Re: spay now or later?
Yes, you want the dog to be as naturally, fully grown as possible, however, with females, you want to catch them either right before or right after their first heat. I did tons of research on this for our pups. Paw Paw is going to get neutered when he turns 2, so he'll be fully grown all natural! Nara's first heat was coming in around the 11th month (Paw Paw let us know), so we were hoping to wait as long as possible, but my research reveals that their risk for the cancers and other "bad stuff" increases by 7% if you let them go through a heat. I didn't want Nara's risk factor to increase at all, much less 7%, so we caught her right before the heat. She still grew and filled out (and still is) but nothing whacky or out of standard. She was 69 lbs when she got spayed in early November 2008, and in March 2009 she was 70 lbs. I've read a few max standards for female GSDs of 71 lbs and 78 lbs, depending on the kennel club. So, Nara is right at the high end/max of the standard, but shouldn't go over it. It seems that a female dog is more at risk if you don't spay, wait too long to spay, or spay too early, whereas my research revealed that, for the boys, sometimes the neutering brings about more "bad stuff" than leaving them in tact, but if you must neuter, wait until 24 months. I'm still determining if we're going to neuter him, because he isn't really presenting any problems to us right now, and the little he does (marking, alpha/dom aggression toward other big male dogs, etc.) is either OK or is under control. He's not jumping fences to run away to mate with a bitch in heat. Haha! Hope I've helped, as I've done much research and always continue to question the answers I've found to ensure that what I'm reading/hearing/understanding is as close to the truth and best knowledge that's out there for us to discover and utilize to our advantage! Good luck making your own decision, as that's ultimately what you have to do. Hear all sides, not just one or two, and base your own opinion off of what you gather and feel is best for your babies! That's what I did!!