Neutering and training to reduce aggression

Taming an Akita

Neutering and training to reduce aggression

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Figure 1 My Dogs Winthrop (left) and Calypso (right) are 200lbs of fun and trouble when they work together.

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Figure 2 Injuries after a pit bull fight Winthrop had a swollen eye. It was a third of its normal size; however, the left side of his head was twice its normal size. My two 3-year old German-Shepard Akita dogs—Winthrop and Calypso—are beautiful handfuls. They obey some of the time, but every so often, they get into trouble: fighting other dogs, chasing squirrels, and digging holes. And since they outweigh me, they drag me with them. Their latest escapade yielded $600 in fines, a police record, and a need for change.

So my male dog will be fixed, which people say will make them docile. However, both dogs will be professionally trained. They will hopeful become more disciplined and less aggressive with the right preparation and commands.

Still I have some reservations about these solutions. What if spay and neutering makes them fat and lazy? What if training only works if I’m quick in response to situations? This research will expand my knowledge and help me determine if these solutions are best for my canine problem.

Figure 3 Bite on his neck Winthrop also received a bite on his neck. Calypso was uninjured.Objective

Through my research, I want to discover best practices for my solution. My research should provide specific examples of how and why training and neutering/spaying reduced aggression. However, the research should also reflect the obstacles and problems that occurred because of these solutions. Then with this information, I can plan the best course of action for my dogs’ behavior.


My research paper is due in 2 1/2 weeks. So I allot 1 week to research—online and in person—another week to drafting. Editing and document design will consume the remaining time.

Original Plan

First, I will search Google for “aggressive dog training,” “best trainers for aggressive dogs” and “pros and cons of spaying and neutering aggressive dogs”. The Google search should list local trainers of aggressive dogs, whom I can ask pointed questions:

· What training methods are used?

· How quickly will I see results?

· Why does training not work for some dogs?

· What else will make the training more effective?

I’ll interview 4 trainers about my dogs. Then I’ll survey 20 owners of aggressive dogs:

· What changes did the dogs display after training?

· Are the dogs more responsive to commands?

· Were the dogs fixed before the training?

· Did the owners see a difference when the dog was spayed/neutered?

· Which dog behaviors did you like? Dislike? Why?

Revised Plan

I did not interview trainers or survey dog owners. Instead, I searched Google for

· “causes of aggressive behavior”,

· surveys of trainers,

· surveys of dog owners,

· studies of aggressive dogs, and

· “effects of spaying/neutering on aggressive dogs”.


Internet research provides useful studies and surveys. Their experts surveyed trainers and dog owners, providing training and neutering insights.


Figure 4 Spayed Females are more Aggressive S paying female dogs increases aggression than before they were fixed . Many websites explain that dogs exhibit calmer temperaments, claiming the dog’s reduced testosterone (the initial cause of aggression) reduces aggressive behavior. [footnoteRef:1]Yet Google search results don’t prove spaying/neutering reduces aggression in aggressive dogs. In fact among females, spayed dogs show more aggressive behaviors than intact females (see Figure 2). [1: Note. From “Title of the Article/Web Page,” by Author 1st initial. Last Name and Author 1st initial. Last Name. publication/update date, Title of the Book/Journal/Website. By Publisher, Copyright year. Reprint with Permission.]

The neutered males may appear less active and less aggressive, but they may still be responsive aggressive (responding aggressively to situations and/or others’ behaviors by proving dominance).

Experts on and explained aggressive actions may be in response to varied situations: fear, anger, self-protection, food, maternal protection; these learned responses are not erased by surgery[footnoteRef:2]. [2: Smith 271]

The reduced testosterone caused by neuter surgery is a reduced aggression toward other male dogs. This is particularly true when the dog is in a mixed gender group. When female dogs are around, particularly females in heat, male dogs are driven to aggression from the urge to mate.

Neutered male dogs still exhibit this behavior somewhat, but the severity and frequency of the aggression is often greatly reduced. Some dogs don’t do well around smaller dogs, cats or other pets. These dogs have a naturally high prey instinct, causing them to view the smaller animals as a potential meal. Neutered dogs have a significantly lower prey drive than their intact counterparts, making it easier to teach the dog good behavior around smaller animals.


Primarily, professional training should make an aggressive dog less reactive to “provoking” situations and more responsive to commands. While hundreds of trainers discuss dozens of techniques, a handful of experts clarified aggression causes. Expert websites such as the Animal Behaviors Research Institute point to the owner training and conditioned learning.

According to the Animal Behavior Research Institute, several owner actions increase a dog’s aggression. “The highest frequency of aggression occurred in response to aversive (or punishing) interventions, even when the intervention was indirect (see “Lists of Bad Owner Behaviors”)[footnoteRef:3]. These results highlight the importance of using positive reinforcement and other non-aversive methods when working with dogs, especially dogs with a history of aggression. Non-aversive methods, which focus on rewarding desirable behaviors and changing the dog’s emotional state, work well for reducing aggressive behaviors. [3: The Institute surveyed owners of aggressive dogs. Surveyed owners admitted to behaviors listed and admitted the actions may cause aggression.]

Lists of Bad Owner Behaviors Hitting or kicking the dog (41% of owners reported aggression) Growling at the dog (41%) Forcing the dog to release an item from its mouth (38%) “Alpha roll” —forcing the dog onto its back and holding it down (31%) “Dominance down”—forcing the dog onto its side (29%) Grabbing the jowls or scruff (26%) Staring the dog down—staring at the dog until it looks away (30%) Spraying the dog with water pistol or spray bottle (20%) Yelling “no” (15%) Forced exposure—forcibly exposing the dog to a stimulus-such as tile floors, noise or people- that frightens the dog (12%) In contrast, non-aversive methods resulted in much lower frequency of aggressive responses: Training the dog to sit for everything it wants (only 2% of owners reported aggression) Rewarding the dog for eye contact (2%) Food exchange for an item in its mouth instead of forcing the item out (6%) Rewarding the dog for “watch me” (0%)The International Journal of Applied Research[footnoteRef:4] tested the owners’ contribution to dogs’ aggression/dominance. After a study comparing aggressive dogs with good owners and controlled dogs with bad owners, researchers determined that the more aggressive owner increased the aggression in his/her dogs. [4:]


Luckily, my spayed female Calypso shows few signs of aggression. However, the studies showing increased or continued aggression make me pause. It means fixing a dog does not lower aggressive behaviors despite the lowered testorone. This hesitation is confirmed

Winthrop, the unfixed male, shown passive dominance: marking his territory, hording his food, and warning other dogs away from his areas. His dominance is shown by challenging other dogs and smaller animals. And these actions appear maternally protective.

· He knocks down dogs who are not obeying their owners.

· He bites dogs who display angry or aggressive actions (barking and growling, for example)

· He holds down dogs who are “too close” to his owners or his sister, Calypso.

Because his is a responsive (learned) aggression, Winthrop’s behavior may not improve after neutering.

Furthermore, professional training may achieve results only if the owners are retrained. Surprised, I identified several of my actions on the Bad Behavior list. Some activities I thought were playful, like rolling the dog over or grabbing his/her muzzle. Other actions, I believed, were commanding such as growling and yelling “no”.

The research indicates my dogs are basically trained to sit, come, etc., but otherwise, they ignore commands in critical situations. That means they are poorly trained. Since I am poorly trained as well, professional training will benefit my dogs and me.


After reviewing my research, Winthrop will not be neutered. Neutering’s results seem inconsistent and fail to resolve the problems, reactive aggression. On the other hand, professional training for both dogs and me will help identify difficult situations and appropriate responses.

Annotated Bibliography

“AR Extremist Myth: Neutering Stops Aggression.” Pet Defense: Animal Law. 15. Jan. 2009 Blog. 12 Nov, 2012.

Bradshaw, John W.S., Emily J., Blackwell , and Rachel A., Casey. “Dominance in domestic dogs — useful construct or bad habit?” Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, May/June 2009, 135-144. Print

“Disagreeable People prefer Aggressive Dogs, Study Suggests” Science Daily: Science News. 22 May, 2012. Web. 13 Nov, 2012.

Egan, Vincent and Jason MacKenzie. “Does Personality, Delinquency, or Mating Effort Necessarily Dictate a Preference for an Aggressive Dog?” Anthrozoos: A Multidisciplinary Journal of The Interactions of People & Animals, 2012; 25 (2): 161 DOI: 10.2752/175303712X13316289505305 Web. 13 Nov, 2012. Print.

Herron, et al. “Survey of the use and outcome of confrontational and non-confrontational training methods in client-owned dogs showing undesired behaviors.” Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 2009; 117 (1-2): 47 DOI: 10.1016/j.applanim.2008.12.011

“Impact of Mandatory Spay/Neuter on Working Dogs.” Save Our Dogs : Advocating on behalf of working dogs. 23 Jun, 2009 Web. 12 Nov, 2012.

Pérez-Guisado, Joaquín; Muñoz-Serrano, Andrés. “Factors Linked to Dominance Aggression in Dogs.” Journal of Animal and Veterinary Advances, 2009; 8 (2): 336-342. Print.

Plataforma SINC. “Dogs Are Aggressive If They Are Trained Badly.” ScienceDaily, 1 May 2009. Web. 21 Nov. 2012. Print.

University of Bristol. “Using ‘Dominance’ To Explain Dog Behavior Is Old Hat.” ScienceDaily, 25 May 2009. Web. 21 Nov. 2012.

University of Pennsylvania. “If You’re Aggressive, Your Dog Will Be Too, Says Veterinary Study.” ScienceDaily, 18 Feb. 2009. Web. 21 Nov. 2012.

Yin, Sophia. “New Study: Popular techniques can cause harm.” Animal Behavior Resources Institute. 2012. Web. 12 Nov, 2012.

Taming the Akita 7 of 7

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