Dog sniffing the ground

Q: Many people have unspayed female dogs, and they walk them near other dogs. Every time a dog in heat urinates, the smell drives male dogs crazy, even the fixed ones. Please explain that when an unspayed female is in season, the scent is broadcast to all the male dogs within a mile radius. Their lives (and ours) would be so much easier without fertile females being "saved" to have one litter of puppies! — D.F., via e-mail

A: Of course, it’s often a good idea to spay and neuter pets. In addition to helping to fight pet overpopulation, spaying and neutering provide significant advantages for both pet and owner. In males, neutering tends to reduce roaming, marking, and some types of aggression. In females, spaying protects them from serious reproductive tract cancers and infections. (Spaying before the first heat cycle virtually eliminates the risk of mammary cancer.) Spayed and neutered animals are easier to live with and less expensive, too, without veterinary costs for roaming- or certain aggression-related injuries and reproductive-related cancers and infections.

That said, I have a cure for bad behavior in pets that aren’t spayed or neutered: training. Even an unneutered dog can be trained to walk without pulling on the leash and to come when called. The world is full of temptations, and one way to control them is through training.

One of my four dogs is a young, unneutered male Retriever. I’d much rather have all my pets neutered, but since this fellow is a show dog, it isn’t an option for the foreseeable future. I haven’t experienced any behavior problems when the beguiling scent of a female in heat wafts through the neighborhood. My fences are secure, my dog is not allowed to roam and, when on leash, he knows not to pull me.

Instead of complaining about what you cannot control, get control of what you can — your own dog. Any trainer will be happy to help.