The impetus for the discussion was a recent thesis on spay/neutering that found neutered/spayed dogs to be more aggressive, fearful, excitable and less trainable than intact dogs, as well as significant differences in bone growth between fixed and intact dogs.
Now, one of the most important (and potentially wrenching) decisions a gundog owner must make is whether to have their dogs spayed or neutered. If you ever plan on breeding then obviously the question is moot, but what if you don’t plan on breeding your dogs? What then? Should you get them fixed or leave them intact? It’s one of the most contentious issues of dog ownership, with compelling arguments on both sides.
There are the usual dueling scientific papers on the health issues surrounding spay/neuter (see above), but perhaps the biggest issue from an owner’s perspective is, of course, pregnancy. It’s a certainty that with a fixed dog you don’t ever have to worry about an unwanted pregnancy (or siring) and (if you have a female) you don’t ever have to worry about her coming into season either right before or during a hunting trip, hunt test or field trial.
On the other hand, many dog owners believe spaying and neutering isn’t always a good idea, and can precipitate changes in a dog’s behavior and/or health (see above). I’m not a breeder, and when I was considering having one of my female chessies spayed several years ago, not one but two old-time field trialers I trained with at the time warned me not to, as they claimed to have seen too many dogs change for the worse after getting fixed. My vet, on the other hand, recommended it. Talk about confusion…
Ultimately, I ended up not getting my female spayed at that time, but probably will now, for the simple fact that she’s much older and I doubt she can get much slower, fatter or lazier than she already is. But I’ve also got a young (two-year-old) female setter, and Ozzy, my new male setter pup, so it’s something I’ve been thinking about lately. Again, I’m not a breeder, and the only two litters of gundogs I’ve raised have both been whoopsies. Well-bred whoopsies, but whoopsies nonetheless. It’d be nice to not have any more whoopsies, but at the same time I don’t want to experience any behavioral or health changes with my dogs. And it’s worth noting that I’ve never had any of my dogs spayed or neutered, so from a personal perspective, I simply don’t have one.
So what do you think? What’s been your experience with spayed or neutered dogs versus intact dogs?