Dog Breeds Dog Training

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 Tiffany Jeng

Golden Retrievers are among the most popular dog 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 measured on a scale from 1 to 10, the propensity of Golden Retrievers to bite is probably only about 2, which means Golden Retrievers are among the safest dogs to be around.

Retrievers were bred to retrieve injured game birds from both land and water. For this reason, Golden Retrievers were specifically bred to have a soft mouth. 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 a dog; hence, they’ll bite with some breeds biting more and others biting less. Here are the most popular reasons for why a dog will bite. 

  • 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.

With that 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, VetStreet named them one of the 13 friendliest dog breeds in the world!

On top of that, 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.

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? Let’s find out.

A Little On the Golden Retriever…

The Golden Retriever is a dog breed originally bred to be of help while hunting in Scotland. Their job in the 19th century was to mostly 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.

They are neither among the largest dog breeds nor the smallest ones. Despite being classed as a “big dog breed,” the Golden Retriever is a good size for all types of families in all situations. 

Reasons Why Golden Retrievers Bite

Since Golden Retrievers are usually particularly friendly and gentle, it may come as a surprise if and when they bite anyone and especially if they bite you (the owner). 

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’ characteristic 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.
  • Given the history of the Golden Retriever breed as game-retrieving companions of hunters, they may show signs of that heritage and chase or bite other animals and or humans.
  • Your Golden Retriever might bite while responding instinctively to stress.
  • If your Golden Retriever is in pain and you unknowingly touch that spot, he might bite you.
  • 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 or may make him prone to biting.

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 might bite while playing. 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 all that much harder.

A nibble during play might be okay for you but a hard bite may 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. This problem doesn’t usually last past this phase.

Remember that dogs in general, and Golden Retrievers in particular, are spectacularly smart and adaptive after all. 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 that positive reinforcement training works best with these dogs. 
  • Get your Golden Retriever plenty of exercise. This helps the adult dog dissipate his energy in non-harmful ways.
  • 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 and think it should be used as a last resort.

Additionally, if you have kids in your house, you will need to also teach your kids to interact properly with your Golden Retriever puppy. Teach your kids not to hurt the puppy by pushing it too hard or by throwing it.

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 very last resort, you might need to consult with a dog behaviorist who’ll help you modify your dog’s behavior. 

Golden Retrievers and Kids

If your main concern is that your Golden Retriever may intentionally or accidentally bite your child, then you’re not alone. It’s a fair concern and something many parents worry about. 

So are Golden Retrievers really safe for kids? Yes, Golden Retrievers are quite safe for households with small children. Golden Retrievers are in their element when they’re with children. In addition, they’re quite okay with other dogs and cats in the household too.

It’s as hassle-free a dog breed as you can imagine in terms of getting along with others. There’s a reason why they’re ranked one of the friendliest dogs on many lists.

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, Rottweilers, Doberman Pinscher, etc.

If you’re curious, here’s a list of the 10 most “dangerous” dog breeds, according to dog attacks.

Dog breeds that are known to be among the most docile include Labrador Retrievers, 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 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 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? Usually, smaller dogs can be more nervous or snappy than bigger dogs. 

A correlation has been shown — mostly anecdotally but statistically as well — but a 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 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.

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

Tiffany Jeng

Tiffany is a product of Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine (class of 2022). Combined 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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