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Help! Golden retriever showing aggression

(40 Posts)
PermaShattered Sat 08-Apr-17 20:30:23

I’m so upset. We have a gorgeous golden retriever rescue (from Turkey) and she’s so sweet most of the time. A lovely dog. But today she has shown some aggression and has bitten my DH. We've found already that she doesn't like to be pulled/encouraged by her collar and has snapped, but today she has been digging in the garden - both of us tried to get her to stop but she really went for us. Then she bit him. Maybe we should not be trying to move her by pulling her collar - maybe she's had a bad experience in the past. If anyone has any insight and advice please tell me! I’m worried.

CornflakeHomunculus Sat 08-Apr-17 20:47:01

Definitely stop trying to move her physically, it's very clear she really doesn't like it. If you need to move her then lure her with treats, a toy or something else rewarding.

From the sound of it (and apologies if I've got this wrong) she has snapped at you before when you've tried to move her with her collar and today you did the same but this time she's actually bitten? If that's the case then it's not hugely surprising that this has happened. She's been telling you as clearly as she can that she's not happy being pulled by her collar but you haven't listened and she's had no choice but to escalate her behaviour.

I would really recommend getting a decent behaviourist/trainer in to help you with this. If you go through one of the reputable organisations (such as the APBC, CAPBT, APDT, IMDT or PPG) you can be sure you'll be getting someone who uses to up date, science-based methods rather than someone who still believes in dominance and harsh corrections.

If you're on FB it's worth posting in this group. It's run by very highly respected professionals who can give you some emergency advice to help manage the situation until you can see a behaviourist/trainer.

witwootoodleoo Sat 08-Apr-17 20:51:39

Definitely stop moving her by her collar. It's unpleasant for any dog particularly one with a difficult past. I'd focus on getting a solid recall. Also use positive reinforcement to teach as solid 'touch' command where she touches your closed fist with her nose. You can then use voth of these to get her in a particular spot by consent rather than force.

And get yourself an expert dog trainer that specialises in positive reinforcement pronto.

DoloresTheRunawayTrain Sat 08-Apr-17 22:59:54

The collar thing is never going to work with a retriever. Even if they don't have issues like yours seems to, they will just plant their back legs in as hard as they can and you end up in a tug of war or dragging them.
Use a behaviourist, trainer and in the meantime try to find out what motivates her. Most gun dog breeds are lead by their stomachs with the exception of a few, so you could tempt her to do what you want with treats. They thrive on positive reinforcement.

Ojoj1974 Sat 08-Apr-17 23:11:03

My spaniel does the same thing, only at night when I'm trying to get him into the utility room where he sleeps. We now don't even atempt to touch his collar and have bought a pheromone collar which has helped a lot plus treats

SparklingRaspberry Sat 08-Apr-17 23:21:25

I don't get it

You knew she doesn't like being pulled by the collar. But you did it anyway and she snapped, and now you're writing about her going for you.

What did you expect to happen??

Whilst it isn't good she's bitten someone I'm hardly surprised. And I don't really blame her if I'm totally honest

She's been making it perfectly clear she doesn't like it. A lot of dogs don't like this. People forget it's not just "pulling their collar", as you're pulling something that is secured round their neck!

You need to work on how you communicate with her. Rather than yank her collar use positive reinforcement! Punishing a dog doesn't work, it just puts fear or aggression into them as you have found out today!

BiteyShark Sun 09-Apr-17 06:44:04

I would also recommend doing some specific gun dog training. I am certainly understanding way more how my dog 'works and thinks' by going to a gun dog trainer who is showing me not only how to manage him but also how to channel his energy (and that doesn't mean lots of walking).

BiteyShark Sun 09-Apr-17 07:01:01

Sorry too early in the morning to make myself clear. I walk my gun dog for my benefit, other activities such as hunting and retrieving whilst out is what he loves best.

You don't say how long you have had him so I am going to assume not long? Have you done any formal training? If not I would totally recommend it as it builds up that bond with your dog and may help with the aggression (I say may as it's hard to tell if this is a specific issue or not).

witwootoodleoo Sun 09-Apr-17 10:16:45

I'd recommend that you read In Defence of Dogs by John Bradshaw and Culture Clash by Jean Donaldson as I think they'll both really help you

PermaShattered Sun 09-Apr-17 19:59:16

Thanks so much - that's really really helpful and reassuring. I'm going to contact an dog behaviourist tomorrow and ask him to come and help. We've had no problems today. First time dog owner (save for having a puppy for 8 wks) so your insight has been so helpful. Someone asked how long we've had her - 6 wks now. The charity who rescued her from the Turkish pound last November don't know her history.

S-Rasperry - you make an assumption here and you weren't particularly helpful. Though i didn't specifically say, it has not been all the time by any means that she hasn't liked being pulled by collar - probably 5/10% of the time. So yes, i was surprised and shocked. I wrote on here for help, not to be reprimanded but i guess there's always one.

Thanks everyone anyway! I'll keep you posted. PS she's been golden today, no hint of aggression.

LucieLucie Sun 09-Apr-17 20:02:03

Good advice already given, do you have children in the house Op?

PermaShattered Sun 09-Apr-17 20:15:47

Lucie - yes. Four children - two boys aged 6 and 9, and two teen girls - so really need to work on this!

LucieLucie Sun 09-Apr-17 20:23:46

With young children in the house I think it was irresponsible of the rescue to rehome a dog to you with no history.

You have no idea what could trigger another bite reaction, obviously now you know to avoid pulling the collar but he could be sensitive in being touched in other areas.

I'd remove his collar in the house / garden and use a harness while out walking.

Hopefully you've had a good talk to the children about never approaching him while he's sleeping or eating too?

Fingers crossed the behaviourist will be able to help you.

PermaShattered Mon 10-Apr-17 09:28:11

Lucie - no, they were absolutely not irresponsible - you have made certain assumptions as someone did further up. The charity rescues goldens from the pound and then place them in British foster homes for 4 months. During that time, the paperwork is sorted to enable them to fly to the UK to their forever home; all vet checks, treatment, vaccines and microchipping is done and, crucially, those 4 months enable the foster carers to observe the dog and get to know the dog, identify any behavioural issues and fit the dog to the right family over here. I don't call that irresponsible, do you? I would recommend the charity to anyone,

For what it's worth - and back to my Peggy - she is (and was in the foster home) a sweet natured, happy, loving and submissive dog who they felt would totally blossom in a family like mine. And she is. The charity owner and her foster carer were totally shocked when i told them - it was out of character. We have had no other incidents since. And i'm waiting for two dog behaviourists to get back to me. I'll get back to you all - if my experienced can help anyone that will be bonus.

But please. Avoid making assumptions when you don't know the facts.

LucieLucie Mon 10-Apr-17 18:00:32

No assumptions here, dog has bitten your husband and you have children at home. It could have been one of them that was hurt.

Your op doesn't detail the temperament assessments that you are now saying were done.

PermaShattered Mon 10-Apr-17 18:27:33

No it didn't - but i was asking for advice going forward, not assumptions and statements about the past. And like many OPs, it was posted in haste for some urgent advice... and many have given me advice for which i'm really thankful.

I guess ours isn't the first dog who has been great for weeks, and has suddenly shown a touch of aggression :/

DeafinitelyDaisy2 Mon 10-Apr-17 18:41:44

PermaShattered ....You're not on your own with this one, I too have a beautiful Golden Retriever who is coming up to two years old. A male who was getting too exciteable and trying to dominate me . I completely understand how upsetting it is when you love them so much but they suddenly turn on you with short sharp aggression. I had the same problem only from possession of 'things' and he has bitten me twice when I've tried to take something away. It's always something of mine like the tv remote or the post or a plant from the garden! I can hold a bone while he chews at it, move his food, or change over a toy without problem but they know how to get your attention and they will take something they know will result in 'a game' or 'an argument' as far as they're concerned. You're new to having a dog and he must be confused and happy at the same time to have such a lovely big family round him. But the answer is, as others have suggested, to get a specialist dog behaviourist to come to your house. I did, and it was the best £65 I've ever spent!! It's amazing how much we don't know, or assume, about the dog as an animal . It felt expensive at the time for 90 minutes but it really was the best thing . I learnt so much - I could tell you all sorts of snippets if you want immediate ideas - but I now have the calmest, most affectionate dog I could ever wish for. As for digging up the garden, it's a dog thing so perhaps you could re-organise the garden for a little while so hes got his own area ? Otherwise a loud clap of the hands to take his attention away when he's getting up to mischief should work. Also there is a spray called 'Pet Corrector' in a red and white can that sprays pressurised ice (not AT them but near them) but it makes a loud sudden noise that stopped my GR in his tracks. I dont have to use it any more but it got to the stage where he only had to see the can in my hands and he stopped. It's us, as owners, that have to be trained, rather than the dog. But if you do get a behaviourist then make sure all the family are present so they can all follow the advice and understand better. Not sure where you are but the chap I used answers posts ad questions on FB messenger Hope this helps and reassures you a little. Apologies for the 'war and peace' epic post!!

witwootoodleoo Mon 10-Apr-17 20:35:27

OP please don't use the pet corrector spray mentioned particularly as your dog has already displayed aggression. It's a method favoured by old school dog trainers but one which positive reinforcement trainers won't touch generally. Personally I think a positive reinforcement approach would be much better for a dog with possible aggression issues. If you're near London or Essex I can recommend an amazing trainer who's well respected Internationally bit still pretty reasonably priced.

PermaShattered Mon 10-Apr-17 21:18:07

DeafinitelyDaisy, thank you thank you thank you. That's so helpful and encouraging - but I note the warning in last post about the spray! Something to look into. I will have a chat with a fairly local dog behaviorist (£85 for 1.5 hr assessment) tomorrow. Peggy has been showing similar tendencies in the garden today so the kids are under strict orders not to take things from her or stop her digging. Thankfully recall (orders from me) has been good today. And yes please - any tidbits of help will be really useful, so do throw the at me please! What's plain is that her behaviour outside is very different inside. And my DH wonders if perhaps we've given her too much free reign outside. Another insight (from a colleague of DH) is that we should stop the games of tug of war which Peggy loves. She's always bringing toys to us and nudging us until we play with her - but apparently this can encourage her to be dominant?

Witwoo - we're in the W Midlands but if you could still recommend him/her that would be great - i know some will travel... Thanks again.

Frillyhorseyknickers Mon 10-Apr-17 21:26:36

You shouldn't play tug of war with her, no.

The clue is in her name - she's a retriever, they are bred to retrieve, teach her how to do this and it will encourage mental stimulation, give her a job and also build on her recall.

Very simple- start with a non squeaky toy, throw, when she picks it up, encourage her over to you, small treat or lots of praise (alternate) and repeat. Retrievers need lots of mental work to keep them happy, you shouldn't encourage the tug of war.

BiteyShark Mon 10-Apr-17 21:32:11

I second what Frillyhorseyknickers said. Although my spaniel likes to hunt he also loves to retrieve and we have a couple of training retrieving dummies we throw for him and get him to bring back on our walks but you can also do this in the garden.

witwootoodleoo Mon 10-Apr-17 22:15:28

here you go. This guy consults for guide dogs so is very well respected. He may be able to suggest someone local to you if he can't travel to you. Just be aware that not all dog trainers are created equal and so it's worth doing a bit of research on different methods. The books I mentioned previously are a useful starting point. Good luck!

Catch583 Tue 11-Apr-17 19:10:49

Some years ago Golden Retrievers (and golden Cockers) had a mad gene so as they matured they had psychotic episodes where they attacked to kill.
I think the mad strain has been eliminated in this country but may be present abroad. Research this as you can't take chances with children around. There was only one solution when a young dog showed such dangerous behaviour.

Frillyhorseyknickers Tue 11-Apr-17 21:31:18

Catch583 I would love to see evidence of this "mad gene". My family have been involved with working golden retrievers for over 40years and have never heard of this - it sounds completely made up!

Wolfiefan Tue 11-Apr-17 21:33:23

I've heard of cocker rage. Some red cockers were supposed to have issues with temperament. (No experience myself). I have never heard it in relation to golden retrievers.

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