As the saying goes: “Men are from Mars, women are from Venus”, but can the same be said for dogs?

If you’re thinking of getting a dog, should gender differences influence your choice? To put pooches in perspective, let’s take a look at the traditional dog-gone stereotypes in a search of the truth.

Gender Stereotypes

Traditionally, male dogs are thought of as being more bossy, more determined to get their own way, potentially more aggressive and territorial, and more prone to wander. Whilst female dogs are thought of as being loving, gentler, and easier to train. Another other cited factor is that male dogs are larger than females…How much does this all matter?

#1: Size

Some people place importance on female dogs not being as large as male dogs. But I find it hard to imagine the difference in size between a boy dog or girl dog of the same breed, is make or break when it comes to whether keeping a dog is practical or not.

Let’s look at the extreme ends of the spectrum.

  • The mighty Great Dane stands approximately three-quarters of a meter (75cm) high to the shoulder. A ‘short’ female may duck under this by a few cms (71cm), where the breed standard  a ‘tall’ male measure up to 86cm to the shoulder.  
  • The purse-sized Chihuahua stands a-quarter-of-a-meter tall (25cm), which a short female at 15cm and a tall male at 28 cm.

To my mind, a greater cut off point occurs between dogs that can be easier picked up and carried and those that can’t. For example, if a small dog (for the sake of argument, let’s say under 10kg) can be carried if they tire on a long walk. However, go over 10kg and this can become impractical or impossible. In other words, breed and waistline are more significant than gender when it comes to practicalities.

#2: Temperament

Rightly or wrongly, male dogs are said to be more aggressive and likely to roam than females.  However, nothing is ever that straightforward. Indeed, aggression is a complex topic with so many triggers involved such as whether the dog is anxious, fearful, or feels threatened, and whether the dog is neutered or entire.

Yes, entire male dogs have higher levels of testosterone. This bolsters their confidence and can make them high on ‘brave pills’, but this isn’t always the case. A huge part of the male dog’s character is shaped by the temperament of their mother and their experiences in early life. There are lots of amazingly gentle and reliable male dogs, whilst there are also heaps of snappy, intolerant female dogs. Much of this is down to nature vs nurture.

Indeed, some rescues won’t home a female dog into a household that already contains another female dog. In short, females can be quite spiteful and hurtful to each other, more so than male on male behavior…so nothing is every 100% cut and dried.

OK, so what about:

  • Humping: Again, not a done deal that females don’t hump. This behavior can be hormonally driven (entire male dogs) but can also be due to excitement, play, or trying to exert control (all dogs!). So getting a female to avoid humping behavior may disappoint!
  • Roaming: There you have me. Entire male dogs are more likely to roam, especially if they scent a female in heat. But entire females may also try to escape (when in heat) and some dogs are just born with wanderlust.

#3: Obedience

Rumor has it that female dogs are easier to train than males. Perhaps this is has arisen thinking about females being more compliant and less easily distracted. However, there is no hard evidence for this bias.

Indeed, from personal experience when potty training, it can be hard to tell when a girl puppy is simply sitting down rather than squatting to urinate. This lead to several misplaced “No!” shouts, when my girl pup wasn’t toileting but just wanting to rest her rear end.

#4: Health

Female dogs do suffer from different gender-related health issues to male dogs. For example an entire female dog may suffer from pyometra (infected womb), birthing difficulties, and mammary cancer. Whereas an entire male is more likely to suffer from testicular tumors or prostate cancer.

So how much is gender an influence on lifespan? This is quite complicated, as outlined in #5

#5: Lifespan

There are actually four doggy genders (See: LINK),

  • Male entire
  • Male neutered
  • Female entire
  • Female neutered

And the winner for the longest lived is…drum roll…female neuter.

The Difference Between Male Dogs and Female?

In short, whilst there are some subtle differences between boy and girl dogs, these factors are often over ridden by

  • The dog’s breed
  • Socialization in early life
  • Ongoing obedience training
  • Providing plenty of exercise
  • Giving mental stimulation

Even the most mild- mannered of female dogs will develop problems behaviors if she wasn’t properly socialized as a pup, didn’t receive any obedience training, and then left alone all day with nothing to entertain her.

Alternatively, even breeds which (rightly or wrongly) have a bad reputation, can be perfect poppets when treated with respect, have positive early-life experiences, and have a responsible owner who takes time to work with their dog and provides plenty of exercise.

Boy dog or girl? Only you can decide, but how your raise that dog is what matters most.