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When Should You Get Your Puppy Neutered?

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Archer at the vets office
Archer at the vets office

Medically, I don’t really know when you should get your puppy neutered.  I don’t have facts as to why it’s better to get your puppy neutered earlier or later.  What I am going to tell you is my experience with spay/neuter and hopefully it will help you make an informed decision as well as save you a bit of money.

So, what did I learn today (and the past 11 years) about spay/neuter today?  Well, lets roll back to Archer’s first visit to the veterinarian…doo da loo, doo da loo, doo da loo…

Archer’s First Visit To The Vet

Two days after picking up Archer from his breeder we stopped by the vet for the first time for a puppy wellness checkup.  Archer’s breeders had started him on his puppy vaccination schedule, but we just wanted to make sure that Archer was a healthy puppy.  It was at this time that our veterinarian first brought up the question: when should you get your puppy neutered?  While we’ve heard different opinions from vets, friends, family, and of course the internet our vet did not claim a best age to get your puppy neutered.  He said most vets and people recommend getting your puppy neutered at around 6 months of age, but he also said he read research for waiting until your puppy is older as well as research on why you should get your puppy neutered at a younger age.

My experiences with spay/neuter over the past 11 years has been all over the board.  Linus was my first puppy and the veterinarian at that time recommend he get neutered at 6 months of age and since I considered the vet to be the expert I followed his schedule.

On one side, when I fostered puppies for Cuddly Canines they had their pups spayed/neutered immediately.  The German Shepherd pups I fostered were probably only about 8 weeks old when they were altered.

On the other side, the guide dog school did not have Stetson neutered until he was 10 months old.  Canine Support Teams asked me to wait until Adelle was 12 months old before she was spayed.

Archer’s Rabies Vaccination

Archer was on a typical puppy vaccination schedule.  He received his rabies vaccination when he was 16 weeks old.  As a puppy raiser this is a day to celebrate as our puppy is well on his way to developing a healthy immune system and not as susceptible to catching disease.  While we do stick to age appropriate outings we are less at risk to illness.

However, something else happens after our puppies receive their rabies vaccination.  According to the clerk at OC Animal Care federal law requires veterinarians to report when a puppy receives his rabies vaccination.

When Did I Get My Puppy Neutered?

Armed with 11 years of puppy raising experience I was confident that I knew what to do when getting Archer neutered.  My original plan was to get Archer neutered when he was 6 months old, but that would have put him in a cone during our wedding which wouldn’t have been good for pictures and if there were any complications would not have been convenient while planning and prepping for a wedding.  Instead I waited until after the wedding when Archer was just under 7 months old.

Everything went smoothly.  Archer is fine and doing back flips again 🙂 but…

Getting Your Puppy Licensed

We’ve always gotten our puppies licensed.  Our pets (Linus and Stetson) received regular pet licenses from the Irvine Animal Care.  My guide and service dog puppies received special service dog tags from Irvine Animal Care at no charge.

Today, I went in to renew Linus’ license and get a service dog tag for Archer.  Unfortunately things didn’t go as planned.  No problem with Linus, $27 for his yearly renewal.

The problem was when I went to get a service dog tags for Archer.  First of all, let me preface with I received a letter from the OC Animal Care for both Linus and Archer at the beginning of the month (a couple days before my wedding).  Linus’ license was $27.  However, Archer’s license was a whopping $100!

Why was Archer’s registration so expensive?  Because he was not neutered.  However, he is neutered.  I discussed the entire situation with the clerk at OC Animal Care and here’s what I found out:

  • Archer could have received a puppy license for $27, but he had to be registered between 4-6 months of age and it would have lasted until he was 12 months.
  • Can I register him as a puppy?  No, because he’s over 6 months of age.
  • I never received a letter for a puppy registration nor had I ever heard about puppy registrations.
  • Can I register him as a service dog? No, because he has to be registered with his partner.  Since he is a service dog puppy in training he does not yet have a partner.
  • But he’s neutered, can I register him as an altered adult?  No, because he wasn’t registered before he was 6 months of age.

It’s all very confusing and I’m surprised that OC Animal Care won’t help me out considering I’m putting a lot of my time, effort, and money into raising/training a service dog to help my community.  I can’t help, but feel that these strict rules on service dog tags at OC Animal Care are a direct result of people parading their dogs around public places like restaurants, shopping malls, bookstores, etc as “service dogs”.  While I could sign off on a document saying that Archer is my service dog.  I’m not going to do that because it’s not the truth.  I’m training Archer to be a service dog for someone else.

Anyways, enough ranting.  Back to the question…

When Should You Get Your Puppy Neutered?

Like I said earlier this does not have to do with the medical benefits of getting your puppy neutered/spayed.  What it does have to do with is avoiding my mistakes and hopefully help you save a little money.  So, what did I do wrong?  Here’s what I should have done with Archer

  • Option #1 – After getting Archer his rabies vaccination I should have gotten him a puppy license which would have cost me $27.  This would have given me until Archer was 12 months old to get him neutered.  I would have saved $73.
  • Option #2 – I should have gotten Archer neutered before he was 6 months of age.  This would have brought his license registration down to $27 which is the amount for an altered adult dog.  Again I would have saved $73.

Your city or county may have different rules then we do out here in Orange, CA.  Back when we lived in Irvine they had no problem giving Stetson and later Derby and Dublin a service dog tag.  However, that was over 6 years ago and times a change.

Hopefully this helps answer the question when should you get my puppy neutered.  If anything I hope it helps save you a little money.  As I mentioned I know every city/county is different.  Tell me about your experiences with spay/neuter and licensing in the comment section below.

UPDATE: At 9 weeks old I took Charlie in for his first vet appointment. Our veterinarian gave Charlie a thorough exam, vaccinations, and we had a short discussion about when would be the appropriate time to neuter him. This was the first time we had a vet tell us to wait until our puppy was at least 12 months old before getting him neutered and if possible wait even longer. He told us that 4-5 years ago he would have told us differently, but because of recent studies it was a good idea to try and keep your puppy intact as long as possible. Good for our veterinarian for keeping up to date on the most recent studies in animal care. 

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  1. Can anyone explain to me the difference between a service dog and a companion dog? I have a “no pet” clause in a second floor apartment lease but I’m having people tell me they have a service dog and when I ask if they have documentation, they say “the Dr will will write you a letter because my girlfriend is nervous and a dog calms her down.” I don’t know what is protected by law but I’m tired of people trying to sneak in a dog when they want an excuse to have a pet.

  2. I’ll likely start researching this subject in the next few months since I’ll have to make this decision again very soon. However, as of right now I’ve only spoken to a handful of trainers and vet techs who are for sterilization vs spay/neuter. I’m going to have a chat with my vet next time I’m in the office. Let me know if you find any new information on this subject.

  3. I’d be interested in the sterilization info also, our chocolate lab puppy is now 9 months old, not sure when or if to neuter. I’d love to see your info

  4. Thanks for stopping by. Since posting this information earlier this year I’ve been talking to vets, dog trainers, and other experts and I’m finding very mixed opinion on the subject. However, at this moment I am in agreement with you on waiting until later before thinking about neutering. Another option that I’m going to look into is sterilization instead of spay or neuter. If you have any links to relevant information on spay/neuter please share with us as I’d like to learn more on the subject.

  5. I think it’s horrible (and, also, very American) to have your dog neutered at a very early age. It’s like neutering a child. Your dogs body has not finished developing yet, you should wait for that to happen (1,5 – 2,5 years of age) before even thinking about getting your dog neutered.
    There’s plenty of information on the internet about this.
    I might not even get my dog neutered, unless medically necessary.

  6. Hi Lillian, if you didn’t get a chance take a look at the link provided by Shannon in the comment above.

  7. Thanks for sharing this great post! My husband and I just got a puppy, and we’re unsure when we should have him neutered. From what I’ve heard, around six months is generally what people suggest, and your experience helps solidify that. We’ll definitely have him fixed at around that age so things go smoothly. Thanks for the great post!

  8. I plan to have our pup neutered when he’s somewhere around 7 to 9 months because that’s what our breeder and vet have recommended. Our vet says to wait until 6 months. The breeder says to do it around 8-9 months so I’m going with that.

  9. Thanks for sharing the link. I also spoke to one of my friends who’s currently in vet tech school and she said some of the studies she read about recommended waiting until 18 months.

  10. Yeah, if you are not going to spay/neuter your dog before he/she is 6 months old then you should definitely get the puppy license. Best of luck with your new puppy!

  11. Wow, you brought up some stuff I’ve never thought of. I’m so glad I stumbled across this because I also live in OC Animal Care’s district and I think I would have run into the same problem with my new puppy! I had no idea vets had to report the rabies vaccination, or that you could get a special puppy license. This definitely will be factored into my decision as to when to neuter and when to register.

  12. It is true that unaltered dogs are more expensive when purchasing tags. Since we show our dogs and use them in an active breeding program, they are not spayed or neutered unless one of them develops a fault that eliminates them from the breeding program. When their show/breeding career is done, they are altered. As far as pets (non show dogs) go, we wait until at least 2 years of age. As a former vet tech and with friends still in the profession, we’ve seen an upturn in the last 20 years of dogs developing all sorts of issues when altered too early. While we certainly are all for companion animals being spayed and neutered eventually, we choose to wait and have had wonderful outcomes and great health over the years. No accidental breedings. 🙂 Here is an informative article on the subject: http://healthypets.mercola.com/sites/healthypets/archive/2011/02/17/dangers-of-early-pet-spaying-or-neutering.aspx

  13. It seems like the rules are made to protect the honest people, but the honest people are the ones who follow the rules and end up getting screwed. Meanwhile the dishonest people will disobey the rules and end up benefiting. In this situation I bet you there’s more than one dishonest person who walked into OC Animal Care Center, signed the document saying that they were disabled and “Fido” was their service dog, and received service dog tags at no charge.

  14. It’s difficult to know when you should spay/neuter your puppy especially when your veterinarian doesn’t have a definitive answer. That’s why I geared this article away from the medical side and more towards saving money and how it effects licensing your puppy. Thanks for stopping by!

  15. I did hear the argument about waiting longer for the growth plates to mature, but I never did deep research on the subject. My two elder statesman, Linus (neutered at 6 months) and Stetson (neutered at 10 months) are now considered seniors. At 11 years old Linus has zero joint problems and still runs around the backyard like a puppy (knock on wood). On the other hand, Stetson is 9 years old and has had joint problems for the past couple years. Of course they are totally different breeds, Stetson is on the heavy side, and Linus is on the light side. As you said every dog is different. I’d be interested to know if the guide dog school(since they turn out hundreds of dogs a year) has any statistics on the effects of neutering/spaying puppies at different ages.

  16. That sucks that you had to pay extra. You would think that if they are raising the prices for the “imitation” service dogs that they could check your history as a pet owner/service puppy raiser and see that you are legit. It’s annoying that good people that are trying to do great things are the ones that are being screwed in the end. 🙁

    At least Archer is a great dog and is worth the extra $73!! Keep doing what you’re doing!

  17. Hey Colby,

    Archer looks lovely. Hope sometimes he would be bit naughty 🙂

    My dog was neutered when he was 4 and half months. Got done with all the necessary vaccination.
    Yeah it’s hard to find out, when to neutered your dog, as every dogs are different and it is hard to
    determine the exact age to neutered them.

    Thank you for making me aware of the Licensing of our puppies.

    Thank you.

    Shantanu sinha

  18. All of our dogs were neutered/spayed around 6 months (except one where the rescue took care of it right away). In the future, I will wait until our dogs are at least a year or I’ll have them sterilized instead. I want to make sure their growth plates mature correctly. I wonder if Rodrigo and Sydney developed joint issues early, because they were fixed too early. Every dog is different, so I can’t possibly know, but everyone I know with dogs who waited experienced fewer joint health issues.

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