Self-reports of Dutch dog owners on received professional advice, their opinions on castration and behavioural reasons for castrating male dogs

Pascalle E.M. Roulaux*, Ineke R. van Herwijnen, Bonne Beerda

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Male dogs are often castrated based on the thought that it facilitates well-behavedness. However, the causal evidence for this from prospective studies lacks and the existing associative studies present mixed results depending on the studied behaviours. We aimed to gain insight into possible factors driving an owner's decision to castrate their male dog, through a quantitative survey based on a convenience sample. We determined the advice owners received from three types of dog professionals (veterinarian practitioners, behavioural trainers, behavioural therapists) and the owners' assessments of castration's behavioural effects. Data on 491 Dutch owners of castrated and intact male dogs were analysed with Chi-square tests. Results indicate that owners of both castrated and intact dogs received castration advice most often from veterinarian practitioners, with pro-castration at higher frequencies for owners of castrated dogs (Chi-square, P<0.001). Overall, most owners disagreed with or were neutral about statements on castration positively affecting male dog behaviour at a population level. Nevertheless, 58% (N = 145) of the owners of castrated dogs (N = 249) reported that correcting unwanted behaviour was a reason to castrate their own male dog. Unwanted behaviour involved aggression in 50% (N = 70) of the owner-dog dyads. Castrated dog's aggression changes were reported on most as 'no change'. The second most common answer indicated an aggression decrease in dogs castrated to correct unwanted behaviour and an increase in dogs castrated for other reasons (Chi-square, P<0.001). The increase in aggression in a subset of castrated dogs is concerning, as aggression can pose risks to the dog's welfare. We acknowledge the limitations of our study which identifies associations rather than provides causal evidence. Still, we recommend professionals' awareness of possible negative behavioural changes following castration, like increased aggression. Future research on behavioural consequences of castrating dogs needs to build a more solid knowledge base for balanced advice regarding castration.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0234917
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume15
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jun 2020

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