Oh, nuts.

Helo  is now 9.5 months old, and he is not neutered.

I don’t know why not removing organs from my dog is so controversial, nor why testicles are so offensive in the first place, but for some people this is a Really Big Deal.

 

After all, Responsible Dog Owners neuter their dogs at six months old.

 

 

And that has been so in the veterinary world for quite awhile, though I’ve not been able to track down exactly why that was the age decided upon. If anybody knows, please share!

Studies have been coming out over the past decade or so saying that, oops, all of our long-held beliefs about spaying and neutering pets for their health might not be that accurate after all. This article from the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association has a lot of really good information about both the benefits and the risks of spaying and neutering.

There are fair points on both sides.

And then there are the Dog People on the internet who practically crucify folks for choosing to alter their dogs at 6 months as recommended by their vets. Clearly they’re going to cause their dogs to blow out their knees and die of cancer in short order.

Now there have been a few studies about spay/neuter and behavior, and their findings are not what most people have expected. There is evidence that spaying and neutering can increase fear, and, more shockingly, can increase aggression in dogs. Unpossible!

I don’t understand why people need to get so up in arms about what other people choose to do with their dogs. I am waiting to alter Helo until he is fully grown and physically mature, primarily out of orthopedic concerns. He had funny crooked front legs as a pup, and knee problems  are a common problem with pit bulls.

He’s not been offensively male in his behavior- he doesn’t hump at home (he will sometimes target a dog at daycare, and in that case, he can just go inside and sit in a crate) and he doesn’t mark inside. His horrible obnoxious behavior is a result of personality and my laziness– neutering him isn’t going to improve any of it.

I don’t have an intact bitch, and the chances of him having a tryst with one when he lives in the house and goes out on a leash are very small. I am confident he’s not going to be making any puppies.

 

If my lifestyle were different, then maybe my choices would be different.

And if I chose to neuter before maturity, I would probably be told that I am lazy and just neutering for convenience. Ok. What’s wrong with my dog being more convenient? The number one reason I own dogs is because they make my life more enjoyable.

But I strongly believe that folks need to be given the information available and then be allowed to make the best decision for their own dog, and not be shamed for it.

Just as every dog is different, so is everyone’s situation. Just let people make the best choices they can for their own dogs.

Genetics are a thing. Really.

A friend of mine posted a meme today that boiled down to “it’s all in how you raise them”, about dogs in general, and of course featuring a picture of a pit bull.

It’s simply not true, and I am so frustrated by the perpetuation of this myth, especially when it comes to my heart breed.

Dogs are a product of their genetics as well as their environment.

That’s why we have breeds in the first place. That’s why Border Collies are working sheep, not Dalmatians. That’s why the military is full of hard-hitting Shepherd breeds like the Malinois, not Golden Retrievers.

That is why I bought a Border Collie instead of an Australian Cattle Dog and adopted pit bulls instead of Chow Chows. Because they’re all so very different, completely apart from how they are raised.

I feel like, with pit bulls especially, we set both dog and owner up to fail when we insist that if you raise a dog right, you can mold him into anything you want him to be.

Helo is eight months old now, and he’s well-socialized with both dogs and people. He goes to doggy daycare and occasionally to the dog park. Right now he loves to play with other dogs. He’s a social little butterfly.

 

And I will completely unsurprised if and when that changes, because I know that pit bulls are genetically inclined to be aggressive toward other dogs. If he’s the oddball, that’d be great, but more likely he will become less social as he matures.

I expect it. I watch carefully for signs of trouble.

I know that all of the socialization and good experiences in the world cannot overcome genetics. They can influence where on the spectrum he falls, certainly! It is not all for nothing. But it is also not everything.

There are so many stories of people who are shocked when their pit bulls grow aggressive toward other dogs, and it both angers and saddens me.

People feel like they failed their dogs, when that is not at all true. I have seen so many online posts over the many years I have been involved in the breed where people did everything right and their pit bulls grew up to hate other dogs. They are confused and heartbroken. They blame themselves for failing.

And that is so unfair.

The American Pit Bull Terrier was selectively bred for many generations to fight other dogs. They are quick to fire up, slow to simmer down. They are strong and they were designed to have the drive to never quit, to never back down, to never give up.

It’s part of what makes them such great dogs, that tenacity, that fire, that determination.

But it’s sure no good when that gets turned onto a harmless, rude dog at the dogpark and the owner is shocked and caught entirely by surprise, because that’s not how she raised her dog to be.

We need to be honest about our dogs. We need to respect that they are a product of both breeding and environment. We need to do our research and make wise choices that suit our lifestyles, not just follow our bleeding hearts.