from the berner-l

One reason for waiting until after the first heat cycle is if a puppy bitch has pesistant vaginitis, sticky fur at the vulva and irritation sometimes leading to repetitive needs to urinate frequently and possibly cause of frequent urinary tract infections, having a heat will often solve the problem. If spayed prior the problem can continue for a very long time if not the life of the dog. Sometimes a course of antibiotics will clear up the vaginitis but if it tends to reappear it can be caused by the shape and positioning of the vulva and letting the dog mature up in development might help as well.

Speaking as a breeder, I wait for my bitches to mature, do their pre-lim or final xrays and other clearances and if they are not for breeding they are spayed. If my pet buyers have no UTI problems with their dogs and no vaginitis then they can go ahead and spay prior to the first heat which for most of my girls doesn't happen until past one year of age. Personally I like my dogs, male and females to be finished growing before neutering but if a risk of unwanted pregnancy is an issue then get them fixed.

I've spayed all my bitch puppies before the first heat with no health or temperament issues.

Apart from those valid considerations, my personal choice is to favor the long term *comfort* of the dog. I have a 3 y.o. intact male who is obsessed with my spayed bitches, follows them around in the nose-butt train, drives them nuts because they've never put him in his place. This tells me that sex is always on his mind to some degree, even when there's no bitch in season. A couple of times a year, he "goes Elvis"...walks around with hips ready to swing into action, a glazed look in his eye, always half with you/half not... That's when I know a bitch somewhere within a 3 mile radius of our home is in heat.

This dog is a joy to live with, very mellow, no marking, no macho stuff. But it hurts me to see him SO stressed over something outside my control. If at some point I decide not to stand this dog at stud, he will be scheduled for neuter surgery as soon as the vet can fit him in.