Male vs Female Dogs. Which Gender Makes the Friendlier Pet?

Introduction

Does your dog’s gender influence their behavior? This has long been a topic of debate and research among dog owners and experts. On one hand, there are clear biological differences between male and female dogs. Male dogs have testosterone, while female dogs undergo regular estrus cycles. On the other hand, some argue that nurture trumps nature when it comes to shaping dog behavior.

One study found that female dogs tend to show more aggressive behaviors if they are spayed. However, there is disagreement in the literature about just how much influence gender has relative to other factors like breed, training, and individual personality.

This article reviews the latest research on how male and female dogs differ in their tendencies toward aggression, trainability, energy levels, and affection. While gender can play a role, it does not override the importance of early socialization, proper training, breed traits, and each dog’s unique personality.

Background on Dog Behavior

While there are many similarities between male and female dog behaviors, research has shown some differences can occur. According to studies cited on Pedigree and the American Kennel Club, these differences likely have biological origins related to hormones, genetics, and natural sex traits.

biology influences dog behavior

Specifically, the hormones testosterone and estrogen can impact behavior in dogs as they do in other mammals. Testosterone is linked to more dominant tendencies in male dogs, while estrogen can make female dogs more docile. Additionally, male and female dogs have innate biological differences, just as men and women do, that lead to variances in temperament and personality.

So while each dog has an individual personality shaped by many factors, general trends in gendered behavior arise due to the natural traits of masculinity and femininity. However, it’s important not to overly stereotype dogs based on their biological sex. Upbringing, training, breed, and environment also substantially impact who they become.

Differences in Aggression

Research has shown that male dogs tend to be more aggressive than females. A 2018 study published in the National Library of Medicine analyzed the behavior of over 1,000 dogs and found that neutered males and females were more aggressive than intact dogs in several cases, including toward their owners. However, the study also found that intact males were more aggressive than neutered males or females in general [1].

Another study published in Nature analyzed the behavior of 20 different dog breeds and found that male dogs exhibited more aggression than females toward both other dogs and humans [2]. The increased aggression in males is likely influenced by testosterone levels.

However, levels of aggression can vary greatly between individual dogs, regardless of gender. Proper training and socialization from an early age can help mitigate aggressive tendencies.

Differences in Territoriality

Male dogs tend to mark their territory more than female dogs. Intact males in particular use urine marking to communicate information about themselves to other dogs, establish territory boundaries, and attract potential mates. According to the Oregon Humane Society, male dogs mark their territory much more frequently than females.

Marking behaviors like lifting a leg on objects serve a social purpose for male dogs, allowing them to spread their scent and signal their presence to other dogs. Even neutered males may continue marking habits. On the other hand, marking in female dogs is typically less frequent and not motivated by the same territorial instincts as male dogs, though some neutered females may mark territory. Overall, male dogs are more driven to establish and patrol a territory through urine and scent marking.

Differences in Trainability

When it comes to trainability, there are some general differences between male and female dogs. Female dogs tend to be a bit more attentive and eager to please than males. They tend to be very focused on their owners and more sensitive to corrections and rewards during training. Males can be a bit more stubborn and independent, making them slightly more difficult to train.

Females seem to have an advantage when it comes to learning obedience commands, potty training, and other basic behaviors. They tend to pick up on desired behaviors more quickly through repetition and positive reinforcement. The female dog’s strong desire to bond with her family and please her owner gives her an edge in training. This is likely due to genetic factors as females needed to work closely with their puppies.

Of course, individual personality plays a big role as well. While females on average are a bit easier to train, there are many obedient, highly trainable male dogs. Upbringing, socialization, breed tendencies, and training methods are also major factors influencing a dog’s trainability. So while females may have a slight edge, smart training that utilizes positive reinforcement, patience, and consistency can produce good results with dogs of both genders.

Differences in Energy Level

When it comes to energy levels, male dogs often have higher energy and activity levels compared to females https://fotp.com/learn/dog-lifestyle/male-dog-or-female-dog–which-one-is-right-for-you. Male dogs tend to be more energetic, boisterous and require more physical and mental stimulation. They are often slower to mature and can remain in the playful, puppy-like stage for longer than females.

The higher energy levels of male dogs mean they generally require more exercise and playtime. Long walks, running, playing fetch and access to a yard or open space are important for keeping male dogs engaged and well-behaved. Without sufficient outlets for their energy, male dogs are more prone to developing problem behaviors like destructiveness, hyperactivity and excessive barking.

In contrast, female dogs tend to be calmer and more independent. They are often content with moderate exercise and play. Females also mature faster, meaning their energy levels can taper off sooner than males once they are adults. For many owners, the slightly lower energy levels of females can make them easier to manage and fit into family life.

However, there is significant variation between individual dogs. While gender trends exist, some males have lower energy, while some females are exceptionally energetic. Much depends on the breed, individual personality, training, and the home environment.

Differences in Sociability

Research suggests that female dogs tend to be more sociable and people-oriented than males. According to one study published in Frontiers in Psychology, female dogs showed more social looking behavior towards their owners and strangers compared to male dogs (Scandurra et al., 2018). Female dogs were also more sensitive to people’s tone of voice and more eager to establish eye contact.

females may be more sociable

Another study found that female dogs were more likely to solicit petting from strangers than males. The researchers theorized that this could be due to females being more sensitive to psychological rewards like social contact and affection (Pedigree, 2022). Overall, female dogs appear more motivated by social bonding and connection.

However, individual differences also play a large role. While female dogs may be somewhat more sociable on average, some male dogs can be very friendly and affectionate as well. Proper socialization, training, genetics, and early life experiences shape each dog’s unique personality.

Neutering Effects

Neutering has significant effects on the behavior of both male and female dogs. According to research, neutered dogs of both genders are less aggressive and less likely to roam compared to intact dogs (Fattah, 2020; Veterinary Practice, 2021; PetMD, 2023).

neutering impacts behavior

One study found that neutering causes differences in trainability between male and female dogs. Neutered female dogs were more trainable than intact females, while neutered males were slightly less trainable than intact males. This indicates that gonadectomy may have adverse effects on training in male dogs (Fattah, 2020).

Overall, neutering reduces undesirable behaviors such as aggression, roaming, and marking in both genders. However, neutering seems to have slightly different effects in male versus female dogs when it comes to trainability. More research is still needed to fully understand the nuanced behavioral impacts of neutering on each gender.

Individual Variation

While there are some general trends in behavior between male and female dogs, it’s important to note that behavior ultimately depends on the individual personality of each dog as well. Every dog has a unique combination of personality traits that shape their behavior. This includes how friendly and sociable a dog is.

focus on individual personality

According to research, factors like breed, age, and social environment all influence the development of a dog’s personality. For example, a 2020 study published in Animals found that breed significantly predicted dog personality dimensions like trainability, aggression, and energy level. However, considerable variation was found within breeds as well.1

While male and female dogs may show some general trends as groups, it’s important not to stereotype an individual dog’s behavior based on gender alone. Getting to know each dog’s unique personality and responding appropriately is key to building a strong human-animal bond.

Conclusion

Both male and female dogs are capable of being very friendly, loving companions. However, according to some research, male dogs tend to be more affectionate, easier to train, and more focused on bonding with their human families. It’s believed that females can be more aloof, independent, and territorial due to maternal instincts. However, there is significant individual variation between dogs in friendliness that is based more on breed temperament and early socialization than gender alone. With proper training and care, dogs of both sexes can become extremely friendly, obedient, and loving pets.

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