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Aggression toward Familiar People, Strangers, and Conspecifics in Gonadectomized and Intact Dogs

By Parvene Farhoody, Indika Mallawaarachchi, Patrick M. Tarwater, James A. Serpell, Deborah L. Duffy, Chris Zink

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Gonadectomy is widely used to treat and prevent behavior problems including the aggressive behavior of dogs. The aim of this study was to determine whether aggressive behavior toward familiar people, strangers, or other dogs was significantly different in dogs gonadectomized at various ages vs. intact dogs using the Canine Behavioral Assessment Research Questionnaire (C-BARQ) with multivariate analysis. Of 15,370 initial surveys, those for dogs reported to have been gonadectomized at less than 6 weeks of age or to correct a behavior problem, and those with incomplete answers to questions regarding independent or dependent variables were excluded, leaving 13,795 for the analysis of aggressive behavior toward familiar people: 13,498 for aggressive behavior toward strangers and 13,237 for aggressive behavior toward dogs. Aggressive behavior was defined (a) using mean scores for all questions on the C-BARQ for aggressive behavior (range 0–4) and (b) comparing dogs with no aggressive behavior (all questions answered 0) to dogs with moderate or severe aggression (at least one score of 2, 3, or 4). Data for intact dogs were compared with those for dogs gonadectomized at 6 months or less, 7–12 months, 11–18 months, and >18 months. Neither gonadectomy nor age at gonadectomy showed an association with aggression toward familiar people or dogs. However, there was a low but significant increase in the odds of moderate or severe aggression toward strangers for all gonadectomized dogs compared with intact dogs, but this effect was driven entirely by data for dogs gonadectomized at 7–12 months of age, which were 26% more likely to demonstrate aggression toward strangers. This large, comprehensive study of the relationships between gonadectomy and aggressive behavior in dogs demonstrates that when the many factors affecting aggressive behavior are considered, there is no evidence that gonadectomy at any age alters aggressive behavior toward familiar people or dogs, and there is only a minimal increase in aggression toward strangers. Given the increasing evidence of significant negative health effects of gonadectomy, there is an urgent need to systematically examine other means of preventing unwanted procreation, such as vasectomy and hysterectomy.


Katie Osborn

Publication Title Frontiers in Veterinary Science
Volume 5
Issue 18
Pages 13
ISBN/ISSN 2297-1769
Publisher Frontiers
DOI 10.3389/fvets.2018.00022
Language English
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  • Parvene Farhoody; Indika Mallawaarachchi; Patrick M. Tarwater; James A. Serpell; Deborah L. Duffy; Chris Zink (2018), "Aggression toward Familiar People, Strangers, and Conspecifics in Gonadectomized and Intact Dogs,"

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  1. Aggression
  2. Animal consciousness
  3. Animal health and hygiene
  4. Animal welfare
  5. Dogs
  6. Gonadectomy
  7. Mammals
  8. Neuter
  9. open access
  10. peer-reviewed
  11. Spaying and neutering
  1. open access
  2. peer-reviewed