BLOGS Ask the Animal Expert Ask Annie about Animals: Nov 2017

Dear Annie,

We have two elementary school children. They both want us to get a dog. A friend of mine has a litter of adorable puppies. Our son wants a male puppy. Our daughter wants a female. We are only getting one! What factors would you consider in making such a decision?

Lad or Lassie?

Dear L.O.L.,

Choosing whether to get a bitch, or a son of a bitch, can be a bitch of a decision! There is an old saying: “If you want a good dog, get a male. If you want a great dog, get a female and cross your fingers.” That being said, let’s look at some of the (alleged) differences in the genders.

Does size matter? In some ways, it does. All other factors being equal – breed/health/nutrition/etc. – male dogs tend to be somewhat larger than females when full grown. Is this a good thing? Well, a larger dog will need to eat more, so feeding may be slightly more costly. A few pounds of weight might also make a difference in the price of routine maintenance, from heartworm preventative to flea treatments. A larger, heavier animal may be more difficult to control for some individuals – although species appropriate training for dogs is not at all dependent on out-muscling your dog!

The jury is pretty evenly divided on which dog gender is more aggressive: By and large, male dogs tend to be more protective of their “territory” and females tend to be more protective of their “family”. A more in depth look shows factors other than just gender coming into play. One is whether the dog has been spayed or neutered. Female dogs in heat, pregnant bitches, and nursing females can display otherwise uncharacteristic aggression. Intact male dogs tend to have higher aggression tendencies due to testosterone levels. They also are inclined to roam, searching for females in heat, and consequently engage in more fights with other dogs. Altered dogs are generally less antagonistic since the hormonal urges are no longer coming into play.

The surgical costs for altering your pet will differ based on gender.

Castrating a male dog will be less costly because it’s relatively simple and quick. A spay surgery requires an abdominal incision and organ removal, which involves more time and anesthesia. An unspayed female dog will go into heat, usually twice a year. During these cycles she will leave blood spots around your house, attract male dogs, and may become pregnant. If she becomes pregnant, there are potential costs due to pregnancy complications. There will be additional costs in feeding and prenatal care. And, of course, there is the necessity of finding homes for the offspring.

Which gender is more intelligent? While there is no clear winner, there are some differences. Females tend to be easier to housetrain. This may be due to the fact that they mature more quickly. It may also be due to their ability to hold their bladder for longer periods. Females are also more visually aware of their surroundings than males according to one study. Stanley Coren, professor of psychology, noted canine behaviorist, and best selling author, believes this may have an evolutionary origin. Females have a visual necessity to keep tabs on puppies. This increased visual acuity obviously aids in the training process. On the original Lassie television show, the trainer stated that while a female collie was smarter, a male dog ultimately played Lassie. Why? Because the male was better looking for the part!

Ultimately, the decision on choosing a lad or lassie should be based on the individual pup and how it interacts with your family, as well as how it interacts with its littermates and your friend’s family. All puppies are adorable. The environment and education you provide to your new pet will determine how adorable he or she stays as an adult!


Send your ‘Ask Annie About Animals’ questions to:
Wolf Song Enterprises, LLC
1657 S. Getty, Suite 28 Muskegon, MI 49442
or email your question to:

Annette_VidaAnnette Vida is a licensed veterinary technician with multi-species experience in day clinic, emergency clinic and mobile veterinary care facilities. She is also a certified dog trainer with 40 years experience. Annette has been involved with rescuing animals for decades and shares her home with her wonderful husband and many (rescued) animals. She owns and operates Wolf Song Enterprises, LLC, where she offers animal related consulting services and training. Her office is located at 1657 S. Getty, Ste 28, Muskegon, MI 49442. Call 231-740-3879 for an appointment—home consultations also available.

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