Male or Female – is it important? | Puppies

If you plan to get a puppy, it can be helpful to keep on open mind about whether you have a male or female. By doing so, you increase your chance of getting a puppy at the time you want, at a convenient place and with other features that you desire. For many homes, a male or female puppy would fit in equally well. Reproductive issues aside, a puppy’s gender is often only a small part of its overall make up. The characteristics of its parents, their health, the circumstances in which it lives its first few weeks and the way you bring it up are all going to determine what sort of dog you have, rather more so than whether it happens to be male or female.

There are various myths around about why one gender or the other is more suitable for a particular purpose. While some have an element of truth, others have limited foundation. Before we consider those, let us consider the four serious reasons for preferring one gender or the other.

  1. You already have a bitch

    If you already have a bitch, it is almost certainly right to get a second bitch. Trying to keep a male and a female together, when the bitch is in season, is very difficult. Even some experienced breeders have found themselves caught out. It might just take someone to leave a door or gate open that should have stayed closed for you to find yourself with an unplanned pregnancy. At the most fertile time, the urge for a dog and a bitch to mate, even if they are close relations (like brother and sister) is very strong. Even if you succeed in keeping the two apart, the male may be prone to whine, go off his food or indulge in other unwanted behaviour out of frustration.

    If you must keep a dog and a bitch, it is better to house one of the two elsewhere while the bitch is in season. The other possibility is to neuter one or other of them – but it is questionable whether you want to give yourself a problem that you can easily avoid by having a second dog of the same gender as the one that you already have.

  2. You already have a dog

    If you already have a male dog, it is almost certainly right to get a second male dog. The same arguments as in the previous section apply. Indeed, they apply slight more strongly because there is no chance that the bitch will come into season before the dog is mature.

  3. You wish to breed

    If you wish to breed, realistically you need to get a bitch. Although many breeders endorse their puppy’s registration ‘progeny not eligible for registration’, this is not normally to prevent any breeding. Usually the intention is to ensure that you breed in as responsible manner as they would themselves. Once you have reached the stage of convincing whoever placed the breeding restriction to lift it, you should not have difficulty in finding a suitable stud dog. Since the bitch owner does most of the work in rearing a litter and pays a stud fee, the bitch owners mainly choose the match up.

    Conversely, if you have a dog, it is unlikely that anyone is going to approach you for stud work. He would need to do well in the ring or the field as well as get very health scores for anyone even to consider him. There are a lot of goldens about who are champions or have other qualifications. Golden breeders have a huge amount of choice for stud dogs and are unlikely to choose an unknown dog to mate their bitch.

  4. You wish to avoid looking after an in season bitch

    Once very 6 to 12 months, a bitch will come into season, on heat, in oestrus, whatever you want to call it, for about 3 weeks. During that time, you will need to take extra care. Even if you have trained her to bond with you well and she has a good recall, you will need to use a lead some of the time. You will probably need to drive somewhere before exercising her; this is to avoid leaving a trail of scent to your door. You will also need to exercise her in places or at times that minimise the risk of meeting other dogs. Leaving her unattended in your garden might also be unwise.

    While spaying the bitch is one way to avoid the seasons, you cannot avoid them altogether. This is because spaying her before her first season is very bad idea, possibly retarding her structural and personality development as well as causing the general problems that neutering can cause. Neutering of either a dog or a bitch at any age will cause an adverse affect on its coat and increase its propensity to become overweight (goldens are famous for being gluttons).

    For those wishing to avoid the inconvenience of a bitch’s seasons, the better solution could be to get a male in the main place. Unless you are very unlucky, his hormones should not give you any problems. If, unusually, you get unwanted humping behaviour, this should be correctable with training. In the unlikely event that you do get a dog who considers it his mission to sniff every bitch in the area, you could consider neutering. In that case, you would be no worse off than if you had had a bitch and spayed her – in fact, you might be better off because castration is cheaper and less invasive than spaying.

We will now consider other factors, those that are less important or where it is unclear which of a dog or a bitch is more likely to help you achieve a particular objective.

  1. You would like a dog that is easy to train

    Val Foss in her book on the Golden Retriever says that neither a male nor a female should be any problem, if handled in the correct way. She goes on to say that that opinions vary as to whether dogs or bitches are easier to train, but handling depends upon the particular individual, as well as the relationship between handler and dog.

    Dogs for The Disabled and other assistance dog charities train both dogs and bitches in roughly equal numbers. Their aptitude tests take no account of the puppy’s gender.

  2. You would like to do therapy work with your dog

    Historically, people have regarded male goldens as more like teddy bears and so more suited for this sort of work. However, given a well-socialised and well-handled bitch, there is no reason why she should not prove equally suitable.

  3. You would like the dog to bond mainly with one person.

    Goldens transfer their affection and loyalty more readily than do other breeds. This is why they are popular as family pets and for doing assistance and therapy work. While some people used to think that males more readily adapt to a new person is leader, females can be equally good at adapting. Really, you have the wrong breed if you want a dog that will be fiercely loyal. Goldens are happy to be with anyone who turns up at the door wearing trainers and carrying a lead or who has a bagful of treats.

    In a family situation, it is more likely that you will want a dog that treats all family members as pack leaders. This you should be able to achieve, whatever its gender, through consistent training and ensuring that everyone feels involved with your dog.

  4. You would like a small dog

    Goldens are not small dogs. If you buy size-branded dog food or do agility with them, you will find them categorised as large dogs. As in many breeds, the females are slightly smaller than the males. When the breed standard stipulated an ideal weight, it was around 29 kilos for a female and around 34 kilos for a male. For most practical purposes, the extra 5 kilos is not going to make any difference. You are not normally going to be lifting up an adult dog, while a puppy should be easy to lift in and out of the car whatever its gender. Whether it is male or female, you should not allow your dog to be jumping up at people, so again the size ought not to matter.

    If size is important to you, you might consider a different breed, though finding such a lovely temperament as a golden has is tricky. For a smaller dog, you might consider a cocker spaniel. For a bigger dog, Bernese Mountain dogs are rather nice.

  5. You would like a dog that does not wander off

    Encouraging your dog to feel part of a pack, to regard you the owner as pack leader and to come back when called or all part of its conditioning and training. While it is fine to allow your dog to socialise with other dogs, you should make sure it wants to return to your pack rather than stay in another pack. This all applies whether it is a male or a female. Goldens, being keen on their food, can also be keen to investigate food remains and carrion, probably more so than meeting other dogs. Again, this is not gender specific. Bitches can be just as strong willed as male dogs, possibly more so in some cases. Training your dog to come back when called is important in case because it is hard to give your dog adequate exercise if you have to keep it on a lead.

  6. You would like the dog to even up the gender balance in your family

    It is quite common for households with mainly boys to want a bitch puppy and for those with mainly girls to want a dog puppy. There is no right or wrong answer here. Some people prefer the company of their own gender while for some it is a case of opposites attract. Children, depending up their age, can go through phases of each during the dog’s lifetime. Either way, please bear in mind that dogs are not the same as children. They need a different sort of training and leadership to children.

  7. You would like a dog that does not scent mark too much

    A bitch is very keen on leaving her scent when she is in season and will have started scent marking weeks and in some cases months beforehand. A young male dog is also keen on leaving his mark, though he should eventually grow out of it. All dogs, male or female, neutered or not, are to an extent territorial and will scent mark a bit. Neutering the dog when it is very young will reduce the propensity to scent mark but has such strong disadvantages that in a pet home you do not want to consider that option.

    For a bitch to squat and for a male to cock his leg is part of being a dog, so there should be no need for you to feel awkward – your dog will certainly not feel embarrassed! As a dog owner, you do not want to too self-conscious about what comes out of a dog in any event. A couple of times a day (more for a puppy), your dog will produce a brown parcel that you will need to wrap up in a nice plastic bag and take to the nearest bin.

  8. You would like a dog that is easy to live with

    Goldens are great companions and are popular as pets because of their lovely temperament. They do like company, human as well as canine, but are not as active or intense as some breeds. Give them good exercise, nice food, fresh water, grooming, shelter and general tender loving care and you should have a happy relationship.

    There is a popular myth that bitches are somehow easier to live with. While you might hear that from a vet thinking of potential income from a spaying and perhaps it is true for some breeds, it is not the case with goldens. With goldens, the people who start with bitches tend to end up with dogs! Here are some comments from someone who lives with several bitches who also knows what it is like to live with a male dog:

    • They (bitches) hunt more and are more likely to run off
    • They come into season and, if you have them spayed, their coats go woolly and harder to keep looking nice
    • They can be hormonal (not if spayed)
    • They are not always as loving or loyal as males
    • They shed their coats more often (even when spayed)
    • Smaller isn’t necessarily easier

    Positives about having a dog:

    • They don’t moult as much
    • They don’t need to be castrated
    • They are more loving and loyal
    • They don’t have mood swings or hormone issues
    • They are quicker to toilet train
    • They don’t kill your lawn with wetting