When to spay/neuter?

By Jennifer Stoeckl, MAT - Dire Wolf Project CEO, Feb. 16, 2023
Sedna pup.jpeg
Sedna looking proud in the snow

The decision on when to spay/neuter is such a personal one.

Every family must decide for themselves when the best time is based on their own comprehensive research of the facts involved and the knowledge behind their own dog’s health needs.

I, personally, hate to spay a female at any age. I have had some terrible experiences with this procedure, and so I avoid it at all costs. It is a high-risk surgery, even if it is routine.

But, not spaying means dealing with twice a year swelling and discharge, plus keeping her away from intact males for three weeks (two weeks during discharge and one week after that) every six months.

Pro tip: It is the week after the bleeding stops that a female dog is typically most ready to breed.

Males are a little different. The surgery isn’t as invasive. There is less possibility of complications after the surgery. Healing time is greatly diminished.

No one says you have to spay or neuter your dog.

There is no law that says you have to spay/neuter your dog… yet at least.

If you are aware of your female dog’s heat cycles, keeping her rear covered and away from intact males during those times twice a year, then you can easily keep her from procreating.

If you take care to keep your male stud contained at all times lest he wander around the neighborhood looking for the ladies (males can disappear for several days at a time and are VERY persistent when a female is in heat), then it is possible to keep your male dog intact throughout its life.

It’s quite a lot to monitor intact dogs of breeding age, requiring a certain awareness of your dog that you might not otherwise desire. In that case, I recommend waiting as long as possible to spay/neuter so that the dogs will be able to develop their bodies to the fullest potential. Keeping the reproductive hormones intact until after the growth plates have closed (around 16 – 18 months old in our breed) and growing has ceased means your dog will have its full musculature and overall size before losing the natural hormones God gave them to thrive in life.

But not every family can wait until their American Dirus dog is 16 – 18 months old when their growth plates fuse together.

Right around the time of sexual maturity (9-11 months old), male dogs can begin marking, placing their scent around the house. They can also become more territorial and macho in stature around other males. Gone are the sweet puppy days, replaced by a more confident, take-charge dog.

Sometimes, this behavior is too much dog for a family. The humans don’t have the knowledge of canine communication behind them to teach their bright-eyed, bushy-tailed teenage stud how to live with these new feelings inside himself. When that is the case, it might be best for all involved, including the dog, to be neutered.

Dire Wolf Project founder, Lois Schwarz, has often said, “If you want the nicest, sweetest, snuggliest dog, buy a male and neuter him early at 6 months before he develops his hormones.”

She says this because a male neutered early becomes like a eunuch… never needing behavior altercation training for overzealous macho-like tendencies. No challenges for authority or confrontations when another male walks by that looks at him cross-eyed. A male neutered early remains young at heart, like a perpetual puppy.

There are some recent research studies that have come out about the long-term health effects of neutering early, but humans have neutered dogs at 4-6 months for quite a long time now.

You may have had dogs in your life that were neutered early. If you had a terrible experience with your dog’s health later in life, you might be inclined to wait a bit longer for those hormones to develop this time around.

Or… if you have known lots of dogs neutered early that did not show any real health concerns throughout their lives, you might have the opposite opinion.

Again, that is why it is such a personal decision. There is no definitive research paper that can tell us for sure one way is worse than the other. Until there is, I suppose it will continue to be a personal decision based on your own research.

Here are some recent studies published on the subject if you want to read some of the latest research coming out on the subject of spay/neuter:






And... here is an article by Dr. Becker, DVM that might help you with the decision on when to spay/neuter your dog.


I can’t even imagine taking these 3.5-month-old puppies from the Sea Monsters Litter and bringing them in to the vet to have them spayed in 2 more weeks. They are much too little and haven’t even begun to develop into themselves yet.

They are sweet and loving at this age, but they could sure use someone to teach them how to enjoy a loving home full of happy new adventures.

If you are thinking about a puppy, consider one of these sweet girls. You already know they have their ears fully erect and what color they will turn out to be.

Sedna is already house trained, potty trained, and crate trained!

Just look at that majestic beauty!

Jennifer Stoeckl is the co-founder of the Dire Wolf Project, founder of the DireWolf Guardians American Dirus Dog Training Program, and owner/operator of DireWolf Dogs of Vallecito. She lives in the beautiful inland northwest among the Ponderosa pine forests with her pack of American Dirus dogs.