Are Golden Retrievers Aggressive?

by Matt Bostic

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Are Golden Retrievers Aggressive?

Golden Retrievers are a popular breed as both family pets and working dogs. They known for their good-natured temperaments, but I wondered if they can be aggressive. So, handy-dandy Google and I did some research to find out. This article sums up the findings.

 Are Golden Retrievers Aggressive?

So, are golden retrievers aggressive? Yes, they can be aggressive but usually as a result of poor training, socialization, or breeding. A history of abuse is also a common reason. Most notable signs of aggression are a stiff posture, growling or snapping, and bared teeth.

As a breed, golden retrievers are friendly, loving, and incredibly smart. If one is aggressive—and this goes for dogs in general— it is commonly because of inadequate training or wrongful treatment. Factors of aggression are the same in humans. People who are habitually mistreated tend to be more hostile beings. Those who have grown up or are used to one type of environment experience anxiety or stress when in new ones.

We have many outlets for our aggressions, though. We can talk, or express our fears, pains, and stressors in artistic and other creative ways. Or we can be passive and hide our aggressions (which is not healthy).

Animals can’t repress their aggressions. They have a very limited number of ways to relate their emotions and what might be bothering them in the moment. And it is our duty, as their owners, to protect our pets from the causes of them.

Reasons for a golden retriever’s aggressive behaviors can be:

  • Improper breeding. A well-adjusted dog starts with its breeding. Most temperamental issues are due to a lack of socialization and training, which are lessons that must be taught early on. Good breeders will begin to instill proper socialization with the puppies’ mother and siblings from birth, as well as with other humans. Amateur or careless breeders may not do this. Bad breeders may also intentionally breed dogs that naturally present aggressive tendencies (this may stem from a possible mental illness). This increases the likelihood of hostile characteristics in later generations.
  • Inadequate socialization and training by the dog owner is the most common attribute to a dog’s aggressive behaviors. It is the owner’s obligation to teach the golden retriever acceptable conduct with other animals and people. Issues of biting and barking need to be handled as soon as possible.
  • Situational stressorslike physical pain, overstimulation, and anxiety. Dogs can’t verbalize what’s bothering or scaring them, so their offensive and defensive reactions are presented through aggression. It is up to the owner to determine the what’s causing the golden retriever’s behaviors and respond appropriately.
  •  Territorial instincts over their food, owner(s), family members, puppies, etc. Dogs of all breeds can show this type of aggression. If they feel their resources or pack members are in danger, whether it is from another animal or person, they will feel the need to protect them.

    In the case of offspring, new mothers will become protective of their litter and show aggression to anyone, even their owner.

    As pack animals, dogs view their family in a hierarchy. Sometimes they show aggression toward family members they view as lower-ranking to protect whom they view as higher-ranking.
  • Abusive methods of training are another top factor of aggressive behavior in golden retrievers. If aggression is the only form of affection the dog is associated with, then that is how they will handle new environments and situations

 Do Golden Retrievers Bite?

Yes, because biting is their best form of defense. A more important question may be why do golden retrievers bite? Telltale signs of aggression in your golden retriever are barking, biting, and growling. However, these are also signs of play. To know whether your golden retriever is apprehensive or not, look for these other cues in their body language:

  • Tense body in a crouched, pounce-like posture
  •  Bared teeth
  • Ears flat back against their head
  • Aggressive biting or snapping
  • Tail sticking straight up or (if they’re scared or anxious) tucked under their butt.

 If your golden retriever is doing any of these things, assess their environment to figure out what’s triggering them and remedy the situation. Being aware of these stressors is paramount.

Dogs all have different personalities, too. Remember that and pay attention to what is an unacceptable behavior and what is just the dog’s preference. For example, a golden retriever can be socialized well but may be apprehensive around dogs its size or larger. They may gravitate socially to smaller dogs and play gently and happily with them. Be cognizant of personality traits such as these.

Your golden retriever might also sense something in another being. Perhaps they are intuiting an aggression in an animal or person that they dislike.

If aggressive, are golden retrievers dangerous or a lost cause?  

Since golden retrievers are big dogs, issues of aggression can lead to dangerous situations and have serious repercussions if left to fester. But that does not necessarily mean are golden retrievers dangerous. The dog is in just as much danger as any other being in the predicament.

Nor are they a lost cause. Proper and consistent training is the best solution to dealing with any aggression in your dog. Whether your golden retriever is a puppy or full-grown, you can sort out unacceptable behaviors immediately with good training habits. Ignoring the traits, or inconsistently training them will not resolve the problems but exacerbate them.

There are countless articles and online tutorials that can help you to train your dog out of their bad habits. Through proper training and socialization, a dog will learn acceptable behaviors and to understand different environments and situations. They will learn how to interact appropriately with other dogs and humans which lessens offensive and defensive reactions in strange environments. If you feel that you need professional assistance, an obedience school can help you not only to train your golden retriever but help you to assess their stressors and either avoid or handle them.

As a dog owner, I learned a simple thing to do when my dog is stressed is to stay calm. Getting flustered will only do more harm. As their owner, it is your responsibility to comfort and protect them in stressful environments. So, stay calm, be alert of the possible triggers for your dog’s aggression if it is situational, and it proves to be a learned behavior, train it out of them.

Do golden retrievers make good guard dogs?  

As mentioned before, this breed is known for their trainability. They have become very popular as working dogs, from emotional support and service dogs to search and rescue team members. While they have a naturally amiable disposition, they can be trained to be guard dogs. They are large and strong animals, and their bark is loud; they can be formidable.

If you are a new owner of a golden retriever, or are looking to buy or adopt one, rest assured that this is an excellent breed. They are an amazing addition to families with children of all ages and other pets. They are loyal, loving, and playful. The pros definitely outweigh any cons, and the behavioral issues discussed in this article are not particular to the breed. All dog owners should be caring and consistent in the upbringing of their dogs.

The key takeaways I’d like you to leave with are to be patient and consistent with your golden retriever, understand that they are beings with emotions just like humans; they have fears, anxieties, and idiosyncrasies that their owners should respect. They will make mistakes, and it is up to you, the dog parent to teach them right from wrong in a loving, caring manner.

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