"The Peeing Post"
Newsletter for dog lovers who respect the dog's nature
Chief Editor: Mogens Eliasen
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Dear Dog Friend,
OK - this spay/neuter discussion is coming to its end - at least for now. I appreciate the many comments and questions I have received about this - it has obviously been a very "hot" topic! It certainly deserves some clarification, as we all have to make some decisions. And those decisions should preferably be informed. There is no such thing as a "one-solution-fits-all" here. And the common reason for just using spaying/neutering as such is outright wrong, as it is based on incorrect information and assumptions that don't hold.
So, let's turn to the two most important reasons that we left "hanging" from the previous issue:
Excessive sex drive or dominance
For a dog that goes nuts or berserk when the sexual drives are stimulated, it can be tempting to opt for castration. Females are generally not the worst here - the males are. The female's sexuality is mostly responsive, not proactive, as the male's is.
The sad news is that neutering rarely helps on the general behavior.... Those dogs are typically over-reacting because of lack of meaningful stimulation, in general. Sometimes mixed heavily with some serious lack of leadership from the owner's side. (Heck, I have trained my Search & Rescue teams to make their male dogs work, including when a female on the team was in heat! It is a matter of exercising some serious control and leadership. I am not saying that this is easy, and I am also not saying that the team should expect the same performance as "normal", but I am saying that I know what it takes to deal with this problem, and it is truly a matter of knowledge and desire from the owner's side.)
There are two fairly simple remedies that often help, though. One is to make the female smell less strongly. Simple chlorophyll tablets (as you can get them in a vitamin store) work in 85-90% of all cases. Maybe not to the point of a male totally forgetting about his love, but at least to the point of him accepting that "life goes on", as long as he does not have the female's butt right up in his snout!
Another alternative that has worked extremely well in my experience is using progesterone/progestins in very small doses. In Europe, those chemicals are generally used to stop a female from coming into estrus - and they often permanently destroy her when used for the purpose of birth control. I believe they are illegal in North America for that purpose - the damage is too evident: the female will never go into season again, if used for just 3 cycles... But, as I said, when used in small doses on a male, it has the effect of cutting his excessive testosterone down to a more normal level that is much easier to manage, both for himself and for this owner. Since those hormones are also naturally produced by a male, they do not "throw everything out of balance" but merely adjust some imbalance that is out of whack to a more natural level. However, this is something you should only do together with your vet!
I have used such "temporary chemical castration" myself on a male that was just a bit too dominated by his testosterone. The effect of too much testosterone shows as an extraordinary attraction to females, sometimes even when they are not in season, plus a generally very provocative dominant behavior to other males - which sometimes can become a serious fight prevention issue.
I have several friends in Denmark who have used this procedure - with the same good results. However, you must be aware that using such medication is not a cure. It is a window of opportunity to get serious about the training! Nothing more. It gives you a break of some 6-8 weeks where the hormone levels are moderate - and, in that window, you have to do the training that is needed to desensitize the dog towards those provoking triggers that are too difficult for him to handle without some help from you.
In more severe cases (dictated not so much by the dog's situation but by the owner's inability to take appropriate action, in terms of training), you will achieve a similar effect, forever, and much stronger, by removing the testicles. This will permanently cut the testosterone (and many other important hormones that have nothing to do with sexuality or dominance) down to extremely low levels, and it often has a significant effect on the dog's willingness to involve itself in dominant behavior towards other males - it becomes less provocative, because one common reason for this is removed. If you have more than one male, and you castrate one of them (typically the one that shows the most dominance), you can rest assured that the effect will be that the "intact" male that previously was dominated will now "seize the opportunity" presented by the previous dominant male apparently not caring too much about his status anymore to reverse the ranks, and the problem comes right back at you, just provoked by the other male this time....
This neutering business does create havoc in a dog's mental balance, and it seriously impacts the relationships in a pack, as it changes personalities and thus impacts everyone. You have to take these side effects seriously.
Another aspect that must be mentioned here before you think that "neutering will reduce dog fights" is that the vast majority of male-male fights do not end with any intentional harm. Sure, accidents happen. But they are not intended, and their rarely lead to any serious injuries. So, in most cases, it is safe enough to "let them sort it out themselves", particularly if you have to keep them together... (I talk about male-male fights here - not fighting between two bithces, which is a dangerous thing that generally will lead to very serious injuries or even death! Bitches are called "bitches" for a reason....)
Next, not all dog fights are truly caused by unresolved dominance issues between two males. The majority originates in inadequate socialization or fear - and neutering will do absolutely NOTHING to change any of those. It might actually make the situation worse, as I have witnessed many times...
I got another e-mail from Barbara that illustrates this perspective. She was wondering why some dogs are being jumped, even by a neutered dog:
By being 'jumped' I simply mean being attacked by another dog. The first time it happened was when I met another woman with a Jack Russell on the trail. Both dogs were leashed. The dogs initially sniffed each other with no aggression, then my dog (the un-neutered Aussie) retired to sit on my foot like he usually does when he senses the adult conversation is going to take several minutes. Little JR, however, without warning, launched at my dog, taking advantage of a relaxed leash. This wasn't a friendly move; he was serious. Of course, the dog was small and still leashed so no harm was done.
The second time it happened it could have been much more serious. Again while walking the dogs on the trail (I had 2 spayed females with me this time as well as the Aussie) I met a Rhodesian Ridgeback running down the narrow trail towards us, unleashed, with no owners in sight. He paused about 10 ft in front of us, barked a couple of times, then leaped on the Aussie, ignoring the two females. I yelled at it, kicked it, and it disappeared back up the trail. My dog didn't growl, bark, or even raise his hackles, he simply tried to hide himself behind me.
The Ridgeback was neutered.
It has happened again since and now my dog hides behind me when he sees another male dog coming. Quite a bold little fellow, isn't he?
My girl friends with the Pitbull and the American Bull Dog don't take their dogs out during the most popular dog walking hours as their dogs, while not dog aggressive, simply won't tolerate other dogs acting aggressive towards them.
This just gives me one more time a sad but true reason for not walking my dogs in off-leash parks... I seriously sympathize with those girl friends.
Nevertheless, I do not think this has anything to do with neutering or not neutering. Male dogs do not get more aggressive or dominant by being neutered. It goes the opposite direction, if you have any effect at all in that regard.
But some dogs have some "dark spots" in their history. There are some main types:
Lack of Imprinting or Socialization (more about this on the video "The Dog's Social Behavior".
A traumatic experience in the past (such as being attacked by a similar dog).
A medical problem that causes the dog constant pain.
Serious understimulation (more about this in "BrainWork for Smart Dogs").
Plain simple bad personality with no bite inhibitors.
What I often have seen is this: An un-neutered male dog will misinterpret the behavior of a neutered male - and when he shows dominance to get this strange-behaving dog to submit, it won't happen. That will trigger a rank dispute - or what people call "dog fight". However, the primary reason for this is not that the neutered dog is neutered and the other one is not. It is linked to the fact that most people who neuter their males also have no access to getting their puppy socialized on male dominance - because there are not intact males around them that will teach that puppy any manners!
Although I have no official stats to back this up, I can tell for certain from my 15 years of experience in North America that people who have an intact male are generally breeders or other very responsible dog owners who have more than one un-neutered male in their lives. Their puppies learn respect for canine authority.
On the other hand, people who get a neutered dog are more likely to be members of "the general public" that do not have any intact males around in their lives. Thus, their puppies will not learn good manners as far as respect for dominance from an older dog goes.
It is a matter of cultural background, not spaying/neutering - although the spaying/neutering is part of the cultural baggage.
There are simply too many other factors involved in this than spaying/neutering - and just about all of those other factors are far more prominent and important! Barb's examples clearly illustrate this.
People are, unfortunately, brainwashed to believe that spaying/neutering is the answer to almost all "dog problems". It isn't.
Finally, the all-important good and justifiable reason for spaying/neutering should then be prevention of unwanted puppies, right?
First, as I pointed out in a previous issue, you are still responsible for your dog - and, if you want to, you can manage this without cutting body parts away.
Seriously, if you do not want a certain dog to ever pass on genes to future generations, you always have the responsible option of vasectomy for the male or tubal litigation for the female. Both of those two procedures are used also for humans - with excellent results and virtually no known ill effects. The procedures involve cutting the tubes that transport either semen or eggs from their origin to where you do not want them to meet: in the female's uterus. No organs are removed - no hormone balances smashed - no side effects on health.
Why this is not more popular? I can only guess, but here are some of the possible reasons:
I got this letter from Sienna:
This part of your news letter was just too much fun! I do wish I had neighbors like the ones you have mentioned in this segment.
It got me to thinking about a question I have asked often, and been laughed at for. The Vet thought I was a crazy nut when I asked. Why not just "tie the tubes/vasectomy for dogs. I thought that this would be a much more natural way for bitches/dogs to become sterile and still be natural. This would be good for animals who have traits that are not great to pass along to the next generation. It also would make the owners who are not as "careful" with regards to responsible ownership, less likely to contribute to the millions of unplanned pups every year.
I suppose if you have no uterus/testicles then you would not get uterine or testicular cancer. One can not get cancer in a part that has been removed. That is a dumb way to protect from a disease. (I have heard the bleeding mess excuses for the bitches, too.... the little britches work fine to keep things neat and clean for the few days a year a bitch may need them.)
All in all, I have really liked reading your newsletters. Thanks for a letter that helps to keep the mind open and working!
Thanks for the nice words, Sienna. I hope you do not hesitate forwarding any issue to other people that might benefit from it too.
I can confirm that vasectomy/tubal litigation is indeed a serious and very valid option also for dogs. My own vet in Denmark, Finn Smed, has used this on thousands of dogs for over 40 years - and have had no ill side effects from it. But: his clients feed raw food! Otherwise, they are not his clients...
Vasectomy or tubal litigation is even less of a training tool than spaying/neutering - in fact, it has no effect at all on the dog's personality, metabolism, or hormone balances. I seriously detest when people use spaying/neutering as a means of abdicating their responsibilities, in the fake hope that it will also "fix" the dog's behavioral problems. I wish it would fix them instead... But, as I discussed above, there are some situations where you can have some effect of doing it.
"Cutting the tubes" should, in my opinion, be the general standard procedure to use for population control when you just "don't want to risk anything". And yet, this attitude is dangerous - because there still is the risk of the surgery! Some dogs just never wake up again from the anesthesia. Face it - you have to be prepared for that! It wasn't very funny for me to learn from a student in one of my classes that his 5-month old boxer male died while it was supposed to "just get neutered".... Agreed, it does not happen very often, but the risk is not zero!
I have recently learned also about another "compromise" solution for females that appears to be attractive to some people (not including me). It is the "partial spay" where the uterus and one ovary is removed, leaving one ovary to maintain the balance with the other hormone producing glands. The reason for leaving only one ovary instead of both of them apparently is that this will ensure that the bitch will only go into season once every year or less.
Now, while this obviously is a more acceptable solution than simply removing everything, I still do not get it as far as justification goes for removing the uterus of a healthy animal. Apparently, the idea is to cater to human demands for the female spreading her periods more (season only once a year or less), and no bleeding. Personally, I do not accept human convenience as a good enough reason for such a drastic procedure when a tubal litigation is an obvious and much better solution for the dog. But I do not want to argue about it - if you want to make it your choice of alternative to spaying, please go for it and don't tell me about it - the ethics of such a solution don't match my beliefs....
Summing up on spaying/neutering
So then, what are we left with as genuine reasons for spaying/neutering?
Those I see are these: Serious disease in the respective organs that make removing them a lesser overall risk than leaving them. Testicle cancer, prostate cancer, and cancer in the uterus are such genuine medical reasons. For dogs that are not fed kibble and over-vaccinated, those diseases are extremely rare though - so using surgery as preevntion of these diseases is ridiculous, when changing to a natural diet will do it... (If you are still feeding kibble, you need to go to http://k9joy.com/education/feedyourdog.php to start some very important education of yourself....)
For a female whose uterus is "out of whack" and causing other problems, such as continued bleeding, damage after a mis-carriage, etc., removing a non-functional uterus can a better solution for the dog than keeping it and having continued trouble. (Referring to the human parallel, a D&C might be at least a technical option - but I have never heard of it being used on dogs - I assume it is too pricey and maybe also more difficult to do on dogs.)
For a male dog whose temper is just too dominant, due to an overproduction of testosterone, neutering is a possible option that will "over-correct" the problem. In any case, unless the situation is critical and of urgent nature, I would opt for the "temporary chemical castration" first - if for no other reason, to determine if testosterone truly was a relevant culprit, and not something else that will not be influenced by neutering in any positive direction.
For birth control, there is something called "responsible management".... it works for dogs as well as for teenagers. Dogs are generally the easier ones to control, hence the World's over-population problem...
For permanent exclusion from breeding (for dogs that are suspected for carrying hereditary diseases or genetic problems): vasectomy or tubal litigation.
"For everything else, there is MasterCard" - and seriously: this is no joke: All the other possible problems are nothing more and nothing less than what a responsible dog owner can manage and should be held accountable for. It is a question of desire - and possibly a little money in some cases. But nothing that warrants any kind of whining... (and, yes, dogs do cost some money - even raw fed ones on limited vaccinations).
As I said in my reply to Robin in the previous issue, you are welcome to disagree with me - if you have good reasons for your opinions. I would appreciate if you would share them - I give no guarantee for having covered "everything" - and I am not too old to believe that I have not missed some important aspects that are also worth sharing... However, in the next issue, we will return to some unfinished business about responsible breeding and then move on to other things also.
Cheers and woof,
If you have any suggestions to contributions or contents of The Peeing Post, or some comments or questions pertaining to this issue or in to dogs in general, I will be happy to know about them. If I can find an answer for you, I will!
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