Location: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, United States

Author of the book "Therapy Dogs: Training Your Dog to Reach Others," 2nd edition published by Dogwise Publishing. Canine Behavior Series at

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Male vs. Female Dogs as SoulMates

Answering a question someone asked online today, I got to discuss an interesting subject I thought would be good to post here:

Males are likely to enjoy exploring. I have found my male therapy dogs love to go through the nursing home or other facility and see who or what will be around the next corner. Male dogs, if neutered, can be good, flashy performers for dog sports as well as work such as assisting a disabled person. Male dogs seem to have a special sense of loyalty, and that may be a little enhanced when the owner is female.

Female dogs are the mommies and nurses. You might find this dog, with just the right early experiences, taking a motherly attitude toward small animals and children. The female is more likely to lick your ear because it's a bit sore--the male may be licking it because it's tasty! Female dogs tend to be somewhat more obedient. If a female dog is shy, she may be especially nervous in unfamiliar settings, because she's not quite as interested in exploring as a male dog is.

I like both sexes for my personal dogs. I have for quite a few years had two females--which is the toughest same-sex balancing act for keeping the peace--and one male. I feel that the females do not really "oppress" one another in choosing which is the top girl, but they also don't resolve it once and for all as well as the males seem to. That's my intuition as the reason girl-dog fights sometimes go to the death, and seem to never really be solvable. If you can keep them in balance, it can work. I've had two duos that did great, but the one I have now is more difficult. It works because one is mentally weak and the other is mentally very sound, and they both know it. So the weak one reluctantly lets the sound one prevail, and the sound one is, thank God, strong enough (younger and about 10 pounds heavier and about 3 inches taller) to make it stick.

I keep only one male at a time, because I feel that he helps to keep the girls in balance. He is like the final, top authority in the dog pack of three. They both respect him, and in fact, they both seem to find him very attractive and to want his attention.

When two males are kept together, they seem to have a tendency--in SOME breeds, but NOT in all breeds--for the males to decide who is top and who is bottom dog. They seem to pick a more stable pack order. The bad thing about that is what it can do to their temperaments. The top male can be too full of himself and potentially even have his attitude toward humans become slightly more dangerous. The bottom male can be forced to such submission that his life is somewhat oppressive and he is not capable of the accomplishments in life that he would have been able to rise to without that pack relationship forcing him down.

So, I don't want to keep two males together myself. I like the boy feeling like he is very special and has two girl dogs--or one girl dog--to make goo-goo eyes at him and get behind him when he "protects" her at the fence outside, and generally to let him have a healthy ego. I don't think it hurts a female dog mentally to be slightly subordinate to one other female dog, and that male in the pack is the REAL boss, so both girls seem to stay pretty mentally balanced. I think that, as with humans, males and females have different needs for their egos. We women have a stronger sense of who we are, perhaps? And males need a little more validation of that from what they are able to accomplish in the world they inhabit?

I'm going somewhat on intuition here, but I think it can be helpful to you in deciding what you want to do about the sex of your dog. The more interested you are in dog training and the more likely you are during the life of this dog to have another dog in your home, the more difference the sex of the dog could potentially make. But as I said, I prefer owning both sexes myself. I have had wonderful workers and lovies of both sexies!