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Theory About Neutered/spayed Dogs


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I've read this thing about spayed/neutered dogs smelling different to unneutered/unspayed individuals because of physical changes, which puts them in a weaker position relative to the intact dog world because they're neither fish nor fowl and certainly not the "real" deal. This was in an argument against neutering. What do people think? When I read it, my first reaction was "hogwash", and I still think that, but at the same time I wonder... I'm sure they smell different, but does that affect anything? They still seem to know who they are, and unneutered dogs that my grey and I encounter never seem thrown off or acting more "dominant" or whatever, but then I didn't know my dog before he got neutered. Any thoughts on this? Experiences of changed behavior in dog owners who had other breeds that came as unneutered puppies, say, and then had those individuals snipped and noticed a change in other dogs' reactions?

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My two intact males are perfectly fine in mixed company. Cracker, who is a current NGA sire and has been drawn in

the past will show some interest in some females but he is hardly an out of control lunatic over them. Dodger shows

no interest other than a desire to play / run with other dogs. Pooter who is female and is spayed has nothing to do

with other dogs or other people, period. Dogs we meet in our travels don't seem to have any more or less interest

in my boys than in neutered hounds as far as I can tell. People on the other hand are fascinated by my boys bits.

Go figure. :f50:

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Any thoughts on this? Experiences of changed behavior in dog owners who had other breeds that came as unneutered puppies, say, and then had those individuals snipped and noticed a change in other dogs' reactions?

Barkley the terriorist carin terrier/tzu mix came to me as an unneutered 2 year old and was snipped very soon after. It did absolutely nothing in regard to his bluster snarling and throwing a fit at other dogs...as long as he is safely behind a door or fence. :lol

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My family has always had dogs, and my father REFUSED to have any of them neutered believing a lot of the stories you hear. Then I got my own dog. A Pit Bull mix. Had him fixed when he was 4 months old. He took no cr@p off any other dog, ever. My father was so suprised that a neutered male would actually defend himself.

 

I have to say that none of our unneutered dogs (they were all English Setters, one a show dog, one a hunting dog, and the others were the sons of the show dog) ever did anything like jump a fence to go find "love" or start fights.


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There are damn few dogs any more aggressive and protective than my soulmate Slim and he had been neutered. Most other dogs were afraid of him- he had very strong sai- and they somehow knew he was better off left unprovoked. You (and other dogs) could just hear Slim say-with authority- "You don't want none of this." Some people were even afraid to come onto my poarch while he was inside. When I wasn't there meter readers couldn't come for fear he would go through the window after them and he did run off somebody trying to break in once(you should have seen the blood). So I would have to conclude that it msut not be significant whatever smell etc. neutering must change. I have also noticed my malinut maligator female though spayed also is a dog who you wouldn't want to challenge if you were a bad guy.

 

My two intact males are perfectly fine in mixed company. Cracker, who is a current NGA sire and has been drawn in

the past will show some interest in some females but he is hardly an out of control lunatic over them. Dodger shows

no interest other than a desire to play / run with other dogs. Pooter who is female and is spayed has nothing to do

with other dogs or other people, period. Dogs we meet in our travels don't seem to have any more or less interest

in my boys than in neutered hounds as far as I can tell. People on the other hand are fascinated by my boys bits.

Go figure. :f50:

:rofl
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It's actually a very valid point because if your neutered dog isn't partial to other dogs checking them out and being puzzled as to what they are (just watch what happens next time) then there could be a fight.

 

I'm a bit puzzled by this comment. From what I've seen, neutered and intact dogs check each other out the same way. And I haven't seen anything to make me think intact dogs are puzzled by what neutered dogs are? Some dogs don't like being sniffed by other dogs, and react in a way that could trigger a fight, but this seems to be more a matter of personality and socialization, not whether the dog is intact or neutered.

 

As to the OP's question, I really don't believe that reproductive status has that much of an effect on dogs' social interactions with each other. It has a lot more to do with individual personalities. In addition, the original question makes the assumption that dogs interact with each other primarily on a basis of power and dominance, and that hormones affect strength of personality. I don't believe either of these assumptions are true.

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Neutering either one of my boys that I would label "aggressive" had any effect on them at all. We've always had more males than females and none of them show any change by being neutered, the same goes with the females in my home. They show no confusion when meeting dogs of either the same or opposite sex. I think a lot of the old theories of dog behavior have been thrown out of the window.

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Guest Giselle

Actually, I had to do a big ol' literature search on dog olfaction, and dogs DO respond differently to the urine of intact v.s. altered dogs. Now, you may argue that this is just for urine and so has no role in non-physical, long-distance interactions. However, I think chemosensosry communication is under-researched in domestic dogs, so this is nevertheless something to keep in mind. Here's a snippet of my summary on the article, "Effects of sex, gonadectomy, and status on investigation patterns of unfamiliar conspecific urine in the domestic dog":

Chemical communication through scent allows highly social animals to gauge one another’s: 1) body condition 2) competitiveness 3) status. Dogs spent more time investigating intact urine than gonadectomized urine. Both intact females and neutered males spent significantly more time sniffing intact male urine versus neutered male urine. However, results didn't show significant difference between investigation times of intact v.s. spayed female urine.

These results support the authors’ conclusions that dogs utilize scent marking as means to determine if the other animal is of high-threat.

Scent is a powerful means of communication and sexual status is even more so. I think this is a valid argument but we basically don't know enough to say how it can affect behavior.

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Actually, I had to do a big ol' literature search on dog olfaction, and dogs DO respond differently to the urine of intact v.s. altered dogs. Now, you may argue that this is just for urine and so has no role in non-physical, long-distance interactions. However, I think chemosensosry communication is under-researched in domestic dogs, so this is nevertheless something to keep in mind. Here's a snippet of my summary on the article, "Effects of sex, gonadectomy, and status on investigation patterns of unfamiliar conspecific urine in the domestic dog":

Chemical communication through scent allows highly social animals to gauge one another’s: 1) body condition 2) competitiveness 3) status. Dogs spent more time investigating intact urine than gonadectomized urine. Both intact females and neutered males spent significantly more time sniffing intact male urine versus neutered male urine. However, results didn't show significant difference between investigation times of intact v.s. spayed female urine.

These results support the authors’ conclusions that dogs utilize scent marking as means to determine if the other animal is of high-threat.

Scent is a powerful means of communication and sexual status is even more so. I think this is a valid argument but we basically don't know enough to say how it can affect behavior.

 

That's where I had the difficulty--the claim that neutering causes confusion for the unspayed dogs and a disadvantage for the spayed dogs when encountering other dogs. It seems this hasn't really been backed up by research (yet).

 

One more thing on urine: there's a dog trainer who sounds like he's well known in Europe (his approach is called Natural Dogmanship, which is based on the old dominance model--dog needs to walk behind you, you're supposed to eat your meals before the dog gets to eat his etc etc). I was told that he teaches dog owners to always carry a bottle with their own urine with them on walks so they can always sprinkle their own urine on top of anything their dog marks in order to be accepted as dominant by their dog. I nearly lost it when I heard that one.

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Guest Giselle

Hmmmm, I wouldn't call it confusion. I would say that studies seem to indicate that all animals seem to be least interested in the urine of gonadectomized dogs. The explanation in previous studies has been, perhaps, that gonadectomized urine is "missing" a chemical or hormone, which may indicate that the urine belongs to a juvenile or non-threatening animal.

 

As far as the studies show, urine samples from gonadectomized dogs aren't abnormal because dogs spend less time investigating it (psychologically, abnormalities tend to demand more attention rather than less). So, the urine and chemical signals themselves aren't the issue. Now, if there were some other chemical signal that indicated "age + gonadectomy" and dogs were "supposed" to understand that age = sexual maturity (and, conversely, understand abnormalities)??? That's a tough question that requires dogs having a very sophisticated theory of mind, and I don't think we can answer that yet!

 

And, oh yes. Who doesn't pee over their dog's urine? After all, countermarking is an indicator of sexual competition, and of course we want to be sexual competitors with dogs! :rolleyes: It never fails to amuse me how people usurp animal behavior for their own means!

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Chemical communication through scent allows highly social animals to gauge one another’s: 1) body condition 2) competitiveness 3) status. Dogs spent more time investigating intact urine than gonadectomized urine. Both intact females and neutered males spent significantly more time sniffing intact male urine versus neutered male urine. However, results didn't show significant difference between investigation times of intact v.s. spayed female urine.

These results support the authors’ conclusions that dogs utilize scent marking as means to determine if the other animal is of high-threat.

 

I find it interesting that dogs respond differently to the urine of intact vs. altered dogs, but IMO, there are many possible reasons for this that have nothing to do with behavioral response and actual social interactions. Perhaps intact male urine just smells a lot more interesting and contains more 'information' than neutered male urine. I fail to see how increased interest would lead to a conclusion involving assessment of threat level? Did the dogs in the study show other behavior that indicated fear or stress that would correspond with perceived threat?

 

Additionally, did spayed females and intact males not spend significantly more time sniffing intact male urine? Any thoughts on why this was the case? And I'm also wondering if the intact female urine used in the study included any females in estrus? Since intact female hormones are cyclic, I'd imagine the urine of a female in anestrus might not be too different from a spayed female.

 

When dogs first meet each other, I'm not convinced that their sniffing and greeting behavior necessarily has a competitive component. Most of the time, it seems to be more curiosity and familiarization.

 

And, oh yes. Who doesn't pee over their dog's urine? After all, countermarking is an indicator of sexual competition, and of course we want to be sexual competitors with dogs! :rolleyes: It never fails to amuse me how people usurp animal behavior for their own means!

 

And in some cases, the commonly accepted interpretations of animal behavior might not even be correct. I attended a Turid Rugaas seminar a couple years ago where she asserted that dogs didn't urinate as a means of marking territory or competition/dominance. There was more to her explanation, and while it calls into question what most people believe about dogs and scent marking, it did make sense to me.

Jennifer &

Willow (Wilma Waggle), Wiki (Wiki Hard Ten), Carter (Let's Get It On),

Ollie (whippet), Gracie (whippet x), & Terra (whippet) + Just Saying + Just Alice

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I've read this thing about spayed/neutered dogs smelling different to unneutered/unspayed individuals because of physical changes, which puts them in a weaker position relative to the intact dog world because they're neither fish nor fowl and certainly not the "real" deal. This was in an argument against neutering. What do people think? When I read it, my first reaction was "hogwash", and I still think that, but at the same time I wonder... I'm sure they smell different, but does that affect anything?

 

 

... gonadectomized urine is "missing" a chemical or hormone, which may indicate that the urine belongs to a juvenile or non-threatening animal.

 

Yep, they certainly do know there's a difference, but in the absence of the animal itself, it will be assumed that they are juveniles and therefore relatively uninteresting.

 

My own belief is that there are some un-neutered dogs who do find it strange to see an animal who acts adult but smells juvenile, and that - rarely - this can cause suspicion and negative behaviour. It is, however, a problem relating to individual dogs which react badly to things which don't fit in with their own view of the world, or who are badly trained. Most un-neutered dogs relate pretty much the same to dogs of all sexual status apart from bitches in season (providing they behave themselves properly, according to dog social mores), and often relate better to neutered animals than they do to the perceived threat or competition of other intact dogs of the same sex.

 

 

As to the thing about pouring urine over your dogs' urine puddles ... HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! As someone else pointed out, does this guy really think they see us as sexual competition? :rofl

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I brought my AKC puppy to Grapehounds last summer, and I noticed a lot of dogs were snarky with him just from a 2 second sniff introduction. He hadn't been neutered at that point because I chose to wait until he turned a year old. I really do believe it was a hormone thing, and the other dogs could sense he was still intact. With that being said, we had zero problems at home between my neutered retired racer and unneutered puppy. If anything, the neutered dog acted more dominant. So to answer your question, yes, I think they can distinguish between dogs who are intact and dogs who are not through scent. This may cause some dominance issues in the beginning. But I don't think it has a huge bearing on behavior in the long term.

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Guest Giselle

I would recommend reading the paper for methodology and purpose statements because I did not author it. I simply read it as part of a literature search, and I don't want to misinterpret their conclusions or justifications for the study. As accurately as I can present this paper, however, this is how I think their paper answers your questions:

Behavior responses to urine were analyzed in light of competition and "threat" because the study was performed under the claim that scent marking is primarily a chemosensory mechanism to reduce and avoid conflict (as has been validated in many studies of other species). They suggest that, due to previous studies and observations of free-ranging dogs, urine scent marking is a valid indicator of an animal's body condition, competitiveness, and, more abstractly, as a means of social interaction. There is also an argument that interacting with unfamiliar conspecifics is initially guided in part by threat interpretation. They validate this with observations from free-ranging dogs and experiments on other species. That's why they interpret longer investigation patterns as indicating that the animal is paying attention to signals indicating competitiveness or sexual interest. The idea of assessing threat is not based on fearful or anxious behavioral responses but from the claim that urine scent marking is a chemosensory mechanism of communication and that it is of most interest to animals who must pay high attention to conspecific competition and sexual interest.

Regarding the urine itself, they cite studies that show that "exogenous testosterone affects volatile urine components", so I believe this is the justification for a direct link between higher interest and intact urine (versus other "interesting" stuff that we may be unaware of). Of course, there are always confounding factors, but there are limits as to what we can control and how to interpret it.

As for the female urine, they excluded donors that were in estrous or pro-estrus.

 

In my opinion, this was a highly controlled and precise experiment that dealt with a fairly complicated subject. So, I don't want to misinterpret their conclusions and would suggest that those interested in the details of the study should try to read it themselves. The results are too long and a bit too nuanced for me to type out on this forum, so I'm really going to have to defer to the paper for the detailed questions.

 

As for the idea of commonly accepted ideas being mistaken and popular icons in dog training... I'm a woman of science at my core. If it isn't backed up with sufficient evidence, I don't think I can necessarily prove or disprove it, and I would hope that others interested in behavior and training would keep this same level of healthy skepticism. And, at the end of the day, if we're wrong, then this is just more reason to celebrate! It means that we're using science and getting closer to what is right. After all, if you look back at old studies from the '80s, they use the term 'dominance aggression' horribly wrong. Now, we're getting closer to the truth and refining our understanding of behavior. It's a self-correcting process, and, as long as we understand that we may be wrong despite sufficient evidence...well, that's alright by me! What IS flat out silly, however, is the usage of personal bias to misinterpret clear and substantiated evidence (like this crazy peeing European guy).

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Also, the authors are Lisberg, A and Snowdon, C, and it's published in Animal Behaviour. I think you can purchase the article itself for $38, if I'm reading the fine print correctly..

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in Australia when you adopt a dog from greyhound adoptions or any dog from any animal shelter they wont let the animal go till it has been 'fixed up'

 

this is good as too many unwanted animals in the world being put down everyday that could have been avoided

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my salukis were never neutered, being a responsible owner who was showing their dogs, neutering was out of the question.they never marked in the house, totally benign w/ other dogs, it's what I expected.

my scottie needed to be neutered- at 9 months of age he thought he was a stud dog. neutered he turned back into a family pet.

my intact welsh terrier never marked in the house then at age 6+ something wierd happened. he started marking the walls w/ his anal gland. then he started lifting his leg. a female in season?, tumor causing the change? nope....hormones didn't help, sedatives didn't help so i neutered him. he calmed down pretty quickly.

felix was neutered at 9 months- his focus was wacko- couldn't do any training- raging hormones. my friend/trainer who i've know for decades remarked that "it's time". i originally wanted to wait until he was fully mature then neuter hopeing for better bone mass. well, w/ all of his exercise his bone mass looks pretty substancial.

 

as to the sprinkeling of piss, i laugh. i pee in the woods all the time. all of my dogs except the greys have always marked on my spot!

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All of my dogs have come to me already altered, so I can't really speak to that. However, I have noticed a marked difference amongst cats. I have brought home two unspayed females. The resident spayed females were remarkably violent toward them (more so than cats ordinarily are... they don't usually take well to new cats). In both cases once I had them spayed the residents calmed down.

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