Castration - A load of Bull...?
In this current era of #metoo with the likes of Harvey and Donald setting a really bad example, maybe this is not the time for me to write an article questioning the effectiveness of castration. Speaking as a male, I admit that I also have a soft spot (well, two really) for my own “equipment; men will wince in empathy should they hear a story about some poor chap whose “poor chap” was involved in some kind of painful accident.
That said, it is as a dog trainer (and not as a male of the species) that I came to the conclusion many years ago that castration is not all it is cracked up to be. However, it is still often the first course of action when dealing with aggression in male dogs. Too many vets propose this procedure as the cure-all (which comes at a price of course). I have met many aggressive female dogs in all my years as a Dog Listener – what should we cut off them? Maybe their legs so they can’t run after anyone?
Don’t get me wrong, castration for health reasons or to avoid unwanted puppies is definitely recommended in the first case (and begrudgingly in the second, although intelligent control from dog owners is preferable). When it comes to dealing with aggressive behaviour though, there is a completely different part of the body that should be treated (and definitely not removed).
My own old fellow, Kez (I am referring to my dog here) was an entire male and the most chilled out individual you could have hoped to meet. A very large part (I promise you I am not making these puns on purpose!) of the reason for his calm demeanour was the way I interacted with him to show him that he could relax and trust me with the big decisions. Dogs ask us questions every day to see who they can trust, so when Kez asked, I made sure to give him the right answer. That way, I avoided him taking on the role himself, which could have led to bigger problems.
In nearly every case of dog aggression, there is a big dose of panic added. This does not come from any appendage; rather the belief in a dog’s mind that it is responsible for the safety of its family in a world that it does not understand. That panic can lead to reactions that can understandably be seen as aggressive. Once again, we know that there are females that can also have these aggressive tendencies, but there is not an equivalent, arbitrary, medical procedure for them.
What can make the situation worse for a male that has been given the chop is that they may still have the responsibility of looking after everyone, only now they are constantly feeling out of sorts. The levels of testosterone take a massive drop, leaving them prone to feeling vulnerable. If you have ever had to go to work or look after your children while feeling unwell, I am willing to bet that you may have been more easily irritated…
On so many occasions I have been asked to work with highly strung dogs that have previously been castrated, only for their behaviour to remain unchanged or even worsen. My approach to solving dog aggression is to concentrate on the other end of the body. Using the way they think is the key to success. Calm and positive communication in their language shows them that you are capable of looking after everyone, allowing them to relinquish responsibility and relax.
Thankfully, not every veterinarian is still stuck in the old-fashioned practice of slicing off a mutt’s nuts. There are plenty of professionals out there who have realised that castration for aggression problems clearly does not work. They also know that there are ways to help solve this problem that do not require drugs, force, pain or surgery. When it comes to helping your dog to be happy and calm, I guess the ball is in your court…