Aggressive Golden Retriever: How To Identify & Fix It!

I went trick or treating the other day and almost got eaten alive by my neighbor’s oversized Golden Retriever.

Maybe being dressed up as a giant chicken nugget was not such a good idea.

Note to self: Under no circumstances go trick or treating next year at this particular house. Ever. Again.


I felt lucky to get out of there alive. Talk about an aggressive dog!

Breathless with fear, I decided to go back home instead and calm my beating heart and got the surprise of my life when trick or treaters came to my door, and Goldie, my own 1-year old Golden Retriever started growling aggressively at them.

I mean, I had never heard Goldie growl other than when she was a puppy playing around with the rest of the litter.

I then realized that this was Goldie’s first Halloween and maybe, all the strangers coming to the door were starting to freak her out. Still, I never expected my own precious Golden Retriever to show any real signs of aggression.

Can Golden Retrievers Be Aggressive?

Yes, Golden Retrievers can be aggressive, but whilst this is not common behavior it is certainly possible to experience. Aggressive behavior is part of a Retriever’s protective instincts and can even be a great way to tell whether your dog is in pain or is feeling threatened.

Extremely aggressive Golden Retrievers can even be an indication of a bad breeder. Here I put together all the information I found about Golden Retrievers and aggression and the reasons behind it. I hope it helps you with your own Golden Retrievers.

I also hope my neighbor stumbles across this post.

Is your dog really being aggressive?

It is sometimes hard to tell if a dog is being aggressive or if he is just being true to his nature. Every dog is potentially aggressive and it isn’t always easy to tell whether they are just playing or are trying to dominate by being aggressive.

Aggressive behavior can come from not adapting well to obedience training, the environment at home, socialization, personality, or genetics. It can also come as a result of a change in routine.

There are stereotypes of aggression in dogs such as when it comes to certain breeds. That’s why it is just never easy to diagnose an aggressive dog.

Some socialization seems aggressive such as barking, jumping, biting, or growling. Frequent training can limit aggression however, noticing fear, assertiveness, or dominance in dogs all lead to aggressive behavior which can be dangerous.

I had a new dog and was so tempted to test his level of aggression in the park. However, I realized that with so many people in the park, it was just not a good idea. Instead, I called the vet to test my dog and found out a few things in the process.

For example, some signs of dominant behavior in your pooch include when your fur child:

  • Inserts himself between you and another dog or another person.
  • Mounts other dogs or mounting your legs.
  • Stops eating when approached
  • Demands attention
  • Barges through doors
  • Blocks other dog’s paths or even people

Even if these signs of aggression may not be a big deal, it is still important to monitor your fur child and divert his attention to discourage dominant behavior.

Know when dominance crosses over to aggressiveness because the combination of these two factors can become dangerous especially with kids around.

The signs of an aggressive and dominant dog include:

  • Its tail is high and moves from side to side stiffly
  • Holds his ears erect
  • Snaps, growls, snarls, and barks.
  • Low range, excessive barking

When you come across a dog that is both dominant and aggressive, retreat without running and keeps in mind that dogs in this state bite without warning.

Stats & Facts About Dog Aggression?

According to the ASPCA, around 90% of dogs that become conflict aggressive are in older ages is usually between 18 to 36-month-old males. But in most cases, you will find that aggression is usually reported to be in younger dogs, mostly puppies.

This is because by the time most dogs are older the aggression would have already been fixed. Continue on to find a few tips on what to do if you are currently experiencing dog aggression.

What makes Golden Retrievers Aggressive?

Known for their friendly, sweet disposition, Golden Retrievers are not usually the first dog you think of when you hear the word “aggressive.”

On the other hand, when you do find that your Golden Retriever is demonstrating aggression, there are many possible reasons for this.

Golden Retrievers snap, growl, or even bite people when they are being aggressive.

Keep in mind that the reason a Golden Retriever is acting aggressively is usually not because they are angry. Rather there are many causes for aggression in Golden retrievers.

Often, Golden retrievers signal when they are about to become aggressive such as sudden hyperactive behavior, barking, or growling. Their tail becomes stiff, their hackles raise and their ears perk up.

Common Causes

Common causes your Golden retriever may show aggression include:

Cause Description
Poor breeding practicesPoor breeding practices such as when the breeder locks up the dogs for too long can cause aggressive behavior in all dogs, including Golden Retrievers.
Improper trainingImproper training such as when the fur parents try and distract their aggressive Golden Retriever pup by offering a treat can lead to more, rather than less, aggression.
DisregardWhen aggressive behavior is ignored or disregarded, your pet might continue his aggressive behavior on his own since no actions were taken to discourage it.
AbuseAn abused Golden Retriever will try to defend itself against circumstances or people he perceives as threats and the result is aggressive behavior.
Seen the same behavior in their parentsPuppies will imitate the behavior of their parents and so aggressive adult Golden Retrievers may produce equally aggressive pups.
Previously have been attacked by a larger dog Golden Retrievers do have good memories and anything that happened in their past that caused them to be aggressive may result in the same behavior each time the same situation occurs.
As a response to illness, pain, insecurity, or fearTo protect themselves, a Golden Retriever that feels vulnerable may exhibit aggression.
They suddenly have to share their ownerYour only fur child may feel threatened at the arrival of a new fur child and act aggressively towards it.
They feel threatened by a stranger that has invaded their spaceLike all dogs, Golden Retrievers are territorial and do like to have their own space.
Feeling threatened by a “pack” of strangers they meet for the first timeWhen your Golden Retriever is suddenly met by a pack of strangers, he may feel threatened and display aggression.

How to Stop golden Retriever Agression

I fixed aggression in my dog by learning to distract him with a whistle. He hated the shrill noise of the whistle and would stop whatever he was doing, including aggression.

How Is Golden Retriever Aggression different from other breeds?

By nature, Golden retrievers tend to be friendly and intelligent with a desire for attention and human companionship. I mean, when you hear the phrase “aggressive dog,” Golden Retrievers don’t exactly come to mind.

Maybe a Doberman, Pit Bull, or even Chihuahuas, but Golden Retrievers? Not so much.

Aggression in Golden Retrievers, however, can be triggered by unfamiliar situations, fear of another dog, or any causes listed in the previous section. Most often, simply diverting his attention can cause aggression to stop. I

strongly suggest not to reward any sort of aggressive behavior in your Golden Retriever no matter what.

Do not give him toys or treats as a method of trying to divert his attention or he might see this as a reward and become even more aggressive.

This breed is quite intelligent and when you don’t over-react and act normally when he is aggressive, this will discourage him from displaying aggression in the future.

How do you stop Aggressive behavior in a golden retriever pupppy?

Puppies can sometimes seem aggressive when they are playing with other puppies, such as when they wrestle or play rough. You might even hear some growling, barking, see them pouncing, chasing, or biting.

Many pet owners think that normal playing is aggression. Generally, a puppy’s ears will be up when he is just playing.

Real aggression is when a puppy’s lips are curling, its posture is stiff and he has a staring, fixed gaze The ears are pinned back and his stance is rigid.

Believe it or not, aggressive behavior in my Golden Retriever was apparent at just six weeks. Some puppies in the litter displayed more dominance than the others.

At this age, it is important to begin socializing puppies with both humans and other dogs as well. Socializing puppies between six to fourteen weeks of age will help them be socialized properly to avoid future problems with aggression.

The moment you find signs of aggression in your Golden Retriever puppies, find out the reason for it. Illness or pain can cause aggression. A vet can help find the cause behind your aggressive puppy.

Unfamiliar circumstances or fear of another dog can also trigger aggression. When this happens, command your dog to stay or sit and pretend as if nothing happened.

When training puppies to become non-aggressive, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, do not use harsh discipline between six to fourteen weeks.

Next, do not take it away from its litter before two months of age. Yelling, hitting, or any kind of harsh discipline to a puppy this young results in aggressive behavior.

Give your puppy treats when it is relaxed, quiet, and non-aggressive. Reward all behaviors you want more of. Startle the puppy in the middle of its aggression rather than punishing it.

Use a water gun, shake a can with coins in it, start clapping, or make a noise that will interrupt the aggression of the puppy.

If he is too snappy or wound up, give him a time out by putting him in his own crate or room. Keep doing this until your puppy behaves in a more acceptable, non-aggressive manner.

Frequently asked questions

Do Golden Retrievers attack humans?

Known for their wonderful demeanor and easygoing temperament, Golden Retrievers are the last dog on earth I’d expect to bite a human.

However, my friend did remind me that this breed is still a dog and could still bite such as in situations where they feel threatened or are in pain, just like any other dog. All that being said, I noticed that it is the Golden Retriever puppy that tends to playfully nip at anything that moves including other puppies and humans.

Why does my golden retriever growl at me?

Growling is the way a Golden Retriever may be trying to communicate with you. They growl at their humans to let us know they are in pain, feel threatened, or are afraid. They sometimes do this when they need us to back away from their territory or possessions.

When you notice growling behavior from your Golden Retriever and the behavior seems to get worse as each day goes by, call your vet for a check-up at home, and don’t attempt to move your dog yourself.

Are Golden Retrievers destructive?

Golden Retrievers are usually well-behaved, gentle, and have the reputation of being extremely friendly. However, they can turn destructive for reasons that include frustration, passiveness, fear, illness, injury, or when they try to establish dominance.


Regardless of their friendly demeanor, Golden Retrievers are dogs with protective instincts. No matter how aggressive they can sometimes get, remember that this dog is highly trainable and extremely intelligent, with a desire to please its favorite human.

So there you have it, reasons why your Golden Retriever is aggressive. This article covers everything you need to know about aggression in both adult and puppy Golden Retrievers and what you can do about it. I hope this helps you understand the behavior of your own Goldie.

Picture of Jennifer Cosculluela

Jennifer Cosculluela

Jennifer Cosculluela graduated magna cum laude in Marketing from the State University of New York’s F.I.T and was a Presidential Scholar, specializing in Shakespearean Studies. She also has an AB Psychology Degree from De La Salle University Bacolod and when not writing, loves to spend time with her daughter Margarita and bake cookies and lasagna for her loving husband Sebastian.

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Jennifer Cosculluela graduated magna cum laude in Marketing from the State University of New York’s F.I.T and was a Presidential Scholar, specializing in Shakespearean Studies. She also has an AB Psychology Degree from De La Salle University Bacolod and when not writing, loves to spend time with her daughter Margarita and bake cookies and lasagna for her loving husband Sebastian.

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