Do Golden Retrievers Bite?

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Do Golden Retrievers bite? The Golden Retriever is known for being loyal and friendly, but do they tend to bite? I have small kids and we entertain a lot, so when I was in the market for a puppy I absolutely had to pick a dog breed that wouldn’t tear my loved ones apart!

So, do Golden Retrievers bite? Yes, Golden Retrievers bite. This breed is known for being friendly and particularly good with children, but if improperly trained, abused or otherwise traumatized, any individual Golden Retriever could potentially be a biter.

Many people choose the Golden Retriever over others because they are considered to be very trainable and family friendly. Making sure that your puppy is properly trained is the most important thing you can do to make sure that biting will not be a future problem.

Speaking of future problems, let’s take a look at Golden Retriever bite statistics.

Golden Retriever Bite Statistics

The Golden Retriever rarely shows up on the statistics of breeds most likely to bite.

It is quite difficult to find hard statistics on reported bites credited to the Golden Retriever, but the editors of ANIMALS 24-7 compiled statistics from 1984 to 2014 of reported attacks…


They rank the Golden Retriever at number 30 with only 11 attacks attributed to the breed over thirty years.

That’s less than one reported attack every two years!

Golden Retriever Bite Force: How Strong is a Golden Retriever’s Bite?

A Golden Retriever’s bite force is estimated to be around 190 psi.

This is only an estimate as very few studies have actually been done to measure bite force in common dog breeds.  Compare that to a human, that can exert about 100 – 150 psi bite force with their molars!

The Golden Retriever is bred to have what is known as a “soft bite”. This is a genetic quality characteristic of the breed.

Goldens are hunting dogs that have been bred to retrieve, that is, to go and pick up the fallen prey (usually waterfowl) and bring it back to the hunter, undamaged.

They instinctively understand that their bite is not their strongest defense and therefore do not tend to react by biting impulsively.

Why do Golden Retrievers Bite?

The American Veterinary Medical Association recently published a study proving that the main causes of aggressive dog behavior, regardless of breed, have to do with the owners mishandling of the dog (bad training) and the owner’s neglect and abuse of the dog.

Through adequate training and the attentive care of your Golden Retriever, you can dramatically minimize any biting that may occur.

But still, bites may happen.

When a Golden Retriever bites, it is most likely a consequence of these circumstances:

  • Does the dog feel attacked, threatened or in physical pain? This could happen by children unintentionally hurting the dog through rough play or by the presence of a more aggressive dog.
  • Did your puppy come from a disreputable breeder and was it poorly socialized?  If your puppy was not handled sufficiently in its early infancy or suffered some kind of abuse or neglect, they may be traumatized and distrustful of people.
  • Is your dog purebred or could it potentially be mixed with a breed known to be more aggressive? Sometimes an animal can present features and traits that look true to its breed, while actually being of mixed blood.  If your puppy comes from an unknown mix breed lineage it is possible that he inherited more aggressive qualities that are not true to the Golden Retriever breed.
  • Is the dog very old or very young?  Older dogs and young puppies are the most likely to bite.  In a younger puppy, the biting behavior might not be trained out of him yet while in an older dog, diminished sight and hearing may lead to the animal being more likely to snap in self-defense.

These are all factors that might explain why the normally very docile Golden Retriever may bite.

How to Stop a Golden Retriever Puppy from Biting

Play biting is one of the most frequent behaviors of any puppy, regardless of breed.  Remember:

This behavior is not because your puppy is bad, it is just another normal behavior for a puppy.

Luckily, the Golden Retriever is particularly easy to train.

It is recommended that you start to train your Golden Retriever puppy immediately upon bringing them home at 8 weeks of age.  This way, you can prevent bad habits (like biting and chewing) from becoming established from an early age.

The most important thing to remember is that your puppy should never receive food or attention after biting.  That serves as positive reinforcement.

A good way to go about training your puppy is to know them and to be aware of when they are most likely to bite so as to anticipate it.

Respond to biting behavior with a strong “no” and immediately turn your back on them. This withdraws attention and sends a very clear message that you will not tolerate the biting behavior.

Another technique is to give your puppy a chew toy when play becomes “mouthy”.

Some trainers recommend combining this training with the use of a bitter spray that you apply to your hand/arm to reinforce the negative consequences of biting.  Be sure to check out this excellent resource to read some more detailed training advice.

Whatever technique you choose, the most important thing to remember is to be consistent. One more time:

Be consistent!

Your Golden pup wants to learn, wants to please you and wants to hear those magic words “good dog”.

If You’re Still Uneasy About Golden Retriever Biting…

If you are worried about a particular Golden Retriever’s aggressive behavior, be sure to keep in mind the following precautions:

  • Remember that any dog can bite, regardless of breed.  
  • Educate young children about safe behavior around unknown and/or aggressive animals (over 50% of dog bite victims are kids).
  • If the dog approaches you, stop and be still.  NEVER make loud noises or panic.
  • Always avoid direct eye contact with aggressive dogs
  • In a loud, strong voice state “no!” or “go home!” and wait for the dog to pass.
  • Don’t run.  If you must walk by an aggressive dog, walk calmly.  

It is never a good idea to assume that an animal, because it is of a “safe” breed, is to be trusted right away.

Always take your time to get to know a new dog.

It’s always a good idea to talk to the dog’s owner and ask them about their animal and for permission to pet it.  Make sure to let the animal smell you and offer your hand in a non-threatening way for the dog to smell and pay attention to the animal’s body language before petting.

Having said all that, if you are the owner of a Golden Retriever or are thinking of adopting one, making sure that your puppy is properly trained is the most important thing you can do to make sure that biting will not be a future problem.

Golden Retrievers are generally docile people-pleasing dogs, so do your homework and let them flourish!

Related Questions

Are Golden Retrievers good family dogs?

Yes. Golden Retrievers are the #1 family-friendly dog breed according to PET MD online.  The Golden Retriever is smart, loyal, kind, and overwhelmingly patient, making them a great breed to bring into the home.  They are famously tolerant of young children and are known for being eager to please.

What are the downsides to owning a Golden Retriever?

This breed has two potential pitfalls that might make you want to think twice before welcoming one into your home:

1. The Golden Retriever needs a LOT of exercise – at least one to two hours a day.  Remember, a well-exercised dog is a well-behaved dog!

2. Golden Retrievers are notorious shedders. This breed is known for its long and luxurious coat which requires fairly constant grooming.  If you, or someone in your family suffers from allergies you may want to consider a different breed.

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