In ‘male vs female dogs’ we look at the real difference between male and female dogs. And at the pros and cons of choosing a girl or boy dog to welcome into your family.
Once you have chosen a breeder and found a beautiful litter of puppies, there are some tough decisions ahead. And one of them concerns gender. Because you may be given a choice between a a boy or girl puppy.
We can help you.
If you are asking yourself “Should I get a male or female dog?” then this article is for you
We’ll look at some of the myths that surround the difference between the two sexes. And give you the facts and the information you need to help you make the right choice for your family.
Male vs female puppy
There is little difference between male and female puppies at eight weeks old.
On average, male puppies are slightly larger than their sisters.
But that’s about it.
However, puppies don’t stay puppies for long.
They grow up fast and it really is the difference between male and female dogs once they reach maturity, that you need to consider.
Male or female dog: pros and cons
It would be surprising if adult male dogs were not different in some ways from adult females, and the extent of these differences are likely to be influenced by sex hormones.
There are differences, but they are not as great as some people think
One of the things we need to consider when looking at the pros and cons of female vs male dogs is whether or not the dogs in question have been neutered.
At one time, in many parts of the world, it was considered irresponsible not to neuter your pet dog, but as recent evidence of health risks to neutering have arisen, more people are now living with entire adult dog.
By entire I mean, a dog that has not been castrated or spayed and that will therefore be subject to adult male or adult female dog behavior and biology.
Let’s look at the differences between adult male and female dogs that have not been neutered first.
Difference between male and female dogs
There are two key aspects of adult canine characteristics that may influence your decision when choosing between a male or female puppy.
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 Dogs: 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 is greater in some breeds than others, and will be far less pronounced in a male dog that has been neutered at an early age.
If you prefer the distinctive male look of your breed then this might be an influencing factor for you.
Both when choosing a puppy, and when making decisions about neutering.
Male dog vs female dog: Other physical characteristics
Female dogs and male dogs differ in the bodily functions that kick in at sexual maturity.
Females come on heat for three to four weeks twice a year.
Whether or not this inconvenience is a big deal for you is a personal matter.
Neutering a female dog is expensive and not covered by your pet insurance. If you choose to have your girls spayed to avoid this inconvenience, the operation will cost you a considerable amount more than neutering a male dog.
Boy dogs vs girls dogs: behavior and temperament
You may hear it said that girl dogs are more loyal than boys. This myth has persisted from the days when many dogs were left to wander at will, unsupervised in the community where they lived.
Once they are sexually mature, many male dogs will try and ‘roam’, mainly in order to find a mate. Some female dogs will do this too, especially when they are in season. 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.
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.
Do male dogs bite more?
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.
Are male or female dogs friendlier?
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 gun dog 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.
Female or male dog: differences after neutering
The difference between male and female dogs is far less apparent in dogs that have been neutered.
If you are certain that you are going to neuter your puppy then you won’t have to think about coping with a female dog when she is in season for example.
Something to consider is whether or not your chosen breed of dog is particularly susceptible to some of the risks of neutering.
Think about neutering before you choose between a girl or boy puppy
The issues that surround neutering might influence your decision on whether or not to neuter your dog later, even if you haven’t thought much about that yet.
You might for example chose not to neuter a female Golden Retriever as the breed is susceptible to a number of cancers which have been shown to develop more frequently in neutered dogs.
And if you definitely don’t want to have to cope with a female dog when she is in season, then the sensible option might be to get a male instead.
A natural preference for a female or a male dog
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.
Sometimes it’s just one of those things that the person can’t really explain
And that’s okay.
If you have a choice and you just really feel yourself drawn to girl vs boy dogs, there’s nothing wrong with that.
Just make sure you are have looked at what’s involved in raising a dog of the gender of your choice before you make your final selection.
Male vs Female Dogs – A Summary
The differences between male and female in many breeds of dog 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.
If you are looking at a breed where neutering can raise the risk of serious health problems then you need to think more carefully about the biological differences between male vs female dogs. Some people find it inconvenient to manage a female dog in heat for example and don’t want to be responsible for making sure that she doesn’t get pregnant
Significant risks of neutering have been demonstrated in Hungarian Vizslas, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds and Labradors (see references below). We don’t know yet if they affect other breeds of dog
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. Just as long as you know what is involved in their care.
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.
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- Torres de la Riva et al. “Neutering dogs: Effects of joint disorders and cancers in Golden Retrievers” PloS One 2013
- Zink et al. “Evaluation of the risk and age of onset of cancer and behavioural disorders in gonadectomized Vizslas” Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 2014
- Hart et al. “Neutering of German Shepherd Dogs: Associated joint disorders, cancers and urinary incontinence” Veterinary Medicine and Science 2016
- Hart et al. “Long-Term Health effects of neutering dogs:comparison of Labrador Retrievers with Golden Retrievers“. Plos One 2014