Irresponsible Ownership: Whats Neutering Got To Do With It?

There have been some discussion about irresponsible ownership and it inspired me to write part two to my original blog "Neutering: Whats behaviour got to do with it?"

Irresponsible people in my opinion doesn't equal "all dogs should be neutered". I believe it's about whats best for the individual dog.  It seems too me the attitude of many owners now is that dogs are a convenience thing and disposable. Many have the idea "The local rescue centre will take him when we can't have or don't want him any more. This just isn't good enough, a sentient life deserves more! Lack of understanding and knowledge of living with dogs doesn't equal "all dogs should be neutered". Neutering is not going to make people more responsible owners because in my opnion there are many other qualities that I think are far more important when it comes to looking at responsible dog ownership. 

Many people think they want a dogs so they get one but many people dont know first thing about what a dog is behaviourally or biologically. This is another reason dogs end up in rehoming centre, I dont see how if this owner neutered their dog it would make them more responsible.

I also think neutering is talked about too generally, people probably put more thought into their hair cut and style then into neutering an individual and its benefits + fallouts (in terms of the dog, not the human, because the dog shouldn't have to negotiate living with a human, the human should be the one who goes out their way to fit living with a dog because it is the human who decided that the dog is living with them not the other way round.)

This is just my opinion. I am NOT against neutering, I would happily recommended some one speak to their vets about neutering tomorrow from a training and behaviour point of view if I felt it was "best" for that dog. I don't however think it's fair to argue all responsible dog owners should neuter their dogs or a big reason to neuter dogs is because many people are irresponsible. If they are irresponsible whould they be owing a dog?


This is an interesting topic but I don't understand what you're trying to say. The writing jumps all over the place and some of the sentences are not coherent. Neutering, in my experience, is almost universally recommended for all dogs by vets, trainers, and behavior specialists. If you're going to argue against such a widely promoted policy, you need to say something more convincing than "all dogs are different" and "people should be more educated before getting a dog." Maybe the idea is in there but the poor writing got in the way.


Just because "every one" used to think dominance models was the best way to think of relationships with dogs doesn't mean it was true. 

The points which I may not have made clear enough for you are:

How does an owner being irresponsible = dogs should be neutered?

People attitudes that dogs are disposable are not going to change because we neuter dogs.

Some one who doesn't understand what a dog is, isn't going to be enlighten because they neutered their dog.

People generally follow "you must neuter your dog" without giving it much thought, maybe they should.

Some evidence suggest that neutering dogs may not always be the best for them (from health point of view) and behaviourally I suggested in my last blog some areas I feel are thought worthy.

I'm not arguing that all dogs should be neutered. I'm saying that universal neutering is a very widely accepted and promoted policy, right or wrong. You seem to be saying that more thought should be put into it, thus you are promoting an alternative to this widely-promoted policy. And I'm saying that your reasons for promoting an alternative are not clearly stated. Maybe it was not your intention to clearly state reasons for an alternative to universal neutering, which is fine, but then I still don't get the purpose of this blog post.  

Now, from your comment, I am getting the idea that the point you are trying to make is that universal neutering is not a panacea for eliminating the problem of unwanted dogs. Unwanted dogs are caused by irresponsible owners, not by lack of neutering. Is that the point? If so, I think it's a good one. It's just not clearly articulated in this blog post. (I mean it's in there, but all the other stuff in there, and incoherent/incomplete sentences, are getting in the way of the point you're trying to make.)

I think irresponsible dog ownership is actually a decent argument for universal neutering. It's not the ideal solution, but until we all become enlightened dog owners, neutering should help reduce the population of stray/unwanted dogs. Rescues and shelters don't really know what's going to happen to the dogs they adopt out, so it makes sense for them to require neutering, so they don't inadvertently put a dog out into the world that might create more unwanted dogs that end up at their door in the future.

Good topic, could lead to good discussion, but the poor writing is getting in the way.

Have made some edits which I hope will make points clearer.


Tough crowd.

Not really tough. REALLY poor writing in this post. For example, the last sentence:

"If they are irresponsible whould they be owing a dog?"

Huh? Maybe the author should do some basic editing before posting stuff on a popular blog. Especially if they're going to start it off with a picture that says "Ban stupid people."

Iunno RSAD, I think you're kind of being a dick about it. I did not encounter the same reading comprehension problems as you. Then again, I might just be smarter.

I've put a very long post on S/N re dog health and behavior and lack of much really sound research on same (and flaws in so much of what has been written about flawed research) into my response to the companion blog on Neutering re Behavior. A lot of that has bearing on this topic, which is human behavior rather than dog behavior. Human behavior affects dog behavior and dog behavior affects human behavior.

Let's not get too critical of other people's writing skills. A lot of highly skilled dog people, people who communicate with dogs beautifully, are not great writers or talkers. and in the case of Chirag Patel, we don't know if English is Chirag's native language or not.
Now the line "If they are irresponsible whould they be owing a dog?" is I suspect a typographical error : "whould" probably was intended to be "should" and if so that would make a lot of sense. a rhetorical question to which answer is "NO !" (I am one of those trainers who remembers how to say "NO !")

It's certainly true that someone else doing S/N on a dog, eg the shelter doing it prior to releasing the dog to an adopter, the breeder doing it prior to selling a puppy on "pet" contract, will NOT change the actual responsibility level of the new owner. Likewise for a law or contract requiring the new owner to get the S/N done within a certain period or face stated penalties. What getting the S/N done prior to new ownership does is to eliminate the potential for harm to that dog and to the population generally of one form of irresponsible behavior that the new owner might commit. S/N eliminates the potential for that dog to bear or beget a litter (or many litters) via an accidental or deliberate mating . It prevents litters that should be prevented eg because the dog is not really "good enough" (a complex issue in itself -- and I agree with those who say that temperament and health should be the primary criteria of "good enough" ), or because the owner doesn't socialize pups, or because owner won't screen and educate puppy recipients, or just because there are not enough responsible knowledgeable and loving homes out there. Long list of possible reasons why this dog should not be bred. or why the vast majority should not be bred. or why this owner should not be breeding dogs. Now on the other paw, S/N prior to new ownership also means that even if the owner turns out to be super capable as breeder and even if the dog turns out to be a really great dog who ought to be perpetuated genetically, that this dog cannot be bred. Occasionally that will be an unfortunate loss to the gene pool. But the same loss could occur if the bitch puppy gets pyometria prior to being bred. Could occur if the intact male super-puppy escapes the yard in quest for "romance" and gets killed by car.

You cannot put responsibility INTO a person who lacks it. You can put knowledge into a person who is ignorant (we are all born ignorant) so long as the person wants to learn and isn't stupid. But responsibility is a choice. Well yes, upbringing (teaching) can have a beneficial effect, and schools as well as parents have that opportunity to improve the next cohort of adults. And the fullest capacity for responsibility comes only with neurological maturity of the pre-frontal cortex "Executive functions" , which won't happen before age 30. But still in general we can only influence people's choice to exercise responsibility by providing "carrots and sticks" , ie by creating incentives and disincentives via law or social pressure.

We could improve responsible ownership by providing more and more obvious opportunities for people to self-educate. Offer classes both real ones in the community and virtual ones on line. Write books and articles, both hard-copy and on line. There's already so many excellent books on dog ownership and the responsibilities thereof that anyone who seeks this info can find it. But sometimes a person is in position to attract attention to issues and information. Remember the couple of times that Oprah has done shows on puppy mills. She reaches a lot more people than this blog will. She reaches people who can't read or don't read. Shelters that have enough funding can offer classes in dog ownership, dog management (all those tricks that make life with dog more pleasant), basic dog training , etc.

Socially we can do a lot to praise good owners and put pressure and disapproval on bad ones. When your neighbor has an "opps" litter , instead of letting our kids go over and ooh and aawh over how cute the pups (or kittens) are, we could send them over with literature on the local low cost S/N program. We could scold them for adding to the number of homeless dogs. I'd favor efforts to try to make them want to do the right thing (spay the bitch and S/N all the pups) before I'd haul out the big guns of scolding and shame. But if shame is what it takes, hey, guilt and shame are as old as humanity.

Legally we can create a system in which ownership of dogs is trackable. We hold owners responsible for the use and misuse of their automobiles by using VIN numbers and DMV registrations. Why not require every puppy sold or given away in the state to be microchipped and the original breeder info registered as well as every change of ownership registered. We could at least do this for every dog passing through a shelter. We could legally require it for every puppy sold in a commercial pet store. Harder to enforce a requirement on pups imported into state, pups sold over the internet, pups born in owner homes and sold or given away. We certainly could make microchipping part of the initial licensing procedure. Hard right now to deal with those who simply don't license their dogs at all. (a huge problem in Sacramento area currently, which is why I propose a state-wide pet food tax of 1% as the funding for shelters and then GIVE licenses and microchips to everyone -- or maybe give them to all altered pets ? all pets who pass a training test ? think about this issue.)

If all dogs were chipped and ownerships recorded and transfers of ownership recorded in a state or national database, ie similar to automobiles, then whenever a person abandons a dog on the streets or out in rural area, that ownership would be identifiable. whenever a dog lands in the shelter, the currently registered owner would be identified. those who let their dogs run at large and get picked up repeatedly would be identifiable and state laws mandating higher fines for repeat impounds could be enforced. those who abandon a dog could be fined a higher fine (triple ? more than triple ?) if they failed to redeem their dog than if they did redeem the dog. laws mandating that intact dogs who repeatedly run at large get S/N prior to release back to owner could be enforced.
We could identify the owners who cause many of the problems. We could identify the breeders who have many of their produce wind up at shelters. and for every dog landing in shelter, breeder could be contacted and asked to take a share of responsibility (the good breeders would welcome this, and most of them already microchip their pups). Breeders , including big commercial puppy mills, who origininated a lot of dogs landing in shelters could be identified and punished appropriately or prohibited from owning dogs or from owning reproductively capable dogs.

to make my possible bias clear, I've been doing rescue for my breed for past quarter century. also competed with my own dogs (most of which were someone else's discarded dogs) in various kinds of working trials for many years. and I do a lot of consulting. and have a special relationship with our vet school and spend time talking to clients there. So I get to see the best and the worst of dog ownership.

My comments about the writing were not meant to be mean. I think it's an interesting and important topic, but the first edition of this post was so jumbled it was not very clear. The author made some changes to the post after I commented on the difficulty of following his point. I thought there would be better discussion if the post was more on point. I was able to offer this criticism without calling the author "stupid" or other names, and the author responded by clarifying the post, though it still has many mistakes and jumps around a lot. 

If English is not the author's first language, maybe they should have someone edit their writing before they post it on this blog. Everything else I've ever read here has been pretty well written, so the abundant mistakes in this post really stood out.

In addition, I never would have commented in the first place, but the picture at the top of this post really turned me off. Saying things like "Ban stupid people" is really unproductive, and I thought the entire post had a similar tone. I wanted to give the author a chance to clarify their point before I made any comments on the substantive content.

It's called humor;-)



I guess I don't find it very funny, so calling it "humor" doesn't make it any less distasteful to me. I think that kind of thing just turns off the audience you're trying to reach. 

Also we label dogs all the time and ban them for being dangerous so it gets people thinking:-) Glad your beyond all this. 

Yes that is true, we label dogs, but I don't think that makes it humorous or productive to label people in return. I would rather find other ways to get people thinking.

I'm not claiming to be a perfect person or above labeling all the time. I catch myself doing that too often for my liking. If someone calls me out on it, I hope I can appreciate their feedback and go in a more constructive direction. But I understand your defensiveness, a lot of people aren't good at taking criticism. I just don't appreciate how you are making it personal, suggesting that it's my problem for not being able to lighten up and see it as humor, and (sarcastically, I'm assuming) suggesting that I think I'm "beyond all this." I guess your position is that "it's okay to label people because I'm sure you do it too." 

Not really, no. But thanks for your opinions.

... it's British humour. ;) I've got my wires crossed over that too, posting on US forums and being taken too literally.

Very interested in the issues, but not the sniping. I can absolutely see why rescues/shelters want to S/N all dogs that pass through their hands, but I do wonder if one of my own rescue dogs would have been behaviourally better off if the neutering had been delayed.

Here in the US the vast majority believe that neutering is the best choice for behavoir and health, a lot of those people are very passionate about it. Health wise, you have to wiegh the pros and cons and make your personal decision. A good article about health and neuting is at this address Many people actually believe that intact dogs are more aggressive and harder to train, but the truth is the opposite. The best evidence I can find documented on the internet is at this address  What I've seen many times in my experience is a dog who shows a little dog aggression sometimes gets neutered and becomes very dog aggressive all the time. I've discussed this many times with other professionals who have noticed this as well. The tricky part about behavoir and neutering is when you have a young dog who is aggressive. Do you neuter them with the risk of becoming worse and having a higher chance of being euthinized? Or do you leave them intact becuase its easier to manage and work with but has a chance of reproducing more aggressive dogs if there is an accidental breeding.

A lot of the physical and mental changes that get attributed to S/N are actually the result of the time sequence coincidence of S/N with impending changes in the dog's body and mind that would be happening anyway due to transition from puppy stage into early maturity.

The common fallacy of assuming that if event B came later in time than event A, that B was caused by A is termed "post hoc, ergo prompter hoc". Sometimes of course A did cause B. But often it's not so. In any case, the matter of causation is not proven merely by the temporal sequence. Likewise mere correlation doesn't prove causation. Some statestician with more time on his hands than he knew what to do with once showed a correclation and time sequencing between women's hemlines , sunspots, and the Dow Jones stock market price average. Is it likely that there is a true causal relationship ?

The traditional age for S/N is around 6 months, or from 6 to 8 months if one is trying to "beat the heat" (spay before first heat).

This is the same time that the dog physically is transitioning from the puppy stage of rapid growth and very high activity to the young adult stage of slow growth (filling out) and perhaps somewhat lesser activity to much lesser activity. The timing and speed of the physical growth slowdown will depend to some degree on breed and it may be a gradual process. People often don't think about this change and don't adjust amount of food (and possibly type of food) accordingly. The activity change in timing and degree depends a whole lot on breed. Some dogs start to mellow out early and some won't do it until they are elderly. It also depends on the type of training and leadership the humans are providing. Humans can increase hyperactivity or increase calming down and a more sedate behavior. The amount of food the dog burns up in activity is the sum of the dog's own voluntary activity and the exercise provided by the owner by walks, play, work, etc.

The result of slower growth and lesser activity is that if the food intake remains the same the dog will gain weight. The rule that if you eat more than you use up, you will become overweight is true for dogs as for humans. Low activity can even shift metabolism so that fat is stored even more efficiently.

Does S/N maybe decrease activity a bit by itself, ie as compared to otherwise identical dog left intact ? Maybe. Probably only a little. If so, you can compensate for that by cutting back a bit on food or ramping up a bit on exercise.

In any case, if you put your hands on dog's ribs and hips once a week or twice a month, it should be obvious if dog is getting chubby. If dog is getting chubby, either decrease the amount of food given or increase the amount of exercise. This is very simple. And weigh the dog once a month and record the results on a chart to keep yourself honnest.

Now as to "aggressiveness", that too is related to maturity. Not so much "aggressiveness" but social assertiveness. Puppies are naturally submissive and deferential to adults. But as they pass into adolescence and into young adulthood, some of them will start "feeling their oats" and testing if they could move up the ladder socially. The serious attempt to move into high rank is most likely to come at age of Social Maturity , ie full adulthood. But some dogs get pushy earlier.

So again, if the dog is S/N at 6 months or 12 months and a few months later the owner notices that the dog has become more assertive and confrontational, well that's maturation being responsible for much of it.

The owner's personality, leadership , training , and management are the real key to whether a dog will become "aggressive". Dogs can behave "aggressively" out of confidence and assertiveness if the owner is not being a credible leader (calmly confident, communicating rules clearly, teaching cues and responses) and a lot of owners would consider that to be "aggressive". From the dog's point of view , the dog is simply warning the owner that the owner is not showing deference to the dog's assertion of higher rank. A lot more dogs behave "aggressively" out of self-defense based on underlying fear. Some dogs are naturally timid and others are intimidated by rough handling by the owner. Either way, the dog can be self defensively "aggressive" if the dog feels that the prefered option of fleeing is not successfully making the threat go away.

I keep putting "aggressive" into quote marks because so many people apply it to so many different behaviors. It covers such a range and is so often mis-used or mis-understood.

Also as to the time when the owner first notices that the dog has become "aggressive" or has "suddenly become more aggressive" , well those of us who observe dogs well know that what the typical inobservant owner percieves as "sudden aggressiveness" and "it came out of the blue" and "he bit for no reason and with no warning" is actually a problem that has been gradually building up for many months, maybe longer. The owner has either missed or ignored or denied all the more subtle evidence and warnings that have been occurring for a long time preceding the unignorable incident (a bite or snap) that is now being labled as "sudden aggression". People don't see or don't understand that subtle hard stare or slight standing tall and shifting foreward stance of the assertive dog. The don't see or don't understand the subtle signs of the timid or fearful reaction to something owner is doing. And they assume that dogs just love being hugged around the neck or having you put your nose right up to theirs or reaching out and down towards dog's head with your hand.

Having built up slowly , these ignored signs usually don't erupt into undeniable "aggression" for many months. Coupled with the dog's physical and emotional maturity, the erruption will probably come in young to full adulthood, thus some time after the S/N.

A lot of what people call "aggression" by the dog has been caused by the person. Maybe it took a long time or maybe it's one particularly foolish move by the person.

Yes , there are some puppies that seem to be "aggressive" at an abnormally early age. In my opinion these puppies should never be bred from, thus should be S/N prior to puberty. The evil of letting them produce more abnormal puppies far outweighs any consideration of what is best for this individual.

And frankly I think the idea that castration would make a dog more aggressive or harder to train is absolute nonsense. It's contrary to what we know of so many other species. Now testosterone level can vary quite a bit without having much effect on aggressiveness. But when it drops under 20% of normal level, then there is a marked decrease in aggressive behavior, and when it goes up over 200% , there's a marked increase in aggressive behavior. That comes from Robert Sapolsky's delightful essay "The Trouble with Testosterone" , which can be found in the essay collection of the same title.

We geld horses to make them easier for the less skilled rider or driver to handle. We geld cattle to make them less dangerous to the non-expert handler. We geld most sheep to make them easier for the shepherd and the shepherd's dog to handle. And in earlier times, many cultures gelded men to make them easier to handle as slaves.

But the same male human who is eager to geld his horse is reluctant to geld his dog. Why ? My guess is that the man identifys with the dog and also feels safely superior to the dog in terms of anatomy. The man is less likely to identify with the horse and feels quite inferior as to anatomy.

Now as to bitches. Number one, in my experience and observation and the stories I get when people consult me, bitches rarely confront the owner in a physically threatening manner. They don't try to scare the person into doing the bitch's will. Instead the bitch out-thinks the person and manipulates the person. Often the person doesn't even realize that the bitch is manipulating. The owner is not scared and does not lable any of this as "aggressive".

It's not uncommon to hear from someone who has become afraid of their young adult or full adult male dog. But it's very rare to hear from someone who has become afraid of their bitch. Not unheard of, but rare.

Now there are some bitches and some mares who seem to have what might be "mood swings" or whose working qualities seem to be affected by their estrus cycle stage. Mares are very rarely spayed (it's a very serious surgery) so we don't have comparisons between spayed and intact. Bitches often are spayed and that would remove any cycling, so should remove any mood swings due to cycling. Not that an astute owner couldn't respect and adjust to such swings.
Since bitches cycle on a 6 month interval with anestrus occupying 4 months of that and since anestrus is hormonally indistinguishable from the permanent anestrus of the spayed bitch, that means that most of the time there should be no difference. But going from anestrus to estrus and back , gee, I have wondered if maybe maybe that feels to the bitch like going through something like puberty and menopause every 6 months ??? That could make anyone "difficult". But we don't really know what the bitch's subjective experience is.

And as I said in an earlier post, this whole issue has become very very "politicised" and most of the people writing about it are trying to find reasons to support a position that they hold dearly.

I'm biased too. I do rescue for my breed and see the results of "oops" conceptions and deliberate but bad breeding. I also see the results of people getting a dog on impulse or without knowledge of the breed and considerations of their own lifestyle, personality, and training skills. I see the results of people who don't understand dog body language.

I fully understand what you're saying and your post was well written. I understand the coincedence between a dog maturing and neutering. I was mostly talking about dogs that I know who are over 3 years of age getting neutered and there being a change in their behavoir. I'm very sure a lot of people have seen an adult dog with phobias or aggression get neutered and become much worse, because it actually happens pretty often. I've worked at a vet for 10 years and have been a trainer for 3 years, I have seen adult dogs that I know well become worse after neutering with no other underlying health problems, I'm not saying that is happens %100 of the time but it does happen for sure.

I believe that the main effect of neutering is that it reduces the dog's energy, and this does make it easier for many people to live with a dog, but, it comes at a cost. There is a considerable decay in the physical and social constitution of the overall population (hence the rising rates of health problems, aggression, phobic and compulsive behavior in the modern dog), but certain dogs may not seem that affected. Because a theology in favor of neutering has become entrenched over the last forty years, the general public is only dimly aware that there is a downside. It's interesting that the market is now trying to catch up by recommending neuter/spay at later ages. Whereas in the eighties/nineties the thrust was for earlier and earlier. The paradigm is shifting.   

Ask any county shelter and they will tell you that more adult dogs are surrendered to their facility than puppies. 

Currently, at the county shelter in Riverside County, CA, there are 403 dogs. 281 are more than one year of age, and 66 are under 6 months of age.

Chicago Animal Care is currently listing 45 adoptable dogs over one year of age and only 18 under the age of one year.

Austin Animal Center has 245 adoptable dogs over one year of age and 61 under one year of age.

Seems to me that we are looking at a discarded adult dog problem more than an overabundance of puppies problem.

Dear Wakefulness
I respect what you see in vet practice and as a trainer. but I think there are two aspects here to the "they got worse after neutering" cases.

One is that these problems began long ago but owners either didn't see and interpret the early stages and take remedial action then. so by time of neutering, the problem has been long standing and severe. the dog has learned the aggressive behavior is efffective in getting something the dog wants (eg makes a threat retreat). aggressive behavior has had a long reward history. and probably the rewards have come intermittantly, ie a "variable schedule" or "slot machine schedule" of reward , and that makes the behavior highly resistant to extinciton. Only some hard work over a substantial period of time is going to teach the dog that reward is now only obtainble by some other alternative incompatible and acceptable behavior.

Secondly, the owners often don't want to do a long and careful training protocol. They want a "quick fix" and are eager to seize on neutering as being all they need to do. neutering at best removes some of the fuel from the fire. the behavior still needs training to change. if the owners do not change their own behavior so that the dog is no longer getting rewarded for aggression, then the aggression will continue and get worse.

For all behavior problems (behavior owner considers undesirable), that behavior has been either something intrinsically pleasurable to the dog (thus self-rewarding) or something external to the dog has been providing a pleasant consequence to the dog for that behavior. all too often the owners have unwittingly provided a pleasant consequence. The behavior will not change unless the owners can change their own behavior, either to re-train the dog or to change the situation so that the dog does not have oppertunity to perform the undesirable behavior. for an eg of removing oppertunity : for the dog taking food off the kitchen table is self-rewarding (no shit, sherlock !), but the owners can remove oppertunity by training themselves to never leave any food out where dog can reach it and/or putting stretch gate on kitchen door opening and closing same to exclude dog whenever food might be left within reach.

Neutering removes a fuel that is more relevant to some behaviors than to others. Certainly relevant to escape and roaming that is motivated by "looking for love in all the wrong places" ; but the element of adequate fencing and a locked gate is also relevant. Dog might still escape because he's bored and lonely for human attention. Neutereing removes a lot of fuel from leg lifting indoors, but it won't necessarily be a cure in itself ; re-training still needed but easier now.

To the extent that a lot of dog to human aggression is motivated by fear, in turn often caused by owners being rough or harsh or "show him who's boss by physical violence" tactics, neutering is not going to solve that behavior by the owners. and yeah, maybe maybe removing testosterone could make the dog even less self-confident and more afraid of owner and thus maybe more ready to go into "flight or fight" -- and if he's already learned that fight works better than flight, well this is a bell that cannot be entirely unrung. The owners can and must change their own attitude and behavior. It can be a lot of work to re-gain trust of a dog you have taught to fear you. And some people don't want to change their own domineering and bullying behavior. Now neutering some of the macho owners might have a good effect, but that's another topic altogether.

Dear K9,

All those adults in the shelters , the stork did not bring them. Every adult dog was once a puppy, puppy born of bitch (unspayed bitch) and born to risk of poor ownership.

Because puppies are so plentiful and so cheap and easy to acquire, many people acquire one without much previous thought. They acquire a puppy impulsively and ignorantly. They raise the puppy ignorantly and indolently, ie without providing the education every puppy needs. They permit or encourage and reward behaviors that seem cute in a soft little puppy but that are not cute in a full grown adult. They don't see that cute adorable puppy as a future adult dog and don't consiously and conscientiously train that puppy to become the adult they want.

RCMP says "every handler gets the dog he deserves". I modify that to "every handler creates the dog he deserves".

So now that 9 week old puppy is 9 months old and the seeds sown by the owner's ignorance, impulsiveness, and indolence are now growing into great huge obnoxious weeds and trees. They sowed the storm and are reaping the whirlwind. The dog is now big and strong and mouthing at owner's body parts and jumping up wildly are no longer cute. This is when the no-longer-puppy adult starts to be in danger of being discarded into the shelter.

Notice that only a quarter of those adult dogs in the shelter are purebreds. The rest are mixes, thus almost certainly the result of an "oops" mating. These could have been prevented by one or the other of the parent dogs being altered. As to the purebreds, we don't know what percentage came from genuinely responsible breeders versus what percentage came from the infamous large scale puppy mills either via pet store ("how much is that doggie in the window ?") or via Internet sale or from the almost as bad backyard breeding-for-bucks breeders. Now because the most responsible breeders write sales contracts that include a clause that if the puppy buyer ever in that dog's life is unable to keep the dog, the dog must be returned to the breeder (a clause that tends to prevent discard to shelter) and because many of them also microchip every puppy prior to sale and keep themselves on the chip database as breeder or co-owner (which would tend to mean the shelter would notify the breeder if one of their progeny came in to the shelter), it's likely that the best breeders are not contributing much to the shelter population. But we don't have the hard data proving this one way or the other.

If the big puppy mills were shut down and the "oops" litters prevented, puppies would be much harder to acquire. Shelter intakes would be much lower and adoptions much highe, and the murders of innocent dogs merely for being unwanted would be rare.

Note that the death of an adult dog is no less tragic than the death of a puppy.

To Pam G, the purpose of sexuality is sensuality more than it is procreation. Sensuality is the fuel of sociability (think Bonobos compared to chimps). Neutering reduces sensuality. As rate of neutering going up, disease, phobia and aggression rate rising as well, despite extensive training programs by responsible owners. In the Northeast not enough dogs in shelters so they are flown in from Caribbean and Middle East, and trucked in by the thousands from the south to meet the demand. So unless you're arguing for restricting pet ownership, dogs would be best served were their humans to learn more about the nature of sociability.  

Dear Kevin,

What do you mean by sensuality in dogs ? and what do intact dogs do that is sensual or social that spayed bitches and neutered males do not do ? Are you advocating that dogs and bitches get their tubes tied rather than S/N so they can still have sex ? Are you talking about anything going on between the dog and the humans in home ? (especially all the dogs who don't have any other dog in the home).

(Now I am totally in agreement that the purpose of human sexuality is pleasure not procreation. I'm a charter member of ZPG. If Goddess had not intended humans to enjoy sex, She could have made us to be induced ovulators like cats , rather than able to enjoy variety of sexual practices without female being in estrus, like bonobo. But what has this to do with dogs ?)

I am more than a bit familiar with social behavior of bonobo and chimp. Especially writings of Frans DeWaal. and I've been more than a bit tempted to write a book "When Men Act Like Chimps, Women Should Act Like Bonobo" or perhaps a novel "Bonobo Nation" (women take over and create lesbian feminist utopia).

Other than the vast array of non-procreation potential sex among bonobo, almost all primate sex is procreational. The biggest sensuality in primates is grooming of one by another. They do a lot of that. We humans don't do as much of it, though massage might be an equivalent. The other sensuality in primates would be that between mother and infant.

But dogs are canids, not primates. Dogs don't have sex without estrus and mostly dogs don't groom one another except for some affectionate looking ear licking, and of course grooming of infant puppies by the mother bitch. Even Basenjis, who do groom themselves, don't groom one another. I've lived with quite a few of these Raiders of the Lost Bark during years when my house-mates had them. (My own dogs were and still are a sober herding breed.)

Dogs are social with one another in ways that has very little to do with sexuality. Wolves and basenjis come into estrus only once a year and so sexual oppertunity is very limited. Only the alpha couple breed in a wolff pack. The Alpha bitch will drive any other estrus female out into exile during that bitch's heat. Dogs other than Basenji come into heat twice a year, but that is still minority of their life. Dogs and wolves are sociable and playful and are cooperative hunters. That's the real social core of their life. Altered dogs continue to enjoy playing with other dogs. Have you been to any dog park lately ? The dogs there are engaged in intensive social interactions. Most of them are S/N too -- though it's harder to be sure with those who are shaggy or very fast moving. Hard to tell with bitches unless you get to feel their beliies carefully. But just ask the owners : they can tell you. Never yet met a dog park dog owner who didn't want to talk about their dog.

Dogs who live together also often like to lie in body contact with one another. I take that as some kind of friendship and as something that feels sensually good to them. Dogs often like to similarly lie snuggled up against their people, and that certainly feels good to the person, and I presume also to the dog ( the dog would not be so insistant on doing it if the dog didn't enjoy it ). Many dogs love to get a belly rub or a massage or various kinds of stroking from their humans. Most dogs socialized to humans enjoy some kind of physical contact from the human. How can you say that this is not sensual and social ? And dogs who roll on the ground in obvious sensual enjoyment, how can you say that is not sensual, though it's not obviously social.

S/N dogs also may "hump" one another, which can be in play or as an assertion of dominance. I don't know that I'd consider that to be sensual. Neutered dogs occasionally intromit into bitches, though that's not very common (I think -- one doesn't hear about it, which might merely mean that people don't talk about it, but I have never seen it myself in 30 years of observation.) Are you saying that intromission, copulation, is the only or most important form of sensuality or sexuality for dogs ? (Well we did have a President who said something similar for humans, or rather that oral sex was not really sex. but let's not get into that topic.)

Note also that the majority of serious dog fights, fights that produce injuries, are between 2 unaltered males or between 2 unaltered bitches. The bitch fights seem most likely to start when one or the other is in estrus or about to be or when one or the other has puppies. Once two bitches have begun fighting , the hostility tends to be long lasting, so prospects for friendship are now gone between them. The male to male fights are any old time, but probably (dog breeders would know this better than I would) more common if there is an estrus bitch in the home too. Is the physical contact of fighting a desirable form of "sensuality" or "sociality" ? Not in my view. But perhaps I am defective in not being into S&M as a form of sensuality/sexuality. I don't think dogs are into S&M or B&D either. Though a few of them do seem to enjoy fighting. so maybe I am wrong about this ?

As to the argument that at the same time period that S/N has become more widespread we have also seen increases in dog behavior problems and in dog health problems. Well this is also the time period in which we have seen huge increase in human obesity and type ii diabetes and cell phone and computer useage.. Are these related to incidence of dog S/N ? or maybe lack of human S/N ?

What is happening is that humans are leading more and more sedentary lifestyles, and that means that most of those human's dogs are leading lives more and more lacking in exercise. maybe also more and more lacking in training. and the training that is done is mostly with food rewards , which is fine provided each tid-bit is tiny and deducted from dog's total daily intake and that the handler switches from constant reinforcement schedule to variable (slot machine) schedule as soon as possible for each new cue-response acquisition.

We have more and more dogs who are grossly underexercised, physically and mentally. Now I wouldn't say that ALL dog behavior problems would be ameliorated by increased physical and mental exercise nor that all dog-handler relationships would be improved by an hour's walking together , but probably at least 95% of them would be. Add training as part of the walk and that % goes higher.

So lack of human time put into training and exercising the dog is probably largest single cause of behavior problems.

and as to health problems, again the sedentary lifestyle takes its toll.

The epidemic of obesity in dogs parallels that in humans.. I don't know if anyone has studied or published on the concordance between fitness , overweight , and obesity at one end of the leash with that at the other end. I'd bet it's very very high. Sedentary owner becomes obese and causes obesity in the dog. Now obesity creates quite a number of health problems and exacerbates others. So some of the increases in heart problems, orthopedic (arthritic) problems, some forms of cancer, etc in both dog and human are due to lack of exercise causing obesity. And the obesity makes further effforts to exercise even harder.

The other reason we have more cancer, heart disease, and kidney failure in dogs and in humans is that more of both species are living into senior years. The puppy or child who would 50 years ago have died young of an infectious disease is now protected by vaccination and so not dying young. The 50 years ago small town lifestyle turned-oose-from-morning-to-night dog who might have died from a preventable traumatic accident is now kept fenced and on leash and so is not getting hit by car and other deadly events.

We and our dogs get to live into those senior years when all organ systems are not working as well as they used to, especially the hard working kidneys and the ever-working heart, and when cancer causing genetic mishaps in cells dividing become more frequent and the elderly immune system becomes less able to detect and destroy aberrant cells. We and our dogs may also be getting exposed to more carcinogenic chemicals in our shared environment than we used to. (the one exception being the decrease in humans addicting themselves to tobacco).

As to shelter intakes being low, well in California our shelters have not been so lucky. Many of them are over-flowing with local intakes. The economy is part of it and much of Califfornia has been hard hit. Intakes are up and shelter budgets are slashed. So if you know any shelters in your own area who want to import dogs, they are welcome to take dogs from our California shelters. Sacramento certainly has an excess of doomed dogs who would love to get a second chance at life. These dogs are not asking for sex and silk sheets, just for a chance to live out their lives in a responsible and loving home where they will get food and affection and exercise and leadership.

And a lot of the owners who surrender or abandon their dogs need to learn a lot about responsibility. Owning a dog is a more serious commitment than getting married , because your spouse, whether same sex or not same sex, "got along without you before he/she met you and could get along without you now" (old song, possibly before your time). Owning a dog is as serious a responsibility as parenting a child. Children are more demanding and harder to house-break , but a neglected or abused or abandoned child will be taken in to Child Protective Services, which may not be greatest kind of lifestyle, but the child won't get killed or PTS or euthanized if no one adopts it within a short time period.

Humans do need to learn more about canine ethology, social behavior, body language, learning , emotions, etc. Those willing to self educate have access to some wonderful books, including those by authors who are bloggers on this site as well as some others. I especially like "The Other End of the Leash" by McConnell, "How to Teach a New Dog Old Tricks" by Dunbar, and "My Smart Puppy" by Kilcommons and Wilson. Just those three would be a very good start and should be required reading for everyone BEFORE they obtain a dog. Some people learn better from videotapes and DVDS. Some learn best by hands-on teaching from a good trainer. Those are all good.

Now because I do dog rescue and foster care, I guess that anyone who observed my selectiveness in screening and educating my adopters might well say that I am "restricting" dog ownership. But with emphasis on educating applicants and helping people who consult me with behavior issues, I am also increasing the pool of competent and responsible owners.

A dog is a responsibility. A child is a responsibility. Don't have one of either unless you are willing to commit to fulfilling those responsibilities.

I believe that sexuality is a lesser function of sensuality, rather than the other way around. Dogs are incredibly tactile and crave physical contact as a function of their highly sensual makeup. This is the essence of sociability, desiring the presence of others for the emotional and physical pleasure of simple contact and even more importantly at the highest end of its expression, synchronized and collective action. Because of this fundamental aspect of the canine makeup, neutered males and spayed females are still very sensual and so of course can still be playful, but they are less sensual than they could be, and in many dogs this brings them under a critical threshold. All social beings become more sensitive as they mature, but neutering increases this sensitivity, hence, easier for owners to inhibit the dog and it tends not to roam as much. Other side effects of sensitization are defensive aggression, noise phobias and separation anxiety, which many dogs (typically the very friendly ones) begin to manifest later in life. Puppies are more sensual than adults, dogs are more sensual than wolves, thus puppies and dogs are the more social. To other of your points, it has been my experience that aggression between females is toughest to deal with, neutered males next, and easiest to deal with whole males. Rolling on the ground is indeed sensual, and it is also social. If an aggressive dog begins to roll on the ground next to another dog, he is indirectly connecting with it and it's a very good sign. As far as health goes, the cancers and degenerative conditions are hitting at young ages, not function of living longer. I have to say the English language got it right, whole equals health.   

I was very annoyed with this rude lady who had several dogs for adoption outside my favorite pet store this weekend. As we were checking out those adorable puppies who needs a home, my sister who live with me wanted to adopt one. I have an English Bulldog, 16 mos and not fixed. I adopted him from a friend of a friend who cannot take care of him anymore. He's the most affectionate,good temperament, extremely friendly dog! Anyway, this lady told me she cannot give me a dog because my sis lives with and I am an irresponsible dog owner for not having him fixed! I was appalled when she said that. There's a more diplomatic way of saying it. SHE DOESN'T KNOW ME! I give my pet the bestest care, he gets groomed twice a month, goes to dog day care for socialization couple times a month, have playdates almost every weekend, and i moved to an expensive apartment for him to have a backyard to have more area to play with me, he sleeps beside me in bed and gets a weekly massage! I give him all the love he could possibly get! How can she tell me that rudely just because she saw my dog's balls. He does mark a lot of sheets and area but i always have the time to clean after him. It is just rude ofbher to question my choice.

Dear Bubba,
You are right that this woman was rude to you, though she probably thought she was just being very straightforward and candid. Please try to understand "where she is coming from" is probably from years of heart-breaking work trying to save puppies and dogs that were caused by someone's not doing spay/neuter and not preventing an "oops" mating.

It sounds like you are indeed providing a wonderful life for your dog ! I wouldn't mind being your dog myself.

Now two things you didn't mention as part of this lifestyle, and I am going to suggest them to you. And if you already are on top of these, if I am telling you something you already know, I trust you will forgive me. because I don't know you and don't know whether or not you already know this info.

One is you didn't mention training as part of this. Every dog needs some training so as to be easy to live with and so that you may someday save his life with a timely "Come" or "Whoa" (any halt command). "Come" saves his life if he is running towards danger that is further away from you ; "Whoa" saves his life if the danger is between you and him and he's moving towards the danger. Plenty of other useful commands of course. Since he shares your bed, you want to be able to tell him to get off so you can re-arrange blankets ; also "move over" when you find yourself sliding off the edge of the bed.

Two is that you need either to start a vet savings account or get him onto a good vet insurance plan. Because Bulldogs are one of the breeds "most likely to pay off your vet's tuition loans" : this breed has so many health problems. So you want to be prepared financially for those problems.

Now you mention that he "marks a lot". I assume that by that you mean that he lifts his leg and pees indoors. If that is the case, even though you don't care, your landlord will care very much and will be very "pissed off" when the damage is discovered. You need to convince the dog not to urinate indoors. And, though you don't like the idea, his testosterone level is relevant : intact male dogs are far more motivated to "mark" everywhere, including indoors, than neutered ones.

As to your sister's desire to adopt, well there are basically two choices about what to reveal to the rescue or shelter.

One would be to just not mention you and your dog : pretend you and he don't exist or that she is moving out of your joint home. The problem (aside from ethics of lying) with that is that it's really desirable for resident dog and prospective adopted dog to meet before the adoption so that you can see if they are likely to get along. But if your sister adopts a spayed bitch --- and almost all rescues will have either done the spay already or will demand it get done soon after adoption or before 6 months age --- it's 99.44% sure that a male dog, intact or altered, and a spayed bitch will get along amicably.

Alternatively she can be honnest and ask to adopt a spayed bitch (best choice) or a neutered male who is KNOWN to get along well with intact males.

Either way, my strong recommendation is that she get a spayed bitch if you and she will continue living together.

And a more diplomatic rescue person would have said something more like what I have said. Would have asked for more info about you and your dog and lifestyle. Now she might well have pointed out that neutering would help a lot to reduce or eliminate the "marking" problem. And she could have pointed out other advantages to the dog, such as being less of a target for other dogs' aggression at the dog park. And that he'd be spared the extreme frustration that occurs whenever estrus bitch scent comes to him on the wind. I would guess that is like being a boy in high school back in the 50's when there was constant arousal with little chance of satisfaction. It wasn't just Mick Jagger who "can't get no satisfaction". Ahh, but I am not male, so I only know the other side of the frustration coin.

Best wishes to you and your dog ! and to your sister for finding her own doggie soulmate !

Marking indoors is a sign of insecurity, not testosterone. 


Thank you Pam for the info, I already did a research about bulldogs and my bestfriend actually have one too. I just got him the Vet insurance after I spent close to 1K just for skin problems in less than a month due to his food sensitivity. He goes to a wee wee pad during the night and when left alone at daytime. As for the markings, he does it only to throw pillows on the couch, and I always reprimand him whenever I catch him doing it. He had basic obedience training, and he know tricks a lot of tricks.... very fast learner, he knows all the names of his toys. I use the clicker method. Now he's learning how to close the door. He got his own sleeping area but he always snuggle right beside me. Anyway, the puppy that my sister wanted to adopt was spayed already. I totally understand if she will not grant us the puppy that we chose (we can always buy one to a reliable breeder and I promise you, she or he will be S/N) but what irked me was how she said it. I actually explained to her that I might do it come fall when the weather is colder, she said, "why wait, it's just 2 stitches, why not now?" Bulldogs do not fare well induring hot weather. Her face says more than what she uttered! If she wants someone to listen to what she's preaching, she better learn how to talk to people. I know I am a better dog owner than other Mom's to their kids.Thanks again Pam.

Dear Bubba G,

It sounds to me like you are both responsible and knowledgeable. A dog caretaker (or guardian or owner -- let's not get too fussy about terms) needs to be both responsible and knowledgeable. Responsibility, the commitment to act for the welfare of the dog for the dog's lifetime , has to come from within the person. It comes from a person's character. Knowledge however can (must) come from outside the person, either the person goes out to study (doing your homework) and learns from experiences and/or other people give knowledge (ie teach) to that person.

To fullfill the responsibility to educate your dog so dog is safe in world and well behaved and responsive, you have to know something about training and dog behavior. there's always more to learn. To fullfill the responsibility to maintain your dog's health , you have to know something about wellness (prevention of illness and injury), about first aid, and about symptoms of illness, and you have to cultivate good relationship with one or more vets. and again, always more to learn because it's a moving target.

Bubba, you are doing a lot of good things with your dog. and you've gotten a reasonable knowledge of the breed problems. you are sure right about heat. all of the squashed faced breeds have more trouble breathing and more trouble coping with heat. for wrinkled skin breeds, the areas inside the wrinkles are warm and moist and dark, which is ideal for growth of bacteria, yeast, etc. so checking and cleaning those areas can be a routein chore.

If the only things in the house that your dog pees on are the throw pillows, it could be that you need to really soak those in enzymatic pee deodorizer. But I'd suggest you also consider if you could live without any throw pillows. or throw out the contaminated ones and replace with new ones that have removable covers. under those covers put liquid-proof covers. then you only have to toss the outer covers into the washer. Because he is used to peeing on wee pads, it's likely that he just cannot distinguish the throw pillows from those wee pads. if "reprimanding" him hasn't worked, well then it's not going to work. and if that is the case, then my suggestion of living without throw pillows is probably the best plan. now if at a later date you are living where you can have a dog door that goes to a safely fenced yard, you will probably be able to have him do all of his urination and defection outdoors, and then you won't need the wee pads. after the wee pads have been gone for quite a few months, maybe you can get new throw pillows.

If you do have surgery on this dog, any kind of non-emergency surgery, try beforehand to find out from Bulldog experts and vets who have a lot of Bulldog experience whether or not there are any special considerations to be taken about the anesthesia. I don't know answer to that , but because of the generally poorer respiration, I'd want to look into this.

Teaching dogs the names of toys is fun. also fun to teach them to wait while you hide a toy somewhere out of sight, then give dog permission to go find it. some people teach dog to find the car keys, or eyeglasses, or cell phone. that can be really useful. and my beloved Chelsea always remembered where I parked the car and could take me to it if I had forgotten because I'd taught her "car" means "go to the car" and was a promise of a ride.

You are so right that everyone involved in dog welfare, from trainers to rescue people to vets, has to learn to talk to people in a way that encourages them to be willing to listen. Start by trying to find common goal. in this case the common goal is welfare of the dogs.

By the way, I've found that when talking to potential adopters, I do best by starting by asking them to tell me their story. Tell me about themselves, what they hope for in dog, what they need to avoid, what their lifestyle is like (in aspects relevant to the dog). etc. That usually gives me a pretty good picture of their level of responsibility and their level of knowledge overall. So at that point I can ask questions and give advice in a way that they will be more receptive to.


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