By Ruthie Bently
I grew up with female dogs, and have owned both males and females. All my AmStaffs seem to have been picked for me for one reason: there was a dog that needed a home when I wanted a dog. I didn’t consider gender, because I didn’t think it mattered.
I haven’t read anything definitive on whether females or males are better, though I’ve read that many police departments tend to choose intact males for their canine units. Female dogs tend to be smaller in size than their male counterparts, in both weight and height. Males in theory have more stamina and energy, though you can’t prove that at our house. To exercise Skye we spend at least twenty minutes three times a day in the yard playing ball or chasing a disk, or we go for a long walk. She will be panting at the end of our exercise sessions, but doesn’t want to quit.
There are differences between the genders of intact male and female dogs. A non-spayed female dog usually has two “heat” seasons a year. Her behavior during this time will change and she’ll be receptive to males, will wander the neighborhood if allowed out, and be more vocal. If she has young puppies she will be more protective of them and may act aggressively. She may even mark her own territory, to let the neighborhood males know she’s available. A non-neutered male dog will search out a female in season, fight other male dogs, may behave inappropriately toward their owner by “humping” their leg, and will mark their territory to attract a female in season. While this may be the norm, I have known spayed females that mark their territory too. Depending on the age your dog is spayed or neutered at, if they have already developed some of the behaviors described they may never get over them.
To my knowledge there is no scientific study that shows whether a male or female dog is better. Several obedience judges and veterinarians were surveyed about their opinions in the book, The Perfect Puppy, by Lynette and Benjamin Hart. The traits of behavior between males and females were discussed and the consensus was that male dogs were more dog aggressive and more apt to attempt dominance over their owners. Females on the other hand, were thought to be easier to housebreak and train.
I have read a lot of forum threads on the subject lately, and have seen information that shows no marked behavior differences between male and female dogs. One forum I read stated that males were preferred as pets, but that it also depended on the breed of dog. If you are looking at a breed with specific traits like being laid back, gentle and quiet, it won’t matter if you get a male or a female. The same can be said for a breed that is known for being more active; either sex will have the breed’s traits. Theoretically this would hold true for a mixed breed as well; a Lab/terrier mix would have Labrador Retriever and terrier traits. Both dog genders can have temperament and behavior issues.
When trying to decide whether to get a male or a female dog, I think it depends on you and what you want or need. The most important thing is to evaluate your situation. The needs of your family should be considered too. What do you want in your new companion? Do you need a working dog or a companion? Your energy level should be considered as well. While all dogs need some amount of exercise every day, if you are not overly active you won’t want to be going for a five mile walk every day. If you have children, the size of the dog should be considered. Too large a dog can bowl over a child if they are running full tilt with a ball.
At the end of the day, I personally don’t think gender makes a difference. You want a well-behaved dog that won’t be afraid of you and cower in a corner. You’re taking on a responsibility that will last the life of the dog, which could be between 15-20 years. Leave yourself open to the possibilities, and don’t let gender cloud the issue.
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