Why Is My Dog Aggressive Towards Intact Males?

Updated on October 1, 2016
Why is my dog aggressive towards intact males?
Why is my dog aggressive towards intact males? | Source

Some dog owners are often puzzled by the fact that their dog is aggressive towards intact males. Often, these are neutered dogs who do well with all other dogs except for those with that little extra detail; they haven't been neutered. Yet, you may wonder how does your dog know that other dog is intact or neutered? For us humans, all it takes is to ask the owner or bend down and take a quick look under for missing parts. The truth is, dogs know and don't need to ask or look under.

If you think your dog is the only one with this behavior quirk; rest assured, you are not alone. Many dogs for a reason or another seem to not tolerate well dogs who haven't been neutered. The reasons may be several and we will look at some below.

What's the Deal?

If your dog reacts aggressively only towards intact male dogs, you may wonder what floats his boat. The causes for this behavior may be several. Let's take a look at some possibilities. However, keep in mind that at times, digging into what may cause certain behaviors is wasted time and also keep in mind that at times we may never know why Rover reacts in certain ways for sure. Behavior modification for aggressive behavior towards intact males is often the same regardless of the underlying cause.

Negative Experiences

It could just be your dog had a negative experience with an intact male dog and now he is generalizing his bad experience with all intact dogs. It's important to note that your dog doesn't need to have been bitten or growled at for him to develop reactive behavior towards an intact male. Remember that it's about what your dog "perceives as negative" and not what you may perceive as negative. All it takes at times is something as small as being stared at or an intact dog leaning over your dog for making him feel intimidated and fearful. Remember that a great percentage of what looks like aggressive behavior in reality is based on fear.

Lack of Socialization

It's very important for puppies to receive a good dose of socialization during that critical window which is open until the pup reaches 12 to 16 weeks of age. During this time the puppy should be exposed to all kinds of dogs of different sex, color, shapes and sizes. Same goes with exposing the pups to people and different environments. If the dog was never exposed to the scent of a in intact male before, it could likely be that this is something quite new to him and he may react negatively. Some dogs are truly neophobic, which is the term used to depict dogs who are fearful of new things.

A Different Scent

Rover won't need to ask the owner if that dog is intact, nor will he have to take a peak under to check for any missing parts. His nose, just knows. How? Intact males have a different smell than other dogs. Indeed " intact males retain the ability to mate and give of the scent of male, which can be considered a threat to neutered males" explains trainer and behavior consultant Karen Fazio. The hormone testosterone is what gives a dog his "maleness" scent. Interestingly, when dogs reach 10 months, there's a peak in this smell as testosterone levels in the adolescent male dog may be five to seven times greater than the levels of an adult!

This "male" scent may cause neutered dogs to react negatively towards them causing tension and even aggressive displays. When an intact male enters a dog park, you can almost feel tension in the air. There is belief that neutered dogs, on the other hand, seem to smell quite similar to females, yet it would be interesting to know if there's any actual proof of this. How can we know if we can't ask dogs?

Force, free methods can help change your dog's emotions


Did you know?

Tail wagging is a way dogs communicate friendliness, and at the same time, the movement of tail spreads the smell of pheromones found under the tail.

How Can I Help My Dog?

With many shelters and vets advocating spaying and neutering of dogs, exposure to intact male dogs should be limited. Also, intact dogs are often not accepted in dog parks. Could this have caused an increase in reactivity to these fellows because they are rare? Could it be that because it's so different it immediately raises a red flag? Interestingly, there are many countries where neutering is not much in vogue as in the US, yet, some owners are learning about neutering now, and where I have seen intact dogs being accepted by other neutered dogs as normal members of society. In any case, if your dog is reactive towards intact dogs, and exposure to intact dogs is a common occurrence, you may wonder how you can help your dog. Following are some steps:

1) Seek the Advice of a Professional

The best approach would be to consult with a dog professional such as a certified applied animal behaviorist or a board-certified veterinary behaviorist. These are the experts on the field. Yet, some reputable trainers are well-versed in dealing with dog behavior problems. You can for a trainer using force-free behavior modification methods on the Pet Professional Guild website.

2) Manage Your Dog

The more your dog is allowed to rehearse aggressive behaviors towards intact dogs, the more this behavior will become ingrained and will put roots. Managing your dog will keep him safe, others safe, and will prevent rehearsal of unwanted behavior.

3) Use Force-free Methods

If you hire a professional he/she will show you some effective methods to help your dog deal with his emotions. Great force-free methods are desensitization and counterconditioning. Other possible used methods based on classical conditioning and counterconditioning involve, open bar/closed bar, Look at that , and COR training. Operant conditioning by teaching altrernate, incompatible behaviors with acting reactive may also later be added into the mix. Always work under your dog's threshold levels.

Questions & Answers


      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      • alexadry profile image

        Adrienne Janet Farricelli 5 months ago from USA

        Naddy, it means preventing rehearsal of the problem behavior. For example, keeping the dog on leash, walking at a distance from the trigger, avoiding the triggers until you can implement behavior modification.

      • profile image

        Naddy 6 months ago

        When you say "manage your dog", what exactly does that mean? Thanks.

      • profile image

        michael 8 months ago

        Dog envy !

      • alexadry profile image

        Adrienne Janet Farricelli 11 months ago from USA

        Hello Melanie and Brian,

        Are you looking for other ways to deal with the problem (on top of the ones suggested) or other potential causes for the behavior? If your dog is reactive towards intact male dogs, it's not the intact male dog's fault, but nor is it your fault. These things happen. The problems is that dog parks are not the best place to let dogs socialize, because of problems as such. It is far better and safer to organize play dates with dogs that dogs are known to get along. This prevents rehearsal of problem behaviors while increasing safety. Kudos for you for being able to re-direct your boy before things escalated!

      • profile image

        melanieandbrian 11 months ago

        I volunteer with dogs in a Shelter for 7 years, having dogs all my life. I have learned a lot, and know that I still have a lot to learn. I was curious the last couple of times at our large dog park when my very agreeable Neutered Pit mix became aggressive with a couple intact males. The aggressive behavior was on my dog, not on the other males part. I did not let him escalate, redirecting him in another direction and activity. By the way, the owner was very nice and told me that this does happen usually in spring and winter. Any other behavior suggestions? Not my job to encourage everyone to neuter their dogs.

      • alexadry profile image

        Adrienne Janet Farricelli 4 years ago from USA

        Epbooks,that's quite an interesting experience to witness!

      • epbooks profile image

        Elizabeth Parker 4 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

        Great hub. I remember volunteering at dog adoptions one day when a new "intact" male lab came to join the group before his surgery, and all of the other male neutered dogs acted like they hated him. Two weeks later, he came back, now neutered and each dog acted like they were the best of friends with him. I never forgot that because it was such a lesson for me. I love the way you explain it here. Thanks!!

      • alexadry profile image

        Adrienne Janet Farricelli 4 years ago from USA

        I think it's awesome for you to be eager to learn as much about dogs. I wished all letter carriers were so interested in canine behavior, I am sure they would all benefit from it, thanks for stopping by!

      • Mel Carriere profile image

        Mel Carriere 4 years ago from San Diego California

        Your expertise on the subject of dogs astounds me. As a letter carrier I feel that it is part of my job to study the canine mind, and your hubs have helped me. I'm going to be on the lookout for this behavior.