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Discussion Starter #1
Me: Former K-9 trainer
GSD Ownership Experience: Previously had 1 male, then a male and female that bred - all were intact
Current GSD: Female - 6 months, intact

This will probably raise hairs in two camps, but I am looking for opinions on whether or not to spay my current female. While I understand the position of rescues to always spay to control unwanted litters, and I also understand breeders who hardly ever spay, I am more concerned with the true welfare of my bitch if I spay her, and my sanity if I keep her intact.

My Specific Concerns

1) While it may be true that spaying can reduce the instances of certain diseases such as mammary tumors, etc., I feel that completely removing sex organs will adversely affect the development of the dog. I'm talking about bone structure, physical proportions, mental development, the works. And, I think that the benefits, as far as reduction in diseases or conditions goes, I believe that it highly overrated and emphasized my the pro-spay camps. Am I wrong here?

2) I'm concerned with incontinence, as well, as a result of spaying. Any truth to this?

3) Almost every spayed female I've seen, regardless of breed appears to develop a wider "middle". I am all too-aware that most dog owners seem to live by the overfeed/under-exercise mantra, but that's not what I'mtalking about. I'm referring to the structure of the rib cage itself. It seems to me that altered dogs appear to develop more of a barrel to their rib cages.

4) My bitch has incredible prey drive, and from my experience is extremely quick in both mind and body. She would make for an excellent K-9, tracking, or other utility dog. I am concerned that spaying her will affect these qualities. Although she is currently being raised as a family dog, I have been sure to help her hone and develop many of her natural instincts, as I am also contemplating some type of utility work for her in the future.

5) She comes from a long line of accomplished ancestors and the breeder I got her from is trying to encourage me to breed her, because she is the last in the line, and in addition to the performance of her line, her line was also developed for incredible colors and markings. If I was single I would probably be all for it, but since I have a family with two youngsters, 12 and 8, and have my own business, I think breeding her will stretch me quite thin. I am also concerned with running through her heat cycles. The only female I had in the past was exceptionally clean. She never let anything drip, so I really didn't have to worry about a mess in the house. She and her male companion were also protection K-9s, and housed as such, so I really had no problems with other males coming around for some "fun". Because of my fortunate circumstances when I owned my previous female, I am not sure what to expect during heat cycles with my current bitch. Things like length of cycle, how much of a mess, caring for her during those times, diapers, etc. If none of that was a concern and spaying REALLY was better for her health-wise, I'd spay her, but to me, ANY open surgery I would think would be hard on a living being's system, not to mention removing the organs that to me, make a being who he/she is, does that make sense? Or, am I over-analyzing?

Any and all comments and opinions would be most welcome.
 

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in my honest opinion..with 2 young children i would not even think about breeding if it was me. shes a first time mom,if she rejects a puppy, needs an emergency c section (which are veryvery expensive)
if she doesnt care for the pups properly then you are doing ROUND THE CLOCK feedings for maybe up to 15 puppies.

plus the proper testing. shes only 6 months old, the hip testing cant be done before 2 years i believe.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Point taken, and my concerns exactly. But, I am still not sure of whether or not to spay her, given the reasons I listed above. Any thoughts on those concerns? I mean, I could keep her intact without spaying.
 

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What about the best of BOTH worlds. Wait until she is mature to spay her? Let her have a couple of heat cycles and spay her after she is 18-36 months? ONLY if you can make 100% certain that there will be no unwanted litters which means the entire family has to be SUPER careful for the month or so that she is in heat 2 - 3 times a year.

As far as incontinence- wives tail if the surgery is done by a competent vet. At least in my expereince. I have two spayed females- neither have an issue with this. Both were spayed later (5-6 years of age).

Weight- Lakota (Husky) DID gain weight after her spay but I was stupid and did it when she had to have a c-section. I think that timing messed up her hormones and it took forever to fix it. Tika is the same buff weight she was post op as she was before. Nothing whatsoever changed about her except she no longer has extra crate/confinement time when she was in heat. Personalilty, drive, energy, weight- never changed.

As far as females and keeping themselves clean. Well not every female is meticulous at keeping their hygene as it should be. I have littermates. One is pretty darn clean yet not obsessive. The other...... well not exactly. I have seen less mess in some horror flicks.


Tika pre-spay



Post spay (9 years young)





Breeding is not something that should be done half hearted and without a TON of research. It sounds as if your life is full now and a litter requires a LOT of work. There is the prebreeding stuff like health clearances, training, titling/working her, having her evaluated by independent/unbiased third parties. Then there is selection of the male. Some people spend YEARS trying to find the BEST possible male. Chances are this male will not be the one down the block. Then you either need to ship your female to the male or travel with her. Timing is of the essence so you may have to forgo some important family outing if your female comes into heat at the worst possible time- like a week before your two week vacation that you have planned MONTHS for. Then the actual litter requires 8 weeks of your time to raise, socialize, evaluate...... Then there is making sure that the pups are placed in the best possible home. Which means spending countless hours talking with perspective buyers. Having to weed out the ones that will definitely make a GREAT home and those that will make a HORRIBLE home and those in the middle- are you willing to let your girls pups go to an "ok" family instead of a stellar one? What if you can't find good homes for ALL of the pups? What if something happens to the perfect family and life circumstances change and they can no longer care for the pup/adult dog by now? Are you willing to take them back- unconditionally or send them to the local pound or an already over exerted rescue to be their problem to deal with?

A lot to think about.
 

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you're right... this topic may raise some hairs in both camps and from what i've noticed in the past - these threads typically get pretty lengthy and in the end you're better educated, but still in the same position of to do or not to do. both camps have very good arguments either way.

my personal opinion on your situation is to spay her. if you are concerned about her development, then wait a year or so, as long as you can fully protect her from accidental breeding. you'll know very soon what its like to have a female in heat and if you can handle it.

i for one do not spay/neuter for health reasons. my current dogs are rescues, but prior to that - all of our family dogs have been altered for convenience, and at a variety of ages (1yr, 5yrs, 8mo, etc...)

ive known of intact females that had incontinence issues... i've also never had an incontinence issue with any of my spayed females.

my feelings as far as your breeder goes, is that if they believe her to be a breeding prospect and she's the last of this long line of greats, surely they could have kept her back as well... as many breeders do (???). either way, she isnt breedable until 2yrs old... so the answer seems to be to wait until that time. like i said before, this will also take away any developmental concerns that you have.
 

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Quote:She comes from a long line of accomplished ancestors and the breeder I got her from is trying to encourage me to breed her, because she is the last in the line, and in addition to the performance of her line, her line was also developed for incredible colors and markings.
Okay, but what about people who would be objective and not affected by kennel blindness? If they work in schutzhund dogs, do working dog handlers, your TD, the helper, etc, all clamor for a pup from your bitch because she is such a great dog for all phases on and OFF the home field? If she's a show dog, again, same thing but different examples- do objective judges and knowledgeable people comment on her structure, has her temperament been proven to be fantastic, and no one has questioned anything? Be honest- has there been anything in her training/raising, from the day you've received her until now, that would make you take pause and really think? There are LOTS of great dogs out there with little nerve issues that would be just enough to pull them out of the gene pool. Unfortunately, some breeders are so darn kennel blind that they'll breed anything that they've fallen in love with even if they have toothpick structure or flighty nerves. Brutal honesty is a good thing here.
Also, "incredible colors and markings" are meaningless. We're talking a working breed here, one that is under fire by HOAs and insurance companies for questionable temperament. Color and markings is nice, but a breeding program should be built on health and TEMPERAMENT with colors and markings as a nice side effect. If your bitch is rock solid in temperament and health and looks pretty, that's great, but she shouldn't be put on a pedestal for looks and pedigree alone.

If she is spayed and is fully grown, that won't affect her abilities. http://www.germanshepherds.com/forum/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=913624&page=1 That's a great post by people experienced in SAR and PSDs that detail what they consider high drive for searching. If you'd like her evaluated for police work, take her to a good evaluator and they will know how to test her. Often, what we see as "great drive" is a washout within two minutes.

Personally, I would continue training and think about spaying at perhaps 18-24 months. By then, I would know the dog quite well and probably would have lots of good opinions from knowledgeable, uninterested (unbiased) people who have like goals and I could make a sound breeding decision based on what I know of the dog. But just because a dog is kept intact, doesn't mean it needs to breed. She'll be perfectly fine if she never has a litter of pups. I would spay at full adulthood just because I don't think I want to deal with heats twice a year, but with males I would not neuter unless medically necessary.
 

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Originally Posted By: DianaM I would spay at full adulthood just because I don't think I want to deal with heats twice a year, but with males I would not neuter unless medically necessary.
That is the way I feel also. I plan on spaying my 9 month old pup at around 2yo. Reason being, to be honest, I don't want to have to deal with 10+ years of heat cycles.

With males, I am perfectly capable of keeping them from reproducing, so I see no need to neuter them. (I have had several intact males and NONE of them have EVER added to the dog population.)
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Amaruq: Thanks for the response, and pictures! Regarding the breeding - I should've mentioned that the only way I would breed is through the same breeder. That would eliminate the headaches you mentioned. This breeder is a "full" breeder, with 40+ dogs on-hand at any given time. I would not even consider going out and trying to find a stud on my own. It's not my line of business, and I'm not insterested in making it my line of business! :) With all the conveniences the breeder offers, I could even have the pups whelped there, too, but of course, there still is the 8-week period of nuturing. weaning, socializing, as you mentioned. Reagsing spaying: what do YOU personally think about spaying BEFORE first heats vs. waiting until after one or two heats? Also, re: the wives tale of incontinence, how the heck do you know whether or not your vet is competent, you know what I mean?

Camerafodder: Thanks for the comment aabout intact dogs with incontinence. But, what did you mean by you "do not spay/neuter for health reasons"? Can you please elaborate?
 

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Personally I do not like the early spays. I understand the reasons that rescues/shelters do this. If a "responsible" dog owner that is 100% certain that they can prevent unwanted litters I think allowing the female to be in heat 1-3 times is better as the hormones will help with the mental and physical development. Tika never came into heat until she was 13 months.

If you DO decide to spay her after she has had a cycle or two (or three) definately wait until 4-8 weeks AFTER she is done to give the hormones time to settle.
 

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As far as the vet it really depends. Some are skilled surgeons and some are better at office visits. Might not hurt to ask for some references.

I personally prefer dealing with smaller scale hobby breeders who only have a few dogs (some even fewer dogs than me
) because they tend to KNOW their dogs on a more personal level. They have trained them themselves and can tell me in detail about each dog. That is my personal preference and I am not knocking your breeder. I personally could not just ship *my* dog back to them to breed and raise a litter but I am also anal about who cares for my dogs.
 

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as far as having a competent vet - i take it to mean, your regular and trusted vet with years of history & experience, etc etc, and not just the mobile spay and neuter van down the road who's offering a $29.99 new years deal. not to dis those vets entirely, but ive heard too many horror stories of "things" being left behind or put back incorrectly etc...

Originally Posted By: MrLeadFoot

Camerafodder: Thanks for the comment aabout intact dogs with incontinence. But, what did you mean by you "do not spay/neuter for health reasons"? Can you please elaborate?
sorry, i can see how that seems unclear

i meant that health reasons (preventing cancer, etc) are not my main motivations for doing the surgery - so i dont pay too much attention to the rumors, risks, or statistics. all of my dogs will be spayed or neutered at some point regardless, so its an irrelevant topic for me. i spay and neuter for convenience and peace of mind. and then of course, its now the law in california... however... i dont agree with doing it at 4 months, so i will likely just sit quietly beneath the radar until i'm ready.
 

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Quote: 1) While it may be true that spaying can reduce the instances of certain diseases such as mammary tumors, etc., I feel that completely removing sex organs will adversely affect the development of the dog. I'm talking about bone structure, physical proportions, mental development, the works.
Although you will hear people say things like that there is exactly zero scientific evidence that it's the case. Removing the sex organs prior to puberty can sometimes mean the dog grows a fraction of an inch taller than it otherwise might have. Very very early spaying can mean slightly less pronounced external genatalia. There has never any study that showed it affects mental development and a great many working dogs as well as dogs competing at high levels in agility, tracking, herding, obedience etc. are altered.
Quote:And, I think that the benefits, as far as reduction in diseases or conditions goes, I believe that it highly overrated and emphasized my the pro-spay camps. Am I wrong here?
I would agree that the "health benefits" to neutering are overrated. I see a lot of hoopla about them but honestly, I think the main reasons to neuter aren't health or cancer related. In the case of spaying it's a different story. Spaying really does reduce the risk of mammary cancer and eliminates the risk of pyometra. Both are common health threats to female dogs. The younger you spay your dog, the greater the benefits in terms of reduction in the chance of mammary cancer. Spaying her midlife is not nearly as healthy as spaying her younger for that particular issue, although you still get the anti-pyometra benefit.

Doing rescue and working at and with shelters, I process literally hundreds of dogs. Mammary cancer in older intact female dogs is not rare. And working at the vet clinic, I discovered that oops pregnancies, even in dogs owned by basically responsible people, aren't that rare either.

Quote:2) I'm concerned with incontinence, as well, as a result of spaying. Any truth to this?
Statistically, yes. There is elevated risk of incontinence if older female dogs who are spayed versus those that are intact. However, that's not to say that your dog will ever have that problem. None of mine ever have, including several extreme seniors who were spayed at 6 months.
Quote: 3) Almost every spayed female I've seen, regardless of breed appears to develop a wider "middle". I am all too-aware that most dog owners seem to live by the overfeed/under-exercise mantra, but that's not what I'mtalking about. I'm referring to the structure of the rib cage itself. It seems to me that altered dogs appear to develop more of a barrel to their rib cages.
No. I think what you're seeing is in fact fat, but it's the kind of fat that is under the muscle wall so it just makes the dog look barrel chested. There is no reason for a spayed dog to be fat and if they are properly maintained they will not have a wider rib cage than a comparable intact dog.
Quote: 4) My bitch has incredible prey drive, and from my experience is extremely quick in both mind and body. She would make for an excellent K-9, tracking, or other utility dog. I am concerned that spaying her will affect these qualities. Although she is currently being raised as a family dog, I have been sure to help her hone and develop many of her natural instincts, as I am also contemplating some type of utility work for her in the future.
No impact. Many many SAR dogs are spayed are as many Schutzhund dogs.

And I think that last one has been addressed sufficiently but my basic take is similar to Diana's: I would not recommend breeding your bitch unless she's been independently evaluated as breed-worthy. She should be titled in a GSD-relevant venue such as Schutzhund and pass all health clearances at a bare minimum. Even at that point, you would still need a lot more info to know whether she's really going to add anything besides more German Shepherds to the breed.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Thanks for the tip to wait until the hormones settle after the first heat. By "early spay", I take you mean before any heat cycles, correct? Any tips on what to watch for, as far as knowing when the cycle starts, and when she needs to wear diapers in the house, and such? I mean, will she drip the whole time, etc. ?
 

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Originally Posted By: AmaruqI personally prefer dealing with smaller scale hobby breeders who only have a few dogs (some even fewer dogs than me
) because they tend to KNOW their dogs on a more personal level. They have trained them themselves and can tell me in detail about each dog. That is my personal preference and I am not knocking your breeder. I personally could not just ship *my* dog back to them to breed and raise a litter but I am also anal about who cares for my dogs.
This breeder is indeed very different. She is a single person caring for and training EVERY single one of the dogs one on one. Personally, I don't see how she does it, but on my first visit, she introduced me to every dog, and every dog was trained, and every dog had its own special "trick", too. You could see she knew the dogs well and had an individual relationship with each one.

She's also only 1 hour and 45 minutes away from me, which helps if I do decide to do the breeding.
 

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Originally Posted By: DianaM
Quote:This breeder is a "full" breeder, with 40+ dogs on-hand at any given time.
Good grief, that's insane. Please do correct me if I am wrong but that sounds like a full on puppy mill...
Not necessarily. Many "show" breeders have that many dogs too. I would simply question how well they can personally know their "stock". But that wasn't the OP question so.....I digress.
 

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Thanks for clarifying. Yes, I suspected that alot of the "good for your dog's health to spay/neuter" stuff was hype. They don't say what about it is BAD!

FWIW, it is not yet the law in ALL of California, only in So Cal. I'm up above Sacramento, and it hasn't made its way up here, yet.
 

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I have an spayed mixed breed, so I'll just adress some of the questions that I feel I have personal experience with:

Drives and energy:

My mixed breed was a rescue. She was totally nuts and out of control. Spaying here did not diminish her energy and zest for life. In fact, my efforts to train some sense into her got me involved in Schutzhund. Not being from controled, working-line dog breeding background, she does not have the same drives and intensity in her work as the other club working dogs, but still has enough to do the training and to have fun at it, and to put on a good show. We completed an AD with nary a hiccup. Prior to her Schutzhund days, the vet commented on her great muscle tone, adding that in his practice he rarely see large dogs with good muscle tone as few get enough excercise (sad!). So spaying didn't tone down or soften up my mixed breed, I doubt that it would do anything of the sort to your bitch.

Spay incontinence:

Some dogs will develop spay incontinence after a spay. This can occur anywhere between 6 months following a spay to years and years later. Estrogen plays a role in helping to keep the bladder sphincter muscles tight, and sometimes when spayed, the drop in estrogen production in a female will cause leakage. This leakage most commonly occurs when the dog is sleeping or resting, and the dog is not aware of the problem.

My dog developed spay incontinence a few months after her spay. I don't know how common this is as I have never heard or it before, and of the hundreds of members on this board, I believe there is maybe one or two other members here with females that have spay incontinence.

It bothered me greatly that a procedure that I had chosen to have done on my dog had created other health problems, and wished that I had known about the chances of developing spay incontinence so that I could have made a more informed decision about getting her spayed - but after careful consideration, I came to the conclusion that even if I had known of her chances of becoming incontinent, I still would have chosen to have her spayed - wanting to take away any chance of an accidental litter to greatly outweigh the inconvenience of having to occasionally clean up after my dog.

Spay incontinence is traditionally treated as a disease with either estrogen supplementation or with a drug called Proin (?). The estrogen supplementation works well and is safe, the Proin works even better but has long-term health concerns.

The estrogen supplementation didn't work for my dog, and after some research chose to not treat with Proin. I did not want to compromise her health over the minor inconvenience of having to occasionally clean up after her. As it turned out, I switched my girl to a full raw diet, and as a surprise benefit, it just about completely cleared up her incontinence. Keeta may have one accident about once every three months, which is really just about nothing.

Would I spay Keeta now knowing that she WOULD develop Spay Incontinence? Yes - for it is not a spay problem, or a medical problem, but a nutrional problem - and unwanted pups are much more of a problem than the very occasional leaking she experiences.

I think that others have given you very good advice about the other questions. Never noticed the wider chest that you mention. Has anyone else?
 

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Ack! I'm sorry, but that really doesn't sound good.


I mean, let's give her the benefit of the doubt and say she is doing everything she can right and she has no job and does nothing but work with the dogs - if she sleeps 7 hours a day and spends 2 hours eating, showering, and doing non-dog related things, that means she can spend, AT MOST about 20 minutes each day one on one with each dog. And from that time, she's got to do maintenance stuff like feed, bathe, nails, brush etc.

If she has a job or any other demands on her time, like a family, or recreation, then that time goes down.

I work from home and spend pretty much 24/7 doing dog stuff and I have a hard time spending the time I know I need to with my 4 dogs and fosters. Multiply those numbers by several orders of magnitude? There's no way.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Thanks for all the info. FWIW, I would definitely NOT breed her without OFA certs and the like for the very reason you mention.

My sister is a vet tech, and highly advises on spaying before the first heat for the reasons you mentioned, too. But, I can't help but wonder if that's too early, should I decide to spay at all. And, time is running shorter being that she's 6 months this coming week.

But, Amaraq's Tika didn't first cycle until 1 year old. How common is that, I wonder? What is the average age of a GSD upon first cycle?
 
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