behavior Management & Training

10 Common Behavior Problems with Golden Retrievers

While all dogs make great, cuddly, and heartwarming companions, there is one particular breed that tops them all: Golden Retrievers. Most people today call them the friendliest dog breed to ever walk in the face of the Earth.

As perfect as we would all like our retrievers to be, there are some factors you should consider regarding their temperament before choosing to adopt or buy one of your own.

In this article, we’ll be walking you through some of the primary behavior issues that most Golden Retrievers typically have and what you can do to fix them. So, without further ado, let’s get right to it.

Getting to know your retriever: the basics

What falls under the normal behavioral categories for dogs may be a blur to some, especially for new dog owners. So, here are the fundamentals you need to know.

Now, like all dogs, Goldens jump, bark as a form of expressing their emotions, such as being happy, or scared in specific scenarios, digging around, and loving to chase small animals like chipmunks or squirrels. All of which are natural and normal.

Retrievers are also highly sociable and energetic dogs, as they are called retrievers, after all. Having them fetch a random object from time to time shouldn’t be surprised. These then develop into behaviors, which can either be good or bad.

As pet owners, it’s our job to ensure we patiently and adequately teach these ecstatic, loving, hunting dogs to follow our rules, for goodness sake. It does take about 3 to 4 years until your Golden retriever matures, but as long as you’re patient, they’ll make the best of companions you will ever have in a lifetime. With that being said, read on to learn more about common behavioral issues in retrievers.

People-jumping

Golden retrievers naturally love everyone they meet, even if it happens to be someone they have not met before. But sometimes, they may get a little too friendly. One particular way retrievers typically greet people is by jumping on people to say hello.

Now, this wouldn’t be an issue if it were still a young pup at 10 pounds per se, but when it’s all grown up to 60 or 70 pounds, that can be pretty daunting for some people who aren’t used to this, especially for children, who may not be as physically strong as adults, as they may get knocked over (unintentionally, of course) from getting that jump-greeting when retrievers get excited.

Destructive means

Golden retrievers have the word “retrieve” in their names for a reason: to hunt and retrieve something in their mouths. And yes, these breeds were meant to be hunters (the good kind) with the everflowing energy they have within.

A primary reason this happens is a lack of physical and mental stimulation through exercises or activities such as puzzle toys or dispensing toys to meet their physical and mental needs. Because of this, they tend to find their own way to meet these needs, some of which may not be pleasant.

These destructive means may include chewing up socks or the furniture and even sneaking to rob your food on the counter! At times, the food they take may be toxic and dangerous for dogs, especially when it’s food like raisins, onions, and chocolate.

Mouthing

In relation to the previous point, Golden retrievers are mouthing breeds, which means they can’t help themselves but constantly need to hold something in their mouths. It could be your long-sleeved clothing, your arm, or a random twig they found at the park.

No matter how gentle your retriever may be, when they hold you with their mouths, it might develop into a rather irritating habit, and may even hurt someone, if left unaddressed.

Leash-pulling

With the retriever’s natural friendliness and outgoing personality, spending time outdoors to walk to new places, and greet new faces along the way, is an absolute joy. A joy that Golden retrievers are more than eager to pursue.

When out and about, retrievers tend to go on tunnel vision on where they want to go, such as an empty and open field just a few feet away. In doing so, they may pull on your leash and can sometimes topple you over with that sudden sprint as you get pulled down.

This may also lead to breaking free off the leash and may cause your dog to get injured or lost.

Needy for attention

Goldens are undoubtedly and naturally friendly. Because of it, this means wanting to be in the spotlight of attention and care. This is why retrievers are suitable for and found in many family homes.

Some ways they demand your attention can be through barking, grabbing, and nudging your arm to establish their presence, to name a few. Though each retriever may vary individually, there may be instances where how they get attention becomes negative. Such as stealing off your gloves from the table when you want to go grocery shopping.

Over-the-roof energy levels

When you walk by any golden retriever you see, there seems to be an overflow of energy through their smile as they pant or their wagging tails as they walk. Though this sounds fun to be around outdoors, it is not the case when being indoors.

With energy to spare, retrievers will find anything they can do to use that energy. In most cases, it may be unwanted things or activities. These include running around and knowing over objects in the living room, biting or chewing off pillows, and leaving feathers all over the house. If we, as pet owners, don’t do anything about it, this may not lead to any good. 

Separation anxiety

The fact that they are sociable, loving, and family-oriented dogs, also makes them prone to separation anxiety. This may be when you have to leave the house to watch the movies or do some groceries. In fact, Golden retrievers tend to suffer separation anxiety at a higher rate than other dog breeds.

The severity of their separation anxiety may range from mild to severe, which may be indicated by distinct symptoms. For retrievers with mild separation anxiety, they may pace, whine, drool, walk around frantically, or any other distress-related behavior.

When the anxiety becomes severe, this may cause them to engage in destructive behavior such as digging at windows or doors or anything to get them outside. In doing so, they may be susceptible to unwanted injuries, especially when they dig at windows.

Puppy biting

Like all breeds, it only comes naturally for puppies to bite anything they can get their paws on, and yes, that means retrievers do too. It is crucial at this stage to train and teach golden pups how to inhibit biting. If this progresses without interference, it may lead to harmful injuries such as biting through the skin.

Digging

Digging is innate in all dogs, no matter what breed, size, or shape. This may be an issue, especially when they start digging objects at homes such as window frames, doors, or the fridge, as they may cause damage over time.

This may result from being deprived of exercise and mental stimulation, which causes them to turn to digging as their way to cope and fulfill their physical and mental requirements.

A great way to handle this is by either turning their attention with a pet toy or a simple game of fetch. Alternatively, you can also provide a safe outlet for them to do their personal digging, such as a dog-friendly sandbox.

Aggression

Though being aggressive isn’t your typical Golden retriever behavior, it still remains a possibility. There are several factors or reasons why this may be the case for the rare few that do have aggressive tendencies.

They include physical punishment from their past, a poor breeder, or a lack of socialization with other dogs or humans. At this point, resolving them simply comes by avoiding these factors in the first place, by choosing a reputable breeder, never physically punishing them for bad behavior, and ensuring they get socialized and introduced to other family members they meet from time to time.

If the reactivity persists, we recommend seeking professional assistance from a dog training/behavioral specialist.

The bottom line

The Golden retriever is a great dog breed for anyone, including individuals, couples, and especially families. Like all social beings, retrievers, too, naturally develop their sets of behavior as they are a hunting breed are innately set to retrieve things in their mouth.

As most of the common behavioral issues of retrievers are expected from being outgoing, social, and family-oriented dogs they innately are, it only seems logical to pinpoint the factors/reasons causing bad behavior. These include lack of physical exercise, mental stimulation, socialization, bad breeders, and lack of training on the rights and wrongs.

Some of the best ways to combat them are by addressing these factors, that is by finding a reputable breeder, ensuring they get introduced to other dogs and humans to get familiarized, giving them puzzle toys for mental stimulation, taking them out on dog walks for physical exercise, and teach them how to properly greet strangers without jumping on them without any physical punishment.

The whole process won’t be easy, but with patience and grit, those hours you spend on training them can go a long way to a happy and beautiful life for both you and your beloved retriever.

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