Dog Alterations


by Eric Talaska, Service Dog Trainer and Handler, – Updated June, 2020

Controversial topics carefully summarized with attention to being factual, unbiased and reasonable. The text prints on a single page.

Disclaimer: These are examples of what I would do. No medical advice intended. Consult with your veterinarian and breeder.


Spay / Neuter – Critical for all dogs except for professional, responsible breeding (registered parents with health clearances)

At 6 months If cryptorchid, excessive marking and/or humping. At 1 year if no behavior problems for development benefit.


  • Prevents overpopulation which leads to euthanization, strays, rabies, pain, suffering, starvation, etc.

  • Reduces hygienic problems.

  • Lowers testosterone for less aggression - initiating or provoking fights, less running away to find mate and less urine marking.

  • Allows for more successful earlier training due to less distractions of marking, humping, sniffing everything and other dogs, etc.

Cons – Less development if done at 6 months, but each dog is situational as mentioned above.

Micro ID implant – Critical for all dogs at least 6 weeks old and at least two pounds.

  • For loss recovery and prevention of impounding, re-homing or possibly euthanization.

  • Also always secure an external ID tag on the collar and/or harness using a strong ring, not one that bends easy.


Dew Claws Removal – Priority order: Loose rear, loose front, firm rear, firm front 3 days old or later when spay/neuter by a professional using gloves, sterilizer, autoclaved clamp-off and a silver-nitrate stick. 


  • Prevents snagging and painful injury to self and handler.

  • Fewer nails to trim and file.

Cons – Removal of firm (attached to bone) claws in some cases may reduce agility, traction, gripping, stabilization and raise arthritis risk.

Note – Keep nails short and filed for any claws not removed.


Tail Docking – For dogs that work, have a long/thick coat or long, skinny tail when 3 days old by an experienced professional using a proper band. Return to mom for a bit before removing dew claws so it can recover from insecurity.


  • Eliminates risks and possible amputation due to broken tailbones, nerve damage, bleeding, bruising, infection, cancer or frostbite which is much more painful versus a 3 day old tail dock.

  • Avoids “happy tail” that hurts self by wagging on hard or sharp objects and knocking things over.

  • Safer and better fit in crates and kennels.

  • Eliminates or reduces matting which is painful to the dog to comb out as it's not possible to untangle.

  • Better hygiene to, in some cases, avoid build up of feces or in rare cases - maggots. Less hair and grooming surface area.

  • Less area for fleas and harder for them to hide around the rear.

  • Least concern reason: More appealing and eliminates unattractive hairless / bony “rat tail” as senior.


  • A tail is one of many ways a dog communicates with other dogs and people.*


  • *Vicious dogs ignore friendly tail communication and attack anyway. Assess each situation.

  • *If docked at the 3rd or 4th vertebrae, communication can still be maintained.

  • Where docking was banned, there has been a significant increase in painful tail injuries.

  • Opposers falsely claim extreme pain, less balance, weight gain/loss, comparable to losing a leg, etc.


Ear Cropping – Optional for working dogs with long ears or breeds prone to ear infections


  • Prevents injuries than can occur in a variety of ways to include self-inflicted cuts from scratching.

  • Allows healthier air canal circulation and easier cleaning.

Cons – Requires anesthesia and weeks of recovery monitoring and wearing a bandage and/or e-collar. Painful. Risk of infection.


Puppy Teeth Pulling

  • If puppy teeth remain along incoming adult teeth after six months (higher risk with toy size dogs), have a professional pull to prevent permanent misalignment and pain and to prevent injury and phobia of an amateur attempt.

  • Prevent this from happening by offering your puppy plenty of chew toys and chew treats all the time.