If your Golden Retriever has been being aggressive you are probably wondering why and what you can do about it. In this post, I will show you a number of possible causes and what you can do to get it to calm down.
So, why is my Golden Retriever aggressive? Possible reasons are that previous owners mistreated it or trained it to be aggressive, being too emotional with it, being aggressive towards it yourself, injury, rewarding the behavior or a lack of training.
There are many reasons why your Golden Retriever might start being aggressive and it could be the result of a combination of reasons. However, there are multiple things you can consider when trying to figure out the exact reason. If it seems like it might be violent the best option is to seek professional help.
Why your Golden Retriever is aggressive
Each of the different reasons why your Golden Retriever is aggressive will likely come with some clues.
Below are a number of possible causes and what would make them more likely.
The reason why your Golden Retriever becomes aggressive could be that previous owners mistreated it and it is now not trusting of people or they might have trained it to be aggressive. This would be more likely if you adopted your Golden Retriever from a shelter.
In this case, if your Golden Retriever does not seem to be dangerous, it would help to give it lots of training and exercise as mentioned below. If it does seem to be dangerous then the safest thing to do would be to get the help of a professional dog behaviorist.
You’re too emotional with it
Golden Retrievers will naturally be very responsive to their owners emotions. If you become very emotional with your Golden Retriever it might be causing it to respond in an aggressive way.
Instead, it would help to give it lots of positive reinforcement training so that it learns how to behave and to interact with it in a calm manner.
You’re too aggressive towards it yourself
The cause might be that you become overly aggressive with it yourself. If you are aggressive towards it, your Golden Retriever might be feeling threatened and responding in an aggressive way because of it.
As mentioned above, a better approach would be to give it lots of positive reinforcement training and to be calm around it.
When dogs are young, they will learn a lot about who to trust and who not to trust. If your Golden Retriever did not socialize with other people or dogs much as a puppy, it could be causing it to be distrustful of other people. This would be more likely to be the cause if it is aggressive towards other people and not you and if you know that it did not socialize much as a puppy.
In this case, one option would be to give it positive association training which is where you train it to associate other people and dogs with rewards.
It could be the case that something has been causing it to be in pain which is what has been making it behave aggressively. This would be more likely if it has started being aggressive suddenly and if it has been showing other signs of being in pain such as limping. If it seems like pain might be the cause, the best option would be to take it to a vet.
You have been rewarding the behavior
It could be the case that you have encouraged it to be aggressive by giving it things that it wants when it becomes aggressive. If you tend to give it things such as toys or treats in order to get it to stop being aggressive then it might be doing it more in order to get more of those things.
Instead, it would help to avoid rewarding it when it does it, to reward it when it is being well behaved and to use lots of positive reinforcement training to get it to be less aggressive.
A lack of training
If you have not given your Golden Retriever much training it will not know how you want it to behave and so it will behave the way that it wants to. The way it wants to behave is unlikely to be the way that you want it to behave and it could be why it is being aggressive.
Protecting territory or its owner
If your Golden Retriever only becomes aggressive towards other people it could be because it is protecting you or its territory. This would be especially likely if it only starts being aggressive around the home or when other people are approaching you.
The cause could be that it is being possessive which is where it protects something that it believes belongs to it. This would be more likely to be the reason if it does it in situations such as when it is eating or when you are trying to take its spot on a couch.
Normally friendly dogs can be violent when they are being possessive. So, if your Golden Retriever is aggressive in situations such as when it is eating it would help to seek the guidance of a dog trainer or behaviorist in your area so you can see how to get it to stop safely.
Things to consider
If it has only started to become aggressive recently
It would help to consider whether or not it has always been aggressive or if it has started doing it recently since it could be the case that there was an event that caused it to start doing it.
If it did start doing it suddenly, it would be more likely to be due to things such as getting an injury, a problem with its diet, someone being aggressive towards or you might have inadvertently rewarded the behavior.
Whereas, if it has been doing it for a long time, it could be the case that you have been reinforcing it by giving it things it wants when it does it or it might be that it was caused by previous owners. It would help to start giving it lots of positive reinforcement training so that it learns how to behave and so that it sees you as the leader.
When it becomes aggressive
It would also help to consider the timing of when it starts being aggressive since it could be the case that the timing has something to do with it.
For example, if it only does it when it is eating then it would be more likely that it does it because it is being possessive. Whereas, if it does it more when someone is intimidating towards it then it might be doing it because it is feeling threatened.
How to get your Golden Retriever to be less aggressive
The best way to get your Golden Retriever to stop being aggressive will depend on the cause of it doing it. Below, are a number of options that you have. You will likely find that a combination of them will work well.
Positive reinforcement training
Positive reinforcement training involves giving your Golden Retriever rewards when it shows signs of behaving the way you want it to and not rewarding it when it does not.
To use it to get it to stop being aggressive you would reward it when it is not aggressive when it normally would be and you would reward it when it shows signs of not being aggressive.
Below, is a video on how you can use positive reinforcement training to stop aggressive behavior.
Avoid positively reinforcing bad behavior
As mentioned above, it could be the case that you have been inadvertently reinforcing it when it is aggressive. Instead of giving your Golden Retriever things it wants, when it is aggressive, try to notice when it is about to be aggressive and to redirect its focus onto something else.
Train it to listen to your command
If you have not given your Golden Retriever much training, it would help to start doing so. It would help to start by teaching it the basics such as to sit or to stay and then to move on to more challenging things afterward. By doing so you should be able to get it to be more responsive to your command and more trusting of you.
Avoid being high energy yourself
When interacting with your Golden Retriever it would help to be calm. If you are emotional with it then it might cause it to become emotional itself.
Avoid punishing it
If you punish your Golden Retriever, when it misbehaves, it might not know why you are punishing it and it might cause it to develop feelings of resentment. Instead, it would help to give it lots of positive reinforcement training so that it learns how to behave that way.
When training your Golden Retriever it is important to be consistent. It is unlikely that you will be able to get dramatic results with just one training session, but, if you stick with it, you should be able to get much more noticeable results over the course of weeks.
Get help from a dog trainer
If you can’t get your Golden Retriever to stop doing it or it becomes violent then the best option would be to get help from a dog trainer or behaviorist. By doing so you will be able to see how to get it to stop in a safe manner.
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