Golden Retriever Behavior Problems: Common Issues & How To Fix Them

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Is your golden retriever struggling with some behavior problems?

Welcome to the life of a golden retriever parent!

Experiencing behavior issues from your golden retriever is totally normal, and in this article, we’ll address some of the most common behavior problems and how to fix them.

Let’s dive in!

The Truth About Golden Retriever Behavior Issues

No golden retriever is perfect and if yours is misbehaving, that’s totally normal.

But here’s the good news: all goldens have the potential to change their behavior and you can have a well-behaved golden with just a little bit of work.

Even if you’ve tried in the past to train them or stop a certain behavior and failed, it’s not a permanent problem.

And yes, golden retrievers are wonderful dogs with really good reputations, but that doesn’t mean they’re all perfect angels.

They can definitely be tough to handle and in this article, you’ll learn how to do that.

How To Stop Bad Behavior In Your Golden Retriever

There are several ways to fix bad behaviors in dogs, but this article is going to cover these four:

  • Satisfy their needs
  • Give them a job to do
  • Remove the temptation
  • Don’t reinforce bad behavior

First, we’ll talk about these four overall strategies and then we’ll get into the specifics of how to stop certain behaviors.

Are Your Golden Retriever’s Needs Being Met?

Have you ever been around a baby late at night?

My nephew is one year old and if he’s still awake at eight or nine o’clock, he starts to get tired and fussy.

It’s totally understandable… it’s late for him and he’s tired!

And you should think about your golden retriever’s needs the same way.

Are they being bad because they’re tired and they need a nap?

Are they acting out because you’ve been at work all week and they want some attention?

Are they misbehaving because they want to play with you, but you haven’t had time to?

When they’re misbehaving, ask yourself if their sleep, play, and attention needs have been met, and if they haven’t, that may be your solution.

But those aren’t the only needs that need to be met.

There are also physical and mental stimulation needs.

“A Tired Dog Is A Good Dog”

tired golden retriever is good golden retriever

Many of the behavior problems you’re struggling with could be fixed or diminished if you exercise your golden more often (both physically and mentally).

Golden retrievers were originally bred to retrieve gunned down birds for their owners.

They had to work all day running through fields, streams, and marshes…

It required a lot of energy to do all of that work, so being full of energy and desiring a job to do is in their genes!

But these days they’re house pets that we want to cuddle on the couch and watch Netflix with.

Can you see how your golden might be bored and looking for an outlet for all of their energy?

So the question is, how do you mentally and physically exercise your golden?

Here are seven ways to do that:

1. Give them puzzle toys

My golden retriever, Oliver, has a ton of energy, so we give him a lot of puzzle toys.

We give him frozen kongs often, which is where we take some of his food, soak it in water for ten minutes, stuff it in a kong, then freeze it.

It takes him anywhere from 10-20 minutes to get all of the food out and he absolutely loves them.

Plus, they use up a ton of mental energy.

Also, we don’t use food bowls anymore.

We have a rubber ball that we put his food in and he has to roll it around to get his meals out.

This way, he earns every meal so it’s mentally stimulating (and also fun and rewarding).

2. Teach them to love chew toys

Dogs naturally love to chew and it releases feel-good endorphins.

If your golden is anxious or has a lot of pent-up energy, getting them to go to town on a chew toy will do wonders for them.

Check out this article to see our favorite chew toys and how to get your golden to love chewing on chew toys.

3. Play games with them

Not only will games help you bond with them, but they’ll also physically wear them out.

You can play tug or fetch, or (especially if you have a mouthy puppy) you can use a flirt pole to play with them.

4. Take them on walks

Taking your golden retriever on a walk will allow them to sniff, which will help with the mental stimulation, as well as get a little physical exercise.

Usually, with Oliver, we go on walks and sprinkle in some training throughout.

5. Train them

Challenging your golden retriever by teaching them new things and making them earn treats and praise is a great way to burn off some of their mental energy.

Plus, when you challenge them and they overcome those challenges, that will help build confidence and give them a sense of satisfaction (both of which will help decrease bad behaviors).

Check out this article to learn how to train your golden retriever.

6. Set up doggy play dates

Most goldens love playing with other dogs, so if you have a friend who has a dog, or you meet some people in an online dog group, that could be a great way for them to get some exercise.

We recently attended a local golden retriever meetup and Oliver absolutely loved playing with all of the other goldens.

7. Take your golden to daycare

A few times a month, Oliver goes to doggy daycare and he has a blast.

Whenever we pull up to the building he realizes where we are and he gets so excited.

One of the workers there even told me he has a girlfriend!

Now, the best news is that the entire day after a full day of daycare, Oliver is wiped out, so he’s not so crazy those days and we love it.

Remove The Temptation

removing golden retriever temptation

One day, seemingly out of the blue, Oliver developed the bad habit of digging into the trash can in the office.

He would grab Post-it notes, tissues, crumpled up paper, anything…

Then he would run around the house and try to get us to chase him to get it back.

Eventually, we got fed up with it, so we moved the trash can on top of the desk for a few weeks.

He got out of the habit, and now we can use the trash can in peace again.

Are there any temptations for your dog that you can remove, either temporarily or permanently?

Can you put your shoes in the closet so your dog will stop chewing them?

Can you use a baby gate so your dog can’t go into your kid’s playroom and steal toys?

Can you not give them a certain toy that they become aggressive or possessive over?

Also, maybe you’re the temptation!

If your puppy is biting you, leave the room.

If they’re jumping on you when you walk in the door, put an exercise pen around the door so they can’t get to you right away.

Yes, some of these techniques might fix the problem temporarily, but they’ll help by:

  • getting your puppy out of the bad habit
  • giving you time to work on good manners and training
  • giving you time to work out a schedule where they’re sufficiently exercised

Give Your Golden Retriever A Job To Do

Your golden can only be doing one thing at a time.

For example, they can’t chew up your shoe and chew on a chew toy at once.

So if your golden is doing something you don’t want them to do, give them something else to do that you do want them to do.

This is called redirection.

Here are a few examples…

If they’re barking, get them to chew on a chew toy.

If they’re jumping on you, ask them to sit.

If they’re biting your fingers, give them a plush toy to bite.

When they do do the behavior you’re asking for, make sure to praise them and let them know they’re doing a great job.

And here’s a bonus tip: get them to do something you want them to do before they do the thing you don’t want them to do.

Eventually, they’ll stop their bad habit and do something that they’re rewarded for.

Now, no matter how much you exercise your golden, or how often you redirect them, if you’re positively reinforcing the bad behavior, things just might get worse…

What Are You Reinforcing?

Let’s say you walk in the house and your golden jumps on you.

Of course, you love them so much and you’re so excited to see them, so what do you do?

You give them pets and tell them how much you love them.

Every time you do that, you’re positively reinforcing them for jumping on you.

Or what if you’re on a walk and all of the sudden your dog smells something very interesting a few feet ahead of you.

They pull on the leash and you let them go up to the smelly smell, which makes them happy because they get to check it out.

In this scenario, you’ve just rewarded them for pulling on the leash.

So if your golden is misbehaving, really take a look at how you’re responding to their behavior.

Are you accidentally rewarding and positively reinforcing this bad behavior?

If you are, that could be adding to your problem.

Is My Golden’s Bad Behavior Just Because They’re A Puppy?

golden retriever puppy behavior problems

There’s no question about it, golden retriever puppies can be a little on the naughty side.

For one, they don’t know right from wrong yet.

They don’t know that they’re not supposed to pee in the house, or what they’re not supposed to chew.

You have to kindly and patiently teach them what you want them to do.

Puppies also love to have fun.

Of course, your idea of fun and their idea of it might be completely different…

Chase is one of most puppies’ favorite games and if they grab your socks and you chase them, that’ll encourage them to keep doing it.

This goes back to the, “what are you reinforcing?” question.

Be sure to not give in to their games and accidentally reinforce bad behavior like stealing socks.

Another thing is puppy biting.

Puppy biting is actually very important for their development, so even though it seems like bad behavior to us, it’s actually necessary.

When they bite it’s not that they’re being aggressive, it’s just that they’re puppies and it’s what they do.

Eventually, your puppy will stop biting around four months old, then they’ll get into their rebellious “teenage” years, then they’ll finally calm down around two to three years old.

You can learn more about the golden retriever puppy timeline here.

Common Golden Retriever Behavior Problems

Here are several common golden retriever behavior problems:

  • jumping on people
  • pulling on the leash
  • destructive chewing
  • demand barking/demanding attention
  • puppy biting
  • digging
  • aggression

Now, let’s talk about how to fix them.

How To Stop Your Golden Retriever From Jumping On People

You can get your golden retriever to stop jumping up on people by exercising them before they see people they might jump on, and then redirect them by asking them to sit.

One thing you don’t want to do is give them attention or pet them while they’re jumping on you.

You can learn more about how to stop your golden retriever from jumping on people here.

How To Stop Your Golden Retriever From Pulling On The Leash

golden retriever sitting

There are two ways to get your golden to stop pulling on the leash:

  1. Reward them for not pulling
  2. Don’t reward them for pulling

If they’re walking nicely next to you, give them praise and treats.

But when they pull, they want to go forward, so if you let them go forward, you’re reinforcing that behavior.

Instead, stop or turn in the other direction.

Eventually, they’ll learn that pulling doesn’t get them what they want, but sticking by your side does.

Also, the more tired your golden is, the less likely they’ll pull.

So before you go for a walk on a leash, play inside or in the backyard with them to get the edge off.

Click here to learn about teaching your golden retriever to walk on a leash without pulling.

How To Stop Your Golden Retriever From Chewing Up Everything

Chewing on things in the house is all about removing temptation and redirection.

If your puppy is chewing your shoes, putting them in the closet will immediately fix the problem.

If they never get a chance to start the bad habit of shoe chewing, then they’ll never chew on shoes.

But what if your puppy is chewing on something less movable, like your furniture?

This is where the redirection comes in.

Calmy interrupt them and get their attention with a chew toy.

Then, when they start chewing on the chew toy, praise the heck out of them.

Eventually, when they have the desire to chew, they’ll look for one of their chew toys.

How To Stop Your Golden Retriever From Demanding Barking

If your golden retriever is demand barking at you, they usually want playtime or attention.

First, make sure their needs have been met.

If they haven’t, then meet them!

If your pup is all taken care of and they just want extra attention or playtime, don’t give in and positively reinforce their demand barking.

Instead, remove yourself from the situation then (when they’ve stopped barking at you) give them a chew toy.

Now, the next time you’re in a situation where they might start demand barking at you, make sure their needs are met and that they’re tired and occupied with a special chew toy before they start demand barking.

How To Stop Your Golden Retriever Puppy From Biting

train golden retriever puppy biting

All puppies bite — it’s completely natural, but I know that doesn’t make it any less painful…

So if your puppy is biting incessantly, try these four steps:

  1. Exercise your puppy (remember, a tired dog is a good dog)
  2. Give your puppy something else to bite (redirection)
  3. Let them know that their biting hurts
  4. Remove yourself from the situation if it intensifies

You can learn more about how to stop your golden retriever puppy from biting here.

How To Stop Your Golden Retriever From Digging

Digging comes naturally to dogs, so don’t be surprised if your golden is a digger.

To stop destructive digging, make sure your golden is physically and mentally stimulated enough.

A tired dog will likely not be a digging dog.

You can also redirect their attention with a toy or a game.

Also, don’t leave them outside alone where they’re free to dig to their heart’s content if you don’t want them to be digging.

But if they really really love digging, you can give them a safe and less destructive outlet to dig, like their own sandbox.

How To Prevent Aggression In Your Golden Retriever

One of the best ways to prevent aggression in your golden retriever is to properly socialize them.

Show them that other people and other dogs are ok by giving them positive experiences with them.

Now, if your golden is being aggressive, go get professional help.

A professional trainer will help you understand why your dog is being aggressive, what triggers their aggression, and how to fix it.


golden retriever behavior issues

Although golden retrievers are wonderful dogs, they’re not angels all the time and can sometimes be a little naughty.

To stop behavior problems from happening:

  • make sure their play, sleep, and social needs are met
  • keep them mentally and physically stimulated
  • redirect them to do something you want them to do
  • stop accidentally reinforcing bad behavior

Have any questions about golden retriever behavior issues?

Let me know in the comments below!

And if you know someone who has a golden with some behavior problems, please share this with them!

P.S. If you liked this article, you’ll love our guide to training golden retriever puppies.

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17 thoughts on “Golden Retriever Behavior Problems: Common Issues & How To Fix Them”

  1. We have a 1 1/2 year old Retriever. We take on 21/2 mile walks at least 4 days a week, give her chew bones and bones she can chew and eat, but every night when we sit down to relax, she starts to bark and paw me until we give her a nightly bone, I’m afraid she’s getting overweight from eating too many but it’s the only thing that makes her calm down and take a break, any suggestions

    • Putting a tiny bit of peanut butter on a chew toy (like a benebone toy) might help her learn to enjoy chewing on chew toys every night. A frozen Kong might help too ( and you can just take the portion that you would put in the kong away from her dinner so she’s not getting too many calories.

  2. I think you are reading my mind when I get each email. Every email I’ve gotten has been exactly what we are currently dealing with! Biting, misbehaving, but so adorable 10 week old golden girl. Your posts have been so helpful, thank you!

  3. My wife and I have fallen in love with our Casey ( golden ) she is just about our world. Our kids are gone and we have 7 grand kids but with Casey we always have someone who meets us at the door and wants to love on us. She is so good, never barks unless some one rings the doorbell Great around kids and loves people and other dogs. If anyone reads this post and you are thinking about a dog. Think no more. Get a Golden you will love her or him but be ready because they require a lot from you. But you will never have so much fun in your life. Thank you.

  4. HI, I have a 11 week golden retriever and he is in the biting stage. He has chewing toys but mostly at night he wants to bite me more than his toys. So I redirect him each time to a chew toy sometimes it works. So what i have done is play tough of war with a rope toy and try to keep my hands away from mouth. Is this the correct way. He is also putting his paws on my lower counters and I tell him down and I put him down. I have him in beginners training for 6 weeks and if this does not help and I am thinking of get a trainer to come to my house. This is so frustrating and I want a good behavior dog that listen. Am I doing he right thing?
    Thank you

    • Hey Margaret, good questions! At 11 weeks old, he’s still really young, so keep working with him and have patience. It sounds like you’re on the right track… keep talking to your trainer and they’ll be able to help!

  5. We have our 2nd Golden now and also our 2nd Shih Tzu they are the same age and are true brothers and sisters. Our Golden is obsessed with shadows moving, flickers he gets so fixed on them, that he is driving us crazy. We have tried everything but nothing is working. Anyone else had this problem and if so. What is the solution?

  6. My nearly 3 year old golden is obsessed with shadows. If she’s out in the yard & something flies over she chases the shadows. In the house she will chase any bit of shadow she sees. Once she starts, it’s almost impossible to get her attention away from it. My Vet thought she would outgrow it but so far she hasn’t.

  7. Does anyone elses Golden Retriever have a fascination with light spots on the back of furniture or floor coming from outside or even reflections from cell phones? My 3 1/2 yr old female can sit and watch and squiggle around for great periods of time. Sometimes we think she might have an “imaginary” friend or is crazy

  8. Dear Jake & Oliver,

    This is a great article. I found it because a friend has a GR that they love very much. He’s 3 years old and has lived with them since he was a baby – 6 weeks, I think. He seems to guard his food and has bitten all the members of his family. Guarding behavior is something they can avoid, but he also was very aggressive to my friend and they can’t figure out what caused it. She had to have medical care after he attacked her. She had been scratching and petting him behind his ears after he wanted to get into the bathroom with her. She opened the door and it hit him so she went to say she was sorry and as she was petting him, he bit her. He is not neutered. Her sons don’t want to neuter him. A professional trainer and thousands of dollars later she is being told to put Apollo down. I will share your article with her, but do you think that getting him fixed before giving up on him is a good idea? It seems like it would be. She has called a GR rescue, but they want him fixed and not aggressive, which is understandable. He isn’t aggressive often, but when he is, it’s serious. I don’t live with them, so this is all second hand. He is a beautiful dog. They are heartbroken. Can you give me any more advice than you already have in your good piece. Thank you very much!

  9. Early this morning we saw our BMW car that the right side near the upper wheel have bites n scratches what is wrong with our golden retriever dog he is 6 y/o

  10. Our 6 mo. GR has started to stop, lay down and not get up. She is limp as a wet noodle.
    How can we respond to this behavior?


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