Are Golden Retrievers Stubborn? What to do with a Stubborn Golden

Everyone knows that golden retrievers are wonderful family dogs that are obedient, gentle, and friendly. But they are also very smart dogs, and everyone with dogs knows that smarter dogs tend to have independent personalities.

This also means that smart dogs tend to be stubborn at times. So, is this case for goldens as well since they are so smart?

Are Golden Retrievers Stubborn? No, Golden Retrievers are not stubborn. Goldens are generally obedient and easy-going dogs, but they can also be very high-energy and high-maintenance which makes it seem like your golden retriever is stubborn. You can make your golden less stubborn with obedience and agility training classes.

This was the really short answer. So, while it’s true that golden retrievers may, sometimes, seem like they’re being stubborn, they really are not. To understand why they are not stubborn and what they really are which may make them seem like so – and what you can do about it – keep reading…

Are Golden Retrievers Stubborn in General?

Golden puppy pulling on leash to illustrate the answers to are golden retrievers stubborn

In General, Golden Retrievers are not stubborn dogs. They are actually very obedient dogs and they are always looking to please their owners in any way possible. However, they can sometimes be too high energy for their owners which makes them seem like they’re stubborn.

We are going to dive deep into what is it that could be making you think that your golden retriever is acting stubbornly, but just know that it’s very rare for a golden retriever to actually act stubbornly.

But first, I know that many people still think that golden retrievers are stubborn (and many articles and videos online are saying the same thing), so let’s first debunk this myth.

Why Golden Retrievers are not normally Stubborn

Many people claim that goldens are smart and therefore they have a more independent personality than less intelligent dogs, which leads to them being more stubborn.

This line of reasoning is actually very true for dogs like Huskies which are famously hard to train because of their stubbornness and independence, but is not true for golden retrievers, and here are the reasons why golden retrievers are actually not stubborn:

  • They were bred to be companions
  • They are always eager to please
  • They are empathetic and compassionate

Let’s quickly discuss how each of these make golden retrievers not stubborn:

Goldens Were bred for companionship

Goldens were bred to be companion animals that also make for the perfect hunting dogs.

They were intentionally bred to be very easy-going with everyone and to be obedient to their owners. You can learn the whole history and story of golden retrievers in my post on why are golden retrievers gentle here.

They’re Always Eager to Please

Golden Retrievers are always eager to please their owners. This quality has been reinforced in them with every generation we breed, because only the best dogs get bred, and those are the ones that please us the most.

This eagerness to please humans makes them very easy-going dogs, and they are the perfect dogs for any first-time dog owner. However, this also makes them poor guard dogs. You can learn more about this in my post on will a golden retriever attack an intruder here.

They are Empathetic and Compassionate

Golden Retrievers are very emotionally intelligent dogs because they have amazing ability to be empathetic and compassionate with humans and other animals as well.

In fact, your golden retriever is probably more emotionally intelligent than you think. Not only can they sense your emotional state from your tone of voice and body language, they can also smell the chemical changes that come with your mood swings.

With time, your golden retriever will be more capable of watching out for your mood swings and even expecting when they will happen by associating them with certain precursors like the phone ringtone or the notification ping on your laptop.

Why is YOUR Golden Retriever Stubborn?

While a well-trained, well-socialized golden retriever is unlikely to act in a stubborn way, they still can, and when they do, it’s definitely an indicator of a bigger problem.

Golden Retrievers are not normally stubborn, and even when they do act stubbornly, it’s usually just temporary and is caused by something. So, let’s find out what are these reasons could make your golden retriever stubborn and what you can do about them.

Possible Reasons Your Golden Retriever is Stubborn:

  • You Rushed his training
  • You Stopped training them
  • Not getting enough activity (bored)
  • Doesn’t really understand what you want.
  • He may need a “job”
  • You are asking for the impossible

Let’s discuss each of these reasons quickly;

Rushed Training

Because Golden Retrievers are so smart, some people think that they can train them faster than they can train other dogs.

While this is true and golden retrievers can indeed learn commands more quickly, this often leads to people rushing their dogs’ training so much that the dog does not get enough training.

This also leads people to think that their goldens are refusing to obey commands out of stubbornness, while the truth is that the dog is simply not trained enough because of the rushed training.

You Stopped training them

Dog training is an ongoing process that lasts for the dog’s lifetime and it doesn’t stop at a certain age. You should not train your dog on a command and just expect the dog to obey the command with the same accuracy every time for the rest of their lives.

Instead, you should repeat their training at least every couple of years to reinforce it. If you have stopped training your golden retriever for more than a year, this is probably the reason they are acting stubbornly; they are just forgetting their training.

Not Getting Enough Activity

Golden Retrievers are incredibly active dogs and they need a lot of exercise consistently on a daily basis and at different times of the day to stay calm and relaxed.

If your dog has too much pent-up energy, they are going to be much harder to control and they may act stubbornly because they are looking for a way to release all this energy.

Doesn’t Understand what you want

While goldens are smart indeed, you may think your dog is way smarter than they actually are and you have to readjust your expectations of what the dog can understand and what can they not.

It’s always a surprise when you find people complaining that their dogs are being stubborn and then when you ask them if the dog had been thoroughly trained on this command and finding out that the answer is not.

Just because your dog is smart and can do certain actions intuitively by following your gestures doesn’t mean that this is the general rule. Dogs are still dogs, not matter how smart they are, and you need to train them on every action you need them to do.

They may need a job

Some field-bred golden retrievers have way too much energy for some people to handle and they need literally hours of exercise to keep calm and happy.

If your golden retriever is left alone all day without getting as much exercise as they need, is it really this surprising that they are being hyper and stubborn? Think not.

Some golden retrievers are just so energetic that the only way to calm them down is to give them a job – yes, jobs like the ones they had a century ago.

If you can go hunting, hiking, or do any other outdoor activities that require a lot of energy, it could be enough for those goldens, but otherwise, you may need to find some way to keep them moving and occupied a few hours every day. Look into agility training or field training.

By the way, you can learn about hiking with golden retrievers here.

You’re Asking for the impossible

IS it possible that you are asking them for a behavior that they are just incapable of performing? If you ask your dog to sit, you can’t really expect them to sit indefinitely with no end in sight.

You need to teach them that there is a second command that goes with that. You can teach them that they will sit once you tell them to sit but they will get to move again when you ask them to “come”.

There is a second part to most commands, and most people ignore to teach their dogs that, but smart dogs quickly get bored. So while they may sit for a few minutes, if they see no end in sight, they are going to start moving again because they don’t know when should they?

How to Handle a Stubborn Golden Retriever

If your golden retriever is indeed acting stubbornly, there are simply ways in which you can handle the issue.

Here is how to handle a stubborn golden retriever:

  • Reassess your own expectations
  • Obedience training classes
  • More exercise
  • Reduce Distractions
  • Give them a “job”
  • Agility Training or field training
  • Consider Duck hunting if possible

Let’s briefly explain each of these:

Reassess Your Own Expectations

The biggest problem dog trainers face with any new dog owner is the dog owner’s unrealistic expectations of their dogs. Yes, dogs are amazing, but they are still dogs and you should never expect too much from them too soon.

Your dog is not as smart or capable as you. This is a real problem that stems from anthropomorphism where we start to expect our dogs to act like us because they are our dogs, but they are still just dogs and they will never act in the same way or learn as quickly as humans do.

Reassess your expectations, understand that your dog needs more time to learn their commands and take a few moments to learn more about the way they are behaving instead of how you expected them to.

Obedience Training Classes

Obedience training classes can do a lot of good for dogs especially when they’re young. Obedience training classes can also help the dog socialize and learn from other dogs.

If you have obedience classes in your town or near you, go sign up for them and it will be worth it.

More Exercise

Your dog may need more exercise as they have more energy to expend. So, there are two ways to do that; spend more time doing the same exercises or do more intense exercises.

Without exhausting your dog entirely, take their exercise intensity up a notch. There are many ways to do so, but my favorite way to do so is by training them to run while I cycle.

Cycling is a less intense exercise than running so I don’t need the same level of energy and they still get a much more intensive exercise than if we had simply taken a walk around the block.

Reduce Distractions

Do you live or spend time in a environment that could be a little too distracting for your dog. Does your dog obedience level changes when you change places? The cause could be simply because the dog is too distracted.

Dogs are like toddlers in the way they are easily distracted by things in their environment. Lights, sounds, colors, and smells can easily distract your dog.

If your dog seems to have a problem focusing on you and your commands, try redoing the training in a calmer environment with minimal distractions and only ask them those commands in a distracting environment once you’re confident they can follow your voice and focus on your only.

Give them a “Job”

As discussed earlier, some dogs simply need a job. They need something that keeps them physically active and mentally occupied for hours every day.

Since it’s unlikely that you have a farm that needs attending, you can give your dog a “job” with some mental exercises and puzzle toys but keep in mind that you will need to give them harder and harder tasks as they keep getting better.

Agility Training or Field Training

Agility training and field training can do your dog a lot of good as they need a lot of energy and they can help them learn how to calm themselves down.

If you have the chance to sign your dog up for agility or field training, you should.

Consider Duck Hunting if possible

Golden Retrievers were bred to be the perfect hunting dogs, and the characteristics that made them such great companions for hunters are still there.

So, if you live in an area where you can train them for duck hunting and take them with you for duck hunting, it could be greatly beneficial in helping them calm down and be more obedient as they will be happiest and most content in their natural environment.

Mistakes when handling a stubborn Golden Retriever

When handling your stubborn dog, you should never, ever:

  • Punish them physically by hitting them with anything
  • Scream or yell at them.
  • Give up to their demands because “you can’t handle it right now” – that only reinforces the behavior
  • Try the “alpha training methods” – Positive reinforcement works much better especially in these cases
  • Punish your dog by locking them in a crate or outdoors.
  • Act stubbornly in retaliation (dogs won’t understand that and will instead copy your behavior, making fixing the issue much harder).

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Related Questions

Are Golden Retrievers Annoying?

No, Golden Retrievers are not annoying. Golden Retrievers are very obedient dogs and they are generally calm and easy-going. If your golden retriever is annoying you it’s probably because they are trying to get your attention because they are not getting enough exercise, are in pain, or are anxious.

Why won’t my golden retriever listen?

Your golden retriever could be not listening to you because they are too excited, have too much energy, are distracted by something in their environment, or because their training was incomplete, rushed, or not reinforced recently and so they have started to forget it.

Why do golden retrievers want so much attention?

Golden Retrievers are very eager to please their owners and they know they have been doing good when they get attention from their owners, so they always seek as much attention from their owners as they can get. This can lead to separation anxiety if they’re not trained and socialized well.

Helpful Resources

7 Strategies for Training a Stubborn Dog

Can Dogs Smell Emotions?


Hey there, I'm Matt, the author behind With a deep love for dogs and a dedication to strengthening the bond between owners and their retrievers, I've created a hub of resources for enthusiasts like you. Through engaging articles, training guides, and product reviews, I aim to provide practical advice that makes a real difference in your life as a dog owner. Whether you're a seasoned pro or new to the world of retrievers, my approachable and informative writing style ensures that you'll find valuable insights. Join me on this incredible journey of discovering what makes retrievers tick, unlocking their potential, and creating an unbreakable bond with your furry companion. Let's embark on an adventure of dog ownership together. Thank you for visiting and being part of our vibrant community.

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