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Are Golden Retrievers Ever Aggressive?

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Yesterday I was in an elevator with two of my client's dogs. Two siblings; 5-year-old Golden Retrievers, one male and one female. My client hired me to work with them because the male had been growling, barking and lunging at dogs and also occasionally lunged at people. Jackson has shown fantastic progress and overall is quite stable, but his is still not 100% reliable.

While we were headed outside, a woman entered. She immediately looked at the beautiful pair and reached down to pet them. I could read the situation and could tell that Jackson was comfortable with her. I told her that they are both friendly. What she said struck me as very interesting:

"Oh I know, Golden Retrievers always are."

I started to laugh and just smiled at her. I did not correct her, but what she said was not accurate.

I have found that Golden Retrievers are the "poster dog" of the perfect dog. I have spoken with many people over the years that have stated similar thoughts about Golden Retrievers.

Yes, they are often quite amazing, and I am a huge fan. But, any breed can be aggressive. I have worked with aggressive Yorkies, Pugs, Labrador Retrievers, Poodles, and a multitude of other breeds. Aggression is a result of one or more factors.

  • Genetics
  • Improper Socialization
  • Learned Experiences or Trauma

These factors can contribute to aggressive tendencies in any breed.

One time I was working with a very aggressive Golden Retriever that had injured multiple people. She looked very calm and sweet, but was not comfortable with strangers. As long as people avoided interacting with her in close proximity she was fine. A woman walked up and started doing the classic, "Aww, a Golden Retriever" dance with her outstretched arms ready to pet my client's dog.

I had to step in front of the dog and tell the woman that she is not friendly. The woman did not believe me and proceeded to say, "It is okay, I love Golden Retrievers!" She literally did not comprehend the fact that a Golden could be aggressive.

After repeated attempts to get her to continue walking, I had to tell her that if she pet my dog she would end up in the hospital. That was the only thing that caught her attention and she continued walking. While the dog was showing vast improvement, she was not stable enough for a stranger to come at her.

The point to remember is that any dog has the potential to bite and you should always ask the person handling the dog and also trust your judgement.

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