The short answer is yes, gender does matter when selecting another dog to bring into your home. Of course there are exceptions to this; I had two female rescue lab mixes (from two different backgrounds, years apart) peacefully live long and happy lives with me. But experts agree that, for things to have the best possible chance of working out, the second dog should be of the opposite sex.
Here’s the situation. A family I know wants a second dog. Their older male dog, Rover, is a sweet and gentle old mutt, and they are completely at ease when Rover and their young child play together. Still, they feel it’s time to open their home and their heart to another animal.
During their search for a second dog, they fell in love with a male puppy that needs a safe home. This pup is in an urgent situation and they feel they must step in and help. Still, the family did the responsible thing and consulted animal behaviorists and trainers about their situation. Right now, their household is harmonious; everyone is comfortable with their routines and the home runs like clockwork. While they are ready to adopt another pet, they want to do it the right way.
Every one of the animal experts said the family should keep looking. Even though the family has fallen in love with a male dog, experts strongly recommend they avoid getting a second male. Why? Because although Rover is a sweet and gentle senior dog, there will be some level of conflict between the two males. Yes, they may work things out in the beginning, but experts fear the dogs will likely go to battle in six months, a year, two years or more – when the dogs determine it’s time to change the pack order. The risk is there for the dogs’ entire lives.
There are general differences between male and female dogs, but the honest answer to the question of whether gender matters when adopting a dog is: it depends. Maybe you’ve heard the saying, popular among dog breeders, trainers and veterinarians, which answers the gender question like this – If you want a good dog, get a male. If you want a great dog, get a female and cross your fingers. That common adage is not terribly helpful but completely true.
The Dog Pedigree Database, Your Dog magazine and other resources state that the breed, upbringing, personality, training, handling and parentage are more important considerations when choosing a canine companion than the sex of the dog. You should clearly asses your lifestyle, your current (and future) household conditions and your expectations of a pet before making any decisions. Once you’re sure of your desires, study different breeds to develop a list of appropriate dog types. Remember that shelters are full of dogs that will meet your criteria. Expand your search to include breed specific rescues as well. It’s true that you won’t know a shelter or rescue dog’s parentage, but you will be given an opportunity to assess their personality. The training and handling is completely up to you.
The only thing that dog experts seem to agree on is that personality differences between individual dogs makes a bigger difference than the gender of the dog. Because there are slight agreed upon differences, this overview will be helpful in guiding your final decision. Please remember, however, that these are general terms. While a male or female dog may exhibit a specific trait, this doesn’t mean that all males or all females act that particular way.
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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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, firm, corporation or brand names, in this blog is for the information and convenience of the reader. Such use does not constitute an official endorsement or approval by CANIDAE® Natural Pet Food Company of any product or service to the exclusion of others that may be suitable. All opinions in this blog are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® Natural Pet Food Company.