Does Neutering a Dog Help With Aggression?
If you recently brought a puppy into your household then you are all too familiar with their high energy levels and exuberance for life. They vacillate between being charming in the moment and a four-legged nuisance.
That’s never more true than when the vexed question of male aggression comes up. There are all kinds of reasons for this behavior, and inevitably, as dog owners try to tackle the problem they ask, ‘Does neutering a dog help with aggression?’
This article aims to answer that question and break down some of the causes of canine aggression. That way, you can make an informed decision about whether or not neutering is the right choice for your dog.
What Causes Aggressive Behavior?
Let’s start by talking about the different causes of aggression in dogs. This is an important step since it’s difficult to diagnose your dog’s problem without understanding the reasons for it.
There are several reasons for canine aggression. These are the most common:
One of the most common reasons for aggression between dogs is that they are competing for dominance. Dominance behavior varies, but one of its most obvious symptoms is mounting or humping.
In less-friendly dogs, they exert dominance by:
- Jumping while on leash
A frequent cause of this type of conflict is that one dog is neutered and the other isn’t. The unneutered dog perceives it has an advantage, while the neutered dog feels reciprocally vulnerable. It’s the perfect storm for canine conflict, and it’s a problem neutering might solve in time.
Another common cause of aggression between dogs has nothing to do with hormone levels and everything to do with insecurity.
Canine anxiety has many causes. Sometimes it occurs when a dog gets separated from a beloved family member. However, it might also be triggered by a new or overwhelming environment, like a dog park.
To displace that anxiety, dogs lash out. In the best-case scenario, they destroy surrounding objects. If you’re unlucky, that anxiety manifests as aggression towards other dogs.
This type of aggressive behavior is common in rescue dogs. If your dog worries he doesn’t have enough food, he may start hoarding his meals.
And while food is the obvious example, it can also extend to a favorite toy or person. If you notice signs of this possessive behavior, you must intervene immediately.
Remove the toy, if possible. If it isn’t, you want to spend time training your dog to recognize they are no longer in a situation that warrants resource guarding.
But the primary cause of most dog-related aggression is fear. A frightened dog becomes aggressive to protect himself. This is particularly true of dogs that feel trapped in a disconcerting place.
But feeling threatened by other dogs is the other significant cause of fear-induced aggression.
That said, sometimes dogs don’t know how to interact. That can result in aggressive behavior.
In this scenario, your dog isn’t deliberately aggressive. They simply don’t understand what boundaries other dogs have tacitly set.
That’s why socialization is integral to a healthy puppy’s development, even if you decide against neutering. It teaches:
- Biting inhibition
- Acceptable forms of play
- Nonverbal cues/boundary recognition
What Does Neutering Mean?
So, that’s what causes aggression. But does your dog need neutering? Before we get into the pros and cons of neutering your dog, let’s take a minute to define what neutering is.
Neutering is a straightforward procedure that removes your dog’s testes. It was an uncomplicated procedure when James Herriot performed it in the 1930s, and it’s only become easier.
The operation uses a general anesthetic and is considerably less invasive than the spaying procedure used for female dogs.
Crucially, neutering does not eradicate testosterone from your dog’s system. It does drastically reduce it, however, and that helps control aggression.
Benefits of Neutering Your Dog
There are several benefits to neutering. Its role in managing aggression is a significant advantage but not the only one. Here are some of the benefits of neutering your dog.
Calms Your Dog
There’s no instant cure-all for aggression in dogs. Training it out of them requires time and patience.
That said, a neutered dog is demonstrably calmer than his unneutered contemporary.
There are several reasons for that. The primary one is that neutering lowers testosterone. This hormone has a vital role in your male dog’s sex drive.
An intact dog can find it challenging to focus on anything besides mating, be that with other dogs or your sofa.
The lower testosterone levels neutering generates enables your dog to settle down and enjoy less embarrassing pursuits.
However, it’s important to note neutering won’t eliminate mounting behavior. But when it happens, it’s less about sex and more about your dog asserting themselves as part of a pack.
And because their hormone levels are lower, they won’t pursue even this kind of dominance expression as single-mindedly as intact dogs.
The other benefit of neutering dogs is that, in addition to curbing nascent aggression, it improves their cleanliness.
As the need to mate lessens, so do the discharges that come from mounting or humping. That results not only in cleaner furniture but a cleaner dog.
But the other reason your dog’s cleanliness improves has nothing to do with sex and everything to do with wandering. An unneutered dog naturally wanders farther afield, especially if you let them off leash on walks. That opens up opportunities for them to get into everything from burrs to fetid swamps.
Neutered dogs stick closer to their people and feel less compulsion to roam, resulting in a cleaner dog.
Additionally, there are medical benefits to neutering. Vets have found that neutered dogs are less at risk for prostate disease and testicular cancer.
Sometimes a sick dog becomes aggressive because it is uncomfortable, anxious, or in pain. By reducing the chances of your dog contracting these illnesses, you also reduce the likelihood of them developing aggression in later life.
Does Neutering Immediately Lower Testosterone Levels?
The answer is no. The testes have a key role in testosterone production, but their immediate removal doesn’t correspond to the complete eradication of testosterone in your dog. And if it did, it wouldn’t be healthy.
Instead, neutered dogs have lower testosterone levels that decrease further over time. And the lower they get, the lower the chances of aggressive behavior become, too.
Final Thoughts: Does Neutering a Dog Help With Aggression?
There’s no instant, just-add-water type cure for canine aggression. The answer has much to do with what’s behind the aggression.
If the aggressive behavior exhibited by your dog is hormonal, then neutering may break the habit. These kinds of hormone-induced behaviors include:
- Dominance exertion
- Territorial marking
This list includes your dog’s tendency to lift his leg. Depending on when you neuter your dog, they may never learn to raise a leg when urinating.
However, it’s important to understand that neutering won’t fix all ills. For instance, if your dog resource guards their food, neutering doesn’t help with aggression. It’s helpful for other reasons, but it can’t persuade a traumatized dog they have enough to eat.
But that shouldn’t discourage you from neutering a dog. Irrespective of the answer to ‘Does neutering a dog help with aggression?,’ there are many excellent reasons for considering the procedure. If you think any of them could benefit your dog, talk with your vet.
Your dog may thank you.