Can Golden Retrievers Be Aggressive? Here’s The Truth

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission if you click on a link and purchase the item. This comes at no extra cost to you.

Want to know if golden retrievers can be aggressive?

The short answer is yes, they can be.

Any dog (or human, for that matter) can be aggressive…

But is it normal for golden retrievers to be aggressive?


In this article, you’ll learn:

  • What aggression in golden retrievers looks like
  • What causes them to be aggressive
  • How to handle an aggressive golden retriever
  • And much more

Let’s dive in!

Can Golden Retrievers Be Aggressive?

Normally, golden retrievers are gentle, sweet, loyal dogs.

However, like all dogs, there is a possibility of them becoming aggressive.

In some cases, aggression can be fixed through training, while in other cases, different solutions may need to be employed (careful management, medicine, rehoming, etc.).

The good news is that most of the time aggression can be fixed.

Now let’s get into why this happens…

golden retriever aggression

Why Do Golden Retrievers Become Aggressive?

There are lots of reasons why golden retrievers can become aggressive, but it’s normally a mix of genetic factors and environmental factors.

Here are a few more specific reasons:

Lack of socialization

If a golden retriever is poorly socialized, they’ll often be scared or nervous in many situations.

That’s understandable.

If you were raised in a sheltered home with no experience of the outside world, you’d be scared, too!

Unfortunately, sometimes dogs will exhibit aggressive behaviors when they’re scared.

History of abuse

If a dog has been physically or mentally abused, their reaction to some people in some situations might be to show aggressive behaviors.

This, too, is understandable.

If you had been beaten up often, you’d probably lash out as well!

Irresponsible breeding

Unfortunately there are many breeders out there who are just in it for the money.

They don’t care about their dogs’ pedigrees, which can be a problem if grandpa golden retriever was extremely aggressive.

Mental disorders

Sometimes there may be a chemical imbalance in a dog’s brain that causes them to become aggressive.

It may be just in certain situations, or it may happen randomly.

What Does Aggression In Golden Retrievers Look Like?

golden retriever aggression

Dogs exhibit aggression in several ways.

They obviously don’t speak, but they do use their body language to tell us how they’re feeling.

According to Tufts Veterinary School, here are some signs that act as a warning that a dog is in an aggressive mood:

  • Stiffening or freezing up
  • Wide eyes
  • Tense mouth or curled lips
  • Wrinkled nose
  • Showing teeth
  • Barking
  • Growling
  • Air snapping
  • Lunging
  • Biting

Most of the time, you’ll see a combination of these signals from an aggressive dog.

These are warning signs that can precede a bite, so be careful if your dog is showing these signs.

When Can Golden Retrievers Become Aggressive

There are several scenarios that can trigger a dog to become aggressive.

For some dogs it’s only a very particular situation, while for others, they may be aggressive in several scenarios.

According to the ASPCA, here are some potential triggers:

  • Protecting their territory
  • Protecting their possessions or food
  • Protecting their family members
  • When they’re scared
  • When they’re in pain
  • When they’re overly stimulated
  • When they’re competing for a mate

Food Aggression In Golden Retrievers

Food aggression in golden retrievers is one of the more common scenarios where goldens can become aggressive.

According to Tufts Veterinary School, food aggression is when dogs become aggressive when someone approaches them around food.

This can involve their regular kibble, or even a food-related toy, such as a rawhide chew or pig’s ear.

There are a range of fixes for this, including training a dog to stop showing this behavior, or just effectively managing it and minimizing the risks around it.

How To Prevent Aggression In Golden Retrievers

The best thing to do about aggression in golden retrievers is to stop it from happening in the first place.

Since bad behaviors usually stem from a mix of environmental and genetic factors, here are three ways to try to prevent aggression in your golden:

1. Socialize your dog

Dogs usually become aggressive when they feel threatened.

But if your dog is comfortable in many environments and around many types of people and animals, they likely won’t feel threatened as much as a dog that’s never experienced the world outside of their house.

2. Choose a good breeder

Since genetics definitely play a role in whether or not golden retrievers can be aggressive, make sure to choose a good breeder than is breeding good-tempered dogs.

Although two non-aggressive dogs aren’t guaranteed to produce good-natured puppies, it definitely increases the chances.

Also, breeders are the first ones to socialize your puppy, and responsible breeders will know how to do that, as well as care enough to do it.

3. Avoid using punishment

Dogs often don’t understand what you’re trying to tell them when you punish them.

But what they definitely understand is that the punishment is coming from you, so they may learn to be fearful and aggressive towards you and or other people when they’ve been physically or verbally punished.

What To Do If Your Golden Retriever Is Aggressive

If you have an aggressive golden retriever, get professional help!

Goldens are big dogs with big teeth, so if you have an aggressive golden, it could be dangerous.

A professional can help identify what the risk of your dog’s aggressive behavior is, what’s the source of their aggression, and how to fix it.

Posting in Facebook groups (or even reading blogs like this) where you’re getting advice from someone who’s not a professional at dealing with a potentially dangerous problem is not a good idea, and could even make the problem worse.

Also, dogs can be aggressive for different reasons, so it’s important to get someone who knows your unique dog and your unique situation.


aggressive golden retrievers

Although it is not common, it is possible for golden retrievers to be aggressive.

To prevent aggression in your dog, be sure to never physically punish them, choose a good breeder, and properly socialize them.

And if you already have a golden retriever that’s aggressive, get professional help!

They’ll be able to help figure out why it’s happening, as well as come up with a solution to fix it.

P.S. If you liked this article, you’ll love the Complete Guide To Golden Retrievers.

Related articles:

14 thoughts on “Can Golden Retrievers Be Aggressive? Here’s The Truth”

  1. Our golden is 16 months old and is very aggressive when she has something she shouldn’t and you approach her she growls and lunges at you if you try to get it
    She will trade for a treat sometimes

  2. I have a 2.5 year old golden/lab. Lovely dog. When we got him we also had older pug and they were fine until we decided to get female golden/lab. We have got her fixed the older golden is not and now becoming aggressive. What should we do? Would it help to get him fixed?

  3. I have a golden that’s a year and two months and from the day we brought him home he’s food aggressive. He’s not only is he food aggressive but, when he has things he’s not supposed to have he turns aggressive, I gave to use grabbers to get objects out of his mouth or I’ll get seriously bit. He’s been a biter from day one. We’re at our wits end and at times I’m ready to get rid of him. Help!!!

  4. I have a 2.5 months old golden retriever pup. I am guessing he is in his teething phase but from past 2 days he has been extra aggressive where he is just biting, growling and showing teeth if he is awake. Any suggestions on how to calm him down or what could be the possible reasons for this behaviour

  5. My Golden is a female 8 month old female puppy. She is usually very gentle with us and people around the neighbourhood, at home she likes to play and very energetic. However, she has a few agression issues where she snaps when we try to hold her up, she growls and snaps when we try to take anything from her mouth as she eats from the ground or sometimes resource guarding but not always. I am usually able to wash her and touch her paws but today she broke her nail and does not let us clean or put a bootie on her back paw. She growls and snaps. We took her to a trainer when she was young to get socialized a bit, learn basics but we are side when she shows her teeth or snaps at us.

  6. I am thinking about adopting a golden but the info on him says he is aggressive toward other dogs. I have had a golden before and she was sweet. I’m in my 70’s now and want another one but not sure I could handle an aggressive dog. Any suggestions ?

  7. My English retriever is aggressive with food and other dogs outside the house. We have a Golden too. The English barks and lunges at other dogs on our walks. I have tried everything. Any suggestions? Thanks

  8. I was such a little boy when there was one of my dogs it was a golden retriever actually bit me. I didn’t expect this I though that it was such a good boy but it turns out that I was messing with his person because he was a PTSD dog I didn’t know my dad had PTSD. Well it turns out that he was not meaning to it was because I screamed and then my dad didn’t like it and the dog didn’t like it. I though that he was just there for support but no he was also there to protect him. Thank you if you read his far.

  9. I have a female golden that is 18 months.
    We just bought another female Golden that is 12 weeks old. Both Goldens are sister’s!
    The 18month is always biting on her sister all over and especially, around her neck!
    They play good together, but when they come from outside, the 18 mo. gets very aggressive and plays rough and don’t like to share her toys. They sometimes sleep by each other, but the older gets up.


Leave a Comment