How to help your adolescent male dog with other dogs

On last week’s post I shared with you the excellent book excerpt from Dr. Dunbar about what to expect in adolescence from your dog.

In this post I want to concentrate on interactions between male dogs that are not neutered because they are too young to do so, and other male dogs- neutered or otherwise.

There is substantial evidence regarding the importance of not neutering (or spaying) dogs until later on and definitively beyond puppy-hood – the gradual transition between 4 months to 6 months of age when most breeds begin their adolescence. The benefit in waiting, per my understanding, has to do with the proper development of soft tissue as well as orthopedic concerns, which if not developed correctly, could create issues later in life.  Also to be considered is the effect that removing either the testes or ovaries and uterus when too young and before the first heat in the case of females can create. For an in-depth article about the cons and pros of altering your dog click on this link here: http://www.whole-dog-journal.com/issues/16_2/features/spaying-or-neutering_20685-1.html

Because of the benefits above, more breeders and veterinarians are advising their clients to wait. And it does make sense to do so. Now, unfortunately for many dogs and their “parents” this is not a decision to make without consequences.

Especially male dogs can have difficulty interacting without getting into spats with other male dogs. As Dr. Dunbar mentioned, most dogs’ social skills and graces begin to deteriorate with the onset of adolescences regardless of their sexual status. Now, add to this the impact that hormones can have in behavior and you can see why this can become very difficult to manage. Some folks believe that unaltered male dogs are “aggressive” towards other dogs but the reality is that unaltered male dogs get picked on by other male dogs.  As you can appreciate, after being picked on, challenged or even bullied on a regular basis our unaltered male can resort to temporary aggression or altogether become unfriendly towards dogs.

The first line of defense to help your unaltered male dog in successfully interacting with most all dogs is to be super proactive in making sure your dog continues to play on an ongoing basis with other friendly dogs. We are looking here for lots and lots of interactions with a myriad of dogs. So having just a couple of doggie-friends really does not cut it. Doing this will give your dog a lot of experience and confidence in interacting with just about any dog.

Second, continue to give feedback to your dog- as you hopefully did when he was a puppy when he interacts appropriately with any dog. This could be in a form of happy-talk or even a treat. As your dog matures, you can use the same form of approval so that your dog can keep himself in check.

Another reason besides the obvious smell of testosterone that your male adolescent is giving away to the other males in the neighborhood has to do with adolescent dogs being notoriously obnoxious! So here you have older male dogs looking for any opportunity to put your social-misfit into place!

While you will not have any control over another’s dog behavior, (and only so much over your own) you can influence how your dog behaves around other dogs. In order to have some sway as to how your dog interacts with others, do not just abandoned the good social graces your dog (hopefully) learned while begin a young pup. For this matter, continue to practice some basic obedience as part of your daily routine.

Teach your dog to focus on you and not solely on the environment so that you have more of a chance of redirecting him if it appears a male-to-male- challenge is ready to take the world by storm.

Finally, realize that there will be fights between your dog and other male dogs. As Dr. Dunbar clearly points out, this is the norm, not the exception.

Also bear in mind that most dog fights really sound more dangerous than they really are.

At the end of the day, the idea is not to try to sequester the dog so that he does not get into fights with other male dogs, but to give your dog so many good dog/dog experiences that your dog does not lose its confidence in interacting with dogs in general.  In other words, what we want is to provide the dog with some good “padding” in the form of ample opportunities to play with other friendly dogs so that he can come emotionally intact from squabbles with other dogs.