden Retrievers found that the effects of neutering in Labradors were not as severe.

For example in Labradors joint disorders were doubled in dogs neutered before six months old, whereas in Golden Retrievers there were 4-5 times more joint disorders in the early neutered group

Potential flaws in these studies

With retrospective studies and studies where data is accumulated through questionnaires there is always scope for bias.

It could be argued for example that owners of entire dogs are more likely to ‘play down’ their dog’s behavioural problems in order to justify leaving their dogs entire.

And it is clear that there are differences between different breeds of dog

However, what we do not have here, is any evidence at all to support the view that neutering male dogs improves their general behaviour or health.

So what can we conclude from all this?  Here is my summary, based on the available evidence so far.

Effects of neutering on female dogs

Neutering your female dog is will prevent her from getting pyometra which is very common, but curable if treated promptly.

Neutering may also make your bitch susceptible to a number of different forms of cancer, which may not be curable.  It may also make her more prone to orthopaedic problems.

Neutering your female dog will also mean you are free from the inconvenience of twice yearly seasons.  This could be a major factor to you especially if you work, rely on,  or compete with your dog.

Summary – male dogs

Neutering your male dog may make him more susceptible to number of different forms of cancer, which may not be curable.  It may also make him more prone to orthopaedic problems.

Neutering your male dog will probably not improve his behaviour and may make it worse.

A personal view

My personal feeling is that the adverse effects of neutering male dogs outweigh the benefits.

With female dogs the situation is a little less clear.

I have had one of my spaniels spayed to protect her from pyometra, but in the light of the latest evidence, I have decided not to do this with my Labradors

My logic is that I can closely observe my female dogs for the weeks following each season and that pyometra, if it happens, can be treated effectively.

Whereas hemangiosarcoma and lymphoma are less likely to be curable.

There are no easy answers here.

What is right for one family, or one dog, may not be right for another.  What is important is that you know why you want to neuter your dog, and that you know whether or not those aims are likely to be met through neutering.

And it is likely that more studies and more information will arise over the coming years that will hopefully throw more light on this complex issue.

How about you?

Did you have your dog neutered?  And are you happy with the results?  Share your thoughts in the comments box below.  Or join in the conversation on the forum.

 
SHARE
Previous articleMy Puppy Wees On Visitors!
Next articleHow To Cope With A Naughty Labrador
Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of several books on dogs. She is the founder of the Labrador Site and a regular contributor. She is passionate about helping people enjoy their Labradors and lives in Hampshire with her husband and four dogs.

59 COMMENTS

  1. A very interesting article. I have an intact male Brittany, who is a rescue. I also have a spayed Flatcoated Retriever. They are best friends. My only problem with the Brittany is he tends to fight with other intact males. This happens more when the Flatcoat is around and has gone to see the other intact male. Most of the time he is fine. We are at present trying the Suprelorin implant on him and we are at the 4 week stage. If the aggression gets worse or doesn’t change, we will not neuter him, just let the implant wear off. Any comments gratefully received.

  2. Does anyone know if Labradors try to mate with smaller breeds, such as Chihuahuas or terriers? My lab is male and my other 2 dogs are female? Trying to decide who to spay/neuter. Would like advice

  3. Local vets are all pro neuter. I’d not heard of possible worsening behavior! Luckily I have a few month to weigh the pros and cons. My last male, a Yorkie, didn’t seemed changed to me after his neuter. I was afraid his potty training would be affected but he carried on as if nothing was changed. And he’s a sweetie, a cuddle. But some of points made here are having me take a second look at doing my latest male. Thank you all for the information.

  4. Thank you Pippa for this very helpful and intelligent article. Some sane and objective debate about this issue is badly needed! I have a 9 month old golden retriever bitch who has just had her first season and I have already had unwelcome pressure from the vet and some of the dog owners/walkers at the park to get her neutered. I did sign a contract with the breeder to say I wouldn’t do it until she is 24 months, if then. Her first season was no problem to deal with at all, just a little more tidying up of the house and of her!, plus lots of games in the garden instead of her daily walk. Despite all the gloomy predictions, she was fine without daily walks for four weeks, and she’s much better on the lead thanks to all the practice in the garden! So far, so good, and I’ve no intention of having her neutered in the foreseeable future.

  5. Pippa I’ve got a 3.5 yr old lab who can become v obsessed with bitches who’ve recently been in season and some neutered dogs some of the time. I’ve been debating the whole chemical castration/neutering debate and I’m so torn. I have no other reason to do anything other than this obsessive behaviour which just sometimes makes it impossible for me to work/walk or train him around others. I just wondered if in your research you came across anything that might suggest sexual frustration diminishes with age. I’m trying to work out if I continue to try and manage the situation or whether I need to be more proactive. Any advice grateful. TIA

  6. Thank you for the very informative article. We lost our beautiful yellow lab after we had him neutered and he died of blood poisoning. He died horribly and we were scarred by the experience. While i know this is probably a rare occurrence our view of neutering is quite biased. We have a beautiful black lab now and there is pressure from many including vets to have him neutered. We want to do the best for our dog and have been doing the research because despite what happened if we felt it was absolutely the best for his health we would get it done. It is hard to find a balanced view on the subject but your article has helped. Thank you again. We wont’t be getting him done !

  7. I was passed your article by a friend as she knew my interest in this issue. While I do not have a retriever I do have a rottie and this is a breed that has been studied by Dr Water at Purdue University for many years. I will be leaving my girl intact until at least her 5th year to decrease the chances of osteosarcoma as well as other issues. By then I may just leave her alone as l really see no change in her temperament. Glad to see we are slowly doing away with all the myths of intact dog ownership and blanket spay neuter rules.

  8. My previous lab, we adopted at 10 months old, was neutered early. I believe at 5 months. He tore his ACL in both hind legs at different times which required surgery. He also had hip dysplasia. I have decided not to neuter our current lab, now 10 months old. He had a vasectomy several weeks ago. I will reassess neutering around age 2. However, based on what I’ve read, I want him to have those hormones while he’s still growing.

  9. I have a 6 month old lab and I have read your article more than once. I am still unsure whether to have her spayed or not. We live in a village where nearly everyone has a dog, it would be impossible to take her out as a lot of the intact males are within smelling distance. Although my garden is secure I still couldn’t leave my girl out in the garden as she is a digger and a jumper and would climb my 6ft fence with ease. Local dogs would probably be able to climb over just as easily. I am also concerned about pyometra and any other illnesses which can be related to unspayed dogs. My vet has recommended she be spayed as soon as she is able and I must admit I do trust my vet. My last dog was spayed at 6 months and suffered no adverse reactions, she did suffer from an enlarged heart which my vet says had nothing to do with being spayed early.

  10. Thank you for the article. My Sonny is 15month a yellow lab. And im tring to decide if nutering is right for our family. The only reason im considering it now is his recent aggressive behaviour at the dog park with other male intact dogs. I have lots to think about.

  11. Only reason we are seriously considering neutering is our lab knows if there is a bitch or neutered male on our walk and will run off to find them. Last lab was neutered and had mast cell tumours and died of stomach cancer. But I’m scared this boy will follow the scent he’s chasing out onto a road……

  12. I have had Labs all my life 6 who are now at the rainbow bridge and my current two males who have been desexed. Nearly all my previous dogs have died from cancer and all desexed. Our current two males are desexed and one has had a mast cell tumor at 3 years old. They are have always been fed a raw food diet and compete in agility very successfully. I will definitely be looking at other options with future dogs and consider not desexing males. Dont think I could cope with an entire bitch and find they have false pregnancies a lot, but will look at other means of desexing such as tubal ligation as people have. Thanks for your very informative article. I am inAustralia.

  13. I’ve had 2 male black labs which were brothers Caffrey was neutered because he developed a lump at the age of 2. Delaney was kept whole they both had the same temperament and Caffrey would still try to escape over the 6 ft fence if he could!! Delaney ( who was whole remember) never showed any signs of roaming so as far as I’m concerned that argument went out the window lol. Both of them lived to be 12 and a half and in those 12 years I never saw any difference between them health wise they were energetic and soppy the pair of them. I can understand why neutering is done but I wouldn’t have had Caffrey done if he’d been ok. One thing I did notice was that caffrey could put on weight if not careful and he was a bit of a bin thief! Whereas Delaney seemed to know when he’d had enough not sure if this had anything to do with neutering though! You have to do what you think is best for your dog and weigh up all the pros and cons I think your article will help a lot of people

  14. Thank you so much for presenting all aspects of this highly controversial subject of dog neutering as you see it. Yours is the first straight forward article that I’ve actually made sense of. I am the very fortunate owner of a beautiful Labrador bitch called Gertie. Since her very first visit to the Vets, I have been asked several times if I am going to have her spayed. My answer has been No, not now followed by the question Why? The reactions to my response, have been on the whole, those of incredulity. As a responsible dog owner, I know how important it is that as she is still an intact bitch, that I keep a close eye on her during her season. Exercise her in a considerate way towards other dog and their owners. Be watchful for potential signs of phantom pregnancies and anything that’s appears unusual. I don’t have a closed mind to anything that helps give my beautiful Gertie a healthy life. As she matures, I might look at the posibility of having her neutered if it helps prevent her getting diseases of the ovaries, uterus and other related illnesses. It’s just I find that the general across the board opinion that all bitches should be neutered as soon as they’ve had their first season to be a step to far.

  15. Reggie is 2.5 years old entire black labrador. I imagined id do it when he was fully grown but didn’t want to put him through an operation as he’s my baby. Also the cost as I’m on a low income.
    After reading your article I now have no intention of putting him through it unless he shows signs of testicular cancer in later years. Two local labs were neutered st 8 years of age and they still try to hump him so it seems pointless unless there’s an iminent health risk.
    He has had a one time tie which was my fault for leaving them in the garden together. She was an old collie and had previously not shown signs. How wrong was I. Well after id paid for the injections to ensure she didn’t have puppies my purse was empty…
    Great article. All these owners and vets who operate on canines at crazy young ages should read this!!!!!

  16. My Sonny puppy. 7 months 8 in a week is sill intact. Yello lab. Such a happy, loving, kind doggie. We have been thinking about neutering at 12 months. After your article I dont see many health bennifits to do it. Thank you for giving all the evidence and letting us come to our own coclusion.

  17. Dear Pippa & Labs’s Owners,
    Greetings from Portugal!Thank you all for all interesting things that I was learning from you 🙂 I would really appreciate your advice in regards with this aspect of neutering ….I actually desperate need it!!!
    My baby boy,a funny,beautiful,intelligent,educated (read trained) etc 7 months Labrador,Buba,he has a special condition:he suffers (?) of Cryptorchidism.My vet keeps trying to convince me that I should proceed and get him neutered …I am not a big fun of this ideea (in special after reading and reading so many pros & cons ).I have asked the second opinion and I have been told that I can make the surgery only for the testicle which is inside and leave the other one .I am more into this option,honestly…I am aware about the anesthesy effects,about the level of testosteron gonna be half (or not? ) however I would rather operate him but not castrate.
    Kindly advise,please,what is it your opinion on this???
    Thank you so ,so much for your time and kindness!Looking forward to hearing from you soon 🙂
    Kindest Regards ,Dana
    PS:Buba is a healthy,playful,energetic puppy with no behaviour issues,out of a naughty boy 🙂

  18. I live in the USA. Local county ordinances pretty much force you to get your dog/bitch neutered/spayed; the cost differential of a county pet licence (required) is dramatic between entire dogs ($60 US per yr) or altered dogs ($20 US per yr). (Past) I had/have two female labs spayed at 6 mths, as was the norm back when we acquired those dogs (15+ and 9+ yrs ago). Neither have had any health issues (the oldest lived to 15+ yrs, for an 85 lb female, she was always in amazingly excellent health); both of my females had/have fantastic dispositions–so I did not see any difference (although I could/would never know what their dispositions would have been if they were not spayed).

    I just acquired a new family member, now a 10 wk old female lab and started doing research as to current thought about age to get spayed. This article was quite helpful–in addition to many others I have read. My vet would NEVER spayed sooner than 6 mths (although local animal rescues and animal control sez to do it at 10-12 weeks old! Ridiculous!) My vet is currently recommending to wait until 10 or 12 months. (I’ve had same vet for 15+ yrs). After reading lots on labs growth and the possibility of early spayed/neutered contributing to hip dysplasia, I will wait for our new little girl until she is about or at a year old.

  19. Thankyou for a very informative article- like many of the comments above I feel under a lot of pressure to have my 14 month working fox red boy castrated especially from my vet and dog trainer! I have a calm, friendly, non aggressive dog who doesn’t hump or show any antisocial behaviors ( apart from excess marking and scenting and poor recall from some female dogs when he’s off leash-which when I enquire are either in season or just coming out of season!) I know I have to work more on making him want to be with me in these instances so it is about my dog handling – but other than that I would be very worried I’d change his lovely personality for the worse in some way if I was to get “him done”. I have found all the comments from previous male lab owners very helpful in making me stick with the decision to keep him intact. Thank you everyone.

  20. I have decided to keep my dog entire for reasons partially covered in this article. He is an animal capable of a wide range of behaviour; as an owner I understand and accept that. I did feel pressurised into neutering my dog, not that much by my vet, by my follow dog owners, some of whom still fall silent (but i can hear their criticising thoughts) when I mention my dog is entire. He does sniff on walks, but no more than our past neutered dogs. And i see that as part and parcel of being a dog owner. I make sure he gets a lot of sniffing time, which makes him happy and balanced. I’ve been continually training him. The advice out there is very confusing and it’d be great to have some more research. This article with the the advice from my dog trainer was instrumental in helping me make my decision. So thank you.

  21. Dear Pippa,
    Congratulations and heartfelt thanks for wriiting a wonderfully informative and honest article on a topic most pet parents constantly fret about. My 6 month old male lab puppy has an appointment with his vet this coming Monday. And when I finish typing this reply, I am going to pick up the phone and cancel it! My Simba will stay intact, God willing! And Simba will always be grateful to Pippa ! Kindness from strangers to strangers ❤️ Thank you!

  22. Thanks for offering a sensible and objective resource on this issue. I have been struggling with this decision for my 14 month old male lab over the past few months. We were advised by the vet not to consider neutering until 18 months if we wanted him to reach his physical potential and he has grown into a beautiful masculine dog so I think this has been good advice. He has a lovely temperament and I am learning that most of his more undesirable behaviours are lessening (very gradually) with constant reinforcement of training. My only problem is he has tendency to run to other dogs (particularly females) when we are out walking – sometimes covering long distances which take him out of sight. After reading your article I am not sure that neutering would solve this problem any more effectively than continuing with training so I have decided against at this stage. Thank you for providing some clarity amidst the on-line maze of confusing info on this subject matter! 🙂

  23. Pippa. I am about to get a female lab puppy and have been doing a lot of reading on this subject. One of the things I have read is that dogs spayed or neutered early will be taller, since the growth plates of the long bones will remain open longer, leading to a possible increase in joint problems. Also, that bone density will be less than a post maturity de-sexed dog. Another trend that I have read about is hormone sparing spaying for female, i.e., a salpingectomy (tubal ligation), or an hysterosalpingectomy, leaving the ovaries intact. What are your thoughts? Also what about an increase in adrenal tumors, and also hypothyroidism in adult dogs that have had early spay/neutering? Sexual hormones are also produced in tiny amounts in the adrenal gland, which, when the primary sex hormone organ is removed, can lead to an increase in stimulation and size of the adrenal sex hormone producing cells, with possible tumor development.

  24. HI, I have a 6 year old male chocolate lab. We got him at 8 weeks and he’s been our pride and joy! He is an intact male and we were undecided early on about having him neutered. I felt we would after he matured at the age of two. I wanted to make sure he reached his maturity level before alteration. I also wanted to see his personality after maturity. We thought we may save him for a stud. As I said, he’s now 6 and still intact. I felt I had no justification to have him castrated. He’s not overly aggressive, he’s smart, easy trainer and listens well. He has a great personality and I don’t want that to change, who’s to say with less testosterone it wouldn’t. My husband is not a fan of castration unless it is a health issue/benefit such as due to cancer. He’s a healthy, muscled, virgin boy and he will stay intact. He is always supervised outside, walked with his people, and our inside fur baby. We have had no problems with him humping anything, yes he marks a lot (outside) if we let him but that can also be trained and controlled. God intended a male to have testicles for a reason, health and such and until a day comes that these have failed, then we will adjust accordingly. USA. Wash. DC

    • Bless you for such an honest and upright post! It has firmed up my views about not touching my 6 month old lovely yellow boy labrador! He is handsome, sweet, wonderful, very easy to train, and has a detailed pedigree of gentleness and high IQ for past 6 generations. I had booked him for his operation on the coming Monday and I am so glad that Monday will come and go like all others before it.

    • Thank you for your article. I have been debating on this subject since my Mum took ill 2 months ago. Our baby is a 5 year old black lab. He has had a very priveledged life in that he has stays home with my mum whilst my husband and I work. Until they became ill, we have been questioned about the fact that he is an entire male by daycare centres, all but one which was a relief to find. But everything you have written about your lab is true to word as mine is exactly the same. Thank you.

  25. Thank you for this! We are first time dog owners and had assumed we’d have our male Labrador pup neutered shortly after 6 months. When we did a bit of research, the case wasn’t so clear and we decided to at least wait until full maturity at just over two. Our vet has been great. The dog’s in excellent physical shape and she questioned the need for neutering, pointing out potential for weight gain. Basically, most of the pressure to neuter has come from the dog-walker (who said it would make her life easier). It has been a difficult decision, but we have now changed dog-walker and have left our friendly, confident, healthy dog intact! Really good to read your take on it and confirm we’re not overly neurotic/protective dog parents!

  26. Pippa,
    Just wanted to say thank you for all the information your site has provided. I have now a 7-month old black lab and since he was 4 months, I like many other, believed that neutering was the answer; however my husband was against it and therefore I was set to prove him incorrect. – Buddy has had no major issues with him except the skin irritation (tks to your other postings I will be trying those remedies) .
    After doing a lot of research and reading up on the studies your posted I am happy to say that both of my male dogs will not be neutered. Like my husband said their testicles are there for a reason, unless for major health issues there is not need to remove them! Thank you again and I am sure my dogs would thank you as well!!!! Looking forward to reading more articles in the future.

  27. Hi Pippa
    I greatly appreciate your article. I am a beginner and just recently got a black male labrador puppy 9 weeks old. I know this question won’t arise for some time but it is one that already causes arguments within the family, i am totally against neutering where as my wife wants to have it done when our “dog is ready” in her opinion. Your article helps my case i guess…but aside off your argument-health and behaviour issues, is it not extremely uncomfortable for a male dog to live a life in celibacy assuming we take care off him not to actually do a female dog-forgive my poor expression-can training really suppress his natural instincts? Off course considering always what’s best for him.

  28. I had my one yr old male neutered last week. He has become very clingy and doesn’t want me out of his sight. He has started to bark more since neutering which I found strange but it is firework season so that may be why.
    My reason for neutering, he was constantly trying to hump one of our cats, and was so difficult to control out on walks if he smelt or saw other dogs. He’s not aggressive in any way, and he doesn’t bark or growl at other dogs, he just wants to play. I was advised by my vet to have him neutered as they said it would prevent cancer and joint issues in the future, they advised against it being done before he was a year old.
    I am now very concerned about the cancer and joint/bone problems that may occur in the future and I’m thinking have I done the wrong thing listening to my vet??
    He hasn’t attempted to hump the cat since he was done, so the cats happier!

  29. As a mom of 3 labs, my 9 yr old was neutered at 3 1/2 yrs, my girl was spayed at 12 mos & my 5 yr old is intact. I also toyed with the idea of snipping him this summer after it was determined he has elbow dysplasia of which he shows zero signs. His breeder & I agreed at 8 wks, I would wait til 24 mos before considering neutering, now at 5 I have decided to leave him entire, breeder concurs. He’s a virgin, does sports & plays beautifully at off leash dog environments. It’s about the owner being in control, not the hanging hardware! I live in the USA!

    • Thanks for your comment Janet, sounds like your breeder has kept up with the research, and you’ve taken the time to train him Hope your boy continues free from ED symptoms. 🙂

  30. I just rescued/adopted a male black lab, believed to be 11 months, and he is entire. I am seriously debating the neuter/not neuter issue. He is so sweet when alone, but very aggressive around other dogs, although playfully, it could just be the puppy in him still. He marks everywhere when walking, not in the house though. I think he needs a lot of discipline and training and if he shows no sign of improvement after extensive training I will resort to neutering as a last resort. The controversial health issues are the main reason I am considering it at all. I have seen studies which argue both ends of better health if neutered/not neutered. These most recent ones are interesting though.

  31. I have 4 labradors. Black male neutered and one white female spayed. 2 chocolates -. Male and female not spayed.

    The spayed labbies are so much more aggresive. The white labbie gained alot of weight and sleep most of the day.

    Thnk you for this report.

  32. Very sound piece, which will go some way to dispelling the myths about neutering.

    It always puzzles me when people refer to neutering as “getting the dog fixed,” as if the dog is in some way faulty and needs to be put right. Being entire is the normal state – for dogs as well as for humans.

    It’s worth noting from the studies quoted that bitches too suffer from increased risk of aggression after spaying. As for males, the earlier the neutering the higher the risk of fears and aggression.

    • Thanks Beverley, it is interesting to note the behavioural downsides of neutering isn’t it. Especially when so many people think neutering will improve behaviour. 🙁

  33. Thank you for sharing the research in this article. I found it quite interesting.
    We have had 5 retrievers over the years. Our first dog – a golden retriever was spayed by emergency surgery at 12 mos. when she suffered from pyometra after her second heat. Although we almost lost her from this illness, she fully recovered and lived a long and healthy life to the age of 17 yrs. Her only issue was weight gain in her older adult years. Our second and third dogs, also females – a yellow lab and a chocolate lab were both spayed at 6-7 mos. and both lived healthy to just over 13 yrs., some arthritis w/ both labs but not until after age 12 and weight gain was always an issue. Our fourth dog – a golden/lab rescue was previously neutered by the rescue league at 7 wks. He did have an issue w/ his right hind leg at 10 mos. (meniscus instability), but through a holistic approach and diet, we healed his problem w/o surgery and he is a very healthy adult dog now at 7 1/2 yrs. He happens to be the one dog who is storm fearful, too. Our fifth dog – also a golden/lab mix was neutered just yesterday at 6 1/2 mos. old. With this puppy, we plan on using the same holistic and diet approach as with our 7 1/2 yr. old golden/lab. I am optimistic about our new puppy’s future health with a focus on supplementing his diet for strong bone and joint development. Thankfully, none of our dogs have ever had cancer. I have no regrets with neutering any of our dogs but I do believe younger than 6 mos. is too early.

  34. Great article thanks. I had my working Cocker/Lab castrated at 28 months after a few months of anguish as I had intended to keep him entire. He was very very keen on bitches even when (allegedly) out of season and would mark anything and everything near females. He even left a peg to find a female in the beating line some distance away. He was becoming unmanageable. A hormone injection successfully tempered this behaviour and showed that castration would calm him down. Before adolescence he was a beautifully steady dog who took training well, but after six months of hell I had him done. He very soon returned to ‘normal’ and hasnt lost any of his positive characteristics. He is just more subservient near entire dogs but was always had this trait. I was worried about weight gain but he has remained stable. As a cross I had no intention of breeding so all in all my fears were unfounded. Obviously concerned to learn that he may be prone to increased risk of cancer. I do however feed a BARF diet as IMHO consider processed food to be unnatural and a potential source of such problems.

    • Sounds as though he’s a happier boy now. It’s good to make these decisions on an individual basis, and chemical castration can be a useful ‘test’ of how neutering will affect a male dog.

  35. I have a 2 year old unaltered male chocolate lab. He is so full of energy and he has taken off on me twice. I’m not sure if this had anything to do with not having him fixed. It’s been 6 months now since he last took off. We have been working on his manners and staying in the yard and he has been doing great! If he gets his exercise, he’s the best dog. We really considered neutering him after the last take off but he has shown he is perfect the way he is. He NEVER marks in the house and loves to please us. He occasionally humps a pillow or a blanket but it’s really no big deal. I’m happy to read this article knowing that it could be more beneficial to keep him unaltered.

  36. Hi Pippa
    – thanks for a lovely clear article – where one can find the info “under one roof” – I would like to send it to my english speaking clients as well as the French speaking ones – do I have your permission to do that as well as translating to Fench (full credit back to you of course

    thanks and let me know 🙂

    • Hi Marina, I don’t give permission for people to copy my articles I’m afraid, but much of this material and references will be available in my forthcoming book. I’ll be posting news about that shortly. And I do appreciate you asking.

  37. Our Lab will be 2 next month, we were not sure if we want to neuter him at the age of 6 month, so we left him entire. At 8 month he had problem with his elbow, so we decided to let his bones grow and leave him as it is. I researched a lot before making decision. His weight is just perfect now, hes not leaving our side even off lead, never tries to escape garden and barely ever barks, hes absolutely gentle and amazing dog, i think how you bring them up and train means a lot. He never attended any classes, but before we brought him home we researched what can we expect and how to deal with unwanted behavior. Marking outside is different story, but he only does it if its a boring walk, if we keep him occupied he does not cock leg even once.

  38. I have a 13 week old male Yellow Lab. I have heard a lot of negatives about not neutering him. But I have also had a spayed Golden Retriever in the past; who died from cancer and struggled with hip displacia for years. I miss her and hope to prevent many of her health issues with this little guy. The one question I have about intact males and territory marking is; do they do this in houses or just outside. My son had a Boston Terrier that was neutered and every time he came to my house he lifted his leg on one or more objects. UHG!!! Was that a behavioral issue or territory marking even though he was neutered? Because I sure do not want my Marley doing that if I don’t or do neuter him.

  39. in reference to people keeping their dogs secure and not letting them roam, dogs escape fenced yards all the time.

    You do provide alot of info which certainly gives food for thought.

    i am originally from the uk, and have had all my dogs male and females neutured, and have had no problems.

    • Dogs don’t escape yards that are properly fenced, if they did, all boarding kennels would be is disarray 🙂 The fence has to be appropriate for the breed and size of dog.

      Lots of people have no problems with neutered dogs. The only way to figure out the risk is to look at large numbers and look for overall patterns or differences between neutered and not neutered. Small numbers of dogs don’t tell us very much I’m afraid.

  40. I was determined not to have my mini poodle neutered as I has researched thoroughly including university level training, I had also had some problems with my neutered dogs in the past. However after two and a half years I had Pierre neutered because he was so skinny and he had problems with his jaw. He also had the usual problems of running off to other dogs and constant marking. I was certain that none of these things would be resolved but I followed my vets advice and we castrated him. Now 6 months later he is a normal weight his jaw problem has resolved and he is no longer running through fences to get to other dogs.
    I had been taught that the only behaviour neutering will help is dog/ dog aggression. Pierre was never aggressive so that was not an issue for me. I was so surprised that even at the age of three his marking behaviour would be so changed.
    I am still not sure that neutering is right for every dog and I would wait for as long as possible unless there is any sign of aggression. But for Pierre it was a good choice.

  41. I have had Labs my whole life. there are parts of this article that, I believe have discrepancies. My breeder recommended that I don’t neuter until at least 18 mo. Why? Quincey ( my 6mo. old Black lab) needs the hormones possible to develop, such as the barrel chest and the broad shoulders along with the definition of the head. My experience with Labs is the behavior, and they are trainable if you spend the time…behaviors can be changed!. Once I think of neutering my Lab, it’s like taking his manhood away.

    • Let me know where you think the discrepancies are Brad 🙂 Neutering later rather than earlier certainly allows the male dog to develop a more masculine appearance.

  42. My Labrador is a neutered male. I rescued him from RSPCA and they had neutered him at 18months. I don’t feel it was necessary he is a gentle agreeable dog, if it is regarded as a bad habit mounting females, well at 12 he still does it. I have had to fight all his life to keep his weight down. On the plus side he has a very little arthiritis in his front legs but his hips are still strong despite a cruiciate ligament injury when he was younger. Although he has odd lumps and bumps with age the vet has assured me they are not cancer. so my boy is ok despite the neutering, However I would not have it done to any dog if I had the choice, and as I prefer to rescue I don’t suppose I will.

  43. I have a cocker spaniel aged 14 mths & a 6 mth old lab. Neither of these dogs will be neutered.
    Years ago I had a springer neutered and his coat became very “woolly”. Other than this I could see no changes from pre neutering.
    I had my black lab neutered at 12 mths old. Although I was always very careful with feeding he put on weight and his body shape changed.
    5 days before his seventh birthday last Xmas he was diagnosed with advanced liver cancer and had to be put to sleep.
    Maybe all these issues were incidental. However I would never have any of my dogs neutered unless absolutely necessary.

  44. Thank you for this article! I have an intact 3-year old, male, Labrador and have been torn on this very decision. I was leaning towards having him neutered this summer but didn’t have any real reasons to do so other than future health concerns and opinions of others — I’m in the US where most are very pro-neutering. Your article and linked resources have helped me decide to not neuter and I am going to hold off, for now.

LEAVE A REPLY