Neutering or spaying: the kindest cut

Unless you make a very conscious decision to breed from your dog – and you shouldn’t take the decision lightly unless you've thought about the hard work that's involved – you should always have your puppy neutered or spayed, vets will tell you.

Some first time owners may see the operation as almost cruel, but in fact it's anything but. If the procedure is carried out before a female's first cycle, for example, there is less chance she'll succumb to mammary tumors or uterine disease. There won't be so much mess when she's in season and the concern that she'll one day bear the pups of next door's German Shepherd is no longer relevant.

A neutered male is less prone to aggression and roaming. He won't have the same urge to mark his territory. And if your puppy is the German Shepherd next door, just think of the grief you'll save.

When to spay or neuter

Spaying or neutering should be performed before sexually maturity, which is reached at different times, depending on the size of the dog. The following guide shows when different breeds go through adolescence and then sexual maturity:



Sexual maturity

Small breeds:

From 5 months

Approx 9-12 months

Medium breeds:

From 6 months

Approx 12 months

Large breeds (below 40kg):

From 9 months

Approx 12-15 months

Giant breeds (above 40kg):

From 12 months

Up to approx 24 months

While all surgery carries risks, the normal outcomes of a sterilization operation for most dogs are recovery within a week and no lasting side effects. So all things considered, what's stopping you?

Teenage behaviour: how he’ll break the rules

Dogs passing through adolescence aren't exactly like surly teenagers (the two-legged variety), but there's a chance you'll have to endure some 'difficult' behaviour just the same. You might find, for example, that playfulness turns into boisterousness or even a little aggression. To your surprise there'll be pulling on the lead, or begging at the table, where there had been none for some time. Jumping up may be more of an issue than it was.

Your teenager (four-legged variety) is exploring the boundaries of what he can and can't do, trying to assert his authority. You need to curb this with firm reinforcement of basic training but also understand that, with the right control from you, the phase will pass and normality will break out once more.

The second fear period

In the wild a puppy's self-preservation mechanism often kicks in about this age to make the dog wary of predators he might soon face. In the home this characteristic (known as heightened awareness) can result in puppy suddenly becoming fearful of things that hadn't bothered him for months. The Hoover is frightening all over again and excited children have him scuttling for his crate before they're through the door. Again, this is a passing phase that you can help him through with your own display of calm patience.

Don't be tempted to make him confront his fears or provide him with too much reassurance - you'll either make him even more frightened or reinforce his irrational behaviour. Instead, increase his exposure to experiences gradually, gently rewarding any progress with verbal praise or a treat.

Training takes a step forward

Raising a puppy isn't all frustration and heartache, of course, and the fact that he's now a teenager means you should be able to build on the skills he's already learned. In fact, to not do so risks boredom, which in turn risks him chewing – bad news for shoes.

His listening skills and recognition should have improved to the extent that his retrieving, walking on the lead and response to basic commands will all take a step forward. In the next eight weeks or so he should be able to:

  • Remain sitting as you walk away from him
  • Look directly at your face when you require his attention
  • Recognise individual names of family members
  • Find hidden objects

Just one little note of caution – remember that he has a teenager’s attention span and is not yet physically the full ticket. Too much exercise could actually hurt his young bones.