The advantages of neutering both male and female dogs far outweigh the possible disadvantages, and overcome the specific problems associated with either sex. Neutered males do not wander, and neutered females do not come into season.
Fewer owners in Britain neuter their dogs than in America, where the operation is as routine as neutering cats in Britain. It is noticeable also that fewer male dogs than females are neutered. Females, of course, are at risk of having a litter.
Both dogs and bitches may be neutered at the age of about six months, and it is not necessary to wait until a bitch has had a first season before having her spayed. To a considerable extent, the earlier the dog is neutered, the less complicated the operation.
Early neutering does not result in failure of the dog to mature mentally; all the dogs bred by the Guide Dogs For The Blind Association are neutered before they reach the age of six months.
There are several disadvantages to neutering. After dogs of some breeds have been neutered their coats become heavier and fluffy. This happens to breeds such as the Irish Setter and the Cocker Spaniel, both of whom have naturally silky coats. The extent of the problem varies. In some dogs it may be necessary to trim the coat.
A problem that may be associated with spaying the bitch is the development of urinary incontinence in later life. This problem is easily cured by hormone replacement therapy, but it would still be sensible to discuss this possible problem with your veterinary surgeon before the operation. A research project currently underway may provide an answer. The problem does not occur after castration of the male.
Dogs and bitches often put on weight after being neutered. This need not happen. Dietary investigations suggest that neutered dogs have a lower nutritional requirement than entire (un-neutered) animals, possibly by as much as fifteen per cent.
To avoid a dog putting on weight after it has been neutered, simply reduce its daily food ration. As with any weight-control regime, it is much easier to prevent the weight going on than to take it off once it's there. Weigh the dog regularly for a time after the neutering operation, until you have established that its weight is steady.
If you intend to keep more than one dog in your house, the situation is somewhat different. Two animals of opposite sexes will tend to live more easily together than two of the same, other than when the bitch comes into season.
Two dogs kept together will tend to sort out their dominance once and for all, but two entire bitches are quite likely never to sort out their arguments, with problems tending to arise whenever one of them is coming into season.
Once you start to keep larger numbers you are likely to come across dominance problems that will have to be sorted out. Neutering has some effect on the control of dominance problems but should not be looked upon as the complete answer.