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Will My Dog Change After Being Neutered?

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Dog Health By Ben Team 11 min read April 8, 2021 34 Comments

post neutering changes
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Pet owners have their dogs spayed or neutered for a variety of reasons.

Many do so to avoid the possibility of puppies, while others do so for the health benefits these procedures may provide.

Others may simply do so because the shelter they adopted the animal from legally requires them to. And others are probably just heeding the advice of the great Bob Barker.

Spaying and neutering is considered a requirement for responsible pet ownership (except for responsible, reputable breeders with experience breeding dogs).

But there’s one more reason some people have their dogs neutered (and, to a lesser extent, spayed): They’re hoping that it will curtail undesirable behaviors or alter their pet’s personality.

It is true that neutering and spaying can trigger personality changes in your pet, but these changes can vary significantly from one dog to the next. We’ll dive into the issue below, to try to help you know what to expect when having your dog “fixed.”

Canine Changes After Spaying & Neutering: Key Takeaways

  • Having your dog spayed or neutered may trigger significant changes in your dog’s personality. These types of changes don’t always occur, and they aren’t always predictable, but it is something to keep in mind when considering having your dog fixed.
  • Both sexes may demonstrate changes, but male dogs usually experience greater changes than female dogs do. For example, many males will stop humping or mounting people, pets, and inanimate objects. They may also stop wandering or trying to escape as much.
  • Regardless of any personality changes that occur, spaying and neutering often provide several health benefits. Females who’ve been spayed are less likely to develop uterine infections or mammary cancer, while males are less likely to develop prostate disease.

Common Behavioral Changes Associated with Spaying and Neutering

Although spaying and neutering procedures are pretty normal and considered “standard” for pet dogs, they are quite significant from your pet’s point of view. For starters, they’ll alter the hormones produced by your dog, and they can also trigger a number of behavioral changes.

However, there is a lot of variation in these changes, and different dogs will react to the procedures in different ways. While most owners will choose to have this procedure done at some point, there are many pros and cons to spaying and neutering a dog at various life stages.

Typically, males experience greater behavioral changes than females following a neutering or spaying operation, but females can experience a few changes too.

Some of the most common changes include:

Many male dogs will stop mounting and humping other dogs, their owner’s legs, and inanimate objects once they’re neutered. Others will continue to do so from time to time, especially if the dog was neutered relatively late in life.

Most males will become less likely to wander off in search of romance after being neutered. This can be especially helpful for dogs who always seem to be interested in escaping from the backyard or bolting when you open the door.

 Males are generally less likely to urinate around the house after being neutered. This doesn’t mean that dogs who are poorly house-trained will suddenly start waiting to go outside before tinkling, but it will stop the territorial “marking” behavior that many males exhibit (you may finally be able to ditch those belly bands).

 Some male dogs may exhibit less aggression after being neutered. However, this usually only works well if they’re neutered very early in life.

 Some females may calm down a bit after being spayed, although others will act just like they did before the operation.

Note that these are all long-term changes which will manifest over the course of weeks or months following the operation. There are also short-term changes that you should expect in the hours or days following your dog’s spaying or neutering operation.

Some of the most common behavioral changes you may notice soon after bringing your dog home include:

  • Lethargy
  • Confusion (your dog may essentially act stoned)
  • Changes in appetite
  • Mild anxiety or depression
  • Increased clinginess
  • Bathroom accidents
  • Excessive sleepiness

Most of these types of problems will resolve within a day or so, and many of them — such as lethargy and confusion — are likely to be the result of the anaesthetic wearing off rather than the actual spaying or neutering procedure.

Nevertheless, don’t hesitate to contact your vet if they persist or if your dog begins displaying symptoms of an infection. This may include vomiting, pain or swelling that doesn’t subside, or discharge from the wound.

What Is Involved in Spaying and Neutering Procedures?

Now that you understand some of the most common behavioral changes that follow spaying and neutering operations, let’s discuss exactly what happens when you have your dog spayed or neutered.

Most vets will require you to bring your dog in several days to a week before the procedure to verify that your dog is healthy enough for the operation and to obtain and analyze a blood sample.

This will help ensure that your dog’s kidneys and liver are functioning well enough to handle the anesthesia medication, among other things.

Assuming that everything checks out, you’ll be instructed to bring your dog in at a scheduled time. You’ll typically need to withhold food for some time before the procedure (likely 12 to 24 hours, but it varies from vet to vet), and you’ll want to go for a fairly long walk before the procedure to make sure your dog is completely “empty.”

Aside from that, you’ll want to keep everything as normal as possible so that your pup goes into the office relaxed and happy.

Both procedures occur under general anesthesia and take 20 to 90 minutes (spaying takes longer than neutering), although your dog will probably be at the vet for several hours to allow time for pre-op prep and post-op recovery.

A combination of several different anesthesia medications are often used during the procedure to ensure your dog remains unconscious and pain-free (or nearly so) throughout the process.

This typically involves an initial injection a short time before the operation starts, which will start calming your dog down and making him or her feel drowsy.

Once back in the operating room, your dog will likely have an IV line inserted into the front leg, through which additional anesthesia and pain-relieving drugs are administered (and perhaps saline too). A tube will then be threaded down your dog’s windpipe so that anesthetic gas and oxygen can be delivered throughout the operation.

From this point on, things are a bit different for boy pups and girl pups, so we’ll discuss the procedures separately.

Spaying

The term spaying refers to the sterilization of a female dog, although your vet may call the operation an ovariohysterectomy or ovariectomy (the former involves the removal of the ovaries and uterus, while the latter only entails the removal of the ovaries). 

At the beginning of the procedure, the veterinary staff will usually shave the area where the incision will be placed (usually the lower belly) and clean it thoroughly.

Then, once the vet is ready, he or she will make an incision through the skin, muscle, and fat to open the abdomen and access the ovaries and uterus.

The vet first finds and removes the ovaries before moving on to the uterus. The uterus, like the ovaries, is then tied off and removed. The vet will then inspect the abdominal cavity, and ensure that everything looks right and that there aren’t any bleeding wounds that require sutures. Then, the vet will begin sewing up the abdominal wall.

A bandage may be placed over the wound, and then the veterinary team will begin waking your pup up.

They’ll monitor her for a while and then release her to you along with instructions for her post-op care. You’ll usually be told to keep her calm for a few days and limit her activity.

Neutering

Neutering is the term used to describe the process by which male dogs are sterilized, although it is also called castration in some contexts. The beginning of a neutering procedure will unfold just as a spaying procedure does.

Your dog will be administered anesthesia and prepped for surgery. Your dog’s scrotum may be shaved and the entire area sterilized. At this point, an incision will be made in the front side of the scrotum, near the base of the penis (sorry fellas, I assure you that was harder for me to type than it was for you to read).

Both testicles will then be removed and the associated blood vessels and the spermatic cords (vas deferens) will be tied off. The vet will examine the area, ensure everything looks OK, and then sew up the scrotum. The staff will then begin waking your dog up, and they’ll monitor him for a while before releasing him back to you.

As when females are spayed, you’ll likely be instructed to keep your boy calm for a few days while he recovers (and you may need some kind of e-collar to stop him for chewing at the wound).   

post spaying changes

To Medicate or Not to Medicate; That Is the Question

Most dogs will experience a bit of soreness following a spay or neuter procedure. This can last for a day or two, or perhaps as long as a week or two in some cases.

Some vets like to prescribe canine-friendly pain medications to help keep dogs comfortable during the recovery process, but others do not. Those on the pro-painkiller side of the debate usually prescribe these medications to eliminate as much pain as possible and to help dogs rest comfortably while healing.

On the other hand, vets who do not like to prescribe painkillers to dogs argue that it discourages your dog from moving around more than necessary and helps keep them calm while they heal. This may sound a bit harsh, but remember that vets love animals and want the best for them – sometimes a bit of pain is an acceptable outcome if it serves a greater good.

The general trend appears to be moving toward using pain medications following surgery, but there are still many vets who feel that dogs heal more effectively if not prescribed these medications.

Just be sure to speak with your vet before the procedure and ask him or her about their thoughts regarding pain management. Some will be willing to adjust their typical procedures to suit your wishes, but others will remain steadfast and refuse to adjust their practices.

Thoughts from Our Consulting Veterinarian, Dr. Jo de Klerk, BVM

Although some vets do not administer pain medication to pets undergoing spay or neuter procedures to encourage your pet to keep still and rested, this is not in the best interest of your dog.

Use a crate if necessary to keep your dog calm, but don’t force him to endure days of pain unnecessarily.

If your vet steadfastly refuses to provide pain management for your pet, it may be time to seek out a new vet.

What Health Benefits Are Associated with Spaying and Neutering

Aside from the fact that spaying and neutering help keep the pet population at manageable levels, most vets recommend these procedures because they provide a few important health benefits.

These benefits are obviously different depending on the sex of your dog, so we’ll discuss them separately below.

Neutered Males

  • Most intact (non-neutered) male dogs will suffer from prostate disease if they live long enough. Neutering greatly reduces the likelihood that prostate problems will manifest.
  • Testicular cancer is common among older, intact males. However, because both testicles are removed during a neutering procedure, male dogs who’ve been fixed no longer have to worry about this problem.
  • Perianal tumors (which occur around the anus or testicles) are much less common in neutered males than in intact males.  
  • Some hernias, particularly perineal tumors (which occur in or around the anal region), occur less frequently in neutered dogs than their intact counterparts.

Spayed Females

  • Spaying helps to drastically reduce the occurrence of breast tumors in female dogs. This is important because up to 50% of breast tumors in dogs turn out to be cancerous.  
  • Spaying also helps to reduce the risks of problems relating to the uterus. Uterine infections are quite common among non-spayed females, but, because the uterus is removed during a spaying procedure, these won’t occur in spayed females.  
  • Although menstruation isn’t a “health problem,” it’s messy, and it can cause headaches for owners. Spayed females will no longer experience a heat cycle or menstruate.

Note that there are a few health risks involved with spaying and neutering too. 

For starters, there are always risks involved with any surgical procedure or anytime a dog is placed under anesthesia. Additionally, altered dogs — who often display increased appetites and slower metabolisms — are at risk of obesity and all of the other health risks associated with carrying too much weight.

There are also some breed-specific problems that can occur. Golden retrievers, for example, suffer from joint problems more commonly when they’re spayed or neutered at a young age. Meanwhile, German shepherds have been shown to suffer from cancer, incontinence, and joint disorders more commonly after being neutered.

***

Have you noticed any behavioral changes in your pooch after having him neutered? Or, if your pup is a girl, did she change after being spayed? Let us know about your experiences in the comments below.

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Ben Team

Ben is the senior content editor for K9 of Mine and has spent most of his adult life working as a wildlife educator and animal-care professional. Ben’s had the chance to work with hundreds of different species, but his favorite animals have always been dogs. He currently lives in Atlanta, GA with his spoiled-rotten Rottweiler named J.B. Chances are, she’s currently giving him the eyes and begging to go to the park.

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34 Comments

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Greta

My daschund of 12 years old has had a castration because of a big prostate.
He changed a lot, very sleepy, does not want to go out for a walk and outside he looks depressed.

The operation was needed but unfortunately his caracter has changed.

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Ben Team

Sorry to hear that, Greta. But we appreciate you sharing your experiences.

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Christina

I got my now nine almost 10 month old Australian cattle dog mix fixed at 8 months and if anything he’s gotten more hyper and a little more aggressive. His bad treats have definitely gotten worse too he’s tearing everything up.

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Ben Team

Sorry to hear that, Christina, but we appreciate you sharing your experiences.

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Karen Fleming

My 8 month old pug puppy was so very active. Wanted to play 24/7. Loved her walks was very hyper like many puppies are. After she was spayed I noticed a change. Doesn’t want to go on walks anymore. Loses interest on playing after a few minutes. She used to want to play all the time. Used to race around after her toys now walks slowly to get it. She’s been examined by a vet and checked for leptospirosis and Lyme . Both negative. Her physical was unremarkable. At the vet she was high energy active . I’m beginning to think she’s depressed . She eats fine. Sleeps a lot. Actually looks drugged at times she’s so sleepy. The vet couldn’t illicit any pain response from her. Trying her on pain pills to see if she improves with them and if so will have to investigate further. I’ve never had a sleepy low active pug. They are usually crazy active. We have another dog also that she gets along with fine.

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Ben Team

Sorry to hear that, Karen.
Let us know if you and your vet figure anything out!

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Akshaya

hi, my 8mo shih tzu is behaving the same way after i got him fixed. were these behaviour changes temporary? or did you do anything to cheer her up and she responded? please let me know.

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Traci Kessel

My Rottweiler pup “Six” will be celebrating his first birthday next week. Can you recommend a good age for a neuter? I’ve read too much .

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Ben Team

Congrats on your pup’s first birthday, Traci!
That’s really something to discuss with your vet, but a lot of owners take a “sooner than later” approach.
Best of luck and tell Six we said happy birthday!

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Rubi O

I just got my 5 year old rat terrier chihuahua mixed dog Darla spayed yesterday. I’ve always had mixed feelings about doing it before because I read she will change her personality but I’ve recently changed my mind about it. She doesn’t seem to be in pain but I was given a few pills to give her in the morning for 3 days. I don’t know if her personality will change it’s too soon to tell but she is still soo cuddly with me. I’m glad I made the decision to get her spayed after 5 years and a litter. I wish I would have done it sooner but that’s okay

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Ben Team

Best of luck, Rubi! We hope she stays just as cuddly as ever!

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Trish

We have a 5yf American Bulldog named Keona. He has not been the same since being neutered. He is not doing anything he used to do before he got neutered. I got him neutered to help prevent health issues and not for behavioral problems since he had no problems with his behavior. But now he is aggressive and tonite he went after me again. He is so temperamental for everything. One day Irs this and the next it’s something else. I couldn’t get him in the car to take hime to get euthanized tonite. He is on pain meds for whatever pain he has ??? Which we do not know exactly what it is. He has his surgery set later this month. Because he has issues that I can’t deal with and obviously he can’t either.

I wish I didn’t get him neutered

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Kelley Sundberg

I have a 13 month old German Shorthaired pointer that I just got spayed yesterday. We also have a 9 1/2 yr old Lab mix. Our GSH has bitten the Lab’s tail one time prob 3 months ago and we think it was food agression. But she already had 1 strike against her. Now last night the GSH who was on leash to keep calm lunged and attacked our Lab and latched on to her head. No puncture wound but definitely bruised it. It is swollen today and left a lil knot on her head. I have called the vet to get back to me if this is a side effect or if she is going to be aggressive now. I know it hasn’t even been 24hrs after anesthesia (sp?) so I am hoping that attack was because of that. Our Lab is now afraid to walk in her own house. We have to totally separate them at all times till GSH is healed. But I am totally afraid of what the GSH will do after she is healed. I do not trust her at all anymore.

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Ben Team

Hey, Kelley. Sorry to hear about the experiences with your pups!
You’ll just have to manage the dogs in a way that’ll keep them safe and give your GSP some time — hopefully, this is just related to the recent operation and she’ll be back to her old self with time.
Best of luck!

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Jane quigley

My pup became very distrustful of me, would not let me touch her. I attributed it to pain but she would allow my husband to pick her up. When I would enter the room,,she would turn away from me – the same dog that would let me carry her around like a baby, flip her upside down, whatever……she just loved me. I used pain meds for the first few days thinking her behavior was pain related, but she seemed comfortable enough to jump off furniture with ease etc. Since I was the one who took her for the procedure I am thinking that she equates her fear and discomfort with me and is shielding herself from further harm. It is easing a little but she is still somewhat skiddish around me despite my constant support and treats etc. I can only hope this is not a permanent change. We adopted Winnie, a 4 year old chihuahua from PR 3 mos ago. She gave birth to a litter in November of this year. She was abandoned in an isolated barn and found after having given birth. Anything you can input on this would be appreciated

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Ben Team

Hey, Jane. It’s possible that Winnie is associating you with being spayed, but it’d be hard to make any kind of definitive conclusion that this is the case.
But the fact that she’s warming back up to you is a good sign. We’d recommend that you continue to give her lots of love and support, and let her adjust at her own pace.
Best of luck!

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susan hawkins

I had My six month old male neutered approximately three weeks ago. His incision looks great and The Vet checked Him, at two weeks and said every thing is alright. My problem is, Fate has changed His behavior in a very noticale way. I was wondering if any one else’s dog acted this way? Night before surgery and for the rest of time since I got Him, He slept on bed with Me, to My right side. I have another male dog, who sleeps at bottom of bed on same side as the pup. well after the surgery, I knew He could not jump up on bed or down. told to keep quiet and still, not much exercise. I made Him a dog bed with cushions, blankets, etc. for comfort. He slept on that without issues.I also had it close to My bed, where I could reach down and pet/touch Him. Done all that. NOW He refuses to sleep with Me, and My other dog, every single night. I put Him up there when He acts like He wants to, but then He immediately climbs back off bed. I am crying tears, for I feel like he doesn’t love Me and bonding with Me. Like all My other dogs did before Him. what has happened to My beautiful red nosed six month plus, boy Pit Bull? He is active, eating, drinking well, full of energy, etc. PLEASE HELP ME! Thank You.

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Ben Team

Hey, Susan.
We certainly understand that it can hurt when our pups start wanting a little more “space.” But unfortunately, this is something that happens from time to time — regardless of whether or not the dogs have been altered.
We’d recommend that you keep giving him the opportunity to sleep on the bed, and just try not to take it personally if he’d rather snooze elsewhere.

But, we can promise you one thing with out any doubt: Your pooch still loves you!

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Sophie

I have a lab/german shorthair pointer mix who is about 1 year and 3 months old. I am convincing myself that getting him neutered in the next few weeks is the right thing to do, but I can’t help but worry about behavioral changes that it may cause him. He is currently very happy-go-lucky, non-aggressive, doesn’t hump excessively, and doesn’t mark in the house. I am looking to get him neutered for reduction of potential health risks, as well as the risk of him running away to find a mate (though he hasn’t displayed any behaviors of wanting to escape the yard). Do the benefits of this surgery really outweigh the risks? I don’t want to see my sweet dog change for the worse!

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Ben Team

Hey, Sophie.
I completely sympathize with your dilemma, but unfortunately, there’s no real way to definitively tell how (or if) your dog will change after being neutered.
We’d just recommend trying to weigh the pros and cons (as you have been) and make the best decision you can for you and your pooch.
Best of luck with your choice!

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Andi

Very thorough and informative article Ben. The comments though
…good grief. A few facts for your readers follow. 1. The psychologytoday.com article referenced in the comments is both irresponsible and harmful. 2. Hormone’s taper off and out of the system which can take 30 – 90 days. What your readers are witnessing 2, 3, 5 days to a month after surgery is trauma response behavior from having a surgery. Much like humans the trauma response varies greatly in strength and length of time experienced. 3. If you expect negative changes, negative changes will occur. Expect positive results and they will follow. 4. Animals including canines are not human. Assigning human responses, behaviors and emotions to animals is not beneficial to the animal quite the opposite. Spaying and neutering is responsible pet ownership. Spaying and neutering protects the animals health and happiness. I’ve had animals my entire life, dogs, cats, horses, cattle, pigs, rabbits, etc. I currently have 3 dogs, 2 males, 1 female and a male cat. All 4 have been through this procedure with no negative changes to prior activity level or personality.

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Ben Team

Thanks for the kind words, Andi!

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Melissa Lee

After spaying my cocker spaniel Lola at around 6 months, her personality changed drastically. Where prior she had been an active, playful, lovable, fearless puppy, she now was anxious, fearful and nippy. At first she refused to come out of my room.. then she lied around and sulked for ages. She no longer liked to be petted in certain places and if I got to close to her she would nip at me. She also had urinary accidents in the house for the rest of her life. She was never the same … she lived to be 16.5 years old… she had some kidney stone problems … was loving and loyal …. toward the very end, I could finally kiss her on her lovely snout again… I did not spray any of my other females after this experience…

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Thor

I have a 1.5 year old female pit that was spayed 2 months ago. Her training up to that point is almost gone. She is acting like she did at 6 months old. She chews everything, rips out the trash, chases the cat, and she is way more guarding and aggressive than before. Spay your dog they said. She will calm down a bunch they said. Yeah, bullshit. It has had the opposite effects for her. Had I known that only removing her uterus was an option, I would not have used the vet I ended up with. If I want her to be her normal self, she is going to need something to correct the lack of hormones. At this point, I would have rather dealt with her heat every year.

Removing all sex organs from a dog is stupid and not necessary for sterilization. Vets need to stop pushing this idea that removing all sex organs is the end all be all of spay and neuter.

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Ben Team

Sorry to hear that, Thor.
Have you spoken to your vet about it? Given her extreme behavioral changes, it may be a good idea.
Best of luck!

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Sophie

Bailey was spayed 5 days ago and she is more needy and very vocal now. She whines and makes all kind of noises, especially when she has a toy in her mouth. She has never done this before the procedure, is this temporary or her personality has changed?

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Ben Team

Only time will tell, Sophie. Just be sure that she doesn’t seem to be in substantial pain — if you think that’s causing her vocalizations, give your vet a call.
Do note that dogs sometimes become more vocal with age. So, if she’s young, it may just be a coincidence.

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Eve

I hesitate to neuter my male Pomeranian for the following reason:
– increase in fearful behavior.
he’s very timid with new people, but confident with other dogs. I worry that the lack of testosterone will make his fearfulness worse, and this effect has been confirmed in two large, recent studies. It’s also important to note that dogs that show aggression before castration, are more likely to see an increase in these behaviors. This is also a result of the two studies. Info can be found here: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/canine-corner/201805/neutering-causes-behavior-problems-in-male-dogs

However. I can’t stand the indoor marking. I had a 2 month reprieve of no accidents in the house until Voltron started marking indoors. The studies above site a decrease of marking and urination in general as the most positive behavioral outcome. Fingers crossed.

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Ben Team

We wish you the best of luck, Eve! That is a tricky decision. Just be sure to discuss everything with your vet to give yourself the best chance of a positive outcome.
Also, you may want to check out belly bands — they can help eliminate marking behavior in some dogs.

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Jan COLEMAN

My female wheaton is no longer playful and seem depressed and sluggish.

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Sarah

My 3 year old frenchie got neutered on Monday, December 9th. Since then, he has been a lot more obedient. My vet didn’t prescribe any medication so I was glad to read that this is encouraged by them.

So far so good. Very happy with the procedure and my boy and the fact that I don’t need to have that worry lingering at the back of my mind that he will suffer in the long run.

Thanks for this article. Has really set things straight for me in terms of being reassured.

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Marshall

Please note you said Bob Barker is deceased. He is still alive at 95.

Thank you.

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Ben Team

Oops! Thanks for the correction, Marshall.
I don’t know why I thought he’d already passed. At any rate, I fixed the reference.
Sorry, Bob!

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Monica l.quinney

5mpnth old shitz tzu/yorkie terrier Male has been neutered. Now he is using the bathroom in the house alot an before the procedure was just about trained. Is this normal?

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