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Do Golden Retrievers Bite? – The Owner’s Guide to Stop Golden Retriever Biting

Golden Retrievers will bite, just like almost any other dog, but they are not vicious biters and mishaps are rare.
Written by Tracey

Golden Retrievers are among the most popular breeds around because they’re generally friendly, docile and kid-friendly. In this article, you’ll learn about whether Golden Retrievers bite, the reasons or causes for that, and what to do about it.

So, do Golden Retrievers bite? Yes – Golden Retrievers, like most dogs, have a natural tendency to bite. But because these dogs were bred to retrieve injured game birds using their soft mouths, it’s in their instincts to bite. Still, Golden Retrievers don’t usually bite hard and are among the safest dogs to be around.

When measured on a scale from 1 to 10, the propensity of Golden Retrievers to bite is next to zero – probably only about 2. Combined with their sweet-nature and a “golden attack” is very unlikely. Let’s further explore.

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Why Do Dogs Bite?

Golden Retrievers are one of the top 5 dog breeds that shed the most, according to VetStreet.

Biting is of course a fundamental characteristic of all dogs. So, they’ll bite, although some dog breeds bite more and others bite less. Here are the most popular and common reasons for why a dog will bite. And, it’s probably not what you’d expect.

  • Dogs may bite because they are teething, which makes them want to chew on something — just like human babies.
  • A dog breed that was originally bred to be a hunter or herder may still possess the genetic makeup that makes the dog eager to attack or bite. Think of Pit Bulls, Rottweilers or Doberman Pinschers.
  • Dogs may bite when they feel surprised or threatened. In fact, this is a common response from all animals.
  • A dog may bite because the owner may have given the impression to the dog that it’s okay — or even ‘fun’ — to bite.

It’s important to remember that dogs have individual personalities and preferences which make every dog unique. Hence, it’s important to learn not only the typical characteristics of a particular dog breed, but also the individual history of the specific dog.

For example, if the dog was rescued and lived in an abusive environment with its previous owner, that may have made the particular dog insecure and aggressive. That being said, the reasons why dogs bite are varied just as the reasons why dogs kiss or lick are varied.

Why Do Golden Retrievers Bite?

Golden Retrievers are some of the nicest dogs to have around as family pets. In fact, Vet Street named them one of the 13 friendliest dog breeds in the world! In addition, the AKC ranked the Golden Retriever as the 3rd most popular dog breed in America.

They wouldn’t have acquired such popularity if they were anything but gentle and friendly. After all, what family would want to let an aggressive and “dangerous” dog into their home? Golden Retrievers are just intrinsically good-natured.

What gets a Golden Retriever — one of the least aggressive dog breeds in the world —agitated enough to go against its normal temperament and bite someone? Read on and we’ll discuss why biting may occur in Goldens.

Golden Retrievers Were Bred to “Bite”

The Golden Retriever is a dog breed originally bred to be of help with hunting in Scotland, though they quickly became popular everywhere. Their job in the 19th century was to fetch dead game birds from hills and bodies of water, such as lakes.

As a result, they love to swim in water and are highly energetic, which means they need plenty of exercise daily. In fact, we recommend at least one hour of physical activity daily but the more the better.

Chloe still uses her mouth when playing and will still jump up and bite on my mom when they’re playing. The good news is it doesn’t seem to be aggression.

-CPC1972 (Golden Retriever Forum)

More importantly, Golden Retrievers had to retrieve shot-birds with their mouths. But at the same time, their mouths needed to be soft enough to carry back the bird without any damage to the animal’s body. This is why Goldens are famous for their “soft mouths.”

So because of their retrieving instincts, Golden Retrievers have the tendency to bite on your hands, objects and really anything they can find. However, at the same time, their soft mouths make it more of a “friendly bite” than an aggressive one.

Other Reasons Why Golden Retrievers Bite

Since Golden Retrievers are usually particularly friendly and gentle, you may be surprised if and when they bite anyone, and especially if they bite you. While we can conclude that it’s mostly due to instincts, there are other reasons why your Golden may be biting.

The reason why Golden Retrievers bite could be because of any of these reasons:

  • Well, they are dogs after all and all dogs have an impulse to bite. It’s an ‘innate’ quality of the species Canis familiaris after all.
  • When they are young, they might like to nip or gently bite on your fingers which might help them improve their gums and teeth. This behavior is seen in all teething puppies.
  • Your Golden Retriever might bite while responding instinctively to stress or fear. For example, this could be a perceived threat such as a wild animal or intruder.
  • If your Golden Retriever is in pain and you unknowingly touch that spot, he might bite you. Again, this isn’t anything personal – it’s just an instinctual reaction to pain.
  • Your Golden Retriever may have suffered from abuse and psychological trauma in the hands of a previous owner. This is something to consider if you have adopted your dog. Such a traumatic past may make your dog react in strange ways.

How to Stop Golden Retrievers From Biting

Golden Retrievers are some of the best dogs to be around kids of all ages.

When they are puppies, Golden Retrievers will bite while playing. It’s completely normal for them. For this reason, it’s essential to train them to stop biting while they are still puppies. If you wait till they are grown up, the task gets that much harder.

A nibble during play might be okay for you but a hard bite may potentially cause harm to you. This is something you need to address especially if there are kids in your household.

Here are a few tips to train a Golden Retriever puppy to stop biting you:

  • Say a firm ‘No’ when the puppy bites you. It may not hurt or look “cute,” but there’s nothing cute about an adult dog biting your neighbor’s child.
  • Spray some bitter-tasting liquid (deterrent) so that when the puppy bites your hand, he’ll tastes the bitter liquid. It may take a few times for them to learn.
  • If possible, acquaint the puppy with new people each day. The more socialization you give your Golden Retriever puppy, the better off they’ll be as an adult.
  • Give the puppy a toy when he tries to bite you. A large and varied collection of chew toys are always useful whether your puppy bites or doesn’t bite.

Most puppies will outgrow their puppy phase and learn impulse control. However, being able to control this sooner than later can prevent any future mishaps. That said, this issue doesn’t usually last past this phase.

Stop Adult Goldens From Biting

Remember that dogs in general, and Golden Retrievers in particular, are superbly intelligent and adaptive, after all. Goldens love to please their owners and will take training seriously. But what happens if your Golden Retriever is still biting? 

Tips to train adult Golden Retrievers so that they stop biting:

  • Use plenty of enticing rewards, such as treats and play time. Remember to always use positive reinforcement training, as it works best with these dogs. 
  • Get your Golden Retriever plenty of exercise. This helps the adult dog dissipate his energy in non-harmful ways and keeps them more focused during training.
  • Use the timeout method. It’s not just reserved for kids, but can be quite effective for dogs too!
  • Apart from the tips mentioned above, you can additionally use deterrence collars on adult Golden Retrievers. I don’t usually recommend this unless the situation is bad. Rather, it should be used as a last resort.

Remember that dogs are pretty smart – even if they don’t quite understand English or other languages, they’re good at interpreting the tone of your voice and your body language.

Dogs can even “smell” when you are feeling scared. So, they’re actually have a better understanding than most people give them credit for.

You can consult with your vet to find out if there are any underlying medical issues that might be the reason for your Golden Retriever behaving strangely. As a last resort, you might need to consult with a dog behaviorist. 

Golden Retrievers and Kids

Additionally, if you have kids in your house, you’ll need to also teach your kids to interact properly with your Golden Retriever. Teach your kids not to hurt the puppy with rough play. This can include pulling on the tails or ears, riding the dog, or pushing.

If your main concern is that your Golden Retriever may intentionally or accidentally bite your child, then you’re not alone. Considering how big Goldens are, it’s a fair concern and an issue that many parents are worried about.

We have 2 young kids, and teaching them to be calm (“be a tree”) when the dog gets excited is essential. You have to train both kids and the dog at the same time.

– Briguy (Golden Retriever Forum)

So are Golden Retrievers safe for kids? The short answer is yes, Goldens are safe for households with small children. In fact, Golden Retrievers are in their element when they’re with children. They’re good with other dogs and cats in the household too!

However, for the dog to treat your children with respect, the kids need to treat the dog with respect too. And if your children aren’t old enough to understand this concept, then it’s best to wait until they’re a bit older.

Dogs Most and Least Likely to Bite

There are reasons other than obedience that makes the Golden Retriever intelligent dogs.

All dogs have a propensity to bite but the breeds that have a “reputation” for biting or are most likely to bite include German Shepherds, American Pit Bull Terrier, Mastiffs, Rotties, Doberman Pinscher and more.

If you’re curious, here’s a list of the 10 most dangerous dog breeds, according to dog bite attacks. I guarantee you will be surprised at some of the dog breeds on that list!

Breeds that are known to be among the most docile include Labradors, Basset Hounds, Portuguese Mountain Dogs, Bulldogs, Beagles, Irish Setters, Pugs, and Newfoundlands. Oh, and of course, the Golden Retriever!

But dog breeds aside, every dog is an individual dog and you need to treat him or her as such. Just because your neighbor’s Golden Retriever is the friendliest dog in the world doesn’t mean your other friend’s Golden will be. 

Do Bigger or Smaller Dogs Bite More?

Does the size of a dog matter when it comes to a dog’s biting characteristics? Believe it or not, smaller dogs can be more nervous or snappy than bigger dogs. That’s right – your Chihuahua may be more “bite-friendly” than a Golden Retriever.

A correlation has been shown, mostly anecdotally but statistically as well that suggests the idea. However, a clear causation hasn’t been conclusively shown between dog sizes and their desire to bite.

As this BBC report details, some studies have shown shorter dogs to be more aggressive under specific circumstances. But scientists are still not clear about the reason for this.

It could be that the dog owners of small dogs are passing on their own anxiety to their dog. We may also have wrong information about dog bites as bites by smaller dogs may be under reported (not big enough injury).

Certain behaviors that owners “expect” in their dogs may become manifest in those dogs in a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy. Like one Quora user writes, maybe large dogs simply aren’t given the opportunity to be aggressive while with smaller dogs, it’s not such a big deal. 

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About the author

Tracey

Tracey J is a licensed vet tech. With over 5 years of veterinary technician experience, she's dedicated her life and career to dogs. When she's not studying or working, she's taking care of her Mini Australian Shepherd - Olympus!

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