Domesticated dogs can be warm, intelligent, fun-loving, and very charming. They have been bred to aid humans in hunting, animal shepherding, home defense, simple companionship, and more. But as winsome and lovable as they are, we would do well to bear in mind that all dogs are descendants of apex predators, and they can still sometimes be dangerous. The fact is that dog attacks are a leading cause of death and injury worldwide. This is not because dogs are especially statistically dangerous. It is because of extraordinarily high rates of dog ownership all over the world.
But our topic is Golden Retrievers. This breed of dog is known for being intelligent, loving, sweet, and very loyal and for their long, beautiful red or golden coats. But they are still blood relatives to wolves. That means a golden retriever can be aggressive, especially if the animal has been abused or improperly cared for.
In this brief guide, we will discuss how to tell if a retriever may be aggressive, why they may become aggressive, what to do about it, and how to prevent it. But before we get into it, let it be made clear now that if you suspect that you have a potentially dangerous animal of any kind – you must keep it away from children, other pets, and people who cannot protect themselves.
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How to Recognize the Signs of Aggression In Golden Retrievers
Spotting aggression is easy with almost any dog. Like any dog, a golden retriever will show its teeth, lay its ears back, stand in a slanted-body position, and hold its tail still or downward. Typical reasons for this type of behavior are a perceived threat, a desire for food, space, or positioning dominance. It can also be used as a deterrent if a person, animal, or thing the dog is fond of is threatened.
If a dog shows this kind of behavior to another animal, it is likely to assert dominance simply. It should be watched closely but is not necessarily a sign of danger. If they show these signs to their immediate human family members, it could indicate a severe temperament problem.
Keep in mind that some dogs may growl and bare their teeth during play. This is not necessarily a sign of aggression. More often than not, you will be able to spot the tail wagging. Whenever a dog is wagging its tail, you are all but guaranteed that it is not actually aggressive and only wants to play.
If the animal is baring its teeth and not growling, it may intend to attack without warning. This behavior is very unusual and extremely dangerous. It could be a sign of rabies, brain damage, or some other physiological problem. If you have a retriever that shows this behavior, you should isolate it and have it taken away by animal control.
If your dog has an injury, it may nip when the spot is touched. This is not aggression so much as an involuntary pain response. The main thing to look for is the absence of tail wagging combined with other indicators of aggression.
Why Do Golden Retrievers Become Aggressive?
Like any dog, a golden retriever is likely to become aggressive if the animal believes he or someone he cares about is being threatened. If an animal has been abused at an earlier stage in life, persons who resemble an abuser may inspire fear in the dog. Dogs will often people fear persons of the same gender as a former abuser. Likewise, if they have been injured, they may harbor a lifelong fear of the thing that hurt them.
For example, a local convenience store owner kept his dog with him at work. But the dog had been hit at a formative age by a person riding a bike. From then onward, the dog would growl at anyone holding or riding a bicycle.
In the absence of outright abuse, irresponsible training can also result in an aggressive dog. Owners should teach dogs from a young age not to use aggressive, dominant behavior against humans. To achieve this, they must be taught that all humans are higher than them in the dominance chain. If the dog does not learn this, they may believe aggressive displays directed at people are acceptable as they would be toward other dogs. We can never allow our dogs to think they are higher in the dominance chain than us. Otherwise, they would snap at us every time we took them to the vet.
If you are taking in a rescue dog or any new retriever, do your best to learn as much as possible about its history. If you are taking in a stray, understand that it may have triggers that you cannot know about. It may be wise to keep the animal in a large cage away from children and other animals until its disposition, and potential issues are discovered. If your dog has or may have temperament issues, keeping them away from the public is also recommended since anything or anyone may trigger an aggressive episode.
How To Prevent Aggression In Golden Retrievers
Proper training for young retrievers, and any large dog, is highly recommended. Ideally, you would obtain the animal at a young age, treat it well, feed it properly, and apply for a full certified obedience training course. This is your best insurance against aggressive behavior. Still, any dog may become infected with rabies. Any dog can develop a brain tumor or receive a brain injury that leads to aggressive behavior. For this reason, it is a good idea to understand the signs of aggressive canine behavior ahead of time to be prepared for these unfortunate scenarios.
Once again, if your dog has been abused or is a rescue dog, take care to know everything you can about its history. Most importantly, you should know about any severe traumas the dog may have suffered. From that point, your goal will be to shield the dog from any stimulus that the animal may perceive as similar to the traumatic experience. If you do not know if or how your golden retriever was hurt or traumatized, gradations of isolation may be best.
You may opt to have the animal kept in a kennel where a professional trainer with experience working with traumatized dogs will work with your retriever. This is likely to be the safest and most effective approach to caring for a traumatized dog.
What To Do If Your Golden Retriever Is Aggressive
If your retriever is aggressive toward people, you have a severe problem. If you can not fix the problem, the dog will either need to be kept in isolation for the rest of its life or put down. If the dog may be aggressive toward children, you must keep it away from them at all costs- especially small children.
What to do if your golden retriever is aggressive;
Use stern verbal warnings when bad behavior is expressed. Keep your dog on a leash in public and contained at home. If the aggressive behavior is acute, the dog may need to be euthanized. If you believe the dog is a threat to small children or any vulnerable person, you must take immediate steps to remove the risk. Never keep a potentially dangerous dog in a home with small children.
Towards Other Dogs
Some displays of aggression and dominant behavior directed against dogs with whom your retriever shares a home is typical. You should monitor the animal closely to ensure this behavior does not cross over into outright aggression. If threatening behavior persists, you may need to remove the dog from your home.
Towards Other Pets (Like Cats)
Do not expose smaller animals, especially cats, to a dog whose aggressive tendencies are suspect or unknown. Use a cage to let the animals become acquainted with each other safely and monitor their reactions. The initial fear is normal. Let them spend time close to each other with a barrier in between. Show the dog that you care for the cat by giving the cat affection in the presence of your retriever. It should take no longer than a week for the dog to accept the cat as part of the family. If the dog cannot learn to get along with the cat, one of the two animals should be removed from the home.
Aggression in Golden Retrievers is rare. If you feel your dog is overly aggressive, speak to your vet about what you can do to help. Most aggression, especially in a gentle breed like Golden Retrievers, can be fixed through socialization and training.