Strange dog behavior after neutering- all you need to know
Neutering is the term used to describe castrating a male dog (removing his testicles) or spaying a female dog (removing her ovaries, fallopian tubes and her uterus). Neutering is often also called ‘fixing’.
Neutering is usually done to prevent unwanted pregnancy, prevent some health problems, and in some cases, help with behavior problems.
After being neutered, many dogs will behave differently for a while. Changes in dog behavior after neutering might be short-term, long term or even permanent.
Some behavior changes after neutering are to be expected but others might be a cause for concern. If your dog is showing strange behavior after neutering it is natural to worry.
We’ve put together a guide to help you know what to expect after neutering, what is normal, and when to seek further advice.
Table of Contents
Short-term behavior change after neutering
Many owners will notice their dog’s behavior change after neutering. Short-term behavior changes are to be expected as the dog recovers from the surgery.
When they come home from the vet surgery, the dog will need time to rest. They are likely to be quite sleepy after the anesthetic and may be very quiet for the first 24 hours after surgery.
The dog will have been given painkillers by their vet and will usually be sent home with additional painkillers if the vet thinks they are needed.
It is likely that your dog will be in some discomfort for a few days after surgery, but this usually wears off after about a week.
All dogs react differently to pain and some behavior change is to be expected. In those first few days after surgery, your dog may be quieter than usual if they are a little uncomfortable. They may stay in bed more and may have less of an appetite, especially in the first 24 hours.
The wound may be a little sore and your dog might become a bit worried if you try to touch it. Keep an eye on the wound from a distance if your dog doesn’t want you too close.
Try to keep stress to a minimum while your dog recovers. These unusual behaviors should improve as your dog recovers and are not usually a cause for concern.
Some dogs do not appear to be affected by the discomfort and may be back to their usual self within a couple of days. It is important to keep them as quiet as possible while their wound heals so try to discourage them from bouncing around too much.
Unusual behavior after neutering- when should you worry?
There are some behavior changes that are to be expected, but what are the warning signs after spaying a dog? Contact your vet if you notice any of the following after neutering male or female dogs:
- The dog is hiding and acting strange for more than 24 hours after surgery.
- Any signs of infection after neutering the dog. This may include abnormal swelling after neutering, the wound looking very red, inflamed or bleeding, vomiting, diarrhea, shivering or a high temperature.
- Extreme aggression that suggests your dog is very uncomfortable.
- Excessive whining or yelping.
- Refusing to move.
- Struggling to go to the toilet.
- A lack of appetite that persists for more than 24 hours after surgery.
Male dog behavior changes after castration
Many dog owners have their male dog castrated to help with problem behaviors. So how long after neutering does behavior change? Well it depends on how much the problem behavior was influenced by testosterone.
This hormone is often responsible for many of the behaviors you associate with entire male dogs, including excessive mounting or humping, running away from home, and aggression towards other entire male dogs.
Testosterone increases confidence, risk-taking behavior, and persistence in dogs. Behavior changes in male dogs after neutering may include the following:
- A reduction in humping, if this was hormonally driven.
- Reduced territorial behavior, if this was hormonally driven.
- A reduction in aggression towards other male dogs, if this was hormonally driven.
- Your dog may be less likely to run away from home, if this was due to seeking out female dogs in season.
- Your dog may be a little calmer and less distracted around other dogs, which can make training easier.
So how long after neutering is testosterone gone? It takes around six weeks for the testosterone to leave your dog’s system. At this point you should start to see a change in any behavior that was influenced by testosterone.
Be aware that humping, aggression, running away and excitability can have other causes and may not be the result of high levels of testosterone. Therefore castrating your dog does not guarantee that these behaviors will improve.
In some cases, castrating a dog can cause problem behaviors to become worse so it is important to discuss this with your vet before the operation.
Female dog behavior changes after spaying
The changes in female dog behavior are often less noticeable than males after neutering. Any behavior that was linked to the reproductive cycle will usually be reduced or disappear completely when a female dog is spayed.
This includes increased clinginess, reactivity, or resource guarding that was hormonally driven.
So how long after neutering does behavior change in female dogs? It takes around 4 weeks for a female dog’s hormones to settle after neutering, depending on where she was in her cycle when she was spayed.
During this time you may notice unusual behaviors such as increased clinginess, reactivity, inability to settle, nesting, and resource guarding. These are signs of a phantom pregnancy, which some female dogs experience in the days after being spayed.
You may also notice enlarged mammary glands and maybe even milk production. Usually, a phantom pregnancy after spaying will disappear on its own as hormones settle down. Speak to your vet if you notice signs of phantom pregnancy after spaying that do not go away.
Very occasionally, a spayed dog may experience a chronic phantom pregnancy after her spay- this will not resolve on its own and will need treatment from a vet.
It is important to remember that many problem behaviors may not be caused by hormones. For example, reactivity and resource guarding may be caused by anxiety.
Even if the behaviors are caused by hormones, the effect of learning means that problem behaviors can persist after neutering. Therefore neutering your female dog does not guarantee that her behavior will improve.
Strange behavior after neutering dog FAQ’S
How long will a dog be in pain after spaying?
Spay surgery is more invasive than castration, so female dogs often need a little more recovery time than males. It is common for female dogs to be in some discomfort for a few days after surgery, but the pain should be gone within a week or so.
If you think your dog is still in pain after a week, contact your vet.
Does neutering cause aggression?
Sometimes, owners report that their dog became more aggressive after neutering. This can certainly happen. Dog aggression after neutering can have a number of causes.
Aggression in the days after surgery may be caused by pain and should improve as the dog recovers- speak to your vet if you think your dog needs additional pain relief.
Aggression after neutering a male dog can be related to the drop in testosterone levels after surgery. Testosterone gives a dog confidence, and therefore helps them cope in stressful situations.
Without the confidence boost of testosterone, some dogs have a reduced ability to cope with stress and therefore become anxious and start to show aggression.
In female dogs, aggression after neutering can occur due to the drop in levels of oestrogen and oxytocin. Aggression may also be caused by a chronic or persistent phantom pregnancy.
This can occur if a female dog was experiencing a phantom pregnancy when she was spayed (phantom pregnancies do not always have obvious signs and may be ‘silent’).
Signs of a chronic phantom pregnancy include aggression, reactivity, restlessness, nesting, vomiting, increased drinking and urination.
Speak to your vet if your dog shows aggression or other unusual behavior after neutering.
How long do dogs need to wear a cone after neutering?
Most dogs will need to wear a cone after neutering to prevent them from licking the wound or pulling at their stitches. Dogs often do not like wearing a cone, however, it is in their best interest.
But when to take the cone off after neutering? Take your vet’s advice on this as it depends on how quickly the wound is healing. On average, dogs need to wear a cone for 7-14 days after neutering to ensure the wound heals well.
How soon can I walk my dog after neutering?
Many owners ask “How soon can I walk my dog after spaying?”. Take your vet’s advice on this, but in general, dogs should not be walked for 48 hours after neutering.
They can be taken for toilet breaks on leash in the yard only. After that, start to introduce short gentle walks on leash if your vet gives you the go-ahead. As your dog recovers, you can increase the length of the walks, but your dog should not go off-leash for at least 14 days after surgery.
How long after neuter can dogs run?
The general advice is that your dog should not run for at least 14 days after neutering. They should be kept calm and quiet until their wound has healed.
This will depend on how well your dog has healed after surgery, so you should follow your vet’s advice. Often, female dogs take a little longer to heal than male dogs after neutering as the spay surgery is more invasive.
My dog keeps jumping after being neutered- help!
Some dogs recover very quickly from the anesthetic and have minimal discomfort. This means they feel ready to be running and bouncing before their wound has fully healed!
Jumping around after neutering can increase the risk of post-surgery complications so it is important to keep your dog as calm as possible. Engage him in activities that use his brain instead of his body.
You can teach him tricks, hide food and toys for him to find, and use doggy puzzle feeders or long-lasting chews to keep him occupied. Instead of feeding him in a bowl, try scatter-feeding his kibble so that it takes longer for him to eat.
You only need to keep him quiet until he is healed, so spend some quality time doing gentle activities together.
Can a neutered dog still mate?
It takes around 6 weeks for testosterone to leave the system after neutering, and during this time there is a small chance that a male dog could get a female pregnant.
Technically, a neutered male dog can still mate with a female dog. However, neutering drastically reduces the urge to mate, therefore it would be unlikely to happen.
If you have an entire female in season at home, it is wise to keep her separate from your male dog if he has just been neutered. Just in case!
Neutered male dogs may still mount or hump other males and females but this is more likely to be due to anxiety or feeling insecure, as a way of soliciting play, or as attention-seeking behavior.
Behavior change after neutering is common in both male and female dogs. Some unusual behavior may be seen while the dog recovers from surgery, this usually improves as the dog heals and starts to feel better.
If you have any concerns about your dog’s behavior after neutering, contact your vet as unusual behavior can be a sign of infection.
Both male and female dogs can have long-term behavior changes after neutering. Often, dog behavior improves after neutering. However, this is not guaranteed and neutering can cause behavior problems to remain unchanged or become worse.
It is not always easy to predict how a dog’s behavior will change after spaying or castration. If you are planning to neuter your dog for behavioral reasons, always discuss this with your vet and/ or a qualified behaviorist- they can help you decide if neutering is likely to help.