Not every dog gets spayed (removal of female reproductive organs) or neutered (removal of male organs). Whether through an intention to breed or other motive, many individuals leave their companions intact. Left with a full complement of nature’s hormones, these dogs can react differently than their surgically altered counterparts.
Males with the normal amount of testosterone tend to be prone to seek alpha (leader) status, and when exposed to a female in heat will often ignore commands. Licking behavior increases, the male will gently head butt a female in the neck, and eventually try to mount.
Separated from the female, they’ll exhibit rapid breathing and pacing, often going without eating for two days or more. They’ll often even refuse water after hours of not drinking.
Females left unaltered will experience a menstrual cycle about twice per year. During that roughly three week interval, there’s an increased tendency to wander and a greater willingness to accept the attention of strange dogs. Previously passive females will dig under a fence and display their hind parts with tails lifted to males of almost any breed.
Getting compliance to commands during these times is difficult, but not always impossible. If you’ve consistently retained the alpha (leader) role in the ‘pack’, you have a say in who mates who when. You’ll need to be especially assertive during these times, but even excited males will obey up to a point.
Even outside of mating periods, unneutered males will typically exhibit a stronger push toward dominance, especially in the first year or two. The counter for this is simply a refusal to accept anything less than alpha status. But far from being harsh, there are several alternatives.
Most dogs love to play. Distracting that assertive male with a tennis ball, a short rope or other favorite toy decreases tension on both sides of the equation. You control the ball, you hand out or take away the toy, and you ensure compliance with your wishes by leash, treat and firm voice command. All these help remind the dog that you’re in charge.
When leash training or walking, these assertive males will have a stronger tendency to pull ahead. To counter this, keep the leash a couple of inches BEHIND you. If the dog strains at the leash, initiate a sharp, firm jerk to the right (NOT back) accompanied by a strong ‘HEEL’. That assumes the dog walks on your left and the leash is held in your left hand, as is usually the case. Reverse directions as needed.
Unless your dog is very small this won’t injure them. Dogs have very strong neck muscles. The goal is to put them off balance and to control, not to punish.
Untreated dogs require extra patience – as if the normal amount weren’t already enormous. But they’re also less likely to be fearful in stressful situations and more willing to take risks. For people with certain lifestyles who enjoy taking their friend with them, that can be a big plus.
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