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By Cesar Millan

This month, seven years ago, I started the Cesar Millan Foundation, and part of our mission is to promote spaying and neutering of pets to reduce overpopulation. It also happens that February is Spay/Neuter Awareness Month, and this Tuesday, the 25th, is World Spay Day.

Pet overpopulation is a worldwide problem, with over 600 million homeless, abandoned, or unwanted dogs. While we’ve made great strides in increasing awareness, there’s still a long way to go. My goal is for there to be no dog that is unwanted, and every dog to have a good home.

Almost as staggering as the number 600 million, though, is how many descendents a single unsterilized female dog can produce. That single unfixed female and her descendents can produce as many as 67,000 dogs in just six years, with every unfixed female from those litters doing the same. In many countries, this, combined with more indifferent attitudes about dogs, has led to huge problems with strays. Inevitably, the only way to control the population is by killing these dogs because there are no shelters to take them all in.

A few weeks ago there was worldwide outrage prior to the Olympics when people found out that officials in Sochi were poisoning stray dogs to get them off the streets. So even in a country as modern as Russia, homeless dogs are a problem. However, if they had focused on spaying and neutering programs ahead of time, they would not have had to use such a drastic solution now.

This is how spaying and neutering literally saves lives by preventing unwanted dogs from ever being born. And yet, people still resist the idea because of common misconceptions about spaying and neutering. Here are the four biggest myths about it:

Myth #1: A Dog Will Feel Like Less of a “Man” or “Woman” after Being Sterilized

This myth stems from humans imposing their own feelings of loss on the animal. In fact, your dog will simply have one less need to fulfill. A dog’s basic personality is formed more by environment and genetics than by sex hormones, so sterilization will not change your dog’s basic personality, make your dog sluggish, or affect its natural instinct to protect the pack. But it will give you a better behaved pet.

Neutered dogs have less desire to roam, mark territory (like your couch!) and exert dominance over the pack. Spayed dogs no longer experience the hormonal changes during heat cycles that turn your pet into a nervous dog that cries incessantly and attracts unwanted male dogs. Sterilized dogs are more affectionate and less likely to bite, run away, become aggressive, or get into a fight.

Myth #2: Spaying and Neutering Will Cause Weight Gain

Dogs do not get fat simply by being sterilized. Just like humans, dogs gain weight if they eat too much and exercise too little or if they are genetically programmed to be overweight. The weight gain that people may witness after sterilization is most likely caused by continuing to feed a high energy diet to a dog that is reducing its need for energy as it reaches adult size.

Myth #3: Dogs Will Mourn the Loss of Their Reproductive Capabilities

Not true. Dogs reproduce solely to ensure the survival of their species. They do not raise a puppy for eighteen years. They do not dream of their puppy’s wedding. They do not hope for the comfort of grandchildren in their old age. Female dogs nurse for a few weeks, teach the puppies rules, boundaries, and limitations and send them off to join the pack. Male dogs are not “fathers” in the human sense of the word; they do not even recognize puppies as their own.

Myth #4: Spaying and Neutering Is Expensive

Today there are enough low cost and free spay and neuter programs that this can no longer be an excuse! Even if these programs are not available in your area, the emotional distress and money spent on medical treatments you will save down the line makes it an investment that will be worth every penny.

So, unless you’re a professional breeder, there’s no excuse not to have your dogs (and cats and rabbits) sterilized before you wind up with unwanted offspring on your hands. Contact your vet or local shelter to find out about your options, including low-cost sterilization, and help me on my mission to make sure that there are no more unwanted, homeless dogs.

Stay calm and sterilize your dog!

How has your dog changed after being spayed or neutered? Share your story with us in the comments.

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