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    Post by Cameron on Tue 29 Mar - 22:38

    Male dogs

    Let's start with male dogs. Popular perceptions - or should I say prejudices - about male dogs are that, compared to bitches, they:

    •Are generally more disobedient and likely to take off.
    •Are more aggressive and more likely to start fights with other dogs or get attacked by them.
    •Have more undesirable habits such as mounting behaviour or licking urine.

    The above can often be true and yet, at the same time, some of the most well-behaved, superbly trained and lovely natured dogs I've ever known have been entire males. The extent to which better styles of training, and all-round handling, can improve the behaviour of male dogs is also routinely overlooked.

    In contrast to male dogs, bitches can appear to have many assets. They are generally more amenable to training, more focused on their owners, more tolerant of young children and less inclined to want to investigate or size up every dog they spot when they are out.

    It is wrong, however, to assume that they will always be easier or better behaved companions than male dogs because bitches, too, can at times be stroppy or disobedient. Some can also be extremely aggressive, with bitch-to-bitch aggression - most notably among female dogs who live together - being one of the commonest and nastiest types around.

    Bitches can also have some less desirable habits of their own. They can be far worse scavengers than male dogs and more prone to coprophagia (or faeces eating). They can also suffer more extreme phobic behaviours, particularly after spaying.

    If they are not spayed then, apart from heats, they can start digging holes in sofas or floors, hoarding and 'nursing' toys and generally become more moody and/or snappy around the 'pseudo pregnancy' phase that follows two to three months after them.

    The neutering/spaying factor
    When people opt for dogs or bitches, what is often forgotten is the extent to which they may alter the true 'male' or 'female' nature of their animals through neutering or spaying operations.

    A popular notion exists that such procedures can only ever change a male or female dog's behaviour for the better, when this often isn't true. And it saddens me that owners aren't always advised about the potential downsides, behaviour-wise, of neutering or spaying dogs (like increased fearfulness, or a duller/less responsive, more lethargic nature), particularly when these operations are being undertaken more as a matter of routine than absolute necessity.

    Case History
    Carol Price has three Border Collies; two bitches - Ilona, aged nine and Lara, aged two - and one male dog, four-year-old Arun (mother, daughter and son).

    "My oldest bitch, Ilona, has always been the most self-contained, elegant, dignified and ultra-feminine of dogs. Her daughter Lara, by contrast, is a complete ladette. She only gets away with it because she is also just so pretty and cute. About the only things Lara shares with her mother are a sweet nature, being a cracking working dog, and greed.

    "Mother-daughter dog relationships can be tricky. Luckily they get on really well but I've always made it clear to all my dogs that I won't tolerate any bullying or disrespect to each other within the ranks.

    "Then there's my male dog, Arun, from Ilona's first litter, which was all boys. Being entire, Arun is a typical lad. He likes the ladies, and is invariably sticking his nose where it shouldn't be, and can be more easily distracted in training than the girls. But once you've got his attention he just works like a dream - so powerful and so flash.

    "Arun can look and act macho but inside he's really just a big softie. He's been a fantastic big brother to Lara, and is incredibly loving and affectionate. What I love most about him is that he always has such a sunny nature and a generous heart. Bitches can be a lot moodier, at times, usually as a result of their hormones.

    "All in all I feel really blessed to have such a happy little mixed-sex family. Snags only arise whenever Lara comes on heat. Arun has to be sent over to a neighbour's each evening to stop him going barmy. I used to feel so sorry for him until I discovered that, minutes after leaving him, he was rolling off down to the local beach cafe with them, working the crowds with his usual charm and cadging Marmite crisps."

    Sex, breed and personality

    Bitches can nurse toysPeople who have only ever had one dog, male or female who was difficult, can make the mistake of thinking it was the sex of the dog, as opposed to the dog's specific breed or individual personality, that was mostly at fault.

    Similarly, if they've had one male or female dog that was really easy to own, and then get another of the same sex and breed who is a relative nightmare, then they can feel shocked or disappointed.

    It always has to be remembered that, regardless of breed or sex, every dog is different, with his or her individual nature shaped by a unique combination of genetic and environmental factors.

    More than one dog?
    When you house too many dogs together of the same sex you increase the chances of tension, rivalry and aggression between them. This is all the more likely in cases where the dogs do not get sufficiently constant, and authoritative, leadership from their owners, and/or are confined and left to their own devices too long and too often.

    Sometimes just two dogs of the same sex, and particularly family members - such as littermates, mother and daughter, father and son - can be a recipe for non-stop conflict, with constant segregation or the rehoming of one party sometimes being the only answer.

    Although male/female combinations of dogs usually generate less conflict, social harmony in the canine world, as in the human one, can result as much from putting the right basic mixture of personalities together as opposed to just sexes.

    Male and female dogs can often have very different personal agendas and ways of looking at the world or solving problems. But one thing I have found is that among any number of male and female dogs living together, it's nearly always a bitch that ends up ruling the roost!

    Case history
    Emma O'Callaghan has a male Beagle, Badger, aged four and Labrador cross Spaniel bitch, Ebony, aged one year.

    "Badger was our first dog, and we chose a male because we thought he would be less trouble than a bitch, worrying about heats. Nobody told us, however, how difficult Beagles were to train - and particularly male ones. Badger has always been very strong-willed; forever taking off and wanting to do his own thing.

    "He has quietened down a bit since being neutered, but he also became more of a couch potato - and greedier. We love him dearly and he has been a great family dog but, to be honest, we wouldn't have another Beagle.

    "For our second dog we got a bitch, because we thought this would work best with Badger. At first he had his nose put out of joint, but now he and Ebony absolutely adore each other.

    "We got her as a puppy from a rescue centre. We realized she was an unknown quantity, but she has turned into a lovely dog and is just so much more focused and easier to train. She had her first heat not so long ago and it was OK. You just have to watch your dog more carefully for a while and be sensible about where you walk her.

    "All in all, although the differences between Badger and Ebony may be more down to breed than sex, if we got another dog now, it would definitely be a bitch."


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