This is one of the hugely common questions for pet owners; Do puppies calm down after being spayed?
We hear it so often “Oh, get her done, it’ll calm her right down” and, it’s so common place that there must be something to it.
Spaying or neutering a puppy is a common practice in order to prevent unwanted litters, and we all debate how many months of age it should be, or wether the risk is worth it, but one of the big questions is whether doing so will affect their dog’s behavior, and a lot of dog owners will concur that their dog calmed down a lot after surgery. So how does this line up?
While it is important to consider all factors and consult with a veterinarian before making decisions about spaying or neutering a puppy, there is no clear consensus on whether puppies calm down after being spayed scientifically – however – there is an opinion out there amongst dog professionals about why this consensus exists… so let’s discuss it, huh?
Will My Puppy Calm Down After Being Spayed?
The short answer is no.
An energetic dog, is always an energetic dog, and spaying won’t resolve behavioral issues (like aggression problems, fearfulness etc) either.
The spay and neuter procedure pretty much just removes your dogs ability to reproduce and the sexual behaviours they may exhibit.
So, where does it come from then when we hear “Spay her, it’ll calm her down”? (As though spaying her will remedy undesirable behaviors as well as the medical benefits too…)
Whilst scientifically, there is zero relation between the significant hormonal changes spaying creates and a more relaxed dog, there is a bit of logic there. Let’s discuss.
What Studies Say
There are several studies available on the effects of neutering on canine behavior. According to VCA Hospitals , neutering male dogs can result in a reduction in sexual behaviors such as breeding attempts, masturbation, and urine marking, which can be dangerous and result in fights between dogs, roaming, and injury. Additionally, a study published in Veterinary Practice News found that the effects of neutering on behavior can vary depending on the breed, sex, and age of the dog. However, it is important to note that neutering can also have some negative effects on behavior, such as an increased risk of fear and aggression in some breeds, according to a study published in the journal Nutritional Research Reviews.
Does The Affects Of Spaying or neutering vary depending on age?
According to a study published in 2019 spaying and neutering can affect the behavior and development of some dogs. The researchers found that when they compared adult male dogs with unspayed females, there were no differences in behavior or development between the two groups. However, when they looked at puppies who were neutered before turning six months old versus those who weren’t neutered until after their first birthday, they found that early-neutered puppies displayed more aggressive behavior toward humans than older-neutered puppies did.
What Trainers Say…
And I’m totally in agreement (as a professional dog trainer also), that most of the ‘calmness’ seen in our young dogs after spaying or neutering is actually due to the fact that we’ve finally managed to teach our excitable little puppy how to switch off.
This is hugely neglected in puppy training, and so when we neuter them, and put them on 10-14 days of bed rest after the surgery – because returning to the dog park would be a great way to split stitches….
As pet parents, we have to find different ways to keep their energy levels down so they don’t injure themselves, and whilst initially they become wild dogs, over time, they appear to calm down… which results in long lasting behavioral changes, because your spayed dog has learned how to finally relax. The recovery time, and your desire to keep your dog calm to prevent further injury creates calmness.
However, this is a false positive or a side affect of the surgery.
What’s good to know is that this long-term effect is achievable without the spay surgery, it’s all about managing how much energy they have.
The best way to achieve a calm dog is to train that, and it’s surprisingly simple to add “calm” to your dog’s personality.
Excercise suggestion: Reward Calm
Every time you see your dog naturally relax, or shake off, then it’s a good idea to praise and reward them for self regulating their energy and anxiety. When they see that relaxing is beneficial to them and rewarding to them, they will learn to do it more.
Tone here will be really important, we need bed time story calm praise and reward, not really excited. Because we’re trying to encourage relaxation.
What Is Spaying?
Spaying is a sort of neuter surgery. Spaying is the removal of a female dog’s reproductive organs, traditionally including her uterus and ovaries. This is a surgical procedure requiring general anesthesia. The incision site will be stitched or glued, and it does take a varied recovery period depending on whether your girl has had a keyhole-type surgery, or a more traditional small incision.
Your dog will come home with an Elizabethan collar and likely pain medications and as the healing process takes place, your vet will recommend that your girl doesn’t get much exercise for the next 7-14 days. And this is the really important part.
Your dog will no longer have a reproductive cycle, can no longer get breast cancer, and will no longer be at risk of ovarian cancer, or pyometra (which is quite wicked, I’ve seen that surgery in person).
It’s good to note that spayed females can still experience false pregnancy or phantom pregancy.
Health Benefits of Spaying or Neutering a Puppy
Spaying or neutering a puppy can lead to a reduction in certain health risks for both female dogs. According to the research, spaying or neutering can reduce the risk of certain cancers, such as mammary gland tumors. It can also decrease the risk of certain infections, such as uterine infections and sexually transmitted infections but this very much depends on breed. Additionally, spaying or neutering can reduce the risk of certain sexual behavioral problems, such as sexual behaviors like roaming and marking, it also helps control pet overpopulation and minimise unwanted animals.
Behavioral Effects of Spaying or Neutering a Puppy
Spaying or neutering a puppy may also have some behavioral effects. According to a study published in Psychology Today, spayed and neutered dogs showed a roughly 8 percent increase in excitability. However, another study suggests that spayed females may display more consistent behavior and less aggression. They may exhibit aggressive behaviors when competing for male attention or when they become pregnant.
Moreover, some guardians of spayed dogs report significant behavior changes such as the appearance of skittishness, aggression, and anxiety after their dog fully recovers from the spay surgery.
It is important to keep in mind that every dog is different, and the effects of spaying or neutering can vary depending on the individual dog. Factors such as breed, age, and temperament can all play a role in how a dog reacts to the procedure.
You can read more about that here, but again… we’re still not seeing that puppies relax after being spayed.
Alternatives to Spaying or Neutering
For those who are hesitant about spaying or neutering their puppy, there are some alternatives to consider. One option is to postpone the procedure until the dog is older, as some studies suggest that there may be fewer behavioral effects if the procedure is performed after the dog has reached sexual maturity.
Another option is to look into non-surgical methods of contraception, such as hormone injections or oral contraceptives. However, it is important to discuss these options with a veterinarian to determine whether they are appropriate for your dog’s individual needs.
But you can find out more on this over in our Spay and Neuter Info Center!
Do your research
Talk to your vet, talk to your trainer or behaviourist, talk to me if you want!
The important factor in these discussions is how well informed your “expert” is, for example, it’s not okay to just say “You get him done to prevent testicular cancer” or “you get her done to stop unwanted litters” whilst both are true, it’s much more complex than that – and that should be recognised. You vet, trainer or behaviorist should be able to intelligently discuss the risks for your dog now, before her first heat cycle and after. And if they can’t, send them this piece! Because we really need to create a generation of dog parents who know what is best for their dogs, even if the professionals don’t.
Consulting with a veterinarian is essential when making decisions about spaying or neutering a puppy. A veterinarian can discuss the benefits and risks of the procedure, as well as any alternatives that may be appropriate for your dog’s individual needs.
If there are problem behaviors, (even if it’s for your spayed female dog’s behavior), please seek assistance with a professional training with a positive reinforcement dog trainer before resorting to a medical procedure.
Your pet’s energy level is not related to spaying
In conclusion, while spaying or neutering a puppy may have some behavioral effects, it is not guaranteed that they will calm down after the procedure – this is a taught behavior. And luckily? It’s one you don’t have your dog surgically altered to achieve.
I’m massively passionate about informing you as to what the factors are, and discussing it with you, because no one can advocate for your dog like you can.
It is important to consider all factors, including the health benefits and potential behavioral effects, and consult with a veterinarian who is up to date with modern research before making decisions about spaying or neutering a puppy.
If you want to discuss neutering your dog and what’s best, and you want to tap my brain, why not get in touch, or go check out the spay and neuter info center!
Author, Ali Smith
Ali Smith is the Positive Puppy Expert, dog trainer and is the founder of Rebarkable. She is passionate about helping puppy parents get things right, right from the start. To help create a puppy capable of being a confident and adaptable family member and keep puppies out of shelters.
Ali has won multiple awards for her dog training, and has had her blog (this blog!) rated as 2021 & 2022 worlds’ best pet blog!
Thanks to depositphotos.com for the images!