When it comes to our dogs, there's little we won't do to keep them safe, healthy and happy. We pick up their poop, bake them dog cupcakes on their birthdays and even send them to day care.
In 2020 alone, Americans spent more than $103 billion on their pets — including their dogs — and that amount is only expected to increase.
Much of that money is spent on veterinarian costs, like neutering and spaying. But pet parents who want to keep their female pups intact a bit longer are buying into something else: natural birth control, aka dog chastity belts.
It Protects Her Private Parts
Just when you think you've heard it all when it comes to dogs, there's a dog chastity belt? Now these are nothing like the iron underwear Lady Marian wore in Mel Brook's "Robin Hood: Men in Tights." These are made of breathable mesh, soft fabric straps and adjustable buckles. Still, the purpose is the same (sort of): to prevent a "whoopsie" litter of puppies and to protect female canines' long-term health.
Delay Her Spay is one company that offers dog chastity belts. "I was on a hunting trip with a friend ... and unbeknownst to us both, one of his dogs had come into heat," Dexter Blanch, creator of Delay Her Spay, says via email. "That was my eureka moment! I thought, what if there was a barrier between the female and the male that would prevent her from getting pregnant?"
Blanch says that's when he created Delay Her Spay. It allows a female dog to continue her daily activities while she is in heat.
Blanch describes it as a harness with eight buckles made of padded webbing and mesh. It looks like a thick collar at the neck, but a strap down the back leads to the unmistakable chastity belt system to wrap around the dog's haunches that cover her private puppy parts — think of it as an athletic cup for female dogs.
How does she go to the bathroom, you ask? Well, the system is designed to leave room for that. She simply poos over the top of it. And when she has to tinkle, she can go straight through the mesh. "She can even clean herself through the mesh while she is wearing it," Blanch says. "There's no mess for the pet parent to clean up. This means the dog can completely be a dog when she is wearing the harness."
Painting your dog's nails or taking them to a doggy hotel and day spa is one thing, but why are dog owners buying chastity belts? It turns out spaying a female dog isn't as straightforward as we've been told for the last few decades.
Early spaying and neutering became popular as a preventative response to the overflow of discarded dogs in kill shelters in the '70s. Sustainable population control to keep dogs out of shelters is always good. However, a study published in 2019 in the journal Animal Welfare shows that dogs that are spayed or neutered are at greater risk of obesity, which can lead to orthopedic injuries. Other studies show that early spaying and neutering is also connected to the risk of certain cancers, joint issues and bladder leakage. However, risks depend significantly on the breed, sex, household conditions, genetics and temperament of an individual dog.
Some pups experience their first heat as early as 6 months old, but most experts consider a dog's first cycle too young to get pregnant. According to the American Kennel Club, breeders prefer to wait until the dog is around 2 years old and has had her third heat. Opinions are mixed, however. Organizations like the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) still recommend spaying or neutering any pet at 2 months old or when they reach 2 pounds.
Ultimately, you are the voice for your pet and must weigh the pros and cons. Blanch agrees, and says he is by no means against spaying female dogs. "We are not against spaying and neutering when the time is right. We are against juvenile spay and neuter," he says. "We recommend consulting a veterinarian to be sure [the time is right]."