Adrienne is a certified dog trainer and former veterinarian assistant who partners with some of the best veterinarians worldwide.
That cute male puppy may appear adorable upon seeing him for the first time. However, once adopted, puppyhood lasts only a fraction of a dog's life, and sooner or later, that cute puppy will turn into a teenager with full-blown testosterone dictating various unwanted behaviors.
Indeed, dog adolescence may not be a walk in the park. It's similar to dealing with human teenagers, and perhaps this is why, according to PetSyle, most dogs are surrendered to shelters between the ages of eight and 18 months. However, those who are able to hold onto those unruly adolescent dogs will eventually get to the light at the end of the tunnel once their dog settles down into adulthood (although they may still have to deal with hormones should they fail to neuter their dogs).
Male dogs reach sexual maturity in adolescence. Owners who choose to not neuter their dogs will have to deal with the rebellious teenager stage and the effects of hormones on top of that. Below, you will find a list of behaviors to expect from an intact male dog.
(Note: This article explains the behaviors of some—but not all—intact male dogs.)
1. Marking Behavior
In the wild, as a pack of wolves migrates from one place to another looking for food, some male wolves may be seen urinating on bushes, trees, or rocks. The wolves will lift their leg and dribble a bit of urine. This is pure marking behavior. Domesticated dogs have conserved part of this instinct. A male dog may walk to an area, sniff it, lift its leg and mark it to leave an "I was here" message.
Curiously, according to the book Genetics and Social Behavior of the Dog, dogs that live in a pen rarely frequented by other animals will not engage in this activity and may still squat as they did when they were puppies. The main trigger which entices the dog to lift the leg and mark, therefore, appears to be the smell of another dog's urine.
Some male dogs may also defecate as a way to mark, and after doing so, they may scratch the dirt nearby. This is not to cover up the feces, rather it is to mark it further adding a visual cue, that he was there.
2. Roaming Behavior
An intact male dog has an instinct to roam around. They feel the pressure to mark around the neighborhood, especially if there is a female in heat nearby. Dogs may recognize the scent of a female in heat from several feet away, and they may stick around the area for many hours or days. Sometimes, if there are competitor dogs nearby, they may even engage in bloody fights. If you must own an intact dog, make sure your dog is safely confined (this applies to any dog).
3. Mounting Behavior
While mounting may appear to be mostly a sexual behavior, it is often triggered by other reasons. For more on this read about humping behaviors in dogs. Neutered males, puppies, and female dogs may be also seen mounting other dogs, or human legs.
Some intact male dogs may exhibit aggressive behaviors targeted at other male dogs, especially when there is a female in heat. While neutering the dog is not a magic solution, it may sometimes lower this type of aggression if it is related to hormones.
Aggression manifested towards owners, strangers or other dogs will likely not change especially if there is a fear component at play. Aggressive behaviors should always be assessed by a dog behaviorist before deciding whether to neuter or not. For more on this, read Should Male Dogs be Neutered?
Genetics and Social Behavior of the Dog by John Paul Scott, John L. Fuller University Of Chicago Press; 1 edition (January 1, 1998)
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on December 26, 2019:
Hi James, I was raised for most of my childhood in Italy and over there neutering wasn't much popular. I know this trend is found as well in Scandinavia which should be admired considering their responsible dog ownership in preventing unwanted litters.
james on December 26, 2019:
nice to see someone who actually seems to know what they are talking about, so many people out there telling everyone why they should de sex their male dog, based on old outdated mainstream advice,
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on June 02, 2019:
Once pregnant, a female dog's hormones change and they typically do not allow mounting so the only difference you may notice in your male is that he may no longer be interested in mating with her. However, hormonal changes in female dogs occur as well when she is not pregnant, so no, you can't use your male dog's behavior as an indicator as to whether she is pregnant.
Tania Mahan on May 03, 2019:
Can a male dog detect when a female dog is pregnant?
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on May 09, 2013:
Hello Catherine, you are very fortunate to own such a lovely dog. Unfortunately some owners are not that lucky. This article is a head's up for the worse, but I tend to agree about the neutering and you can read more about this in this article:
Catherine on May 09, 2013:
I have a 5 year old intact male dog. I had him since he was a puppy. He has NEVER urine marked in my house. He has NEVER mounted me or any other human being or any inanimate object. He is the MOST docile, easygoing, nonaggressive dog I have ever owned. He is exceedingly dog friendly and his best doggy friend is another intact male dog.
Today, he went to the vet to receive routine vaccinations and his vet actually told me that I was wise not to neuter him because current research indicates that intact dogs actually live longer and healthier lives.
Laura Deibel from Aurora, CO on June 15, 2012:
Thanks. My ex and I got a dog and had him neutered a bit late. Estimated age 9 months, who knows.
He was OK except for the mounting behaviour which was embarrasing to me at the time.
Since then, I have recovered from this perfect persona mentality and would just state what, anywhere and why...
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on March 16, 2012:
You are right, I wrote this article probably 4 years ago, when I used to work for a local shelter and we really pushed into the neutering option due to the pet overpopulation problem.Sorry, after you see countless dogs put to sleep you feel like pointing fingers towards those who fail to alter their pets. My newest article on neutering dogs is more open-minded and demonstrates that in some countries such as in Sweden where many owners choose to not alter, responsible ownership is something possible and I love to use them as an example we should follow. Here is my hub:
dr3allday on March 16, 2012:
Hey, I'm sure the following might have been a quote cited by one of the Johns, but it speaks to why I'm bothered by the pressure to alter:
"Male dogs reach sexual maturity when they reach their adolescence stage. Owners that refuse to neuter their dogs, therefore, must deal with the rebellious teen ager stage with the effects of hormones on top of that."
Objectively speaking, owners choose not to neuter. They don't refuse to neuter.
My 1 year old English Mastiff, Hero, might look scary to some, but he's a fine pup with a great, friendly disposition. For health reasons, cost, and my not willing to conform to pressure, I will not alter him. However, here lies the problem (and I would love to see a heavily circulated article written on this), he is a target at public dog spaces because he has his balls. He has been attacked for only that reason- without fighting back. He's an English Mastiff that will get bigger and older, and may not take being attacked lying down as time goes on. Likely I will then become the target. How fair is that?
knell63 from Umbria, Italy on August 31, 2009:
Hi Alexa, Interesting read. I've got an 11 year old who finally behaves himself. I read a great book by Jan Fennel called Dog Listening, its all about social behaviour and bonding with you pet. That seems to be the important thing and letting them know who is boss.