Spaying your dog has the immediate and obvious benefit of avoiding an unwanted pregnancy. Does spaying calm dogs down, though? Will it control her hormonal fluctuations?
Does getting your dog spayed mean she will be more easily controlled and listen to you?
In most cases, spaying will “take the edge off” dogs and modify overly aggressive behavior. It will not change your dog’s personality, however. A good way of looking at the effect of spaying a dog is that she will “even out” versus “calm down.”
The Role of Hormones
Driving much of your dog’s behavior pre-spaying is the natural cycle of hormones that reach their height when the dog is in heat. The hormones function much as they function in humans. At the apex of their impact, they can cause a dog to be excitable, irritable, and prone to lash out.
Because she is a dog, however, she does not possess the ability to recognize when they are active and moderate her behavior. That means you, as the owner, bear the brunt of an animal with raging hormones. Unchecked, raging hormones can cause her to lash out at stuff she would normally tolerate and display erratic behavior.
The erratic behavior can come in many forms. Your dog may snap at children who get too close or irritate her by grabbing at her. She might chew through shoes, toys, and anything else.
She may scratch furniture and rugs, causing permanent damage.
Until those hormones are gone, the erratic behavior will continue right before, during, and for a little time after she is in heat.
Spaying Helps With Hormones
Spaying is the surgical process of removing a female dog’s reproductive organs. It is a significant surgery that requires you to provide your dog with a lot of care and attention until she has healed completely. In most cases, spaying happens before the dog’s first heat cycle, so owners never see the aggressive behavior when she is in heat.
Once spayed, the hormones disappear. Your dog’s menstrual cycle will disappear, and her hormone levels will reduce. The difference in behavior, given the recovery period from the surgery, will be evident once your dog is up and moving around with no pain or discomfort.
Fewer Hormones Can Mean a Calmer Dog
Most owners will notice a change in the behavior of their dogs after they get spayed. The hormonal ups and downs will even out. That can calm her down, particularly during the period she would typically be in heat.
There are a few side effects that will influence her behavior.
She Will Be Less Aggressive
Usually, a dog that had aggression problems before spaying will notice a noticeable overall aggression reduction. Dogs that go into heat and fail to get pregnant can sometimes experience a “hysterical pregnancy.”
When a dog experiences a hysterical pregnancy, they may “gather” their “litter,” which can be anything from an article of clothes to toys to shoes. Your dog will protect her litter and be aggressive towards anything she considers a threat.
Searching For a Mate
An unspayed dog will aggressively search for a mate when in this mode. When in the presence of a male dog, they will challenge any other animal for attention. Challenging other animals can mean doing what they feel they need to deter other female dogs.
Their hormone levels drive this behavior; after heat, their behavior will calm down.
Both behaviors will calm after the dog leaves the heat period.
How Spaying Affects These Behaviors?
Spaying removes hormones from the dog’s system. That has the effect of eliminating the motivation to behave aggressively for the attention of a male dog. It also will stop the tendency of a dog to “nest” and create her litter out of objects.
Her behavior towards other female dogs will mostly calm down, although natural defensiveness or protectiveness will remain as before spaying.
Spaying Is Not a Cure-All
While spaying can do a lot to calm a dog’s behavior, it is not a complete fix for behavior that some might deem aggressive or super energetic. Your dog has a natural level of energy and aggressiveness that hormones do not affect as much. If your dog, for instance, does not like squirrels or cats, spaying them will not produce a docile animal that suddenly likes either.
Emotions and Personality Will Still Be There
Many owners think spaying will produce a dog devoid of emotion or personality, which is not the case. A naturally inquisitive, aggressive, playful, or energetic dog will remain as such, regardless of the hormones present. In most cases, their behavior towards and regarding their owners will not alter either.
If your dog, for instance, is very protective of you or your children, that, in all likelihood, will not change. They will still be defensive if they sense danger and aggressive in doing what they perceive to be protecting you or your children.
They will still have the personality that made you love them when you first got them. Spaying might take away a little of the edge, but the core personality will still be the same. The animal will still like the same toys and love the love you give them.
They will still enjoy the same people, foods, and activities.
When Will Spaying Affect Their Behavior?
How spaying affects your animal is about the only part of this process that is predictable. Much of the change in hormonal levels will depend on when in the spaying cycle your dog was spayed.
You may see no change if you spayed her before her cycle. If your animal was just beginning her cycle and the hormones have not had a chance to build up, you might not see that much of a change. If she was in the middle or towards the end of her cycle and the hormones were in full swing, the difference in behavior would be quicker and more dramatic.
The hormones in her, however, will still run their course. If they are in her system, they will have to work their way out of her body for any changes to take effect. Spaying does not remove them.
It only removes or greatly reduces the ability of her body to produce them.
An excellent way to gauge what they will be like is to pay attention to them before they get into their heat cycle. What you see when their hormones are at an ebb is similar to what they will be like after they get spayed. While spaying might calm them a little bit from that level of energy and aggressiveness, it will not be by much.
Besides Behavior, Why Spay?
Spaying is beneficial in several different ways, most of which are related to her heat cycle. Those can include, but are not limited to:
- More stable moods
- No heat cycles
- No pregnancy
- Lowered risk of breast cancer
- Less aggressive behavior
More Stable Moods
Your animal will have a more stable and predictable mood after they get spayed because they will not have as many hormones affecting them leading up to, during, and immediately after heat cycles. They will still have roughly the same demeanor as when they are not in heat, but they will not experience many spikes in hormones that can affect their behavior.
No Heat Cycles
A dog in heat is experiencing a hormone surge caused by its reproductive cycle. If the animal’s reproductive organs get removed, they cannot go into heat. Some animals will always have a period where they seem like they are in heat, but after spaying, those periods will be infrequent and not as severe.
Dogs with no reproductive organs cannot produce offspring. That means no pregnancies, litters, or having to place puppies in loving homes.
Lowered Risk of Breast Cancer
Some forms of breast cancer thrive when certain hormones are present in an animal’s body. Removing the reproductive organs eliminates most of those hormones and reduces the risk of cancer developing.
Less Aggressive Behavior
Hormones caused by reproductive cycles can make a dog aggressive, just as hormones affect how humans behave sometimes. The aggressiveness that is a byproduct of your dog when she is in heat should slowly dissipate. By removing them, a significant influence on your dog’s behavior gets removed.
Spaying Side Effects
As with any surgery, there is always a risk of side effects. Those include:
- Internal bleeding
- Restricted mobility
- A predisposition to developing a UTI
The key to recovering from side effects is ensuring your dog gets as much rest as possible. Additionally, following instructions from your veterinarian is critical.
Spaying your dog does not mean they will become docile if they were not before they went into heat. It will, however, remove most of the hormones that make a dog in heat volatile and unpredictable. Apart from changes in behavior, there are other benefits to spaying, and if you have no plans to breed your dog, you should get her spayed as soon as recommended.