By Dr Sophia Yin, DVM
|The Bali street dogs are a good example of why neutering of dogs is important. Without birth control dogs breed promiscuously leading to overpopulation, poor health, and disease. The two on the right have just copulated and are now in what's called a tie.|
As a veterinarian, I regularly recommend that intact dogs be neutered, for one, as a means of population control. It’s a standard recommendation in the U.S. Interestingly, most clients have no qualms about fixing their female dog; however, for some men, the mention of surgery for their male dog puts them on the defensive.
Suddenly, they become more empathetic than they’ve ever been with their wife or girlfriend.
“No way. It’s too painful,” they’ll say, or “He’ll be so sad that’s he’s lost his manhood. Can we at least get testicular implants?” (By the way, yes, they can get testicular implants, they’re called “Neuticals®.” Look them up if you think your dog needs them).
Those are the standard complaints, but the funniest complaint I’ve heard came when I was working out in a boxing gym. One of the regulars had a pit bull and when I suggested neutering his eyes got wide as if I’d suggested that I wanted to neuter him.
Then he explained why he was so concerned. “But if he’s neutered, he won’t get to have sex!”
Not that his dog was having sex. The owner knew well enough to avoid letting him mate. But the idea that the dog could never have sex ever again… well, that just made him sad.
At the time I wasn’t ready with a really good answer, but an incident with my little Jack Russell Terrier two weeks ago reminded me of great one. It reminded me that neutered dogs can indeed have sex. They just can’t make babies!
Here’s how the memory-jogging event came about.
Innocent Jonesy was checking out a little black and tan Miniature Pinscher mix that my friend, Melissa, was fostering. The previous owner had stated that the dog had been in heat several weeks ago but was out of it now. Well, according to Jonesy, she was still ripe and ready for picking.
Now, Jonesy wants to hump every visiting female and some neutered male dogs who smell pretty. And he’s knows this X-rated behavior is not allowed—at least not in my house. So sometimes he’s covert about it. If he looks interested I’ll call him over and have him lie down which he’ll do willingly, but when he thinks I’m not looking, he gives them amorous looks, sidles up next to them and thinks about helping himself. Then I have to remind him that I’m watching him like a hawk., and yes, I CAN see what he’s up to.
Now for those who quickly jump to the conclusion that his behavior must be “dominance,” let me clarify. Jonesy always backs away when these dogs snap at him rather than attacking them like he would if his mounting was a sign that he was trying to establish higher rank. And he does exhibit this frat-boy behavior even when the female is definitely higher ranked and he knows she can kick his butt. So this behavior is driven by his libido not a drive for high rank. In some dogs this mounting behavior can also be a displacement behavior, like a person’s nail chewing or hair twirling, performed when they are anxious in social situations or even socially inept.
Anyway, in this particular situation my friend and I weren’t paying close attention to Jonesy because we were focused on work and because even when he does try, after a couple of attempts Jonesy usually stops. But just several minutes into the visit we suddenly heard a piercing, Yelp! Like something really bad had just happened. And it had.
Jonesy and the visitor had mated and were tied. The yelp had come from Jonesy.
Here’s what happened.
Jonesy thought he had struck gold, when for once, a female had stood still for him—because she WAS in estrus. But then, as Jonesy found out, the part after that was far from fun. In fact, for Jonesy it was scary. After the male inserts his male parts into the female, a gland in his penis gets large (the bulbourethral gland). As a result males cannot remove their penis immediately. So they step over the female with their hind leg so that they are butt to butt and still connected by their reproductive apparatus. The purpose is to help the males sperm stay in the female’s reproductive tract so that they can get a fighting chance to swim and meet her eggs. Ties can last 30 minutes.
Luckily for Jonesy, it only lasted 5-10 minutes for them. And when they were done, he checked himself to make sure his equipment was still there. It was. So in the future, if he wants he’ll be able to try again. But I'll be keeping my eyes on him at all times if whenever there are intact female visitors.
Although Jonesy has been neutered, that didn’t stop him from mating with this Miniature Pinscher mix who was in heat. They are shown here in a post-coital tie.
Your neutered dog can still have sex. The take home message here is that if you neuter your dog, don’t worry, he can still have sex – if he wants. Most likely he won’t want to. With the lower testosterone levels he won’t have a red hot libido.
But neutering doesn’t remove all sexual behaviors. That’s because the circulating testosterone in young male puppies causes brain changes that masculinize them. These changes lead to increased urination on vertical surfaces, increased exploring of the environment, and clearly in some cases, increased mounting and even mating of dogs who are in heat.
Because Jonesy has been been neutered for almost 5 years, he’s in the clear in terms of having babies. So it’s basically safe sex in that sense—although he’d need a condom to prevent transmission of infectious diseases. For dogs who have recently been neutered it can be a different story. Sperm are created and stored in the testicles but they can live for some time in the plumbing that leads to the outside. As a result, the general rule for neutered males is to keep them away from females in heat for 30 days.