Golden retrievers are know for their sweet and friendly disposition and aren’t usually associated with aggression or aggressive behavior in general. However sometimes they may exhibit such behavior, which may be demonstrated in many ways and forms. The dog may growl, snap at another dog or individual, and sometimes even bite, but most times, anger isn’t the emotion the dog is reacting to at all.
There are many reasons for aggressiveness in golden retrievers, for example, dogs that show aggressiveness routinely may be or have been victims of abuse, disregard, improper training or poor breeding practices, and may have been witness to such events occurring to their progenitors, which may have lead to this behavior.
Another reason for aggressiveness in golden retrievers is whenever new people are introduced or are visiting your home, since golden retrievers see their owners as part of the pack, they can simply feel threatened by an stranger being invading their space, or with the notion they will have to share their owner. Aggression can sometimes be also a natural response to fear, insecurity, pain, or illness your dog may be experiencing.
It is also possible your dog may have experienced something in his puppy hood that he was never able to deal with, and that causes an emotional response on him whenever he faces a similar situation or expects a similar situation to arise, an attack by another dog or human in his yearly years could have very well be the reason for this behavior.
Whatever the reason, golden retrievers often signal when a potential outburst is due to occur. Growling, barking, or sudden and unusual hyperactivity are the common precursors of an act of violence or another aggressive behavior. Whenever an encounter with another dog is expected, golden retrievers can perk up their ears, raise their hackles and stiffen their tails, this is their way of asserting dominance and convince the another dog back off, therefore trying to avoid physical contact.
Avoiding and Stopping Aggressiveness in Golden Retrievers
Aggressive behavior can start as young as 6 weeks, although uncommon in golden retrievers, some more dominant puppies or those who have suffered abuse or come from a more dominant bloodline, can exhibit some aggressive behavior. Six weeks of age, is when a puppy should be socialized with other dogs and people, this period last until the pup turns 14 weeks and sometimes can go further beyond that, a dog needs to have been properly socialized to avoid future aggression problems.
There are a few things to consider with puppies this young, first, don’t take a puppy away from its litter before 8 weeks, and under any circumstance use harsh discipline between 6 to 14 weeks, also make sure the dog is gently treated during this period of time. Harsh discipline, hitting and yelling at this young age can result in aggressiveness behavior over time.
Aggression it self can be triggered by any number of factors as mentioned before, but by far, the most important factor is the environment your dog was and is present in. A dog with poor living conditions, harsh owners, little or no socialization, frightened or attacked by another dog is a lot more likely to be aggressive as it grows up.
Once your dog shows sign of aggression, there are a few things you as an owner can do to stop this behavior. The first one is to determine the reason for the aggressiveness, if it’s related to pain or illness, treating it with the help of your veterinary should solve the problem.
Aggressiveness in golden retrievers can triggered by the fear of another dog, or unfamiliar situations, can most times be stopped by diverting his attention to something else, but whatever you use as incentive, do not reward him for his aggressive behavior. This means, no treats or toys to divert his attention, instead it is best to command him to sit or stay, and pretend everything is normal and that this is a normal situation. Golden retrievers are very intelligent and by pretending this is a normal situation and not giving any special attention to him, he will overtime learn from your reactions and be discouraged from pursuing this behavior. After a few events such as this you will realize that all it takes now, is stern look from you to discourage him and make him stop.
Something not often discussed and rarely kept in mind is that, not all aggression is bad. It is common for an older dog to growl at the new puppy, this is their normal way of establishing the pecking order, stopping the old dog from doing this may in fact lead to greater hostility and future disputes.
Currently there is the common idea that spaying or neutering a dog can significantly reduce and sometimes eliminate aggressive behavior all together, this is very arguable, and in fact many trainers and other experts tell us this won’t change the underlying temperament and disposition of a golden retriever or any other dog for that matter, not to mention the negative emotional effect on the dog these procedures often have. However, most of these same experts agree on this, since golden retrievers are a energetic breed, the best way to avoid and reduce the chance your golden will display aggressive behavior, is to provide them with physical activity, exercise is a good way to avoid aggression in this breed. An active and fulfilled golden retriever is happier and less likely to engage in aggressive behavior, while a bored golden may become hyperactive and expend its energy in negative ways. Fortunately, most goldens love all kinds of exercise, whether it be running, walking, playing fetch or swimming, so you won’t have any problem finding games or sports to practice with him.
The best advice about dealing with aggression in dogs is avoiding it in first place, and probably the most important way to avoid any sort aggressiveness in golden retrievers is through proper training. Obedience and other forms of training provides dogs with structure, rules and feeling of being part of something, this coupled with socialization, physical and mental stimulation, paves the way necessary to avoid most future aggression problems you may encounter, and it is also key in disciplining a dog who lacked this training on its yearly years.
The best about golden retrievers is that they are by nature: intelligent, friendly and they have a desire for human companionship and attention, and they know the best way to obtain it, is by pleasing the owner and family they’re inserted in. Sometimes, but very uncommon, aggressive behavior in golden’s can grow worse if not dealt with at the first signs of trouble, this can be done by understanding why this behavior is occurring in the first place, and then address it with training and solving any other physical or mental condition that may have been the origin for such behavior.