When the best time to spay or neuter your puppy can be a tricky decision, complicated by new research, old veterinary traditions and recommendations, and your own personal situation. For these reasons, we at Eromit do not require you to spay or neuter your puppy at any particular age but do make strong recommendations based on our experience and study of the subject. There are also incentives offered for following these recommendations although as long as the puppy is not allowed to breed, we do offer the new owners leeway in making the decision. Here are some of the factors you want to consider:
Preventing Accidental Litters– This does need to be a major consideration. We know that none of our puppy owners want to have their dog bred indiscriminately and contribute to the scores of mixed breed or unplanned puppies that are born each year. Of course, there are also health risks associated with breeding and whelping a litter, as well as financial concerns of raising puppies (including a stiff penalty under our contract if one of our dog’s is bred prior to the reversal of our non-breeding agreement). The main deterrent for most people however, is that no one wants to be responsible for many unplanned puppies for their entire life if it can be avoided. Owners of female puppies should consider that Labs can come into season as early as 6 months of age (although 12-14 months is more common in our line) and that strict containment is required for 30 days from the start of the heat cycle. This means- no boarding kennels, no visits to the dog park, no unsupervised time in your own backyard (since stray males are extremely motivated and able to break in!) Owners of male dogs should consider the lure of intact females in the neighborhood and how that will affect their ability to be contained or controlled. Plan ahead so that you know what you will do when your puppy comes into season. Containing your dog and preventing a breeding can be done rather easily if you are prepared (we do it here all the time, ask for tips if you need them!)
Health Considerations – When you talk to your vet, most will cite two main advantages to having your dog spayed or neutered at a young age. These are: 1) the prevention of mammary cancer in female dogs and 2) the prevention of prostate cancer and testicular cancer in male dogs. Both of these are true although to a much lower degree than you might realize. A dog who is spayed after her first heat cycle has double the risk of mammary cancer from a dog who is spayed before her heat cycle. What is often not mentioned is that the risk goes from 0.5% to 1%. This is pretty miniscule compared to the other, undisclosed risks that many vets don’t yet know about, or tell you about, that are being found in new research. New studies coming out show many benefits to waiting until your dog is completely done growing in order to spay or neuter them. On a logical level, this makes sense because we all know that sex hormones are removed during spay or neuter surgeries, and that sex hormones are involved in the normal maturation process of any animal. For example, what makes a young human boy look and act like an adult man? Puberty- which requires testosterone! Newer studies are showing that dogs who are spayed or neutered before maturity are more at risk of bone and heart cancer, ruptured cruciate ligaments (a serious debilitating knee injury that is very expensive to fix), hip dysplasia, allergies, and much more. At the bottom of this page are links so that you can see these studies for yourself – PLEASE read them and print them off to discuss further with your vet.From a performance perspective, you definitely do not want to spay or neuter your pet before they are done growing. Dogs who are altered too soon will grow longer and more disproportionately than if they were left intact. This altered growth pattern is precisely what contributes to the increase bone and joint problems and makes for a less physically stable dog (and often noticeably taller, especially in the rear end) than he was genetically programmed to be.
Behavior and Training– Many sources will indicate that in order to remove the possibility of behavior problems like marking, humping, or aggressive behaviors, you should have your puppy neutered or spayed at a young age. Again, new research is proving this old wives tail to be false. All of these behaviors are training issues and typically only arise if you allow your dog’s status to be an excuse for a behavior – don’t let this happen. You can teach an intact male to be polite and clean in the house as easily as any other type of dog. You can socialize your intact male or female to play politely or ignore other dogs of the same or opposite sex. Humping is as much a play behavior as a sexual behavior and you can teach your dog other ways to interact with people, toys, and other animals. If you want to see real life examples of this, you need only to meet our dogs, intact males and females interacting which each other and our older retired spayed females.
Practical Reasons– If you travel a lot, such that your dog must board in the care of others; or if you utilize services like dog walkers, doggy daycare, etc, if there are other intact (opposite gender) dogs in your household or an abundance of stray dogs in your area- those are major reasons why you should consider spaying or neutering your dog. However, we still urge you to wait until AFTER your dog is physically mature to do this, which may mean that you need to consider alternate boarding or care arrangements until sterilization is complete.
Links for further reading