What age is recommended for a GSD to be neutered?

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Veni Vidi Nom
Barked: Thu Mar 10, '11 3:31pm PST 
The bf is planning to get a GSD puppy and we're thinking ahead for when we'd like to get him neutered. I'd prefer to wait until the dog is mature. What age is that for a GSD? Any other suggestions for an appropriate age are appreciated.

Why are you- making funny- noises at me :(
Barked: Thu Mar 10, '11 3:39pm PST 
Well I'd say ideally not at all :3.

But if you must have it done, and you want to minimize health risks, I'd say after two years of age, 18 months at absolute bare minimum and personally I'd not even be comfortable with that.

Three years, potentially - I've been hearing from several dog owners that personality doesn't really seem to settle in until the dog is about three years old, so there's still some mental and maybe emotional development going on as well.

Jake was castrated at 15 months IIRC. It did alter his personality a bit but it didn't make him any less lovable or anything like that. And consider too that based on his age it's difficult to say whether or not his personality changed because he matured or because he was castrated. My guess is it was a mixture of both. I don't think there were any immediate physiological complications but those could show up in old age as well. His muscle tone is still good, and he gets a lot of exercise being a mostly outside dog so he shouldn't have problems maintaining it.

One thing you will have to take into account is that testosterone is vital for maintaining and growing muscle mass. Once he is castrated you'll have to be sure to keep him good and exercised especially since GSDs can be a bit more prone to dysplasia and arthritis than some other breeds. That extra muscle mass will help if he should wind up with that.

Edited by author Thu Mar 10, '11 3:44pm PST


Veni Vidi Nom
Barked: Thu Mar 10, '11 3:43pm PST 
I'm not closed to the idea of leaving him intact as I can keep an intact dog responsibly. My female Golden was intact for four years without incident until we chose to get her spayed.

I am curious however what the benefits to leaving the dog intact are.


Veni Vidi Nom
Barked: Thu Mar 10, '11 3:48pm PST 
So the main benefit is the testosterone helping to maintain muscle mass?

I've never kept an intact male dog so I would have to look into their specific needs. Making sure the dog doesn't roam, discouraging humping behaviors, and possibly aggression toward other males? My current dog is a neutered male- could that cause any problems? And if I ever choose to keep another intact male or he meets one, would there be problems?

Why are you- making funny- noises at me :(
Barked: Thu Mar 10, '11 5:09pm PST 
I've never kept an intact male dog so I would have to look into their specific needs. Making sure the dog doesn't roam, discouraging humping behaviors, and possibly aggression toward other males? My current dog is a neutered male- could that cause any problems? And if I ever choose to keep another intact male or he meets one, would there be problems?

Roaming is certainly a worry if there are intact females around where you live. Not all intact dogs react the same (colloquially, I have heard that it is usually dogs with prior experience breeding that can get a little out of hand) so that may not even be an issue.

Humping is - 99% of the time - not sexual, but dominance-related. Neutering really won't affect this unless your dog humps as a - and forgive the crudeness - a masturbatory aid.

Same-sex aggression is related to the presence of testosterone but if you neuter to "fix" a bad relationship, it's not going to do anything - the feelings are already there. It's actually (and again, this is colloquially, I don't have statistics to back this up) neutered dogs that tend to be aggressive toward intact males. I think this is probably because the scent of an intact male feels "dominant" to their own scent, and this can spark "disagreements" to put it lightly.

In an established relationship, however, it's unlikely to cause problems. Jake was castrated at 15 months well after him and Samson were already friends and it has not altered their relationship any. They both flip out whenever they get a play date smile.

I do question the validity of this study about SSA being more common in intact dogs - I would agree this is true with an in-heat female as a provocative factor, but testosterone plays a very minor role in aggression - it is mostly androdgen which controls aggression.

I am curious however what the benefits to leaving the dog intact are.

Me, I consider it necessary for a dog's entire well-being and development. Physical, mental, and emotional health, particularly while the dog is developing. Not so important after *full* maturity is achieved, but still not something to brush aside. That's sort of the general holistic approach, I guess.

Medically speaking, you're looking at more risks for a neutered dog than an intact one. Generally, however, we're looking at small percentages (1% vs 3%, etc) so it isn't a huge deal, but if you have the choice - why not avoid them?

What you're getting into with an intact dog - by age 10, he's almost certain to have "BPH" which stands for "benign prostate hyperplasia" which I stress is a BENIGN enlargement of the prostate. Plenty of neuter-nazis will go bananas over this but it is, in almost all cases, asymptomatic. It can cause difficulty in elimination when it happens but this is easily cured by temporary drugs (70-80% success rate IIRC) or castration at time of diagnosis.

Testicular cancer is exceedingly rare and has no mortality rate to speak of (less than 1% of dogs will get this). It's something so ridiculous to neuter for that I barely give it mention. At any rate castration is 100% curative.

Um, let's see what else...again, from the behavioral side of things, you're looking at potential roaming behavior which can be dangerous. Castration will *likely* stop this since he is less likely to respond as strongly to the scent of a bitch in heat. Proper containment and behavioral training will also stop this. For a mostly inside dog, depending on where you live...this really isn't a problem to worry about.

With a GSD, unless you have a showline dog, you're looking at a pretty "drivey" dog. Castration took the "edge" off Jake's behavior but I would hesitate to say that is something that you can expect - you're removing a dog's primary hormone system and the effects of that are going to be very complex and varied from dog to dog.

There are precious few medical problems which are reduced by neutering...don't be taken in by the B.S. Don't be taken in by the B.S. coming from the other side, too - you are signing your dog's early death sentence by getting him castrated. Like I said, it's small risks - single digit increases in risk. Think of it this way - often you'll hear your dog is "four times more likely to get prostate cancer if he's neutered!"

Well...true, but the risk of prostate cancer in an intact dog is .6%. That means for an neutered dog it is 2.4% (minimum, I think the max on that range was 3.5, I can't find the study atm).

At any rate, you're looking at a 99.4% chance of your dog not having prostate cancer ever versus a 97.6% chance of your dog not ever having prostate cancer.

Not a big difference...but my standpoint is...why take the chance, even a tiny one if you are otherwise capable of owning an intact dog? Everything is vital for a dog's proper development and well-being - you can't isolate the testicles and the hormones they produce from the rest of the body and say they don't do anything but make a "bad dog."


So my answer is...no, you aren't really putting your dog in any danger or killing or hurting him by having him castrated...but in the same vein of thought, is it really necessary? My attitude is a "wait and see" sort of thing...if he needs to be castrated, that will become apparent. As a prophylactic (preventative) I consider it unnecessary (for the individual owner...for shelters, that is another story).

If you are worried about his ability to procreate, however - consider searching out a vet that will do a vasectomy. That way you get all the benefits (and yes, detriments) of a hormonally intact dog that is still sterilized and unable to reproduce.

My philosophy is containment. And it's not even a worry over reproduction - it's a worry over his safety. The same precautions I have to keep him *safe* also, as a side effect, keep him from reproducing.

The big thing you might have to alter is if you live in a city and frequent dog parks, many will not allow intact dogs in. Some do, but you have to be on your guard for in-heat females when people are dumb enough to bring them around.

I am going to make a post in a couple minutes with a bunch of links for further reading.

ETA: Yes, testosterone plays a big role in developing and maintaining muscle mass. If you've ever seen a dog castrated at 8 weeks he will look a lot like a female in adulthood. If you live around farms, take a look at the steers (castrated male cow). They look very much like the females...and if the farmer has a bull, they look very, very different.

Same with geldings/stallions. The gelding will look a lot like a mare, the stallion has very definitive muscle definition.

You *CAN* maintain muscle mass after castration but you need to be vigilant about exercising your dog. Jake for instance is 115lbs of pure muscle despite not having any balls :3.

Edited by author Thu Mar 10, '11 5:12pm PST


Why are you- making funny- noises at me :(
Barked: Thu Mar 10, '11 5:24pm PST 
Okay, so spaying/neutering is pushed big as population control. And yes, it's an important part - but for the individual educated owner it is not necessary.

The supposed "health benefits" and all the other propaganda (aka "only good boy is a neutered one" and other similar mindsets about behavior/health) only came along later in further attempts to bully people into doing this.

Once again, I STRONGLY emphasize that neutering your dog (in adulthood...as a puppy, different story entirely) is not a death sentence nor is it going to make him unhealthy or poorly behaved. It puts him at small risk for more.

All these stats that neuter-nazi or even people with genuinely benevolent intentions tend to throw at you rely on insanely specific and narrow frames of mind and do not take a holistic approach on how it affects the whole dog. Okay, yes, neutering reduces risk of X, but it also increases risk of Y and Z...do they tell you this? Do they also tell you that increased risk of X only results in 1% mortality rate?

Here is an excellent article summing up the REAL problem (and sorry if I am getting a bit preachy on this it is just a really important topic for me that I have a lot of personal, emotional, and academic interest in).

Educate owners...don't punish them into compliance. Most people WANT to be good dog owners, they just don't know what that means.

Neutering does not stop aggression.

The presentation the above article referenced

AVMA Journal. This sites several medical risks associated with altering. Ignore the author's conclusion, it is irrelevant and besides only a single isolated example (and ridiculous and rather incorrect but I won't get into that...). Look at the actual numbers. Again, they are not huge. You aren't hurting your dog by having him altered. But it is important to be informed and know what you are getting into.

A vet's perspective, who used to be gung-ho into the spay/neuter all pets philosophy.

Long Term Health Effects of Spay/Neuter in Dogs

This is the big one that you will see cited around here. It summarizes the results of over fifty peer-reviewed papers, most if not all modern studies (a lot of pro-neuter papers attending to claim the opposite will resort to using 30 or 40 year-old studies and placing undue emphasis on overpopulation rather than the health of your individual pet).

An objective reading of the veterinary medical literature reveals a complex situation with respect to the longterm
health risks and benefits associated with spay/neuter in dogs. The evidence shows that spay/neuter
correlates with both positive AND adverse health effects in dogs. It also suggests how much we really do
not yet understand about this subject.
On balance, it appears that no compelling case can be made for neutering most male dogs to prevent future
health problems, especially immature male dogs. The number of health problems associated with neutering
may exceed the associated health benefits in most cases.
For female dogs, the situation is more complex. The number of health benefits associated with spaying may
exceed the associated health problems in many (not all) cases. On balance, whether spaying improves the
odds of overall good health or degrades them probably depends on the age of the dog and the relative risk
of various diseases in the different breeds.
The traditional spay/neuter age of six months as well as the modern practice of pediatric spay/neuter appear
to predispose dogs to health risks that could otherwise be avoided by waiting until the dog is physically
mature, or perhaps in the case of many male dogs, foregoing it altogether unless medically necessary.
The balance of long-term health risks and benefits of spay/neuter will vary from one dog to the next. Breed,
age, and gender are variables that must be taken into consideration in conjunction with non-medical factors
for each individual dog. Across-the-board recommendations for all dogs do not appear to be supportable
from findings in the veterinary medical literature.

That last sentence is the big one - across the board recommendations for all dogs are not supportable. They are, in fact, ridiculous. I make the generalization that for many, if not most dogs, being left intact is likely better for them, when paired with a responsible owner who will not allow them to roam and/or rampantly breed, but it is not so in all cases.

My big generalization, and this really only applies for dogs castrated at the accepted "6 month" age - you're putting him at too high risk for respiratory and bone/joint problems. A dog castrated too young will have longer, gangly legs, and a narrower chest cavity (predisposition toward respiratory problems). FAR less muscle mass meaning a predisposition toward bone/joint issues (arthritis, dysplasia, etc). Bone cancers as well but that is sort of an indirect thing related to hormonal changes, not a direct result of structural abnormalities in a pediatric neuter.

There are a lot of other small risks but these I think are the most significant...and again, they really only apply to a dog that is castrated way too young.

And setting the health risks aside - what works in YOUR life situation? If you visit scores of dog-related events that do not allow intact dogs in...yeah, sure he might be at 2% higher risk for X Y and Z, but is that really worth sacrificing something that makes you and him happy?

Not in my book.

For me, even if it was found that intact dogs are at 2% higher risk for X Y and Z I would not neuter. Again, that relates to my holistic approach. Everything is important. It is easy to break things down into segments of issue X issue Y and issue Z but it is not so easy to piece them back together to get the "big picture."

But if for some reason I was not able to enjoy something that me and Samson love to do for whatever reason, I would probably have him castrated. Yes, it sucks that societies testosterone-phobia forced me into making a poor medical decision for him in this hypothetical situation, but I'd rather him be happy than be...well, be male :3.

And before I catch any flak for that last sentence it was merely meant to be a light-hearted joke. A castrated dog still knows he's a boy smile.

It breaks down to...for any medical procedure, I ought to have a reason for it to be done. Neutering...I just don't see a reason (for me, individually - in a setting addressing a population, like a shelter, different things come into play). It shouldn't be done "just because" or "because it's the right thing to do" - it should be done because there is medical justification (surgical prophylactic is generally NOT a good justification) or because his balls mean a no-access granted to some sort of fun public event that we often frequent :3.

I hope you get what I mean. I mean I spend a lot of time talking about the medical stuff but at the end of the day what is most important is what fits into *YOUR* lifestyle the best. If his balls are getting in the way of living his life...lop 'em off! (And once again forgive the crudeness...I find a bit of over-the-top humor helps ease tension in these kinds of delicate and highly-political topics).

But unless there is a real issue at hand...why spend the money and leave him in a day or two of utter misery?

So, if you opt to keep him intact - and nobody should fault you for your decision, particularly since you already know it is important to leave him intact until he has physically matured - keep in mind that it is STILL vital, for dogs as a whole, to contain him and not allow him to breed.

Edited by author Thu Mar 10, '11 5:36pm PST


Veni Vidi Nom
Barked: Thu Mar 10, '11 5:36pm PST 
Very informative answer, thank you! I've been reading around on it a bit and it does seem like most of the behavioral problems blamed on a male being intact can be corrected or prevented with training.

The main reason I asked about mounting is because the only dogs that have mounted my dog (neutered male) were intact males. But their owners didn't seem to be making any attempt to stop them. I was talking to a guy at the dog park and his dog started mounting mine right next to us. My dog has never mounted but he also refuses to be mounted and it's the only time I've seen him snap at another dog in anything other than play. But the other dog owner didn't seem to care at all. It would seem most of the bad rap about intact male dogs is caused by irresponsible owners.

I can definitely see the physical things you've described affecting my current dog. He was from the shelter and neutered at a very young age. He's extremely active but he has long, bowed legs, and his chest looks ridiculous lol

I've been talking to the bf and because we were planning to wait until the dog was mature (and it turns out that's 2-3 years) I figure we can do like you say and wait and see. If by the time he's three we've been able to keep his behavior under control, we'll probably just leave him intact. I also prefer to treat my dogs holistically (raw diet, minimal vaccinations, natural flea/tick prevention, ect.).

I'll read through all those articles. Thanks again!

Why are you- making funny- noises at me :(
Barked: Thu Mar 10, '11 5:40pm PST 
Good luck on waiting until three...those first few years are the biggest challenge smile. I have wanted to have Samson castrated more than once...I just have to remind myself that his misbehaviors are mostly isolated and that it's important for him as a whole to remain entire...anyway, if you get through those first few years without getting fed up and getting him snipped chances are you won't see reason for it at three once the puppy energy is gone :p.

The main reason I asked about mounting is because the only dogs that have mounted my dog (neutered male) were intact males. But their owners didn't seem to be making any attempt to stop them. I was talking to a guy at the dog park and his dog started mounting mine right next to us. My dog has never mounted but he also refuses to be mounted and it's the only time I've seen him snap at another dog in anything other than play. But the other dog owner didn't seem to care at all. It would seem most of the bad rap about intact male dogs is caused by irresponsible owners.

You've got it spot-on. I mean, honestly, you could not be any more right if you tried :p.

Most of the stereotypes about crazed, hyper-sexualized intact dogs exist because a disproportionate number of intact dogs are owned by highly irresponsible owners. They don't train, they allow their dogs to rampantly breed, etc.

ETA: Post author changed to Jake, this is the GSD forum lol :p.

A bit of a friendly correction - holistically means "with respect to the whole." Mainstream western medicine is *generally* holistic in the sense that decisions and diagnosis are made with respect to the entire individual and everything about them, rather than isolated symptoms.

What you mentioned are natural remedies which are often more holistically minded, but are not specifically holistic in nature.

Not to say they aren't a good idea, they certainly are!

Not a terribly important distinction, sorry if it seems like I am nitpicking - but in the "main" Dogster forums no small amount of grief has been caused by people being confused about whether or not something is talking about "holistic" or "homeopathic" (which I think is ridiculous but that's another rant for another time, lol...) or "natural" or any other term like that XD. Which isn't anyone's fault, media & advertising tend to use the terms interchangeably.

3rd ETA: LOL. Sorry last one, I promise. Try to think about your dog's medical decisions in terms of how you would make your OWN medical decisions.

When would I have myself neutered? Now being that I'm a guy it is a bit difficult - but not impossible - to set aside emotional problems and gender identity issues that come along with that. But the answer is...if there was a medical justification to do so (such as cancer, which is generally the only reason human males are "neutered.")

Now of course there are different factors coming into play...I can control my sex drive. It isn't instinctual (which actually means that I *can* become "frustrated" whereas my dog only does in direct response to a scent stimuli), and I can understand the future repercussions of sex. If I didn't, well, a trip to the "vet" might be in order, lol.

But I can provide these "barriers" for Samson since he doesn't have that sort of understanding. I don't need to rely on a surgical procedure to do a half-baked job of it for me!

In a more general sense - when would I have an organ removed from my body? When its presence would cause direct physical harm to me, or would be highly likely to cause harm to me sometime in the future.

In another vein - when would I vaccinate myself? When I am at higher-than-normal risk for the disease in question (which is why I would not vaccinate for rabies if it were not law...my dog lives indoors in an area where rabies has not been spotted in decades...risk of exposure...if not zero...is nearly so!)

Edited by author Thu Mar 10, '11 5:54pm PST


Veni Vidi Nom
Barked: Thu Mar 10, '11 5:49pm PST 
Oh I guess I never thought about the actual word "holistic". I've always heard it used to describe natural...well everything XD Thanks for the correction!

Work? What's- that?
Barked: Thu Mar 10, '11 5:58pm PST 
If you manage to stick it out for those three years...be sure to let us here know! I'm always happy to have more examples of why you can decide to leave your dog intact and STILL be a responsible dog owner...there are not enough of us out there =/. It is hard to see for many people...frown.

In the meantime...try to avoid the "testicle police," (seriously...if it hasn't happened yet, complete strangers will come up to you and lecture you about it), memorize a fact or two so you can show your vet, or other interested parties, that you have done your research and it isn't just a case of misplaced empathy...and be prepared for when your dog becomes a "teenager." Intact teenagers are no joke whether they be dog or human...I am sure my mother wished she could have me neutered more than once, LOL.

ETA: What helps me to remember the difference is that holistic is more often (correctly) used to describe a philosophy or way of thinking, or a process, while "natural" is more often used to (correctly) describe some sort of product or other physical item.

Edited by author Thu Mar 10, '11 6:00pm PST

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