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Canine Behavior: Are Golden Retrievers Aggressive Dogs?

Are golden retrievers aggressive dogs? Generally, no. However, any dog can be aggressive under certain conditions. Look for these signs and causes.

A Golden Retreiver sits in a field.

Are golden retrievers aggressive dogs? Generally, no. However, any dog can be aggressive under certain conditions. Look for these signs and causes.

When you think of a classic family dog, you might picture a fun-loving, active, and affectionate pooch — a dog that loves being around adults, children, and other pets. A dog who can be your “best friend” in every sense of the word.

In short, you’re picturing a golden retriever.

There’s a reason these dogs are so popular. The golden makes for a wonderful family pet because of its agreeable personality, willingness to please, and generally friendly demeanor. (It’s also what makes this breed a great service dog!)

But are golden retrievers aggressive in any way? No, not typically. However, any dog, the golden retriever included, can show aggression under certain circumstances. 

Read on to learn about some signs of aggression in a golden as well as potential causes. Then, we’ll discuss how to avoid this kind of behavior through training and socialization.

Signs of Aggression in Golden Retrievers

Are Golden Retrievers aggressive: Golden Retriever lying on the floor

Golden retrievers are not considered naturally aggressive dogs. But, any breed can show signs of aggression under certain circumstances. Pay close attention to your dog’s body language to understand when they get aggressive.

General signs of an aggressive golden retriever include things like:

  • Growling
  • Wide eyes
  • Stiff, rigid stance
  • Showing teeth
  • Snarling
  • Snapping
  • Barking
  • Lunging
  • Biting

Dogs can display these behaviors toward adults or children, as well as other dogs or animals in the home. However, they can also act aggressively toward strangers or unfamiliar pets.

What should you do if you see these signs of aggression in your dog? If you ignore this behavior, someone could get hurt. To address the underlying issue, seek professional help from a licensed dog trainer or animal behaviorist.

Ultimately, the golden retriever isn’t an aggressive dog breed. If they do show signs of aggression, there is a reason. So, what causes this kind of dog aggression?

Causes of Aggression in Golden Retrievers

Are Golden Retrievers aggressive: Golden Retriever lying beside a bottle of Native Pet's Relief

Are golden retrievers aggressive in most cases? No. But do golden retrievers have the propensity to act aggressively as a result of certain factors, just like any dog breed? Yes.

Here are some of the most common causes of aggression in golden retrievers that pet owners should be aware of:

Possessiveness/Territorial Behavior

Any dog can be prone to possessiveness. Food aggression and resource guarding is relatively common among dogs, including the golden retriever. Dogs might also be possessive about their toys, bedding, a certain room in the house, or a certain family member.


Because dogs are pack animals, they tend to look for hierarchy. Aa dog may try to assert their dominance over another pet or, in some very rare cases, a family member. We generally find golden retrievers are fantastic family dogs.


Another type of aggression is fear-based aggression. Fear aggression occurs when your dog is frightened of something or gets startled. A loud noise like thunder, a stranger in the house, or the prospect of a car ride could trigger this.

If you have an anxious golden retriever, try giving them Native Pet’s Calm Chicken Chews a try. These air-dried, all-natural chews help to relax your dog’s muscles, promote normal brain activity, and even improve sleep.


Are golden retrievers aggressive when they’re in pain? They can be, just like any dog. A golden could snap when someone steps on their tail or massages a sore arthritic joint too hard.

If your dog suffers from arthritis, try Native Pet’s Relief Chicken Chews. They can help alleviate joint pain, improve mobility, and help with long-term joint health.


While this may not be the most common reason for aggression in golden retrievers, it’s one of the most unfortunate. Abuse or neglect can result in a fear or distrust of humans and other animals, so a golden who has experienced this kind of mistreatment could be more likely to act out aggressively.

How to Avoid Aggressive Behavior

Golden Retriever running outside

We’ve learned that golden retrievers aren’t usually aggressive by nature. However, like any other dog breed, they can display aggressive behavior under some circumstances. The question is, how can you avoid such circumstances and encourage more positive responses?

Here are the best ways to avoid bad behavior, including canine aggression, when you own a golden retriever:

Give Proper Training

Dog owners can avoid many behavioral problems with good long-term training. Your dog should know the fundamental commands like sit, stay, come, heel, and lay down. They should also be crate and leash trained. If you need some help, consult a dog trainer for help or enroll your pet in obedience training classes.

If you have young children, be aware that it’s equally important to “train” them how to act around a dog. Teach your children that it’s not okay to pull on the doggy’s ears or tail or try to ride them like a horse. Kids need to know that your dog is not a toy and needs to be given the proper space and respect.

Socialize Your Dog

Proper socialization means exposing your dog to a wide variety of people, animals, situations, and environments at a young age. That way, your pooch grows up familiar with everything they may encounter as an adult, which helps to avoid unwanted behavior like aggression. You can socialize an older dog as well as a golden retriever puppy — it just might take a little more time and patience.

Use Positive Reinforcement, Not Punishment

Punishing behaviors like yelling, intimidation, or pulling sharply on the leash or collar to correct your dog’s behavior can scare your dog and cause them to out aggressively again. 

Positive reinforcement is a much better tactic. This means rewarding your pet with treats and verbal praise when they exhibit good behavior and correcting them when they need it, rather than resorting to punishment.

Choose a Reputable Breeder

Are golden retrievers aggressive when they come from a breeder? Not necessarily, but poor breeding practices can certainly contribute to aggression.

Dogs who come from backyard breeders or crowded settings may have had to compete for food, toys, or territory, increasing the likelihood of aggression later in life. When you choose a reputable breeder, it’s more likely your new dog is well-socialized and comes from a healthy, non-aggressive family.

However, you shouldn’t rule out adopting from shelters. Most shelters work with the dogs in their care to make sure they have basic training and socialization. That way, the dogs have an easier time starting out on the “right paw” once they reach their forever homes.

Are Golden Retrievers Aggressive or Not?

Close up photo of a Golden Retriever lying down

Are golden retrievers aggressive? No, not inherently. On the contrary, golden retrievers are extremely friendly dogs who are social, affectionate, gentle creatures. They tend to get along very well with adults, kids, and other pets, making the golden one of the best dogs for families.

While golden retrievers are not aggressive by nature, there are several possible reasons why they might show aggression. Any dog can be possessive, try to assert dominance, be afraid or in pain, or come from a background of abuse or neglect.

To avoid aggression in your golden retriever, commit to training them and socializing your pet. Don’t forget to teach your children how to respectfully interact with your dog. It’s also important to use positive reinforcement and avoid punishment. Last but not least, adopt your dog from a reputable breeder or shelter that has instilled some training and positive socialization already.

Would you like to learn more about your dog’s behavior, health, and wellness? Browse the Native Pet blog.

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