In this article we look at some of the myths and facts that surround the difference between the two sexes. We give you the information you need to help you make the right choice for your family.
Your Puppy’s Future
There is little difference between male and female puppies at eight weeks old. But puppies grow up fast and don’t stay puppies for long.
At one time, many people neutered their puppies and so the differences between puppies of each gender, were diminished.
That is changing now, as more evidence comes to light on the side effects of neutering.
Many more people are choosing to live with entire adult male and female dogs. And we need to take this into account when considering the differences between the two.
Differences between adult male and female dogs
There are two key aspects of canine characteristics that may influence your decision.
A dog’s physiology, in other words: the way he looks and his bodily functions, and his temperament, or the way he behaves.
Let’s take a look at the physical differences first.
Male vs Female Dog Appearance
To begin with, male dogs are often a little larger than females.
Not all male dogs are bigger than all female dogs of course, but on average the male puppies in a purebred litter will grow slightly taller and heavier than the females in the same litter.
The difference in size is probably not enough to matter much to anyone.
But males also have a different ‘look’. They look, unsurprisingly, more masculine.
Often with larger, chunkier, heads.
This difference will be far less pronounced in a male dog that has been neutered at an early age.
You may prefer the distinctive male look of your breed and this might be an influencing factor for you. Both when choosing a puppy, and when making decisions about neutering.
Other physical characteristics
Female dogs and male dogs differ in their bodily functions that kick in at sexual maturity.
Females come on heat for three to four weeks twice a year. During this time they cannot be walked in public places and they have a bloody vaginal discharge with means you will probably want to keep them off your carpets and furniture.
Whether or not this inconvenience is a big deal for you is a personal matter.
If you choose to have your bitch spayed to avoid this inconvenience, or to protect her from some of the health problems that can arise in unspayed bitches, the operation will cost you a considerable amount more than neutering a male dog.
Behaviour and temperament in male and female dogs
You may hear it said that girl dogs are more loyal than boys. This arose in the days when many dogs were left to wander at will.
Once they are sexually mature, many male dogs will try and ‘roam’, some female dogs will do this too, but roaming is more common in males.
A dog proof perimeter all around your garden or yard will solve this problem and help keep your dog safe from traffic or theft.
A natural preference
Many experienced dog owners have a natural preference for one gender or another. Sometimes this is based on their perception of male and female temperament.
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The aspects of temperament that most people worry about are aggression, and trainability.
And there is a perception in some people’s minds, that male dogs are both more aggressive, and less trainable than females. But it is true
Let’s take aggression first?
Are male dogs more aggressive?
They looked at data from people bitten between 1979 and 1998.
An oft quoted figure from this study is that male dogs were six times more likely to bite than female dogs. But this is not as clear cut as it may seem, there are a great many factors to consider.
Teasing out the truth
We cannot just assume that ‘maleness’ is likely to be the cause of the bites in the study mentioned above.
It could be that more people were bitten by male dogs because more male dogs were accessible (roaming for example) – indeed, unrestrained dogs roaming off the owner’s property were responsible for a quarter of the bites recorded in the study.
The assumption that ‘maleness’ in at fault also ignores that there are breed differences in aggression, something we tend to sweep under the carpet nowadays.
For example, another study found that increased aggression was present in entire males (compared with neutered males) in two of the breeds studied, but that this increase in aggression did not apply to the other breeds of dog in the study.
The bottom line
The fact is, if you buy a male dog from a breed that is generally friendly, from a breeder that has taken care to breed only from dogs lacking in aggression, the chances of the male dogs in that litter being more aggressive than the females in the same litter is probably quite slim.
If on the other hand, you are looking at a breed with known temperament or aggression issues, then you should probably give the question of gender a bit more thought.
Are male dogs harder to train?
Interestingly, male dogs predominate in a number of sports, which might indicate that they are easier to train, rather than harder. But again, we need to tease out the facts.
In competitive sports, successful dogs are valuable as breeding stock and are rarely neutered.
Females can be tricky to compete as they may lose valuable competition and training time by coming into season or being tied up with pregnancy or lactation at inopportune moments.
So a preponderance of males may say more about the boy’s ability to be free from obligations than how easy he is to train.
Differences in male and female brains
Of course there are differences in male and female canine brains, and studies have shown that there are differences in the way male and female dogs think.
How much impact this has on how trainable they are is questionable. And like any of my fellow gundog trainers, I have simply not found any real differences in this respect, between the sexes.
I have had very biddable bitches, and very biddable dogs. And I have also had less biddable bitches, and less biddable dogs.
Male vs Female Dogs
The differences between the genders in many breeds are minimal and the evidence on trainability is not conclusive.
If you are looking at a large and powerful breed where temperament problems can arise, it probably makes sense to opt for a female.
But for the most part, gender is not a good guide to future health or personality. In other words it probably doesn’t matter whether your puppy is a boy or a girl.
If you prefer males, then go for a male dog. And vice versa
How about you? Do you have a preference for male or female dogs? Share your thoughts in the comments box below.