Aggressive Behavior, Golden Retriever

by Vanessa
(Washington, USA)

Callie

Callie

From Vanessa... I have a 2 year old Golden Retriever who has become aggressive in the past couple months.


When she has found a piece of clothing on the floor she will sit a good distance from my husband and I and if we go near her to get it away she viciously growls and has even gotten to the point where she jumps at us aggressively.

She only did this once when we gave her something on a plate to eat and when someone just walked by her she had the same kind of episode. This seems like a form of anxiety, but I don't know where to begin to stop this behavior.

Some background information on Callie:

I bought her when she was about 3 months old in South Korea, from a Pet Shop. She was never this aggressive as a puppy, but recently started getting more and more aggressive.

Once the aggressive episode is over, she is completely normal and clingy. It kind of seems like she blacks out and when it's over, that's it and she is fine.

Does anyone have any advice?

Shannon Says...



Hi Vanessa,

Thanks for your comments and questions. As it's an aggressive issue, I do recommend finding a good balanced trainer in your area to work with one-on-one before the problem escalates any more.

It's not worth it to wait until your dog really bites someone (be this a child or anyone else).

You can never ignore aggression and hope it will go away on it's own. Ignoring a behavior will only reinforce it, and in essence, when you back off from her growl, you are telling her that her behavior is fine.

Aggression - What Not To Do


That being said, a few things that you should NEVER do to correct aggression:

1) Alpha roll or pinning the dog down - I believe that a correction should only be one second (any longer and it is inhumane).

Also, pinning an aggressive dog will cause her to either becoming overly submissive (not what you want), or more likely, to fight back. This is called fight or flight.

2) Grab the dog's muzzle and squeeze it - she will try to bite your hand or get overly submissive.

3) Shake her by the scruff of the neck to mimic the mother dog - she will become hand shy or will retaliate.

4) Pinch her lip to her tooth (yes, some people do this!) - she will become hand shy.

5) Point your finger and say no - this is simply a visual threat and won't correct the behavior.

Aggression - The "Out" Command


Because this aggression is involving an object (food, toy, etc.), I would start by teaching her an "out" command. Use something that does not cause her to become territorial over (not food), and have her on a leash and collar - not a harness.

While she is chewing/playing with the toy/stick/etc., say "Out" firmly, and then wait 3 seconds. If she spits the toy out, praise her immediately, but make sure she doesn't grab it again until you give her the OK.

If she doesn't spit the toy out, SAY NOTHING, loosen the leash for a split second (to create the element of surprise), pop up vertically fast, firm, and on time, and then loosen the leash again. The leash should go tight for only one second.

The goal is for the correction to be firm enough to cause her to spit the toy out of her mouth as fast as she can. If it's still in her mouth, repeat, but firmer. As soon as she releases it, PRAISE!

Be consistent with the command that you use, and always follow through (make her let go). However, be sure that you don't "trade" for the item, or use your hand to pry it out of her mouth.

Practice, practice, practice. Slowly start using objects that are more valuable to her. In addition to this, I would get in touch with a balanced trainer in your area to work with you one-on-one.

Personally, after spending a week desensitizing her to an electronic collar (never correcting with the collar for the first week), I would begin to use the e-collar to correct when she doesn't drop it.

This way, if you ever get into a situation where she is acting aggressively with an object, you can correct her without having to be right beside her (and avoiding a possible bite).

As I said, work with a good balanced trainer - it's never a good idea to try to work out aggression on your own!

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