How to Keep Your Intact Dog From Having Puppies
I've had an intact female dog for six years now. She has never had puppies, nor will she ever. Nope, for those of you about to ask, not even accidentally. I have a very good grasp on how difficult it is to keep my intact dog from breeding and being 99.999% sure that she won't. I'd like to share that information to help other responsible owners with intact dogs.
There are lots of reasons why someone might choose to not get a dog spayed or neutered. Some people have dogs with medical conditions that would make the operation more risky than it's worth. Some people participate in professional dog shows, which in many cases, requires their dogs to be intact. Still others wish to wait to spay/neuter until their dog is fully mature.
Another commonly cited reason are the studies that there are inconclusive benefits and unwanted side effects to spaying and neutering. Some breeds are notorious for certain health issues if spayed or neutered, such as urinary incontinence.
Notice that I didn't cite breeding as a reason. Although it is one reason people choose to keep their dog intact, it is not, for the purpose of this hub, a valid reason you should keep your dog intact unless you are a professional, responsible show/conformation breeder or have a similar reason (you breed police dogs, for example).
Why should I prevent my dog from having puppies?
- According the the Humane Society, millions of animals are euthanized every year in the United States, simply because there are too many animals and not enough people to adopt them.
- All of these animals had to come from somewhere. When you choose to breed your dog, you cannot keep track of every puppy born and ensure they are not bred, or do not end up in a shelter.
- If one of the puppies produced by you has more puppies, and their puppies have puppies, and so on, you could be responsible for contributing many dogs into shelters, even if you aren't directly involved. The cycle of breeding and relinquishing dogs to shelters starts with you.
- Responsible breeders know this and only breed dogs that would contribute a positive characteristic to their entire breed. They breed dogs that are truly exceptional in show, agility or work and have pedigrees completely free from disease.
- Responsible breeders may also make the buyer sign a legally binding agreement that the puppy they buy will not be bred without the breeder's consent. They spend months searching out responsible potential owners before a single puppy is born.
- If you choose to keep your dog intact and you are not a professional show breeder, keep it from breeding. This is a big responsibility and only you can decide whether you are capable or willing. It is a lifestyle change.
Wait, doesn't not spaying or neutering directly contribute to the problem?
If you feel that there is a good chance your dog could impregnate another or become pregnant, get him/her neutered or spayed. If you allow your dog to roam outdoors or bring them to dog parks, this article isn't for you.
For responsible owners who choose to leave their dog intact, it's an entirely different story.
Keep in mind that there are many owners capable of keeping their intact dog under control, including professional breeders and owners whose dogs are in shows. These professionals don't have problems because they don't take chances with their pets.
In fact, in some other countries, spaying and neutering is uncommon. Not only that, but these countries don't have the pet overpopulation issues we have. How can that be? Countries like Norway apparently take pet ownership very seriously and diligently monitor and restrict access to other dogs.
It is possible to keep an intact unbred dog... but it is not always easy!
The birds and the bees
A typical estrus cycle for a dog lasts 21 days, and occurs every 6-7 months. Please note that some of the time a dog is in heat, she is not bleeding!
Even a well trained intact male dog will go to great lengths to get to a female in heat. He will dig under your fence if left in the yard or run out the door the second you open it. You must supervise, leash, and keep your dog under control at all times.
Tips for everyone
- Don't take your dog to a dog park, or allow him/her to roam. Always, always, always keep your intact dog leashed. Use a harness for more control.
- If you have an intact female, observe and track her heat cycles on a calendar. This makes it more likely you'll notice any abnormalities, and you'll be more accurate at predicting the duration with each passing year.
- Watch your dog carefully and take breeding seriously. Realize that you're taking a risk by keeping an intact dog. If your dog does get pregnant, you should be responsible for caring for the puppies in the long-term or doing an emergency spay. Though you may be 99.999% confident that your intact dog will not be bred, there is always that .001%. Have a plan in place for if that does happen.
Preventing your dog from breeding starts in the home.
Where do you live? How many barriers do you have between your pet and the outside world? If your dog could easily escape from your home, your dog could easily breed. If you have an intact dog, have at least two or three barriers between your canine buddy and the front door. Only one of these barriers should be training. Intact dogs in heat may not respond to training, even if it has been reinforced for years.
Other than training your dog not to rush out the front door (or any other door that leads outside), you should also strongly consider using one or more of the following methods:
- Put up baby gates to prevent your dog from having access to the door in the event that something unexpected happens.
- Choose an apartment with closed off hallways, such as a high rise apartment that relies on an elevator to get to the main lobby where the front door is. If your dog unexpectedly gets out of your apartment, she will be stopped in the hallway.
- Keep a leash by the front door and leash your dog or crate her when guests come over.
- Teach your family members and friends to be careful when opening and closing doors.
- Train your dog until s/he has excellent recall and immediately sits when a door anywhere is opened for any reason. Again, do not rely on this alone to save you when the time comes.
- Install both a fence and an enclosed outdoor kennel/run so there is a failsafe.
- Prevent your dog from coming into contact with other dogs by only walking her in areas where you know you will not be bothered by others. Consider an indoor form of exercise if your dog is in heat.
Fences don't prevent breeding.
- Dogs can breed through fencing, will dig under it, or find a way around it to get to a dog in heat.
- If you know there are a lot of off-leash or roaming dogs in the area, call animal control to get it taken care of.
- If you have a fenced in yard, never leave your intact dog alone unsupervised if she could be in heat.
- Buy portable temporary fencing or a large outdoor kennel as a second barrier so that it is less risky to take your dog outside to potty when she is in heat.
- Always check your dog's collar and leash for broken parts or weakness in the material before putting them on. Choose quality products that will not easily break. Invest in a harness for better control and to eliminate the risk of your dog slipping out of a collar.
- Do not walk your dog when she is in heat or take her to pet stores, dog parks etc.
Owning two intact dogs of opposite sexes
- I do not recommend owning two intact dogs of opposite sexes.
- They should never be left alone unsupervised, even if you have a good grasp on when your female is in heat.
- Be willing to do an immediate emergency spay if your dogs do end up together.
- Keep your dogs away from each other when your female is in heat. Communicate effectively with people living with you when each dog will be out by keeping a schedule.
- Buy two of everything and designate two separate rooms on opposite ends of your house for each of your dogs.
- Put 2 or more barriers in place to prevent an accident. A door, a crate and a baby gate for example. If one of these barriers fails (someone accidentally lets the dog out of the room), you still have another to rely on (the gate).