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There are a lot of things to consider when choosing a new dog for you and your home.
- What size dog should you get?
- What breed?
- What gender? Is a male or a female dog better for you?
When you are choosing a dog, you can actually rest easy that, unless you are planning on breeding your dog, whether you go for a female or male dog won’t make much difference in the long term, especially if you decide to have them neutered.
There are almost no differences between male and female dogs of the same breed that have been neutered.
In dogs that have not been neutered, gender differences are pretty much limited exclusively to sexual behavior.
Let’s get deeper into this topic. Let’s have a closer look at the actual differences between make and female dogs, and factors that may influence your decision about whether to choose a boy dog or a girl dog from the litter.
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Differences Between Male And Female Dogs
The main difference between male and female dogs is their size. Male dogs of the breed tend to be slightly bigger than female dogs of the same breed.
So, if you are hoping for a pooch at the smaller end of the breed spectrum, you may be better off with a girl.
Gender is only one of several factors that influence the size of a dog. The best thing you can actually do is look at the size of the parents to predict the size of the pup.
Because of hormonal differences, male dogs do tend to have rougher, more masculine features than their female counterparts. You may want to choose your dog’s gender based on whether this appeals to you or not.
But if you are looking for a masculine looking version of your preferred dog breed, bear in mind that neutering puppies before maturity may also mean that they never develop these rougher features.
Common wisdom suggests that female puppies mature faster than male puppies, and therefore, they have better attention spans and are easier to train.
However, it seems highly likely that this is a human projection, projecting this characteristic that we see in human children onto dogs.
Research conducted by Patricia McConnell by speaking to hundreds of dog trainers actually suggests that there is no difference.
About half of all the trainers she spoke to suggested that male dogs were easier to train, and the other half female dogs. The one thing that they all agreed on was that it made little difference.
Another study on genetics and the social behavior of dogs found that male dogs were six times more likely to bite than their female counterparts.
But the conclusion of this study was not that male dogs were naturally more aggressive than female dogs, but rather that owners treat and train male and female dogs differently, resulting in different behavior.
This is another example of human projection, this time causing a difference between male and female pups.
Don’t believe me?
What do you imagine is the effect of being called Butch versus being called Cupcake? Not on the dog itself, for whom their name is just a recognizable sound, but on how they are treated by their owners and families.
Sexual Reproduction And Behavior
The one obvious area where a dog’s gender makes a difference is around sexual reproduction. If you are planning on breeding your dog, you need to know whether you want a male or a female.
The sexual behavior of non-neutered dogs is also different.
Female dogs generally only go into heat twice a year, and it is at this time that they will be searching around for a mate.
She will secrete a liquid that is designed to attract a mate and this can also be a pain to clean up if they are indoor dogs, so that is something to consider.
During their heat cycles, owners that don’t want their dogs impregnated need to be conscious about keeping their pet away from male dogs.
Taking them out for walks during this period can also be challenging, as they will attract significant attention from any non-neutered male dogs that are passing.
Male dogs that have not been neutered are sexually active throughout the year. This means that they will be those dogs that are sniffing around female dogs out on the street during their heat cycle.
They can also have a tendency to mount people and inanimate objects in order to satisfy their need to reproduce.
Intact male dogs are also significantly more likely to indulge in marking activities, peeing on everything so that other dogs can scent their territory.
Having to deal with the different sexual behaviors of male and female dogs that have not been neutered is certainly a consideration, but once a dog has been neutered, these behaviors pretty much disappear, again rendering the gender difference between dogs negligible.
However, it is worth noting that female dogs tend to be a bit more expensive to neuter than male dogs.
One of the few significant behavioral differences that has been noted between male and female dogs is that all dogs tend to get on better with dogs of the opposite gender.
So, male dogs seem to get on better with female dogs and vice versa. This can be worth considering if you already have a dog at home.
Difference Between Intact And Neutered Dogs
Neutering is when the sexual organs of a dog are removed, preventing their ability to reproduce, and cutting off the hormones that can cause certain behaviors (such as those listed above).
The process can also have an influence on the appearance of a dog, in particular making male dogs’ features a little bit softer due to the absence of high levels of testosterone.
In female dogs, the process is called an ovariohysterectomy and involves abdominal surgery to remove the ovaries and uterus.
For male dogs, the process involves removing the testes.
After being neutered, male dogs are less likely to hump people, other dogs, and inanimate objects, but if they have already picked up this behavior, it can continue. They are also less likely to urinate in order to mark their territory.
Both males and females are less likely to display aggression towards other dogs after being neutered, as they do not have the same instinct to compete to reproduce. But training plays a more important role in limiting this behavior than neutering.
Both genders also tend to be a little bit lazier and have less energy after they have been neutered, though this is not always the case.
It is important that owners keep a closer eye on the diets of neutered dogs, as their appetites increase and they can have a tendency to develop weight problems.
So, What Matters In Choosing Your Dog’s Gender?
While our overall verdict is that gender is a fairly insignificant factor when it comes to choosing a new pup, when you are down to the line and need to choose between a girl and a boy pup, what are the most important things?
- Existing Family Dogs. One of the few behavioral differences that can be noted between male and female dogs is that both tend to get on better with the opposite gender. So, if you already have a dog at home, it is worth making sure your next pooch is of the opposite gender.
- Size. Females tend to be a little bit smaller than males of the same breed, so you can make gender selection based on whether you are looking for a smaller or larger dog within the breed’s normal range.
- Features. Male dogs tend to have rougher features, and female dogs lighter features. If particular features of a breed appeal to you, this can be a factor. But if you choose a male dog, remember that neutering can also affect their look.
- Mating Behavior. In non-neutered dogs, female heat cycles can be on the messy side, and it may require keeping your femme fatale under house arrest for a few weeks to avoid her getting impregnated.
Male dogs don’t have the same restrictions, but can engage in annoying sexual behavior year-round, including dry humping and marking their territory.
It is a matter of choosing which of these behaviors you find most manageable.
Other than this, you may have personal preferences. Perhaps if you are looking at a Maltese, you are keen on a female puppy that you can dress up in cute outfits and spend hours brushing their hair.
If you have an eye on a Rottweiler, perhaps you have a male in mind, so that you can give them a spiky collar and call them Butch.
While these are perfectly legitimate reasons for choosing to go with a male or female pet, remember that these gender distinctions don’t exist in the head of your dog.
They are human cultural constructs that we project onto our animals as we anthropomorphize them as a member of the family.
There is no reason that Eddie can’t wear a nice pink bow or that Claudine can’t be raised as a guard dog. This is down to training and treatment.
As service dog puppy raisers we’ve trained many male and female dogs. As you might have thought mostly Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers.
In our experience we love both genders and have noticed individually every dog is different.
We’ve had females that act like you would expect a male including marking and large size.
On the other hand we’ve had males have what would be considered female traits. For example Charlie ended up being one of the smallest from his litter and never lifted his leg to mark.
The gender of a dog makes relatively little difference to their behavior and temperament.
In terms of genetics, the breed is the biggest determining factor in a dog’s personality traits. It is then how they are trained and treated that will determine their important personality traits.
If you are planning on having your dog neutered, you can pretty much choose any puppy from the litter and it will make little difference.
If you plan to keep your new pooch intact, just look out for the different sexual behaviors of female and male dogs.
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Top Picks For Our Dogs
- BEST PUPPY TOY
We Like: Snuggle Puppy w/ Heart Beat & Heat Pack - Perfect for new puppies. We get all of our Service Dog pups a Snuggle Puppy.
- BEST CHEW TOY
We Like: KONG Extreme - Great toy for heavy chewers like our Labrador Retrievers.
- BEST DOG TREATS
We Like: Wellness Soft Puppy Bites - One of our favorite treats for training our service dog puppies.
For a list of all the supplies we get for our new service dog puppies check out our New Puppy Checklist on the PuppyInTraining.com blog.