There are lots of very good reasons for having a female dog spayed and a male neutered some of which involve reducing the risk of them developing health issues and in particular cancer which could shorten their life spans considerably. However, living with a dog that’s not been “fixed” can be a little challenging in other ways too, which you need to be aware of so you know how to care for them.
Entire male dogs have a tendency to roam, but females in season can also turn into escape artists and if a male should “get” to them, not only is there a risk of an unwanted pregnancy, but there's also a high probability of her developing a nasty uterine infection which would lead to all sorts of other health concerns.
Vets recommend that all dogs be neutered and spayed when they are 6 months old, although with this said the necessary surgery can be performed on puppies much earlier when they are 8 weeks old and they bounce back very quickly. However, studies have shown that where larger and giant breeds are concerned, being neutered too early may put dogs more at risk of developing certain forms of cancer. Research also suggests that larger dog breeds may be more likely to suffer from orthopaedic issues with cruciate ligament tears and hip dysplasia being high on the list of conditions they could be more prone to develop when they are “fixed” too early.
Some owners keep their dogs entire for reasons other than for breeding purposes. Working dogs and those that compete are not neutered because testosterone helps build strong muscle tone which means dogs perform that much better. Studies also show that females when spayed too early are more likely to suffer from incontinence later on in their lives.
If you are at all concerned about spaying or neutering your pet, you should discuss your worries with a vet and then go with their recommendations as when it would be best for them to undergo the surgery. However, if you decide not to have your pet “done”, it's best to know what it's like to live with an entire dog whether it's a female or male.
Living with an unspayed female means she will regularly come into “season” which can pose all sorts of problems not only around the house, but when you take her out for a walk too. Bitches normally come into season twice a year and each time typically occurs anything from 5 to 9 months apart. Often referred to as being in “heat”, smaller dogs can start their seasons when they are 6 months old whereas larger and giant breeds tend to mature much later which means their first season might only start when they are around one to two years old.
However, every dog is different which means it can vary quite a bit with some breeds like the Basenji only coming into season once a year and the same can be said of many giant breeds too. A season can last anything between 2 to 3 weeks and sometimes even longer. You may notice that your dog's vulva is slightly swollen and there's evidence of a blood which typically happens during week two. This “discharge” can last anything from 3 to 17 days. Most of the time, dogs meticulously clean themselves, but sometimes it's necessary to put special pants on females to avoid any discharge being left around the home and to prevent any males from “getting” to them should they meet up with one.
Going out for walks can be a little problematic simply because her “scent” will attract a lot of attention from other dogs, both females and males. It's best to keep walks short and to never let her off the lead when she is in season. You also have to be careful when you let her out into the back garden because a male dog might jump a fence to get to her, which means keeping a watchful eye on things when she is allowed to roam around a back garden and not to let her do so unsupervised.
The last stage of a female's dog season is when she loses interest in finding a partner and males are no longer attracted to her either. It's when her hormones start going back to normal which means your life can go back to normal too!
People usually think that an intact male dog will want to leave their mark all over the place and that they'll hump everything in sight. It's also a common belief that an entire dog will be more aggressive towards other males. However, this is not always the case because if well socialised an entire dog would know how to behave around other dogs and animals. They can be taught that grabbing onto someone's leg or attempting to “hump” another dog is not allowed. The same can be said of them lifting a leg to mark their territory. What typically happens is that neutered dogs will show aggression towards an entire dog rather than the other way around which is probably because they have a different “smell” about them.
Some entire dogs are a little “smellier” than others especially when they are “teenagers” which is just a stage they go through. Their distinctive odour is normally because they get a bit of pee on themselves which over time if they are not bathed or washed gets a bit smelly, but as dogs mature the problem usually goes away. Going out for walks should not be an issue if a dog is well trained and have been well socialised from a young age. However, unruly dogs need to be kept on leads when they are anywhere near other dogs or you may end up getting into trouble with their owners.
Some entire dogs will start marking their territory around the home even when they have been super well house trained which means you need to catch them in the act and then gently tell them off before washing the spot they've marked with an odour neutralising product so they are less likely to mark the same spot again.
It's never a good idea to leave either a female or male dog entire because not only do you run the risk of having unwanted pregnancies, but it could increase the chances of them developing certain forms of cancer which could shorten their life spans considerably. However, neutering and spaying too early can lead to all sorts of health issues too so it's important to discuss things with your vet and then follow their advice on when to get your dog “done”. If you decide to leave a dog entire, you have to be prepared so that you know how to deal with situations when they arise and to prevent anything untoward happening.