Are Golden Retrievers Protective?

by Matt Bostic

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A woman stroking a golden retriever in woodlands in winter.

Golden retrievers are easily one of the cutest, most photogenic dogs on the planet. They have a reputation for being playful and dumb-but-lovable. Which made me ask the question: are golden retrievers protective? I live alone, and the idea of having a fuzzy buddy who is protective makes me feel so much safer. So, I did a lot of research to make sure a golden retriever could be a good dog for both safety and fun.

Yes, golden retrievers are protective, especially if they bond with you. Goldens are one of the most loyal dog breeds and are eager to please their humans. Combine that with a loud bark, high prey drive, large size, fast speed and unmatched intelligence, they can be great protectors.

Of course, that’s not all there is to the golden retriever. There are other protective qualities to know about before getting your retriever buddy.

Loyalty Of Golden Retrievers

There is nothing quite like the feeling of a dog’s unconditional love. While there is some discussion on whether or not golden retrievers truly smile, it fills my heart with joy to see their happy faces staring back at me. Loyalty between you and your golden is built over time. Long walks, snuggles, belly rubs and good ol’ fashion play time are all ways to develop a loving and trusting relationship.

However, loyalty is actually woven into a retriever’s DNA. It dates back to the 19th century in the Socttish Highlands. At the time, goldens were primarily bred to be hunting dogs. Their humans would shoot birds, and the goldens would retrieve the birds and bring them back to the hunters. In order to do this and not simply run off with the prey, the dogs had to be extremely loyal.

They wanted to please their humans more than they wanted to eat. A relationship of trust was built between the dogs and humans, and it created the loyal breed we know today. A golden retriever who is loyal to you will want you to be safe. They are willing to put your needs before their own. And they’ve been doing this for centuries.

The association they have with retrieving animals in exchange for love, attention and treats also increased their prey drive over time.

Prey Drive

Typically, golden retrievers are not aggressive. Like most dogs, they tend to be hostile if they’ve endured abuse, had poor training or lacked socialization. If you’re a loving and nurturing owner, you should have no worries about your pup showing aggression toward you. However, at the end of the day, retrievers are dogs. A golden with a high prey drive will jump into action if they see another critter coming your way.

The difference between aggression and a prey drive boils down to the dog’s motivation. Aggression stems from fear, which makes the dog want to retreat. On the other hand, a prey drive is an expression of excitement, making the dog want to dive toward their target.

Simply put, a prey drive refers to how excited a dog is to hunt and catch another animal. As their name suggests, golden retrievers are a dog breed who really wants to please their own by “retrieving” objects. Namely, other animals.

At first, I was really only thinking I needed protection from other humans. But knowing my golden would be uniquely apt to protect me from animals was an exciting plus. Not only would they defend you from mice or rats, but they would instinctively protect you from more dangerous animals, such as snakes.

In fact, a golden retriever actually protected his owner from a rattlesnake in Arizona a few years ago. The injured pup made a full recovery, and continued to live his best, tail-wagging life.

Loud Bark

While researching, I was surprised to find out that a golden retriever holds the title for “loudest bark” in the Guinness Book of World Records. You can find more information on the loudest barker on the Guinness World Records website.

When someone looks at a retriever, they might not feel intimidated. But once they hear that bark, they will quickly realize not to mess with your golden. Their bark is known to be deep and even quite scary. Although friendly, these dogs typically weigh up to 75 pounds, putting them on the larger side of dogs, which makes their lungs big enough to produce those insanely loud barks.

Are Golden Retrievers Protective?

Even if people don’t see the dog, the bark may just be enough. Say someone is breaking into your house. If they hear a loud bark they will be intimidated. This is where the retriever’s friendliness may even come in handy. While your golden retriever may think he’s welcoming a guest, he really could be scaring away intruders or alerting you to danger. Though this instance of protection isn’t overly intentional on the part of the retriever, it certainly does the trick.

Fast Speed

Given their size, it’s not surprising that golden retrievers are very fast. Their long legs help them take massive strides, and they’re able to reach you from across a park in no time. More than that, retrievers are very high-energy. If you ask any owner of a golden retriever and they’ll tell you those fuzzy buddies sure to like to play. Recently, a man I met at a park looked at me with exhausted eyes and said ‘This is our third walk today,” and although the owner was wiped out, his golden retriever’s tail kept wagging. Combine their larger size with their high-energy, and you have a dog that can rush to you and your kids very quickly

Intelligence

Although they are viewed as a little goofy, golden retrievers are very smart. They are ranked the fourth smartest dog breed in the world. In fact, they have the same level of intelligence as a two and a half year old and can learn over 165 words. Granted, you wouldn’t want a human toddler as your protector.

But in terms of a dog, this means they are capable of all kinds of complex tasks. This is why many golden retrievers make great service dogs, always ready to protect their human from medical emergencies.

It also means the golden retriever will be very aware when something isn’t quite right. They’re very attuned to their human’s emotions, and are ready to intervene when they notice you’re scared and upset.

The Reason They May Not Be Overly Protective

It’s important to note some reasons your golden retriever may not be protective. The biggest one is that they are very friendly. Goldens are very approachable, and are known for being buddies with everyone they meet–even strangers. Dangerous people may be more willing to approach you because they don’t see a golden as a threat.

However, if you are really in danger, a golden will become the protector you need. That unexpected change in temperament may throw a dangerous person off their game.

Can You Train a Golden to be Protective?

Trainability is another mark of a golden retriever’s intelligence. They are very trainable, and capable of learning many commands. However, as I mentioned before, a golden who is mistreated can absolutely become aggressive. If you want to make your retriever more protective, consulting a trainer or behavioral specialist is always a good idea.

So are golden retrievers protective? Ultimately, golden retrievers can be protective dogs. Especially if you bond with them, listen to their bark, and nurture their intelligence. Some of their desire to protect comes from their strong prey drive. Their size and speed also provide a lot of protection, especially with the help of a qualified trainer.

There are even ways to train your golden to make him more protective. Ultimately, a golden will protect you if needed, but they will always be the goofy, loving dog breed we all know and adore.

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