Yesterday I had the pleasure of working with Tim a 7 year old Golden Retriever who was originally from Sweden.
Now I shouldn’t have favourites but Tim is just one of those dogs, he grabs your heart and runs away with it. Every time I look at that dog I smile. He actually reminds me of my very first family dog Gem.
Gem was a Border Collie who lived to be thirteen, I was ten years old when we lost him. He was an amazing family dog. He put up with anything that was thrown his way and never showed the slightest hint of aggression.
He was always off lead everywhere we went and never ran off. We actually managed to forget him on a couple of occasions, just because he always was by your side and you never really had to consider him. Don’t worry we always realised!
My Mum was a childminder and due to the law at the time Gem had to wear a muzzle when there were any children in the house or when outside with the childminding kids. Something he hated. He was the softest dog you would ever meet and certainly didn’t need to be muzzled around children. It’s sad because knowing what I know now I could have made him love that muzzle but that is another story.
I work with ‘problem’ dogs all of the time. I also work with dogs that simply lack training and need to be taught how to behave but I see dogs that struggle to live in our world every day and they aren’t just client’s dogs. You only have to go down the local park to see the issues the majority of dog owners have. Dogs like Tim and Gem are hard to find these days. These gentle, soft, placid dogs seem to be disappearing.
Maybe I am looking at it through rose tinted glasses, maybe my view is skewed by my job but it is certainly something I believe.
One of the correlations between Tim and Gem is that they both are/were entire males. Until 1988 it was illegal to neuter an animal in Sweden unless there was a medical need for it. The vast majority of dogs in Sweden are not neutered. I would love to know how common dog reactivity is over there as well as other common behaviour problems.
Quite often nervous male dogs start to display certain behaviours towards other dogs. They might snap at dogs that approach them, growl or actively avoid other dogs. Quite often they will be recommended by a friend/family member or even the vet to have the dog neutered. They neuter the dog and his testosterone drops. The dog then starts barking and lunging at other dogs when on lead rather than snapping and the odd growl. The drop in testosterone has caused this behaviour to escalate.
Are we looking in the wrong direction? Have we become so obsessed with neutering our animals that it has actually caused harm?
Now I’m not saying don’t neuter your pets but educate yourself, do some research especially about what age is right for certain breeds. I am a big believer in letting dogs mature fully mentally and physically before neutering. I think it is important all dogs are treated as individuals
There is a long, long way to go with research but I am looking forward to it.