I once had two puppies from the same litter… a boy and a girl. I’ll refer to them as Fido and Fifi. They had such stereotypical male and female personalities. Fido was rough, daring… He was always the one in-charge, first to try new things, first to get in trouble. He would dig a hole in the yard, while Fifi would quietly watch in admiration. Fido was more athletic. Fifi preferred more gentle activity. Fido was first to try the “run through the house and leap on the bed” trick, while the more delicate Fifi, attempting to follow her brother, failed miserably and crashed into the bedframe. Fido loved romping through mud and would think nothing of going outside to potty in the rain, whereas Fifi avoided anything wet or dirty and would shake her little paw in disgust if she accidentally stepped into something. When it was raining, Fifi wouldn’t even step off the porch. Fido was also very protective of his smaller sister. It was adorable.
I can’t help but wonder if there really is a difference between the personality and behavior of male and female dogs. Is the female really more “girly-like”? Does the male dog have more gender specific male qualities? Is one more intelligent than the other? Is one easier to train than the other? Does breed make a difference?
Have you ever seen a “Dainty” Rottweiler?
The fact that a female dog is generally smaller in many breeds does tend to make you think she is more “lady-like” than a male dog. An article by “Daily Dog Discoveries” states that in certain dog breeds, the physical differences between male and female are more noticeable, so much so, that female dogs are described as more “feminine”. They use the example of the large, muscular male Rottweiler, with female “rotties” being several inches shorter in breed standard. Also, the German Shepherd male has a more “blocker” head, while the female shepherd is smaller, with more delicately refined features. They list 10 dog breeds that have significant sexual “dimorphism” (defined as differences in appearance between male and female).
When researching the differences between male and female dogs, one detail that seems to be prominent throughout is that the females tend to be more prone to mood swings. It is said that females can be sweet and cuddly when they’re happy, but a bit grumpy if something is not quite to their liking. Forgive me, but tell me that’s not a stereotypical female trait! Another “truism” is that male dogs are more assertive and tend to perform better in many types of competition. Doesn’t that sound distinctively masculine? One thing that isn’t clear though, is if they’re speaking of neutered or intact males. I would think that being intact would cause a male dog to be more gung-ho or competitive. I mean, he has the benefit of testosterone surging through him, right? Just a thought.
It is also widely stated by those who study canine behavior that females are more affectionate, however, many of us who would disagree with that. All my life I have heard that males are more affectionate and was actually very surprised to see the number of “experts” who thought otherwise. Holiday Barn Resort Manager, Glenda, has bred and raised many male and female dogs. She agrees with me that the male is a sweeter, more loving pet. She told me years ago that “The female will love you, but the male dog is in-love with you.” She finds that her male dogs are much more devoted, are hesitant to leave her side, and perhaps a bit more in-need of attention. Her female dogs are never far from sight, but a little more independent.
The Battle of the Sexes
Pet MD states that there is no study to prove that a dog will behave a certain way because it is male or female, however, provides some general facts about each sex. The article explains that females reach maturity faster than a male which could give it an advantage when it comes to training. Not that the female is more intelligent overall, though. Then it goes on to say an unneutered male dog can be more dominant and high spirited, but doesn’t really say anything about the neutered male. It does affirm, however, that male dogs are more independent than female dogs so it is important to start obedience training as soon as possible.
If you look online, it’s interesting to see that many Dog Trainers start by saying, “The female dog is easier to train, BUT…” And then they go on to contradict themselves by giving many examples that prove just the opposite. Some say that the female dog and the neutered male are easier to train than the unneutered male. Holiday Barn Pet Resorts Professional Dog Trainer, Jeff Postle, says, “In my experience, there is a profound difference in training male and female dogs. Also, I have seen a distinct difference in neutered versus in-tact males, and even spayed versus in-tact females. Males tend to be less compliant, less pliable, and more willing to push back on things they don’t want to do. Whereas a female is typically much more compliant and willing to please. A neutered male is most likely to be more compliant than an in-tact male. Dominant dogs, genetically speaking, will still be dominant after alteration… just ‘knocked down’ a notch. Basically, the same thing goes for females and alteration.”
No Gender Specifics
Jeff continues, “I strongly believe that in generalizing breeds and sex, it is never concrete. There are always many exceptions to the norms, however, I do believe there are most certainly some prevailing differences.” Nearly all trainers are quick to add that neither gender is more intelligent. Overall, they agree that it’s best to consider the personality and background of the individual dog.
Maybe we “invent” the differences we see in our pet’s gender because of our unconscious expectations and conventional mind-sets. For instance, we put the shiny, jeweled collar on our female puppy and the camo collar on our male. We buy our female dog the fluffy pink bed, and our male the traditional blue Orvis bed. We play tug-of-war with our male dog, and cuddle more with our female. Jeff touches on a similar concept, “We always have to consider genetics versus environment. We can play a major role in our dog’s general behaviors and movements based on how we control their environments. Environment plays such a huge role in almost ALL dog studies.”