If your Golden Retriever has been biting itself, you probably want to know how to get it to stop. This post will show you a number of common causes and what you can do in order to get it to stop.

So, why does my Golden Retriever bite itself? Possible reasons are that it has fleas, allergies, something stuck in its fur or a rash. It could also be that it has separation anxiety, it does it compulsively or it might have just had an itch if it just did it once.

There are actually many reasons why it might be doing it and it could be due to a combination of them. However, there are a number of things you can consider when figuring out the main cause and there are a number of things you can do about it.

Why your Golden Retriever bites itself

Below are some common causes of Golden Retrievers biting themselves and what would make them more likely to be the reason why your Golden Retriever has been doing it.

It has fleas

The cause might be that it has fleas. This would be more likely if it started biting itself suddenly and if you have been finding fleas around the house.

If fleas are causing your Golden Retriever to bite itself, it would help to talk to your vet about what you should do to get rid of the flees.

It would also help to eradicate fleas from your home by doing things such as:

  • Washing the bedding with hot soapy water
  • Vacuuming the carpets and throwing the bad
  • Applying an environmental flee control
  • Applying a spray, pellet or non-toxic treatment for the yard
  • Treating your Golden Retriever with a monthly preventative

It has a rash or allergies

Allergies or a rash could also be causing your Golden Retriever to bite itself. Allergies can be caused by things such as shampoo, other dogs, pollen or household chemicals (source).

It would be more likely that allergies or a rash are causing your Golden Retriever to bite itself if it started doing it after something happened that might have caused it to get allergies or a rash. Examples could be using a different shampoo or a harness that rubs its skin.

Boredom

Golden Retrievers are meant to get a lot of exercise on a daily basis. When they do not get enough exercise it can cause them to behave abnormally and it could be a part of the reason why your Golden Retriever has been biting itself.

Generally, it is advised for them to get at least an hour of exercise per day as healthy adults. If your Golden Retriever is not getting that much exercise then it would help to make sure that it does. If it is a puppy, it is generally advised to limit its exercise to two, five-minute sessions, per day for every month of age.

Compulsive behavior

It could also be the case that it has been biting itself compulsively. This is where it has an irresistible urge to do it and it is not able to stop doing it. This would be more likely if your Golden Retriever has been causing itself to lose patches of fur, it has been doing it excessively or if it is bleeding.

In this case, the best option would be to take it to a vet.

Look here for more information about compulsive behavior in dogs.

There is something stuck in its fur

It might be the case that it has been doing it because there is something stuck in its fur. This would be more likely if it has been biting at the exact same spot and it has started doing it suddenly.

Injury

It might also be the case that it has been doing it due to injury. This would be more likely if it has been biting at the same spot and if it has been showing other signs of being injured such as limping. If it does seem like injury could be causing it then the best option would be to take it to a vet.

Separation anxiety

It might also be the case that it has been doing it due to separation anxiety. This is where it does not like being left alone and it becomes anxious when it is left alone. This would be more likely if it starts biting itself when you are about to leave home.

In this case, it would help to avoid leaving it alone for long periods and to periodically check up on it if you can.

Also, it would help to train it to be less anxious when you are leaving and when you are away.

To do this you could do as follows:

  • Make it seem like you are about to leave by doing something such as picking up your keys
  • Reward your Golden Retriever for not being anxious and repeat these two steps a few times
  • Make more moves towards actually leaving such as by picking up the keys and putting your hand on the door handle
  • Reward your Golden Retriever for not being anxious and repeat the process a few times
  • Actually open the door and go outside for a few moments then come back and reward your Golden Retriever
  • Repeat the above, each time staying outside for slightly longer

It’s getting allergies from its diet

It migh also be the case that its diet is causing it to develop allergies (source). This would be more likely to be the cause if your Golden Retriever started biting itself at around the same time that you changed its diet.

It was just playing

If it bites itself rarely, it could be the case that it does it because it is just itchy at the time. This would be less likely if it has started biting itself a lot all of a sudden.

Things to consider

Below are some things to consider when figuring out why your Golden Retriever has been doing it.

When it started to bite itself

If it did not always bite itself, it would help to consider what else happened when it first started doing it since an event might have occurred that caused it to start.

If it did start doing it suddenly then it could be due to things such as using a different shampoo, changing its diet, fleas, allergies or a rash. It would help to consider what changed when it started doing it.

Whereas, if it has been biting itself for a while then it would be more likely that it does it due to things such as separation anxiety, compulsive behavior or boredom. But, it could still be due to any of the other things mentioned above.

How often it bites itself

It would also help to consider how frequently your Golden Retriever bites itself.

If it has been biting itself a lot then it would be more likely to be due to things such as fleas, a rash, allergies, something stuck in its fur or compulsive behavior.

Whereas, if it does it less frequently then it would be more likely to be due to the other things mentioned above.

When and where it bites itself

It would also help to consider the timing of when it normally bites itself since the timing could also have something to do with it.

If it tends to do it when you are about to leave then it would be more likely to be due to separation anxiety. Whereas, if it seems to do it at random times then it would be more likely to be due to fleas, a rash, allergies or something being stuck in its fur.

How to stop your Golden Retriever from biting itself

Below are some options you have when getting your Golden Retriever to stop biting itself.

Take it to a vet

If your Golden Retriever has been doing it excessively or you can’t get it to stop, it would help to take it to a vet. By doing so you will be able to get expert advice tailored towards your specific Golden Retriever and to rule out medical causes.

Remove fleas

It would also help to eradicate fleas from your home by doing things such as:

  • Washing the bedding with hot soapy water
  • Vacuuming the carpets and throwing the bad
  • Applying an environmental flee control
  • Applying a spray, pellet or non-toxic treatment for the yard
  • Treating your Golden Retriever with a monthly preventative

Give it exercise

If your Golden Retriever is a healthy adult, it would help to make sure that it is able to get daily exercise. Generally, it is recommended for them to get at least an hour of exercise per day as healthy adults. If it is a puppy it is generally recommended to limit it to 5 minutes of exercise per month of age.

Avoid encouraging the behavior

Instead of giving your Golden Retriever things that it wants when it bites itself, try to redirect its focus when it is about to do it and to reward it when it behaves the way that you want it to.

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I created and currently manage Pet Dog Owner, the website you can go to when you have questions about your dog's behavior. It is my hope that you find Pet Dog Owner to be a helpful resource. It is also my hope that it will help you to improve your relationship with your dog. You can read more about me and my website here.