Categories
Veterinary

When Should You Neuter or Spay Your Leonberger

This is a contentious question that can easily lead to heated arguments, which is why I never brought up this issue in my book. I don’t like one-star reviews. A blog post though is a different matter. I can easily delete angry comments as well as the blog post itself.

It is very common for veterinarians and others to recommend that dogs be neutered or spayed between the ages 4-6 months. However, not all dogs are the same and this seems to be bad advice for many giant breeds, especially Leonbergers.

Photo of me with our Leonberger Bronco standing on the sofa.
Is he ready to be neutered? I mean the dog.

With this post I am presenting advice and statements from various sources that I consider to be reliable such as AKC/club certified breeders of the specific breed in question, the corresponding breed organization/club, such as the Leonberger Club of America, and scientists in the specific field. In my experience veterinarians who care for all kinds of dogs and pets typically do not have knowledge that is breed specific enough on this issue.

When we got our late Leonberger Bronco (Le Bronco von der Löwenhöhle) 15 years ago our breeder Julie Schaffert told us to wait with neutering him until he was two years old if possible. Julie Schaffert has been an LCA (Leonberger Club of America) certified breeder since 1992 and is arguably the most prominent Leonberger breeder in North America. A few days ago, I sent her this question:

Hello Julie, I hope all is well with you and your Leonbergers. I am currently reading a Leonberger book by Vanessa Ritchie. I’ve read dozens of Leonberger books. It is a very good Leonberger book. However, in the middle of page 30 she is saying something that concerned me. She is saying to neuter/spay your Leonberger at 6 months old. I remember you telling us to wait with ours and we waited until significantly passed one years old. Assuming that is correct, this mistake needs to be pointed out and perhaps corrected. Before saying anything, I wanted to make sure that is correct, that spaying/neutering at 6 months old is indeed too early for a Leonberger.

Thank you for any help

Happy New Years

Thomas Wikman

This was her answer

Happy new year. Yes, it’s now recommended that giant dogs not be neutered or spayed until after 2 years. In the old days it was recommend earlier any time after 6 months. All the new data says wait.

Julie.

Black and white photo of our Leonberger Bronco
The Leonberger puppy Julie sold us

A few months ago I participated in an online discussion (Leonberger Facebook group) on this issue and I mentioned that we neutered our Leonberger passed one years old, close to 18 months, but we did not wait two years. There were people who did not like this saying we needed to wait longer. Some people said that 12-18 months was good enough, but they were in general rebutted. The consensus was that you needed to wait two years or not neuter the dog at all if that was practical. Opinions were strong, and I got the feeling that some people felt neutering before the age of two was animal abuse. Whatever you do, don’t discuss this with Leonberger enthusiasts at the Thanksgiving dinner table.

The reasons we did not wait two years was that our veterinarian at the time wanted to do it sooner and Bronco was moving furniture around because of his excess energy. He was strong, energetic and a bit restless. He dragged sofas, chairs and tables around. He was very friendly and harmless, but he had a lot of energy. Perhaps he should have been a home decorator instead of a dog.

Illustration showing that Bronco had pushed our German Shepherd into a storm drain. I am trying to drag/lift the German Shepherd out of the storm drain while holding onto a misbehaving Bronco.
A rambunctious Bronco

So that’s where I was coming from”. In addition to that I searched on-line today to see what people with expertise in the area are saying. I should say that I know enough about internet search not to trust whatever comes up at the top. You need to first consider credentials and expertise.

This one year old article (click here) from the AKC states that a larger or giant breed may need to wait until they are near or over 12-18 months of age before neutering or spaying. The article also provides the following interesting information.

Research conducted by the University of California – Davis reveals that for some dog breeds, neutering and spaying may be associated with the increased risks of certain health conditions such as joint disorders including hip or elbow dysplasia, cranial cruciate rupture or tear, and some cancers, such as lymphoma, mast cell tumor, hemangiosarcoma, and osteosarcoma. The research conclusions are not surprising. Sex hormones are important in the development of any animal.  We know they affect psychological development as well as the musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, and the immune system.

I believe this is the University of California – Davis article in question (click here). It is from 2020. Notice that the suggested guidelines for age of neutering is beyond 23 months for several of the giant breeds in the table of 35 breeds (click here). Also notice that the table does not include Leonbergers.

Hillhaven Leonbergers (click here) in Ireland recommend not neutering until at least 2 years of age. They warn against doing it at 6 months old, despite what some veterinarians may recommend.

I did not find an on-line Leonberger Club of America recommendation but this old 2011 article (click here) from the Leonberger Club of America states: Because the Leonberger is a slow maturing breed in general, most breeders will ask puppy owners to wait a year or so before altering their puppies, to allow bones to develop more fully.

Photo of (left to right) Daisy (Pug), Ryu (Japanese Chin) and Bronco (Leonberger)
Daisy (Pug), Ryu (Japanese Chin) and Bronco (Leonberger)

I did find an article from the Saint Bernard Club of America (click here). The Saint Bernard is genetically similar to the Leonberger. This article states: Above all, no giant breed puppy should be altered before the growth plates in the bones have matured and closed, usually between 15 and 24 months of age.

This Newfoundland dog magazine (click here) states : Currently, the recommended age that a Newfoundland dog should be neutered is 18 to 24 months due to the possible health problems that can arise from altering before that age. The Newfoundland is another dog that is genetically similar to the Leonberger.

So in conclusion, even though the expert advice regarding neutering and spaying is not crystal clear and varies, doing it at six months old is too early and can harm the Leonberger’s health.

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Finally, if you would like to learn about more about my book and find out where to buy it, click here or here. You can also click the image below to buy it from Amazon.com.

This is an image of the front cover of the book "The Life and Times of Le Bronco von der Löwenhöhle". Click on the image to go to the Amazon.com location for the book.
This is the front cover of the book “The Life and Times of Le Bronco von der Löwenhöhle”. Click on the image to go to the Amazon.com location for the book.
Categories
Book Reviews

Very Helpful Guide to Leonbergers, but DO NOT Neuter or Spay a Leonberger at Six Months Doing So Will Harm The Dog

On this blog I’ve previously reviewed six good Leonberger books:

I’ve also reviewed four Leonberger books that I don’t recommend:

With this post I am adding another Leonberger book that I recommend. It is a very good guide for new Leonberger owners with one caveat. It implies that you should neuter/spay your Leonberger at six months old, which would severely harm your dog if you did. The in general recommended six months does not apply to Leonbergers. Vannessa Richie did her research except regarding this. She has written many dog books, interviewed many Leonberger breeders, and she is a skilled author. However, it is obvious that she has never owned a Leonberger. Therefore, I am giving this otherwise great book four stars instead of five.

Photo of the front cover of the book the Complete Guide To Leonbergers by Vanessa Richie. Click on the image to go to the Amazon page for the book.
Front cover of the book the Complete Guide To Leonbergers by Vanessa Richie. Click on the image to go to the Amazon page for the book.

The book is The Complete Guide to Leonbergers: Selecting, Training, Feeding, Exercising, Socializing, and Loving Your New Leonberger Puppy Paperback – May 12, 2022 by Vanessa Richie. It is 195 pages, and the current price on Amazon for the paperback is $19.95, the hardback is $26.95, and the Kindle is $9.95. ISBN-13 978-1954288485, weight ‎12.5 ounces and the dimensions ‎are 6 x 0.44 x 9 inches.

This is my review for the book

Complete and Very Helpful Guide to Leonbergers, but DON’T Neuter/Spay a Leonberger at Six Months

As the title promises this book is indeed a complete guide to Leonbergers. It is focused on training and care. First the book examines whether a Leonberger is the right dog for you as well as the history of the breed. The rest of the book includes topics on how to find and prepare your home for a Leonberger, puppy training, socialization, exercise, grooming, nutrition, health, etc. The book has a lot of detail and a lot of useful information. The author clearly did her research. She interviewed ten breeders after all.

The content of the book is almost 100% correct as far as I can tell, and the information is very useful to Leonberger owners. I question the second page of the chapter on history where she claims that Essig bred his Leonbergers from two dogs, a white and black Newfoundland and a long-haired St. Bernard. Essig claimed a third dog was also involved, a Pyrenean Mountain Wolfhound or possibly a Pyrenean Mountain Dog (Great Pyrenees). However, Essig’s claims have been disputed, and this is not important.

The book design is very professionally done with various sorts of sidebars, highlighted headers, professional looking tables, dividers, little corner boxes with graphics for “helpful tips”, “fun facts”, “historical facts”, “Health Alerts”, pros-cons sidebars with graphics, and 62 black and white Leonberger photos. The author is not only a good writer, but she also knows a thing or two about book design.

I’ve read more than a dozen Leonberger books and this is among the best Leonberger books I’ve read. I wish this book had existed when we got our Leonberger. I should say that we did not do everything right, but we got a lot right, and he lived exceptionally long for a Leonberger, 13 years. If we have had this book, maybe he would have lived even longer. I should add that we donated his DNA to Leonberger health research (upon request).

The reason I am not giving this book five stars is because of a problematic blooper in the middle of page 30. It says “….the dog is spayed or neutered once it reaches maturity (typically six months)”. Leonbergers aren’t fully matured until the age of two and should not be neutered/spayed until then. If you spay/neuter a Leonberger much earlier (six months) you will harm the dog. Yes, they are different from most dogs. I should say that we did not wait two years, it was not practical, but we waited about one and half year, which is much better than six months. If the author removes the faulty parenthesis, I will change my rating to five stars and update this paragraph and the title of the review. Assuming the book is print on demand you can update so that future prints here on Amazon will be correct.

So, in conclusion, this is a great Leonberger book with a lot of useful information, and I highly recommend it to Leonberger owners and prospective owners, but the blooper on page 30 prevents me from giving a perfect rating at the moment.

Photo of the back cover of the book the Complete Guide To Leonbergers by Vanessa Richie
Back cover of the book the Complete Guide To Leonbergers by Vanessa Richie.

For more information on neutering and spaying a Leonberger click here

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Finally, if you would like to learn about more about my book and find out where to buy it, click here or here. You can also click the image below to buy it from Amazon.com.

Image showing front cover of the book "The Life and Times of Le Bronco von der Löwenhöhle". Click on the image to go to the Amazon.com location for the book.
This is the front cover of the book “The Life and Times of Le Bronco von der Löwenhöhle”. Click on the image to go to the Chapters Indigo location for the book.