If you’re planning on picking out a new puppy or adopting a rescue dog from a shelter, you may be wondering if you should choose a male or a female. Is there really a difference between the two genders, beside their physical reproductive characteristics? Do males act differently than females? If so, which gender makes the best pet?
Ask around, and you’ll get a wide variety of opinions. There are many dog owners who insist on always getting either a male or a female dog. The owner of a male dog may tell you that they’re easier to train, only to have the owner of a female dog report the same thing. In the end, you may be no closer to choosing between a male and a female dog.
In fact, most perceived differences between male and female dogs have more to do with our own human beliefs about gender stereotypes, which we then project onto dogs. Look no further than movies, television series, and popular culture for examples of dogs taking on human characteristics and acting accordingly to gender roles.
With social media, it’s usually easy to figure out which dogs are female and which dogs are male just by observing the dog’s clothing and accessories. From the time they’re puppies, we follow our natural inclination to name and dress our dogs to reflect their gender. As such, our loving dogs may attempt to take on these gender roles in an effort to please us.
The most significant difference between the sexes are their hormones and how those hormones affect everything from physical differences to behavioral tendencies and natural instincts.
The role hormones play, along with anatomy, has certain benefits and concerns worth noting. For males, these differences are a direct effect of testosterone. In contrast, estrogen dominates a female’s behavior.
Fixed vs. Intact
It’s important to note that the most significant differences between male and female dogs occur between intact, or non-neutered, males and intact, or non-spayed, females. While neutered or spayed dogs still have hormones affecting their behavior, albeit at lower levels, intact dogs have higher hormone levels and thus require extra care. These specific needs differ greatly between intact males and intact females.
Some research and anecdotal evidence suggests that most dogs tend to get along better with a dog of the opposite sex. Issues with dominance and natural survival instincts for raising a family may all play into why this may be true.
What Are the Pros and Cons?
Read on to learn about the pros and cons most associated with each gender. We tried our best to accurately list common traits for both males and females, but there are always exceptions.
Male Dogs: The Pros
Bigger May Be Better
Male dogs tend to be larger in both height and weight. The benefits of a larger dog include greater strength, athletic ability, and intimidation as a guard dog. Statistically, perhaps because of their stronger stature and high level of endurance, male dogs tend to win more competitions.
Affectionate and Playful With Fewer Mood Swings
Male dogs tend to have more energy and are therefore more likely to want to interact more playfully with you. All that energy translates into greater and bolder acts of affection for you. With a male, typically what you see is what you get. Males tend to keep a steady, one-track mood.
Protective of Their Families
If you’re interested in a guard dog, then a male would take this job seriously. Keep in mind, however, that this positive trait can be a negative with some males who protect too aggressively.
Neutering Costs Less Than Spaying
The neutering surgery is a less invasive and involved procedure. Therefore, it costs less. Also, your male dog will need a shorter recovery time than a female.
Male Dogs: The Cons
Intact males who have not been fixed display more aggression and are more likely to bite. Males tend to have more altercations or fights with other dogs, especially other males.
If you own a male dog, be aware that they are more territorial and protective. They will aggressively defend your home and your family even when you’re not in danger. That means you’ll need to be more attentive with a male dog when receiving a delivery or when the trash truck goes by.
Male dogs tend to mark their territory, and if they’re intact, they relentlessly mark their territory. That will most likely include your furniture. Lawns and gardens also generally do not flourish with dog urination. If you take your home’s interior and exterior seriously, you may be at odds with your male dog.
Male dogs tend to have more urges to run away. Intact males have one thing on their mind, which causes them to always be on the hunt for opportunities to be fruitful and multiply. Even neutered males long for exploration and to expand their boundaries. Unfortunately, for this reason, statistically, more males tend to get hit by cars.
Harder to Train
It’s generalized that males tend to be less focused, harder to housebreak, and overall harder to train. You may only need a bit more patience, as males are biologically slower to mature. Also, males often assert their dominance, which may result in them challenging you and being more vocal.
Though it’s definitely worse in intact males, sexual behaviors such as humping occur even with neutered males. Testosterone still exists in a neutered dog’s body and still plays a role in common male habits. Some of the humping may be the result of too much excitement, too much pent-up energy, or an attempt to exert dominance.
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While intact males have been found to live the longest, they’re still subject to health concerns. Intact males are more likely to suffer from testicular cancer, prostate issues, and conditions that produce cysts and infections. On the opposite end, the lower testosterone in neutered male dogs may cause them to develop the potentially deadly cancer, hemangiosarcoma.
Female Dogs: The Pros
Perhaps you’d like a more petite version of your favorite dog breed. Females tend to be smaller in size than males.
Calmer and Family Friendly
Females tend to have a calmer disposition. They’re less dominant, less territorial, and less aggressive. Their temperament is much better suited for families with young children. Females may be happier to sit with you than roam away.
Easier to Train
Female dogs reach maturity faster, which means they can be trained at a younger age. A female temperament tends to be more focused and not as vocal. All these factors add up to females being trained faster than males, and they can housebreak easier. With no impulse for marking, females conveniently empty their bladders in one stop.
Spayed Females Live Longer
Right behind intact male dogs, spayed females tend to take the second spot for lifespan longevity.
Female Dogs: The Cons
Moody, Independent, and Nervous
On the flip side of their typically calmer temperaments, female dogs can be less affectionate, more independent, and far less willing to please you. If you’ve ever owned a female dog, you may have noticed that they tend to be more prone to mood swings, frighten easier, and have more bouts of anxiety than male dogs.
Special Care for Intact Females
If you own a female dog who’s not spayed, you’ll need to allow for estrus, also known as the heat cycle, twice a year. It lasts about two weeks and involves making certain accommodations. You’ll need to keep your female confined to close quarters in order to prevent unaltered males from barging into your backyard. You’ll also need to provide a space that’s prepped to clean up the bloody discharge.
Females have their share of reproductive diseases as well. If they’re not spayed, female dogs may be more prone to mammary and uterine cancer. Spayed females have a higher risk of developing hypothyroidism, spayed incontinence, and urinary tract infections.
The Cost of Spaying
Because it’s a more complicated procedure, spaying is more expensive than neutering. Also, keep in mind that spayed female dogs are ineligible for dog shows.
Ultimately, male and female dogs come in wide range of personalities, with each gender requiring differing care, especially if you don’t get them spayed or neutered. Deciding between a male and female dog will most likely come down to personal preference.
In the end, finding the best dog may have more to do with their temperament than their gender. Also, the breed of dog and the level of care you offer them often creates a greater differentiation among dogs than either male or female.
We hope that we have helped you learn more about the pros and cons of each gender of dog. There’s plenty to consider, from care to physical differences and behavioral tendencies. However, you can rest assured that there’s no clear winner. Whether you choose a male or a female dog, you’re sure to get plenty of love, affection, and companionship!
Featured Image Credit: Immagy, Shutterstock
- Gender Stereotypes
- Hormonal Differences
- Fixed vs. Intact
- Opposites Attract
- What Are the Pros and Cons?
- Male Dogs: The Pros
- Male Dogs: The Cons
- Female Dogs: The Pros
- Female Dogs: The Cons