Category Archives: Behavior

The Benefits of Spaying and Neutering Your Pets

Pets enrich the lives of people everywhere, adding joy and companionship to their owners’ lives. While many people strive to give their pets the highest level of care available, they often concentrate on feeding good foods, regular grooming, and taking pets to obedience class. Unfortunately, while veterinary care is a priority for pet owners, the importance of spaying and neutering your pet can be lost on many pet owners. There are many reasons why you should spay and neuter your pets for their health, and your sanity as an owner.

The most obvious benefits of neutering your pets include the decrease in pet overpopulation. This is an especially significant issue for cats, which are less likely to be adopted from shelters and harm the environment when left to roam freely. Because the number of stray and unwanted animals in communities decreases when pets are spayed or neutered, fewer animals are left in shelters or euthanized.

When you neuter or spay your cat or dog, you are sure to save money in long-term vet bills. Intact male cats and dogs are more likely to wander away from home, and are at a higher risk for testicular cancer than male pets who have been neutered before six months of age. When you neuter or spay your cat, his or her life span is increased by three to five years, while fixed dogs see a life span increase of one to three years. Many owners are concerned about the cost of having their pets fixed, but there are many dog and cat spay and neuter clinics that offer affordable surgery for low-income pet owners.

Spayed and neutered pets contribute to a more peaceful household. Spayed and neutered pets tend to be friendlier, more focused, and easier to train than their intact counterparts. Fixed pets also exhibit fewer aggressive behaviors, as well as refrain from unwanted actions like wailing and spraying.

Whether you are a cat person or a dog person, it is your responsibility as a pet owner to keep your companions happy and healthy, so be sure to have your pets spayed and neutered as early as possible to help them live a long and happy life.

Three Facts That Show Why Spaying and Neutering Really Matters

Springtime is here — and spring might just be the best time of the year to take advantage of the benefits of spaying or neutering your pet.

That’s because spring is peak breeding season for pets — and by choosing to neuter or spay your cat or dog now, before peak season begins, you can more easily find an affordable spay and neuter clinic near you to perform this procedure on your furry friend.

But why spay and neuter your pets? Why does it matter? Here are the top three problems that spay and neuter procedures help reduce and prevent:

Pet overpopulation

Each year, millions of cats and dogs are unable to find a home and end up in animal shelters or out on the streets as strays — or worse, they’re euthanized. The vast majority of these pets are the products of unplanned litters of puppies and kittens. The best and most effective way to help reduce the number of unwanted pets is to have your own pets spayed or neutered.

Behavioral issues

Having your dog or cat spayed or neutered — especially once they’re 3 months old or so — also prevents a number of bothersome behavioral problems from emerging. Neutered male dogs and cats are much less likely to roam away from home and can help diminish aggressive behaviors. Spayed female pets won’t go into heat, which means they will also be better-behaved.

Pet cancers and health conditions

If performed before the pet reaches six months of age, spaying and neutering completely eliminates the risk of your pet getting certain reproductive cancers. Testicular cancer, uterine infections and breast cancer are all preventable with a spay or neuter procedure. This in turn results in a longer, healthier and happier life for your pet!

Want to know more about the importance of spaying and neutering your pet — or are you having trouble finding an affordable spay and neuter clinic? Ask us any questions you may have about this by emailing us. 

Debunking the Top Myths Surrounding Spaying and Neutering Pets

For a shocking number of pet owners, the true importance of spaying and neutering your pets isn’t often understood. As a result, 20% of dogs and 10% of cats in the U.S. today haven’t been spayed or neutered — and 98% of the country’s stray animal population is neither spayed nor neutered.

That’s because many people aren’t as educated on the benefits of spay and neuter procedures as they should be. Instead of learning about why you should spay and neuter your pets, it’s easier for many of us to go off of myths and inaccuracies we’ve heard from others — something that no responsible pet owner should do.

To help demonstrate the reasons why you should spay and neuter your pets, we’ve compiled this list of the top five most pervasive spay and neuter myths — and have provided the truth that lies behind these myths:

Myth: Having my pet spayed or neutered is too expensive.

Fact: Believe it or not, but it’s easier than ever to find an affordable spay and neuter clinic in your area. Many communities throughout the country offer reduced licensing fees and a multitude of other benefits to pet owners who have their companion animals spayed or neutered. And just remember — the cost of having your pet spayed or neutered will always be much, much less than the cost of caring for an entire litter of puppies or kittens.

Myth: Having my pet spayed or neutered will change his or her behavior.

Fact: This myth is actually true, to an extent. While spaying or neutering won’t do anything to change your pet’s actual personality, your pet will be less likely to roam away from home, decreases aggressive tendencies. A number of other undesirable behaviors will be eliminated after your pet is spayed or neutered.

Myth: Animals become less active and overweight as a result of spaying or neutering.

Fact: As any animal matures, it is necessary for owners to adjust dietary intake to compensate for more sedentary lifestyles. Animals become overweight only when they are fed too much and not exercised properly.

Myth: Behavior is adversely affected by sterilization.

Fact: The only changes in dog and cat behavior after spaying or neutering are positive changes. Male cats tend to reduce territorial spraying, depending on their age at neutering. Neutered dogs and cats fight less, resulting in fewer bite and scratch wounds and lessening the spread of contagious diseases. Male dogs and cats tend to stay home more after neutering because they no longer wander in search of a mate.

Myth: Spaying and neutering is painful to my dog or cat.

Fact: Surgical sterilization is performed under general anesthesia by a doctor of veterinary medicine. The procedure itself is not felt by the patient. There may be mild discomfort after the surgery, but most animals return to normal activity within 24 to 72 hours. The minimal discomfort experienced by dogs and cats that are spayed or neutered can be lessened with post-operative pain medications and is well worth the endless suffering that is prevented by eliminating homeless puppies and kittens.

Normal play vs. aggressive tendencies in Puppies

Many owners begin their relationship with new puppies armed with misinformation and an idealistic view of the pet-owner relationship. Owners often don’t know how to properly shape behaviors or handle problems, and one area that needs special attention is play aggression.


Most puppy play consists of chasing, pouncing, barking, growling, snapping, and biting. So how can new owners tell the difference between normal play and possible signs of true aggression in puppies?

In normal play, a puppy may play bow (lower its head and raise its hind end), present its front end or side to the owner, hold the front part of its body up, wag its tail, dart back and forth, emit high-pitched barks and growls, and spontaneously attack. Of course, even normal play can become too intense.

Behaviors that may indicate a problem are prolonged, deep-tone growling; a fixed gaze; a stiff posture; and aggression that is situational or stimulus-dependent (not spontaneous). These aggressive behaviors may be related to fear, possessiveness, conflict, or pain and necessitate immediate evaluation by you or a behavior expert.


Puppies must learn how to play appropriately, so suggest these forms of intervention for your clients.

> Distract the bad behavior. Always have a toy on hand that the puppy can transfer its attention to.

> Speak up and step out. If the puppy is biting hard, yell “Ouch!” and stop playing.

> Interrupt problem behaviors. A shake can, a water gun, or compressed air will startle puppies and stop the behavior. But don’t use these techniques if a pet has a sensitive temperament or if the techniques seem to make things worse.

> Set up a dragline. Both indoors and outdoors, make sure the puppy is on a leash that you can quickly grab to stop the behavior.

> Use head halters. These halters provide a more natural sense of control than ordinary collars do and limit the chances of biting.

> Consider muzzles. In extreme cases, muzzles may be used for short periods to prevent biting.

> Give the puppy a time out. If the puppy won’t stop the bad behavior, put the puppy in a room or in its kennel with toys to keep it busy until it calms down.


In addition, offering owners these tips on interacting with, socializing, and training their puppies may help prevent abnormal play aggression.

> Provide plenty of exercise. Puppies are bundles of energy, so give them productive ways to expend that energy, such as going on walks or playing “Monkey in the middle” (see sidebar).

> Provide mental stimulation. Rubber toys that can be filled with treats, such as Kong toys or Busy Buddy puzzle toys (Premier), offer puppies a chance to chase and bite the toys and obtain a food reward.

> Play with your pup. Playing fetch or throwing a soccer ball for the puppy to push around saps some of its energy.

> Teach and review basic obedience commands. A well-trained dog is more likely to follow orders when behaving inappropriately.

> Conduct leadership exercises. Follow these rules to maintain overall order: 1) Nothing in life is free. Ask the pet to respond to a command such as “sit” before the pet receives anything it wants or needs. 2) Don’t tell me what to do. Do not allow the pet to be pushy about soliciting attention from you. Pull your hands in, lean away, and look away from the pet if it nudges, whines, barks, leans, or pushes for attention. Walk away if the pet is too difficult to ignore. Once the pet stops soliciting attention for 10 seconds, ask the pet to sit and give it attention. 3) Don’t move without permission. Anytime you begin to move from one area of the home to another, ask the pet to sit and stay for a second or two before you give a release command to follow you.

> Don’t sit on the floor with the pup. This tends to get puppies excited, puts family members in a vulnerable position, and makes it more difficult to control the pet.

> Promote socialization. Puppies must have frequent, positive social experiences with all types of animals and people during the first three or four months of life to prevent asocial behavior, fear, and biting. And continued exposure to a variety of people and animals as the pets grow is essential for maintaining good social skills.


Be sure that the family is not using any physically punitive methods such as scruff shakes, alpha rollovers, squeezing the pet to the floor, thumping the nose, or swatting.


Whatever you do in the way of counseling new pet owners, remember that providing behavior information from the outset can make a big difference in the relationship between the pet and the owner. Owners need reliable help to weed out conflicting and inappropriate training information, and behavior problems are much easier to prevent than to correct.

Everybody wins when we take the time and effort to provide timely behavior counseling. The owner is more likely to have a well-behaved pet, we are more likely to have a manageable patient, and the pet is more likely to remain an important part of the family.


Wayne L. Hunthausen, DVM, Animal Behavior Consultations, 4820 Rainbow Blvd. Westwood, KS 66205.



Monkey in the middle: An exercise in obedience

This game not only exercises energetic puppies, it also reinforces the basic commands of “sit” and “come,” enhances name recognition, and teaches puppies to run up and sit to get attention (instead of jumping on people). At least two people are needed, and each person should have six to 12 small treats (regular puppy dinner kibble is usually adequate) at hand.

The two people sit opposite each other with about five to six feet in between. The first person calls “Skippy, come” in a high—pitched, upbeat voice. As the approaches, the first person has the puppy sit for a treat. Immediately, the second person calls ‘Skippy, come” in a high—pitched, upbeat voice and has the puppy sit for a treat. Immediately, the first person calls again and has the puppy sit for a treat, and so on.

The distance between the two people can increase as the puppy becomes accustomed to the game —the people can even move into separate rooms, increasing the strength of the “come” command and the exertion needed to obtain a treat.

Remember, Puppies Are A Responsibility

Remember, Puppies Are A Responsibility

It’s Puppy Awareness Week, and all of those oh-so-adorable pictures on your Facebook news feed has inspired you to get a pup of your own. Not so fast. Before committing to years’ worth of responsibility, take a step back to consider what you’ll need, if and when you do choose to get a puppy. Here are some of the basics.


Pick Up A Crate For Your Puppy Training!

There’s a very good chance that, when you pick your new puppy up, he or she will not be house trained — and he or she will not be neutered or spayed, either. This is a relatively normal struggle, and you can make your life a whole lot easier by using a crate to housetrain your puppy!

While these are necessarily tools for the first couple of months, that doesn’t mean it’s okay for you to neglect house training your new puppy — and it especially doesn’t give you a free pass when it comes to getting he or she neutered or spayed. The importance of spaying and neutering your pet can not be stressed enough. If you are wondering when to spay your dog, the best time is as soon as you can, and definitely before sexual maturity at roughly six to 12 months of age. Take your new puppy to an affordable spay and neuter.

If you plan your puppy’s arrival when there is sufficient time to socialize and housetrain it, your puppy will learn faster and more likely grow into an adult dog you’ll enjoy. If your area offers puppy classes, they are a great way to socialize your new companion and help it learn some basic commands.


Don’t Forget Chew Toys

Before bringing your new dog home, have ready the necessary accessories such as a collar and leash, ID tag, food, and water bowls. Provide your dog with a variety of toys to prevent him from playing with your socks and shoes, your morning paper, or your child’s favorite doll. Get some toys that you and your dog can play with together, such as balls and plush toys, and some things to keep him busy when he’s alone, such as chewies or rope bones.