How Will Neutering Change My Golden Retriever? [5 Common Misconceptions]

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A commonly asked question among male Golden Retriever owners is “How Will Neutering Change My Golden Retriever?”

Choosing to neuter your Golden is a sure way to prevent any accidental breedings, plus there are many health benefits involved for your dog.

The chance of getting testicular cancer is eliminated, and the risk of prostate disease is reduced. Neutered dogs also live longer on average.

But, you may still have some fears and doubts.

Many dog owners fear that neutering will somehow change their dog’s personality. Some dog owners neuter their dogs in hopes that it will help to calm them down.

The age at the time of neutering is also a factor for increased risks of joint disorders and cancers.

Are these fears and hopes valid?

Keep reading to discover how neutering will change your Golden Retriever. Plus, find out the common misconceptions that people have about neutering.

How Will Neutering Change My Golden Retriever?

Neutering your Golden Retriever will not change your dog’s personality. They will still be the same dog you know and love prior to being neutered. Neutering is not a quick fix for calming your Golden Retriever down. It will, however, help to reduce unwanted behaviours associated with sexual hormones. You will see a reduction of aggression, irritability, marking territory, mounting and roaming. Your Golden Retriever should wait to be neutered until beyond 1 year of age, as this will greatly reduce the risks of joint disorders and certain cancers.

What Is Neutering?

How Will Neutering Change My Golden Retriever - A Golden Retriever standing on top of a mountain of large rocks.  He is looking into the distance with a happy expression.  There is a bright blue sky in the background.

Neutering is a common surgical procedure that involves the removal of your dog’s testicles. This means that your dog will not be able to reproduce.

Neutering is often referred to as castration or the “big snip”.

Many dog owners and vets also use the term neutering when referring to female dogs. However, spaying is the proper medical term for females.

In this article, we are strictly focusing on males being neutered.

Neutering is less invasive than what a spay surgery is for a female. It is performed under general anesthesia, and your dog will be able to go home the same day.

The hardest part is trying to keep your dog calm for the required 10-14 days after surgery. You will need to restrict your dog’s play and exercise, and he will have to wear the dreaded cone of shame!

Many owners opt for a surgical suit instead of the cone. It is much more comfortable and your dog will feel less stressed.

Guidelines Suggest Delaying Neutering In Golden Retrievers

The common practice that has been in place for many years has been to neuter your male dog within the first year of age.

However, a new 10-year study done by researchers at the University of California (UC Davis), found that Golden Retrievers have increased risks of joint disorders and certain cancers when they are neutered early.

Joint disorders include hip dysplasia and cranial cruciate ligament tear. Cancers include lymphosarcoma, hemangiosarcoma, and mast cell tumours.

Take a look at the chart below. It shows the results of a study done by UC Davis from 2000-to 2009, results were published in 2013.

UC Davis Study Results Published in 2013, of the neutering effects on Male Golden Retrievers.
HD – Hip Dysplasia CCL – Cranial Cruciate Ligament Tear LSA – Lymphosarcoma HSA – Hemangiosarcoma MCT – Mast Cell Tumour

Included in this study were Golden Retrievers aged 1-8 years old, 145 of which were intact, 178 were neutered early, and 72 were neutered late.

As you can see, hip dysplasia, cranial cruciate ligament, and lymphosarcoma were common among those Golden’s neutered early.

Guidelines now suggest that neutering in Golden Retrievers should be delayed beyond 1 year of age, based on these increased risks of joint disorders and cancers. [You can read the research article published in 2020, in frontiers in Veterinary Science, scroll down to Golden Retriever.]

Your Golden Retriever should be fully developed before being neutered. The sex hormones are needed in order for your Golden’s growth plates to fully close.

Pros Of Neutering Your Golden Retriever

Neutering your Golden Retriever offers health, behavioural and lifestyle benefits.

1. Testicular Cancer Is Eliminated

Neutering your Golden Retriever eliminates his chances of getting testicular cancer, one of the most common cancers affecting intact dogs.

If your Golden Retriever is 1 year old and has either one or both of his testicles that are undescended (meaning they are retained in the abdomen), then he should definitely be neutered.

Cryptorchidism is the medical term for an undescended testicle. It is estimated that dogs with this condition have a risk that is 10x greater than normal dogs of developing testicular cancer.

2. Reduces The Risk Of Prostate Disorders

An enlarged prostate is commonly seen in males who are intact, and it usually occurs after the age of 5. Dogs affected by this have difficulty with bowel movements and urinating.

The good news is that it can be fixed. If you neuter at this time, the prostate will shrink and problems will resolve.

Prostate infections and cysts are also common in dogs left intact, but they are more difficult to treat.

3. Reduction Of Unwanted Behaviours

Neutering helps to reduce unwanted behaviours in your Golden that are associated with sex hormones.

You will see a reduction in:

  • Aggression
  • Irritability
  • Marking Territory both indoors and outdoors.
  • Mounting/Humping.
  • Roaming (looking for a female in heat).

4. Your Golden Retriever Will Be More Focused

Dogs that are left intact tend to focus too much attention on other dogs. They are on the lookout for potential mates and possible rivals.

By neutering your Golden, his sexual desire will be eliminated and he will be able to focus his attention on you and his training.

5. Your Male Will Be Better With And Around Other Male Dogs

A Golden Retriever sitting next to a Bernese Mountain Dog outside on the grass.  Both dogs are looking up with their mouths open.

Dogs that are left intact often become targeted by other dogs, either neutered or intact.

Intact dogs attack other intact dogs because they see them as a rival especially when a female is around.

Even if your Golden is not aggressive, he may become a target from another male dog, especially if he is unneutered.

Neutered dogs have been known to target intact dogs and become aggressive towards them. The reason is that intact dogs smell like males, which is seen as a threat to neutered dogs.

Remember that testosterone can fuel aggression. Even Golden Retrievers who are friendly, gentle and calm, can suddenly become aggressive towards another male if they see them as a threat.

6. Prevents Any Accidental Breedings

Neutering your dog will prevent any chance of accidental breeding. You will be helping to control the pet population which is already out of control.

Also, breeding is a big responsibility. Dogs must be tested and cleared for any health issues that are common in the breed.

By leaving your Golden intact, you are risking the chance of accidental breeding. Possibly passing on any health issues to his puppies, which is not helping to better this breed.

Cons Of Neutering Your Golden Retriever

As we have seen in the study results chart above, neutering too early, before your Golden has gone through puberty, can be detrimental to your Golden’s health.

1. Increased Risk Of Cancers And Joint Disorders When Neutered Early

Neutering your Golden Retriever within the first year of age puts him at an increased risk of developing certain cancers and joint disorders.

The following results are based on data collected from UC Davis from their 10-year study that was published in 2020. It included 318 intact male Golden Retrievers and 365 neutered.

This study includes osteosarcoma and elbow dysplasia, whereas the study published in 2013 (chart above) did not include either.

Cancers: Hemangiosarcoma, Lymphosarcoma, Mast Cell Tumour, & Osteosarcoma

  • Males neutered at less than 6 months had a 19% occurrence of one or more of the cancers, and males neutered at 6 to 11 months had a 16% occurrence.
  • Intact males had a 15% occurrence of cancers.

Joint Disorders: Hip Dysplasia, Cranial Cruciate Ligament Tear, & Elbow Dysplasia

  • Golden Retrievers neutered before 6 months had a 25% occurrence of one or more of the joint disorders. Males neutered at 6 to 11 months had an 11% occurrence.
  • Intact males had a 5% occurrence.

2. Higher Risk Of Becoming Overweight Or Obese

Golden Retrievers who are neutered are 50 to 100% more likely to become overweight or obese. The age at the time of neuter does not matter, to have this increased risk.

This astonishing result is based on data collected from the Morris Animal Foundation Golden Retriever Lifetime Study. You can read the results of this 2019 study published in PLOS ONE.

Neutering your Golden will affect his metabolism, and cause it to slow down. In order to avoid your dog from becoming overweight, you need to adjust his daily calories according to his physical needs.

Many owners make the mistake of feeding their Golden the same amount of food as before he was neutered.

3. Complications Due To Surgery

While neutering is a simple surgical procedure, it still requires your dog to be put under general anesthesia.

There are always risks associated with anesthesia, however, the risks are pretty low. It is estimated that 1 in 100,000 animals will have some sort of reaction to anesthesia.

Reactions can be mild such as swelling at the injection site, or they can be severe such as anaphylactic shock or death.

Young, healthy Golden Retrievers have a low risk of having any reaction to anesthesia.

Common Misconceptions About How Neutering Will Change Your Golden Retriever

The following are a few of the common misconceptions that Golden Retriever owners have about neutering.

Neutering Will Not Make Your Golden Feel Less Masculine

Are you worried that your Golden Retriever will feel less manly after getting neutered? Don’t be!

This is a common misconception that many dog owners fear. Dogs don’t feel this sort of thing, it’s their owners that do.

Sure your Golden won’t be able to reproduce, but that’s the only “manly” thing that neutered dogs can’t do.

It’s Not A Quick Fix For Calming Your Golden Down

A Golden Retriever running towards you on a sandy beach.

Young Golden Retrievers are certainly a handful! They are so wild and energetic and when they hit puberty they tend to test their boundaries!

Suddenly everything you have taught them seems to go out the window. They do what they want, choose to ignore you and push your buttons!

This is about the time that owners want to neuter their dogs in hopes to make them calmer!

But, your male needs his hormones in order to fully develop.

Neutering should be done well after a year of age, preferably around the age of 2. Keep in mind that many Goldens don’t become emotionally mature until the age of 3 or sometimes later.

Neutering is not magically going to calm down your Golden Retriever. However, it will help him to focus better, it will prevent roaming tendencies, and it will reduce any aggression that is based on sexual hormones.

In time, your Golden Retriever will become calmer because of the lower levels of testosterone in his system thanks to neutering.

It Doesn’t Affect Your Dog’s Personality

A Golden Retriever sitting in a body of water, with grass behind him.  He has a very happy expression on his face.

Neutering doesn’t change your dog’s personality or temperament. Your Golden will have the same personality as before.

His behaviour will change for the better though. Because of the reduction in hormones, your Golden will be more devoted to you, focused and will listen better, and possibly more affectionate.

Some changes in behaviour that you will notice are, less humping, less marking his territory, and other male dogs will likely stop growling at him.

Neutering Will Not Fix A Training Issue

Neutering should never be used as a quick fix to your dog’s behaviour problem.

Training is the only way to ensure your dog is going to become the well-behaved and well-mannered dog you are longing for.

As we have learned, neutering does help to reduce unwanted behaviours that are fueled by testosterone, but it may not eliminate them completely.

My Golden Will No Longer Guard The House After Being Neutered

Okay, I had to throw this one in here for a laugh! I mean, really? When has a Golden Retriever ever been considered a good guard dog?

As I mentioned before, the personality, temperament, and intelligence of your Golden Retriever will not change once he is neutered.

Chances are your Golden Retriever was never a guard dog, but more of a watchdog, so nothing will change in that department.

Did Neutering Change My Dog Forever?

Check out this short video of the behavioural changes that this owner has noticed in her male dog, just four months after being neutered.

Final Thoughts

I hope this article has opened your eyes to the fact that neutering will not change your Golden Retriever’s personality, temperament or intelligence.

Neutering does, however, have the ability to change your Golden’s behaviour for the better.

Thanks to the reduction of testosterone, unwanted behaviours such as humping, roaming, aggression, and marking territory will be reduced.

Keep in mind that neutering is a big decision that should be discussed with your vet. Large breeds like the Golden Retriever should not be neutered until they are beyond 1 year of age.

Also, neutering should never be a substitute for training! It will not solve your dog’s behaviour problems or be a magical cure to calm your Golden Retriever down.

Have you noticed any changes in your Golden Retriever after neutering? What are your thoughts about neutering a Golden Retriever? Leave your comments below. I would love to hear from you.

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I am the proud owner of a Golden Retriever named Ellie. She keeps me busy, and when she is resting, you can find me working on my blog. She is always close by though. I live in Stirling, ON Canada with my husband, and we both enjoy the never a dull moment life with our Ellie.

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2 thoughts on “How Will Neutering Change My Golden Retriever? [5 Common Misconceptions]”

  1. Hey, this is a great post! It’s really important to put information like this out there to ensure people are aware of the truth. I know many people who have actually neutered just to fix their behaviour, in the hopes their pets will become calm when half the time they just needed some discipline.

    This is some very important information that should be shared especially to pet parents.

    Reply
    • Hi Sariyah,

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.  Unfortunately, there are too many dog owners who believe that neutering will solve all of their dog’s bad behaviour problems.  That’s just not true.  Proper training is the key to a well-mannered, happy dog.

      Jenny.

      Reply

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