Are Golden Retrievers Aggressive?

Getting a dog can be a very exciting time. When planning to welcome a loyal, canine companion into your home, finding the perfect match for you, your family, and your lifestyle, should be an enjoyable process. 

However, there is a range of things to consider before beginning your search. One of the most important factors to consider is the breed of the dog. There is an incredible number of breeds, each with its own unique characteristics and temperaments. 

Whilst on your search, it is likely that you have considered getting a Golden Retriever. With their luscious golden fur, friendly faces, and their reputation for having a calm, patient temperament, golden retrievers have managed to win a place in the heart of most dog lovers. 

Although, if you’re particularly concerned about aggressive behaviors in dogs, you are probably looking for some more clarification on whether golden retrievers can display such behaviors. At the end of the day, word-of-mouth isn’t concrete proof. The last thing you want is to welcome a pet into your family, to find that their temperament isn’t compatible with your lifestyle. 

We are here to help you make sure that you welcome the perfect dog into your home, and give you the confidence in ensuring that you are capable of looking after your new pet. Check out our information on golden retrievers below, to make your decision as stress-free and informed as possible. 

Golden Retrievers aggression compared to other breeds

Golden Retrievers are medium to large dogs, which were originally bred as gun dogs. This means that it was their job to retrieve shot animals, such as birds. Nowadays, in addition to being adorable pets, golden retrievers are also a popular breed of working dogs.

Specifically, they are a popular breed for disability assistance and search and rescue assistance. One reason for their popularity in working roles is their very trainable nature and gentle temperament.

In fact, golden retrievers have been shown to be one of the breeds of dogs with the least aggressive traits. In a 2008 study, researchers compared the temperament of Golden Retrievers to breeds that are considered to be aggressive. The dogs were all put through obedience tests, and their behavior was observed in dog-dog and dog-human contact.

The study concluded that 98% of the Golden Retrievers tested showed absolutely no sign of aggression. This result implies that Golden Retrievers are very unlikely to have an aggressive nature, especially if they are well-trained, well-socialized dogs.

However, it is important to understand that, their generally calm temperament doesn’t mean that all Golden Retrievers will not perform aggressive behavior. Rather than being a completely aggression-free breed, they are simply less likely to have an aggressive temperament than other dog breeds.

Therefore, if you are planning to get a Golden Retriever, it’s necessary to still remain vigilant for signs of aggression, as they are animals, and as such, will always present some level of risk.

Can Golden Retrievers be aggressive?

By now, it’s probably clear that, generally, Golden Retrievers are one of the least aggressive breeds of dog. However, like any animal, there is the possibility that they can become aggressive.

In fact, as a consequence of their large size, and their physical and emotional needs, it’s important to understand that there is always a possibility of a Golden Retriever becoming aggressive. Below, we’ll look at some of the signs and causes of aggression in Golden Retrievers.

Puppy behavior and aggression are different

Before trying to diagnose a Golden Retriever as aggressive, it’s important to distinguish between puppy behavior and aggression. Golden Retriever puppies are very playful animals. Their play may consist of behaviors such as, but not limited to, chasing, biting, barking, jumping up, and growling. 

However, this behavior is completely normal for a puppy, and very distinct from aggression. Golden Retriever puppies are very enthusiastic dogs. They require a lot of mental and physical stimulation, and simply enjoy finding their voices, meeting new people, and exploring their environment. 

In fact, rambunctious puppy behavior is actually useful when training Golden Retrievers to be non-aggressive. Behaviors such as these give the owner an opportunity to teach the dog what behaviors are acceptable, and what behavior is unacceptable. As such, make sure that you don’t jump to conclusions about your Golden Retrievers’ temperament, as puppies are supposed to engage in some of these behaviors! 

If you’re hoping to become a first-time dog owner and want to learn more about puppy behavior, take a look at the book Decoding Your Dog: Explaining Common Dog Behaviors and How to Prevent or Change Unwanted Ones. Though it has a scientific basis, this book is particularly easy to read and will educate you on what your dog’s behaviors mean.

What does aggression in Golden Retrievers look like?

Now we’ve distinguished between puppy behavior and aggression, it’s time to really get into how you recognize aggression in Golden Retrievers. Below, we’ve listed the most common ways a golden retriever will portray aggression.

  • Barking
  • Growling
  • Showing teeth
  • Biting
  • Wide eyes
  • Freezing up

The causes of aggression in Golden Retrievers

Now you can identify aggressive behaviors, it’s important to understand why a dog displays these behaviors. Aggression in dogs is complicated. There is a vast array of different causes and manifestations of aggression in dogs. To understand this process more thoroughly, read this list of circumstances that may induce aggressive behavior in a golden retriever.

Improper training

Golden retrievers can be rambunctious puppies. For instance, they might bark or growl at other dogs or people. To curb this behavior, proper training is necessary. However, if this training isn’t done properly, aggressive behavior can be made worse.

For instance, if an owner attempts to distract aggressive puppies by offering treats or rewards, rather than deal with the situation properly, the puppy may be likely to act aggressively again.

Improper socialization

Socialization is one of the most important things to consider when getting a dog. Though not discussed as frequently as behavior training, proper socialization is an absolute necessity and must be done quickly after you bring your dog home.

The term ‘socialization’ refers to the process by which a puppy learns how to behave and communicate effectively within a group. It also exposes them to all of the different sounds, sights, smells, people, and animals they’ll experience whilst outdoors.

If this process isn’t done properly, the golden retriever will likely become nervous in new situations. Though this nervousness doesn’t equate to aggression, in some cases, dogs may respond aggressively to things that scare them.

Neglect

Though the term neglect sounds severe, it doesn’t necessarily require a dog to be in a dire state. Neglect can come in many forms, including not giving a dog the required emotional attention.

As previously discussed, golden retrievers are lovable creatures. Though, they can be demanding. They require mental and physical stimulation, and if this is lacking, they might develop aggressive behavior.

If you give enough attention to your golden retriever, they should remain happy and confident. However, if you don’t, it’s possible that they begin to rely on aggressive behaviors to compensate for a lack of confidence.

If you already have or are planning to, bring children into your home, it is necessary to make sure that you can still provide your dog with enough love and attention. If they feel neglected due to another person, they may begin to display aggressive behavior.

New experiences

New experiences can be frightening for a puppy, and so they might be met with aggression. Golden retrievers can be territorial and do enjoy their own space. Therefore, if they meet a group of new dogs at once, a golden retriever may respond aggressively. In the same way, a golden retriever can become territorial when meeting a new human who has invaded their space.

Similarly, domination aggression can be induced by new experiences. When a dog is confronted with other animals or humans, they might try to show their dominance. This display of dominance can become aggressive if not dealt with quickly. Dominance aggression is rare in Golden Retrievers but does take hold of some.

Sense of danger

Golden retrievers may respond with aggression when they feel a sense of danger. This could happen when they perceive another dog, or human, as a threat. For instance, if they have previously been attacked by a dog or abused by a human, they may develop aggressive behaviors as a protective mechanism.

In addition to self-protective aggression, golden retrievers are also particularly protective of their owners. For instance, if you are walking with your dog at night time, it might be quite common for your dog to respond aggressively by barking or growling at a figure in the distance. However, through proper exposure to these instances, your dog should learn how to respond appropriately in these situations.

Illness

Irregular aggressive behavior might be a sign of illness in your dog. Aggression in this sense is a way for your dog to protect themselves. Therefore, if you notice a change in behavior, it is a good idea to get your dog checked out by the vet.

This is more common in older dogs. Pain and discomfort in more senior dogs are less visible, so aggression often seems to come from nowhere. However, this aggression is likely a sign of a painful health condition that needs addressing.

Although, a more serious problem is when aggression manifests due to a mental disorder. If you notice that your dog is aggressive for no reason, taking them to the vet is vital.

Learned aggression

If your golden retriever has spent long periods of time around an aggressive parent, it is likely that they will also convey aggression. For instance, if a dog acts aggressively for any reason, particularly when in fear, the dogs around the aggressive dog will learn to also respond aggressively to fearful situations.

Though, learned aggression doesn’t always involve another dog. For instance, consider the situation where a dog feels threatened by a mailman. The dog may instinctively lunge or bark at the mailman in the hope that he will give the dog space. If this method proves effective, the dog will continue to perform these behaviors.

Poor breeding practices

Finally, there are unfortunately many people who are breeding dogs irresponsibly. If a dog is locked up for too long, for example, they will likely have developed some aggressive behaviors.

Similarly, some breeders have been known to breed dogs that have a disposition for aggression. This can be done intentionally or unintentionally. When this happens, it is likely that some of the dogs within the subsequent litter will also have a genetic disposition for aggression.

How to prevent aggression in Golden Retrievers

Now that we’ve covered the many factors in the process of aggression development in golden retrievers, we can explore ways to dissolve such aggression.

Training and socialization

As you’ve probably gathered, training and socialization are integral to prevent aggression in golden retrievers. Proper training and socialization are so important to foster healthy behaviors in dogs, and so it’s absolutely vital you consider this before welcoming one into your home and family. It is also important to make sure that any friends or visitors to your home are aware of your dog’s needs, and are able to respond calmly and give them the space they require.

If you fancy trying to learn how to train your dog by yourself, there is a wealth of information available. For instance, check out this puppy training book on amazon. It teaches you how to train your dog in 7 easy steps, by combing positive reinforcement with your dog’s natural instincts.

Likewise, If you’re a new pet owner and would like some in-depth information on how to best socialize your puppy, you’re in luck! There are a number of useful resources out there. If you’re interested, check out this book on amazon. Titled ‘The Puppy Primer’, it provides a huge amount of information on socialization, in addition to great training tips and tricks.

Love, care, and attention

Again, although it seems obvious, most aggressive behaviors in golden retrievers are a result of feeling neglected. Making sure you have adequate time to play with, pet, cuddle, and walk your dog is a sure-fire way to ward off any aggressive behaviors.

If you’re wondering how you can mentally and physically stimulate your dog, there are some great toys and games available that will do a lot of the work for you. For instance, check out the Nina Ottosson by Outward Hound – Interactive Puzzle Game Dog Toy. It’s an interactive game that provides your dog with fun rewards whilst also supporting their mental wellbeing.

Calming Coats/T-shirts

If you are struggling to keep your dog calm whilst out on walks, and find your dog is easily stressed by things within the environment, there are a number of calming aids available. In particular, calming coats and t-shirts are very useful tools.

These pieces of clothing apply mild but constant pressure to the dog’s torso. The effect is similar to that of using a swaddling cloth on a baby. If you’re interested, check out the CozyVest 3-in-2 Anxiety Vest. It is designed specifically to relax your dog through pressure, relaxing music, and calming scents.

Researching dog breeders

Unfortunately, there are people out there who don’t treat dogs well. Doing thorough research on where your dog is coming from is incredibly important. In fact, it has been found that almost 15% of puppies purchased within 20 minutes or less by their owners will experience illness, ongoing veterinary treatment, or death within the first six months.

Look out for loving breeders who provide puppies with the best start in life to ensure your dog doesn’t harbor any aggression. If you’re new to owning a pet, the best way to find a trusted breeder is through word-of-mouth. Ask your friends and family who have pets or even local dog training facilities for advice.

A reliable schedule

A good schedule is often overlooked by dog owners but can be a great way to ensure your dog remains calm, happy, and confident. If you have a fairly reliable daily schedule in place by, for instance, ensuring you feed and walk your dog at regular times, your dog is likely to feel more content.

In fact, the way they respond to their environment depends on how they feel within that environment. A stable routine will help a dog feel comfortable and content within its environment, as they will know exactly what to expect from their owners and their lives more generally. By doing this, dogs are less likely to develop aggressive behaviors, such as protecting their food or compensating destructively due to feeling pent-up energy.

Believe it or not, a stable routine also helps dogs react more appropriately to change. Comfortable, well-balanced dogs that feel secure in their environment and their day-to-day lives are more able to deal with changes or upsets. As such, a reliable schedule can also help hinder fear aggression.

Final thoughts

To sum, golden retrievers are pretty close to being the perfect breed of dog. They are fun-loving, incredibly loyal, easy to train, and are great companions in a family home.

However, to make sure that you, your family, and your dog are safe, it is absolutely necessary to ensure you treat your dog right. If you use the information above, there is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to welcome a golden retriever into your home.