If you’re struggling with aggression and other negative behaviors from your dog, it’s natural to want a solution – and fast! It can be tempting to want a “quick fix” and there is a lot of misinformation about neutering or spaying as a way to curb aggression in dogs.

The team at Union Lake Pet Services wants to explain why this fix isn’t necessarily a cure for aggression in dogs. 

Why Spay or Neuter?

Most adopted pets are only adopted out after being spayed or neutered. The reasons for this include benefits to their health as well as to the general public. Decreasing the population of homeless animals encourages better health for our pet companions and reduces diseases and illnesses carried by stray pets. 

Spaying and neutering also reduce a cat or dog’s risk of developing certain cancers. A sexually intact pet is also one that is prone to wander (to find a mate). It is more at risk of injury, accident, and becoming lost or stolen.

But does spaying/neutering solve problem behaviors? Unfortunately, no.

Aggression in Dogs

At ULPS, we often get comments about how spaying or neutering a pet will prevent them from a number of behaviors. Many dog owners have been misled to believe it is a solution for everything from accidents around the home to humping and aggression. There is a long-held belief that castrating a male dog, for example, will make them more complacent. 

According to animal behaviorist, Stanley Coren, after analyzing several dogs who had been altered, he concluded:

“As in previous studies, the new data clearly shows that the positive behavioral effects which were expected from neutering did not occur, and if anything, the behaviors of neutered male dogs tended to be considerably less desirable… Of the 100 behaviors assessed, 40 showed statistically significant differences between the castrated and intact dogs. Only four of these behaviors showed a more positive outcome as a result of neutering.”

In fact, some neutered males were more likely to show signs of aggression.

In another study looking at the behavior scale of over 15,000 dogs, the sample dogs had aggressive tendencies towards three different groups, people (no matter who), strangers, and other dogs. Interestingly, the study saw an increase in fear and aggression toward strangers in those dogs neutered between 7 months to one year in age. 

So, what’s the rundown on using spaying/neutering as a way to have a well-behaved pet? It’s unlikely this procedure will solve the problem of aggression, but it has value in keeping your dog and the general pet population healthier.

Tips to Curb Aggression in Dogs

Now that you know more about why spay/neuter surgery isn’t a quick fix for better behavior, what do you do? The great news is that training and socialization play a key role in your dog’s behavior. 

Here are 6 recommendations for raising a well-behaved pup.

  1. Make sure your pet has had positive reinforcement training and socialization starting at puppyhood.
  2. Expose your pet to the outside world as soon as they’ve had their vaccinations. Take them to the park and introduce them to other people and pets. 
  3. Keep your dog’s attention by providing positive reinforcement and using an encouraging voice and praise. Use high-value treats and toys as a distraction and for reinforcing good behaviors.
  4. Avoid resource guarding behavior by not using treats or favorite toys when your dog is playing with other dogs at parks or daycares. 
  5. Discourage negative behaviors early on through redirection and positive training methods, or by consulting your veterinarian.
  6. If your pet is afraid or anxious, we can also help provide solutions to ease their anxiety. A fearful pet is more prone to aggression, so it’s important to identify and treat the root cause.

If you would like more recommendations on treating aggression in dogs or would like to schedule a behavioral consultation appointment, please contact us