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Intact female dog graphic

Most animal rescues and shelters—the Connecticut Humane Society included—spay or neuter dogs and puppies prior to adopting them out to new homes. This supports a nationwide mission of reducing pet overpopulation and helps prevent some behavioral and medical problems that can arise later in a pet’s life if left intact (unspayed/unneutered). However, there are times when intact animals may be placed up for adoption due to special circumstances. CHS recommends getting your dog spayed as soon as you can safely do so.  The information below will help you navigate the time you have with your pet before your spay appointment.

Living with an intact (unneutered) dog may come with some potential challenges. Adopting a pet is a commitment, and we would like you to have the information below so you can make informed decisions.

Sexual Maturity

On average, dogs reach sexual maturity between 5-12 months of age, which is when you may start to notice hormonally driven behaviors. Socialization with other dogs is critical in young dogs, so it is important that you continue to socialize your dog, but ONLY with spayed females and neutered males. Sometimes intact males will mount their human friends. This is not aggressive or “dominant,” but a normal social behavior for male dogs. To stop the behavior, redirect the energy to another behavior such as sitting for treats or playing fetch.

Urine Marking

Once your dog becomes sexually mature, you may notice that he will “mark” more frequently. Marking is when they raise their hind leg and urinate small amounts on vertical surfaces. Even if your dog is housebroken, they may urine mark inside the home. If you see him trying to lift his leg, interrupt him with a loud noise, such as hand clapping. Then immediately take him outside and reward him for urinating outside. Make sure he has many opportunities to get outside during the day so that he will not “mark” inside the home. If distracting him from marking is not working, you might consider a belly band to protect your furniture. Belly Bands are available at most pet stores or online.

Negative Behaviors and Aggression

  • As intact male dogs mature, they may be more likely to exhibit aggression toward other intact male dogs. Dog parks are not recommended for socializing your intact dog (female or male).
  • Intact male dogs will be diligent in finding the nearest female in heat. For this reason, they should be walked on a leash at all times or kept in a securely fenced yard to prevent escape.

Getting Your Pet Altered

  • CHS recommends all dogs be neutered as soon as it is safe to do so.
  • In shelters or spay/neuter clinics, dogs may be safely neutered at 8 weeks old. In private practice, most veterinarians suggest 6 months old. Work with your veterinarian to determine the best time to complete the surgery based on your pet’s individual circumstances.
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