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Does Spaying Calm a Dog Down? Uncovering the Behavior Changes - PawSafe

Does Spaying Calm a Dog Down? Uncovering the Behavior Changes

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

does spaying calm a dog down

You might be wondering if spaying your dog can influence their behavior, particularly concerning their energy levels and overall temperament. It’s a common belief that spaying or neutering a dog can lead to a calmer demeanor. But is there scientific truth behind this notion? Spaying is a surgical procedure that removes a female dog’s reproductive organs, which can lead to hormonal changes. Since these hormones often affect a dog’s behavior, it’s logical to think that altering them would, in turn, affect your dog’s energy and excitability.

Looking into this topic, it’s important to rely on expert knowledge. You’ll be pleased to know that we’ll rely on the insights of Dr. Melissa Starling, who has conducted research in animal behavior. By understanding the effects of the procedure and considering the research from animal behaviorists, you can make an informed decision about your pet’s health and happiness.

It’s crucial to remember that each dog is an individual, though, and the impact of spaying can vary from one to another. Some dogs might show reduced levels of certain behaviors linked to their reproductive instincts, which could be perceived as being calmer. However, spaying isn’t a behavioral cure-all and should not be viewed as a one-stop solution for training and behavioral issues. Understanding the full range of considerations can go a long way in managing expectations and ensuring the well-being of your pup.

When considering the impact of spaying on your female dog’s behavior, you’ll find that it’s not a straightforward journey. Spaying may indeed have an effect on behavioral issues such as chewing and howling which are often exhibited with a longer exposure to gonadal hormones. By undergoing a spay procedure, these unwanted behaviors might decline.

However, behavior changes in spayed dogs can also relate to how long they were exposed to hormones prior to the surgery. If your dog has had more time to develop with these hormones present, certain behaviors might be less prevalent post-spay. It’s important to consider the effect of hormones on your dog’s behavior, recognizing that spaying can influence fearfulness and aggression. Notably, some dogs could exhibit a decrease in these unwelcome behaviors after the procedure.

Additionally, when you choose to have your dog spayed can have a nuanced effect. It could also influence her future behavioral development by potentially altering or eliminating behaviors that might not have formed yet.

This isn’t only about controlling the unwanted behaviors, but also understanding how the timing of spaying might impact the natural maturation of behaviors from fearful responses to how your dog interacts in social situations.

Making the decision for the optimal timing to spay your dog is vital. Balancing benefits and potential changes in behavior with the health implications is a key responsibility for dog owners and veterinarians.

If you’ve recently had your dog spayed, being aware of any noticeable behavioral changes alongside health signs is crucial. Monitoring for warning signs after spaying your dog will help ensure a smooth recovery process.

In certain circumstances, you might face the question of whether it’s appropriate to spay your dog while she’s in heat. Tackling this question necessitates recognizing the complexities involved, and it’s often critical to have detailed discussions with your vet about the pros and cons of spaying during this period, which can be found in an informative discussion on spaying a dog in heat.

In conclusion, spaying can modify your dog’s behavior in significant ways. It’s imperative to understand these potential changes and engage in thorough discussions with your vet before making this important decision for your dog’s well-being.

Understanding Spaying

close up of spayed dog scar belly

When you decide to spay your female dog, you’re choosing a routine surgical procedure aimed at preventing pregnancy. It involves the removal of the ovaries and usually the uterus, ensuring your dog cannot become pregnant.

What Is Spaying?

Spaying is a surgical process in which your female dog’s ovaries and often the uterus are completely removed. This procedure sterilizes your dog, meaning she won’t be able to have puppies. The medical term for spaying is ovariohysterectomy.

Spaying vs. Neutering

While both terms relate to sterilizing pets, spaying specifically refers to female dogs. Neutering is the general term used for both sexes, but for male dogs, it involves the removal of the testicles and is also called castration.

The Spay Surgery Process

Spay surgery is considered routine. During the process, your dog is put under general anesthesia to ensure she’s asleep and not feeling any pain. An incision is then made, typically in the abdomen, through which the ovaries and usually the uterus are removed. If your dog is pregnant, the procedure can still be performed, although it’s more complex. After the operation, it’s important for your to watch over your dog and follow the vet’s instructions for care as she recovers.

Behavioral Effects

Spaying your dog can lead to changes in behavior that vary significantly between individuals, especially in areas of aggression, roaming tendencies, and anxiety. Each dog reacts differently, and while some behaviors might decrease, others could potentially increase or persist.

Behavior Changes After Spaying

After you spay your dog, you may notice a decline in sexual behaviors and a potential decrease in tendencies like roaming and mounting. This can often result in a calmer demeanor, as urges to seek out mates are minimized. The impact of desexing on canine behavior shows a reduction in such activities, especially in male dogs. However, keep in mind that if your dog has previously learned these behaviors, they might continue out of habit.

Aggression and Roaming

Reductions in dog-directed aggression are often observed in spayed males. In contrast, some dogs may exhibit increased fearfulness or aggression in certain situations after spaying. When it comes to roaming — a behavior driven by the search for mates — spaying your dog can lead to a decrease in this desire, making them less likely to wander off and potentially helping to keep them safer at home. An article on canine aggression and reproductive status provides insights into how these behaviors can be influenced by spaying and neutering.

Hyperactivity and Anxiety

Hyperactivity and anxiety in dogs can stem from various causes, but spaying may influence these behaviors to some extent. While there’s no direct correlation that suggests spaying alone will calm a hyperactive dog, it can eliminate restlessness and anxiety caused by the heat cycle in female dogs. 

On the other hand, in some cases, the absence of sex hormones due to spaying might lead to mood swings or increased separation anxiety. Therefore, it’s essential to closely monitor your dog’s temperament after the procedure and consult with a vet or a behavior expert if you notice concerning changes. An insightful study on the effects of gonadectomy discusses these subtleties in canine behavior post-spaying.

Remember, behavioral changes following spaying are not one-size-fits-all and can differ widely among individual dogs. Consulting with a veterinarian or a behaviorist can give you a better understanding of what to expect for your pup.

Health and Well-Being

spayed dog close up of scar is dog calmer after spaying

When considering spaying your dog, it is important to understand both the health benefits and potential risks involved. This surgical procedure can affect your dog’s physical condition and overall quality of life.

Health Benefits of Spaying

Spaying your dog can lead to a reduction in the risk of mammary tumors and certain cancers associated with the reproductive organs. By removing the ovaries and uterus, you’re eliminating the possibility of pyometra, a serious uterine infection. It may also lessen the chance of your dog developing cancer, improving her overall well-being.

Potential Health Risks and Complications

While spaying is generally safe, any surgical procedure involves some level of risk. Complications like bleeding, infection at the site of the stitches, and reactions to anesthesia can occur. Post-operative healing is crucial, and there’s a rare but possible risk of incontinence or hormonal imbalances like low thyroid levels.

Weight Management and Exercise

After spaying, some dogs might experience changes in their endocrine system, which can lead to weight gain and a higher likelihood of obesity. It’s imperative that you monitor your dog’s diet and ensure an appropriate amount of exercise for healthy weight management. Keep an eye out for any signs of hip dysplasia, a condition that can be exacerbated by excess weight.

Reproductive Health and Control

When considering the impact of spaying on your dog, it’s essential to understand how it relates to both their reproductive health and behavioral control.

Preventing Unwanted Pregnancies

Spaying your dog is a surgical procedure that completely removes her reproductive organs, effectively preventing any chance of an unwanted pregnancy. This is a crucial step in reducing the overpopulation of dogs, as each unspayed female has the potential to produce multiple litters in her lifetime.

Heat Cycles and Mating Behaviors

During heat cycles, a female dog attracts males and may exhibit mating behaviors that can be challenging to manage. Spaying eliminates heat cycles and can reduce the associated sexual behaviors, which in turn may lead to a calmer demeanor. It also prevents the manifestation of a false pregnancy, a condition that can occur after a heat cycle if the dog does not mate.

Long-Term Care After Spaying

When your dog has been spayed, their long-term care is essential not just for their recovery but also for maintaining their ongoing health. You’ll need to pay close attention to their healing process and be vigilant about their overall wellbeing.

Post-Surgical Recovery

Immediately after surgery, the focus is on helping your dog heal without complications. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Restrict Movement: For the first couple of weeks, minimize your dog’s physical activity. No running, jumping, or rough play to prevent injury to the surgical site.
  • Incision Care: Keep the incision clean and dry. Check daily for signs of redness, swelling, or discharge.

Remember, a calm environment can promote a smoother recovery, which may subtly affect your dog’s personality by reducing stress.

Ongoing Health Monitoring

Even after your dog has recovered from the surgery, you’ll need to continue monitoring their health:

  • Annual Check-Ups: Visit your vet for regular wellness exams to catch and address any potential health issues early.
  • Watch for Behavioral Changes: While exercise can usually be resumed, keep an eye on any long-lasting changes in behavior that might indicate health concerns post-spaying.

Always consult with your vet if you spot anything unusual. Staying proactive with your dog’s care contributes to their longevity and quality of life.

Considerations Before Spaying

Before deciding to spay your dog, you should weigh the pros and cons, consider your dog’s breed and age, and think about the costs involved.

Pros and Cons of Spaying


  • Behavior: Spaying can lead to a calmer dog, as it often reduces the urge to roam and aggressive behavior.
  • Health: The risk of uterine infections and breast tumors can be reduced after spaying.


  • Risk of Complications: Any surgery carries risks, such as reactions to anesthesia or possible infection post-operation.
  • Physical Changes: Some dogs might experience weight gain after spaying.

Age and Breed Considerations

  • Younger Dogs: Spaying is commonly done at around 6 months but it’s important to consult your vet, as some suggest waiting until after the first heat cycle.
  • Large Breed Dogs: There’s evidence suggesting that waiting until a large breed dog is fully grown may be beneficial due to their longer growth period.

Cost of Spaying

  • Clinics vs. Private Vets: Costs can vary widely from low-cost clinics to private veterinary practices.
  • Additional Costs: Remember, the price might also include pre-surgery bloodwork, pain medication, and follow-up appointments.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

When you spay your female dog, you’re likely to see some changes in behavior. This section answers common questions about what to expect.

What behavior changes can be expected after spaying a female dog?

After spaying, your female dog may show a decrease in behaviors associated with the heat cycle, such as roaming or irritability. Some dogs may also become calmer overall.

Is it common for a dog to become less aggressive after being spayed?

Spaying can lead to a reduction in certain aggressive behaviors that are influenced by hormones. However, aggression tied to dominance or learned behaviors may not be affected by spaying.

What is the usual recovery period for a dog to balance hormones post-spaying?

It often takes a few weeks to a couple of months for your dog’s hormone levels to stabilize after spaying. During this time, you may notice a gradual change in her behavior.

Can spaying have any side effects on a dog’s health and behavior?

While spaying has many health benefits, some potential side effects include weight gain and a slight risk of urinary incontinence. Behaviorally, changes are usually positive, aimed at reducing hormone-driven behaviors.

Are there any behavior improvements in female dogs post-spaying?

You may observe behavior improvements post-spaying such as reduced marking and less desire to wander. Studies also suggest spaying may lower the risk of certain undesirable behaviors.

How soon will my dog become more mellow following spaying?

Each dog is different, but you may see a calmer demeanor in your female dog in the months following spaying as hormone levels decrease.

Final Thoughts

When you’re considering spaying your dog, you might have heard that it can help calm her down. The idea is that by spaying your dog, you reduce hormones that may lead to excitable behavior. Each dog is unique though, and the change in behavior can vary.

Here’s the deal:

  • Spaying can sometimes reduce behaviors like roaming, marking territory, or aggression related to mating.
  • Not all changes are guaranteed. Your dog’s personality and behavior are influenced by more than just hormones.
  • Training and environment also play big roles in your dog’s behavior.
  • Remember, the health benefits of spaying often outweigh these considerations regarding behavior.

If you’re thinking about spaying as a quick fix to calm your dog down, it’s best to chat with a vet first. They can give you the lowdown on what to expect. Remember, patience and good training usually do the trick in getting a happy, well-behaved doggie pal.

Meet Your Experts

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Tamsin De La Harpe


Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.