Here at Big Rock Labradoodles, we do not believe in early spay and neuter (ES/N). Through exhaustive research into the alternatives, we have made the decision to leave well enough alone. Our pups are sent home on a spay/neuter contract to be sterilized, at the owner's expense, at 18 months of age.
There is a wealth of information demonstrating that preserving innate sex hormones, especially in the first two years of life, will be beneficial to pets.
Here are just some of the possible side effects of early spay/neuter:
Shortened lifespan, Atypical Cushing’s Disease, cardiac tumours, bone cancer, abnormal bone growth and development, higher rates of CCL ruptures, hip dysplasia, urinary incontinence in female dogs and urethral sphincter incontinence in males are some of the physical side effects of ES/N, but there are behavioural effects as well, such as separation anxiety, fear of noises, timidity, excitability, submissive urination, aggression, hyperactivity, and fear biting.
What does all this really mean for you and your pet?
Your new Wonderful Woofie is an in-tact dog until they are spayed or neutered at 18 months.
The spay/neuter surgery done later, is no more difficult than a pediatric spay/neuter, in fact, it is made all that much easier by the fact that the dog is mature and everything is far larger and easier to remove.
Female dogs have a “season,” when they smell ripe and delicious and irresistible to male dogs. Sometimes referred to as being “in heat,” this period occurs twice a year in most dogs, usually every five to nine months. The first occurrence is typically between 9-12 months.
The complete estrus, or heat, cycle typically lasts two to three weeks. You may notice that your dog’s vulva is swollen or that she has a bloody discharge. This stage, called proestrus, averages nine days but can last as little as three days or as long as 17 days. The discharge usually occurs during the second week. Many dogs keep themselves so clean during this time that you may not even notice the discharge, but others must wear protective panties that keep the discharge off clothing and furniture and prevent males from gaining access to them.
In the next phase of the cycle, known as estrus, females are ready for male attention — and willing to allow it — and that’s when you need to be extra careful to make sure they don’t hook up with the dog next door. Go outdoors with her on a leash and stay with her, just in case there are any interested males in the vicinity. It’s best to keep her indoors for the rest of the time.
The third stage is called diestrus when the female is no longer interested in mating or is not interesting to males. Her hormone levels drop, eventually returning her to the stage known as anestrus, the quiet period that lasts an average of 130 to 150 days until the cycle begins again.
When we think of living with intact male dogs, the assumption is often that they are going to be humping everything in their path and lifting their legs in the house and that they will inevitably be aggressive toward other male dogs.
But that's not really so. Like any other dog, an intact male can and should learn manners. There’s no reason he can’t learn that humping and leg-lifting in the home are no-nos. And as far as aggression, it’s most often the case that neutered males are aggressive toward intact males — possibly because they smell different.
Preventing humping and urine marking inside the house is a matter of management and training. To help prevent humping, occupy your dog with other activities such as play, training, and puzzle toys. If you catch him in the act, redirect him with a game of fetch or a run through his obedience commands. Training teaches him control and focus, while play relieves stress and wears him out. When you're out and about, keep him on a leash and at your side so he lacks opportunity.
Adolescent males who seemed to be house-trained may start lifting their legs in the home as a way of marking territory. (Intact females may also do this to attract mates.) That’s not cool. Do some remedial house training, restrict your dog’s freedom in the home with a crate, or by leashing him at your side and thoroughly clean the area he marked with an enzymatic odor neutralizer. If he is whiny or barky in the presence of in-season females, give him the canine equivalent of a cold shower: extra walks, play, and training to help take his mind off the hot girl. He’ll still want her, but the desire will be slightly dampened.
Living with an intact dog requires some extra care — keeping females confined and not allowing males to be pests — but with consistent training and appropriate management, there’s no reason they have to be any more difficult to live with than a spayed or neutered dog.