Are Golden Retrievers aggressive

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Are Golden Retrievers aggressive? No, they’re not! In fact, Golden Retrievers are widely considered friendly and affectionate dog breed. They easily get along with kids, adults, visitors, cats, and other animals.

But just like any other dog, Golden Retrievers have the potential to show aggressive behavior when they are irritated or in specific situations.

Keep reading to find out the (not so) aggressive side of these charming dogs and discover some helpful tips to keep your dog happy and safe.

Are Golden Retrievers Dangerous?

No! Golden Retrievers are not considered to be among the most dangerous dog breeds. On the contrary, they have a very friendly and gentle demeanor that makes them one of the most family-friendly dog breeds in America.

Their charming nature allows them to blend well in a family setup with children and other pets, especially dogs and cats. We can see that Goldies are not inherently risky to anyone.

However, certain triggers may awaken the instinctive hunting nature of these double-coated dogs.

Are Golden Retrievers Aggressive
Image credit: Helena Lopes from Pexels

Such things as territorial behaviors, anxiety, pain, and fear may make a Golden Retriever show some aspects of being possessive and aggressive.

Can Golden Retrievers Be Aggressive?

Even though Golden Retrievers are not innately violent, there comes some moments when they exhibit some forms of aggression.

Aggression in Golden Retrievers can be attributed to factors that threaten them or those that put them in painful or unfamiliar situations.

Once you discover that your Goldie is showing aggressive behavior, you should take immediate measures to address the issue. 

Why Do Golden Retrievers Get Aggressive?

Some factors, both external and internal, may contribute to annoying a Golden Retriever into aggression.

The following are some of the factors to watch out for:

1. Fear and anxiety

Just like all other pets, Goldens can experience some form of fear when placed in unfamiliar situations.

The factors that may instill worry in your Goldie are loud noises, unfamiliar environments, or when their territory has been intruded upon.

The affected dog might resort to becoming aggressive as a way of defending themselves from the looming danger.

A lively Goldie may also become frightened when you use harsh training methods with cruel punishment.

This behavior will continually instill fear-related aggression in your dog and they will progressively develop stress and anxiety.

2. Danger

It is normal for dogs to be protective when they perceive any danger that may hurt them, or their owner or infringe on their zones.

Don’t be surprised if your Golden Retriever is constantly barking and growling at a visitor in your house. This is mostly observed in mother dogs who are still nursing their puppies.

3. History of abuse

A history of abuse and mistreatment may prompt a Golden Retriever to behave in unusual ways.

Such dogs have been subjected to past traumatic experiences and they tend to build an expectation that similar incidences may occur again.

As a result, the charming Goldie might turn out to be aggressive, in the protection of what made them cry in the past.

4. Poor socialization

Dogs that aren’t used to seeing different people in various settings may turn out to be aggressive when they step out.

Such dogs do not know how to behave while in the public and so they may get nervous and, in the process, become violent for protection.

5. Lack of training

A Golden Retriever that lacks basic command and behavior training may behave in strange ways in different situations.

For example, a Goldie that does not know basic hand signals may interpret your hand movements as a threat and they will counter it by being aggressive to defend themselves.

6. Health problems

Aggression in Golden Retrievers may be due to an underlying medical condition. Such dogs will develop aggressive reactions to the changes in their health.

A golden retriever sitting on a chair
Image credit: David Moynihan from Unsplash

Health problems that cause hormonal imbalances such as Hypothyroidism, epilepsy, and neoplasia among others, might throw your pup into aggression.

Conditions that inflict pain such as dental problems and osteoarthritis, may increase the dog’s irritability and sink them into aggression.

7. Injury

Physical injuries may inflict pain on your Golden Retriever and this will make them highly irritable. Such dogs are ready to cause havoc when you touch their injured area or on disturbing a healing wound.

8. Irresponsible breeding

Irresponsible dog breeders are out there just to make a kill. They don’t follow safe practices when breeding dogs.

A Golden Retriever may be aggressive because one of their grandparents had emotional instability. This trait has since been passed down to the descendants and it may as well go down to a few more generations.

Other effects of irresponsible dog breeding are; reduced immunity, decreased genetic diversity, and loss of reproductive powers.

Food Aggression in Golden Retrievers

Food aggression is a defensive reaction by the Golden Retriever when someone approaches them while eating. This could be their favorite regular meals, treats, or chew bones.

Your lovely Goldie might show this form of aggression when they perceive the oncoming person as a threat to their food.

They might have developed this defensive skill due to past experiences where someone snatched their bowls or due to insufficient food.

This makes them prefer a solitary approach to eating without the need for anyone to stay around their feeding stations.

Why Do Golden Retriever Puppies Get Aggressive?

Golden Retriever puppies are loving and gentle in nature. But there are some factors that may predispose them to become aggressive.

1. Pre-weaning

A Golden Retriever puppy may become hostile and restless when they get weaned too early from their mothers.

This could be made even worse if they are not properly handled and trained in the absence of their caring mommy.

You should progressively wean baby Goldies when they have all their deciduous teeth and make sure to provide puppy food during the first few months.

2. Uncontrolled play

Golden Retrievers are inherently high-energy pets who require a positive outlet to vent out their energy.

Baby Goldies are playful and they can engage in severe biting, nipping, and growling during their gaming sessions.

Rough games can continually develop into aggression if the puppies are not regulated and observed during their play sessions.

It is during this tender age that dogs learn most things that shape their adult lives.

Golden Retriever puppy playing on grass
Image credits: Tim Umphreys from Unsplash

You should always be there to train your puppy on the appropriate methods of play and give them the right toys that won’t overstimulate their innate hunting skills.

3. Competition

A Golden Retriever puppy may become defensive with full aggression when they have to ‘fight’ for resources at home.

When you have insufficient food bowls, toys, and sleeping spaces for puppies, Goldie’s siblings may not be willing to share these resources and this might lead to a scuffle.

What Are the Signs of Aggression in Golden Retrievers?

It’s important that you understand the signs of aggression in Golden Retrievers for you to know when to jump in and save the situation.

1. Body language

An irritated Golden Retriever will raise their floppy ears against the head & raise their hackles while feathering out their tail in readiness to act out of aggression.

Their eyes will also get alert with minimal blinking to give them a clear view of assessing the threatening situation.

Aggression may sometimes provoke a dog to squint by turning their heads or body away from the point of provocation in avoidance of making direct eye contact.

An agitated Goldie may also freeze in one place and stiffen their body. An aggrieved dog who feels threatened may also crouch on the floor and tuck their tails into the body.

2. Barking and Growling

These are without doubt the first verbal signs that show a dog is threatened or feels irritated. An aggrieved Golden Retriever will bark and growl to scare off the person provoking them.

3. Snarling

When the dog continues to snarl by exposing their front teeth, this is a sign that they are ready to protect and defend themselves.

This is a clear message from your Golden Retriever, telling you to ‘back off or I will use these teeth’. This reactive behavior can make Golden Retrievers to be well-trained as decent guard dogs.

4. Biting

When an aggrieved Goldie uses their teeth on you in response to a provocation, this severe aggressive behavior should be addressed immediately.

Aggressive bites are usually rough and they can tear into the skin to draw blood. Such bites should not be confused with the normal love bites that some dogs engage in while playing.

How To Prevent Aggression in Golden Retrievers

You can prevent your Golden Retriever from becoming aggressive by doing the right things as a responsible pet parent.

We recommend that you start this journey right from the puppyhood stage of your Goldie since they shape most of their character during the tender years.

1. Proper training

Start training your dog as early as possible. Proper training will instill good behavior in dogs and they will know what is expected of them in different situations.

A well-trained dog will also develop the right methods of airing out their grievances to you without necessarily becoming aggressive.

2. Use positive reinforcements

Your Golden Retriever will be glad when you praise and reward them for something good. They will learn that pleasing you brings joy both to you and themselves. The young Goldie will certainly build this character into adulthood.

3. Socialization

After your puppy has been weaned from their mother, you need to expose them to all family members. Let them build on their social and interaction skills with everyone in the house as this will also help in forming that family bond.

Golden Retriever lying on the ground
Image credit: Stephen Andrews from Unsplash

Once they are old enough, you can introduce them to the outside world in a controlled way. Allow the young Goldie to meet and interact with various people, pets, and environments.

This will help your dog in staying calm in new situations and build the proper way of interacting with people and pets alike without being fearful.

4. Avoid the triggers

If you know very well that your Dog gets aggressive when you do certain things, you should try and avoid them.

If your dog has food-induced aggression, then you should allow them to eat without disturbance as you figure out what you can do to tone down the behavior.

If your dog is acting out of aggression because of territoriality, you should work out the best way to get your furry friends to live in harmony.

5. Exercises

Make sure to engage your dog in sufficient physical and mental stimulation for their health and to tire them out. Golden Retrievers are high-energy dogs who need plenty of exercises to keep fit.

Golden retriever playing
Image credit: Richard Burlton from Unsplash

These charming dogs will value the opportunity to use their energies on something fun to the dog making them less likely to become aggressive.

A dull dog with pent-up energy is likely to get aggressive on the slightest provocation. They will use the unfortunate incident to channel their energy by being hyperactive.

6. Love your dog

If you have a Golden Retriever with past experiences of trauma, you need to step up and show them your unbounded love. They need care and assurance from you that you’re always there for them.

Treat your lovely pup with care and let them know that they will never experience any negative treatment again in their lives.

How To Stop Aggression in Golden Retrievers

While preventing aggression in your dog, there are those bad days when they will slip and act out of fear.

You can do the following to manage and stop your Golden from becoming aggressive:

1. Back off

If you have inadvertently stepped on your dog’s tail and they become hostile towards you, the best thing you can do is to back off and give them some space.

Let them cool down on their own terms before coming back to see them. When you continue to engage with an agitated dog, things may escalate and this could lead to potential bites and injuries.

2. Apologize to the dog

Learn to say sorry to your dog since this will calm them down and restore the good relationship you had before the incident.

Proceed to your Goldie after they have healed from your inadvertent mistake and pat them on the head while flowing down to the back.

You can then say some soothing phrases to the dog in a calm and relaxed tone to help them feel better.

Are Golden Retrievers aggressive
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Once your dog’s mood gets better, you can give them a treat while showing your satisfaction with the new happy mood.

3. Find the underlying causes

Sometimes dogs may become aggressive toward others not because of being provoked, but due to a medical condition.

If you notice your dog is suddenly becoming uneasy and agitated all the time, then this could be a sign of an underlying illness that needs immediate attention.

Take the affected canine to the vet for proper diagnosis and possible treatment if anything is found to be amiss.

4. Behavior training

If your dog does not seem to tone down their aggressive acts, you can speak to a certified dog behaviorist for professional help.

A qualified body language expert will help in identifying the causes of frequent aggression and work out a formula to help your dog.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. My Golden Retriever is aggressive, what can I do now?

If your Golden Retriever is suddenly becoming aggressive, you need to back off and give them humble space to cool down.

If the Aggressive behavior becomes frequent, you need to check with your vet for medical examinations or seek help from an expert in dog behavior.

2. How to stop Golden Retrievers from biting

You need to avoid overstimulating your dog when petting them to prevent them from biting you back. You can also give your dog a chew bone to redirect their biting behavior.

This will let the lovely pup know that there are more interesting and sweet things that they can bite, instead of nibbling you.

Find more detailed methods and explanations in our comprehensive guide on how to get puppies to stop biting.

3. Are Golden Retrievers aggressive as puppies?

No! Golden Retrievers puppies are not inherently aggressive. However, they may show some signs of aggression when they feel threatened and intimidated by their siblings or cats.

Golden Retrievers puppies who play too much, without supervision, may also nipple and bite their way into frequent aggressing.

4. Are Golden Retrievers aggressive to other dogs?

Golden Retrievers are not naturally aggressive to other dogs. However, they can sometimes get mad at their fellow canines due to other factors such as territoriality, lack of socialization, and food aggression.

You should always introduce dogs in a controlled manner and allow them to know each other very well before letting them stay together.

Make sure to give plenty of accessories to all dogs in your house to prevent territorial behavior and confrontations.

5. What Does It Mean When a Golden Retriever Growls at You

Back off! A growling Goldie is trying to express their frustration, pain, or discomfort by telling you to move away and give them space.

When this happens, we recommend that you respect your dog’s boundaries and allow them to cool down on their own terms.


Are Golden Retrievers Aggressive? No! But sometimes they can be, although it’s not in their DNA. These charming dogs will act out of aggression in response to specific circumstances.

Factors such as fear, anxiety, pain, injury, discomfort, or lack of training may predispose your energetic doggy pal to become aggressive.

You should always avoid triggering your dog into aggression. If you notice a sudden unusual anger in your dog, take them to the vet immediately for medical attention.

Written By

Laura is the founder of Furs'n'Paws. She is a also a pet writer and expert with more than 20 years of experience of working with dogs and cats. She developed a very strong love for animals at a young age. Her passion led her to establish a thriving pet sitting and dog walking business in Dubai. As an expert in pet training, behavior, and nutrition, Laura is committed to helping pet owners and pet lovers by offering high-quality information on a wide range of topics.

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