Can Golden Retrievers Be Mean and What Can You Do About It?

Golden retrievers are known to be the kindest, gentlest dog breed out there, so you don’t ever expect a golden retriever to be anything else other than perfectly pleasant.

It is rare to hear about a golden retriever being mean or intentionally bothering someone, and you can wonder if they can be mean and if they can do about it? Here is a short version of the answer.

So, can golden retrievers be mean, and what to do about it? Yes, golden retrievers can be mean if they are not getting enough exercise, feeling jealous of another dog or anyone that gets too close to their favorite person, or if they feel neglected by their owner so they start doing mean things to get their attention.

These are a few of the reasons that can make golden retrievers act mean, but there is quite a lot more to the topic. So, let’s take a deep breath and dig a bit deeper into the behavior and psychology of golden retrievers and understand why they can be mean, when, and what you should really do about it.

Can Golden Retrievers Be Mean? 

Golden retriever with a serious look to illustrate how can golden retrievers be mean and what to do about it

Even though they are generally very friendly and docile, Golden Retrievers can be both mean and aggressive in rare cases such as when they feel threatened, jealous, ignored, or left out. It is very rare for golden retrievers to show mean or aggressive behaviors unprovoked.

You can reduce the chance of your golden retriever being mean by setting and following a daily routine that includes any kind of exercising such as walking, training them to run with you, or even playing catch for at least an hour per day, or just spend time with them and give them the love and affection they need.

In this post, we are going to mainly discuss the mean behaviors of golden retrievers, which rarely spill into aggressive behaviors but you still need to know what to do with an aggressive golden.

You can learn about aggression in Golden Retrievers here and find out what you should do and how to catch the early aggression signs to prevent it from becoming a more serious problem than it needs to be.

Why is My golden retriever so mean? 

Golden retrievers can be mean because they have a protective instinct, however, if they are being really mean it could be an indication of jealousy or built-up energy and no activity to get it out of their system. 

Here are some reasons that could make your golden retriever mean.

  • Lack of activity 
  • Jealousy 
  • Seeking attention 
  • Encouraged the behavior 

Lack of activity 

If your golden retriever isn’t getting much physical activity, they can start act mean and a little aggressive,

And besides taking them for a daily walk, you should do any activity or exercise with them for at least an hour per day. You can learn about all the games other than fetch to play with your dog here.


If your golden retriever acted mean or showed any signs of aggression when you are around another dog or person, then they are being mean out of jealousy.

Some dogs really don’t like it when we give more attention to other animals than we give them or even when we care more about other people than we do about them.

Check out this video of a golden retriever getting jealous of a stuffed toy!

Encouraged the behavior 

If you intend to give them attention or any kind of treats after they acted mean, they may connect that it works and you liked this behavior.

So they will start doing more mean acts like breaking things or chewing up or tearing up stuff that they know you love just to get your attention.

What you can do to do stop them is when they act that way do not give them any attention and wait for them to stop by themselves and after they move on, go and pet them.

You also play with them and give them treats, but once they do something mean, stop playing with them and leave them alone.

If you are worried about leaving your dog alone, you can learn how to leave golden retrievers alone here. In the post, I go into detail on how to train your golden to be left alone and give you tips on how to make it an easier process.

Signs Your Dog is really being mean

Here are some signs your golden retriever is being mean:

Subtle or low-range:

  • Barking 
  • Growling 
  • Snarling 
  • Snapping
  • Breaking something intentionally 

Body postures to tell if your dog is really being mean

  • Holding ears erect 
  • Standing tall 
  • Carrying their tail high and moving it from side to side

Usually, mean dogs will not snap, but if this behavior turns into aggression, then you are running the risk of a bite, and yes, golden retrievers do bite (learn more about golden retrievers biting here).

This is why it’s not only important you know how to recognize the signs that your dog is being mean or getting aggressive, but also for everyone in the household to learn to recognize these signs as well.

If your dog does one or a few of these signs you should take them to a professional dog trainer to work through this behavior, you should not leave your dog acting this way because it can hurt them, hurt yourself, or hurt another dog and the worst scenario is a lawsuit.

What to do with a mean dog?

Here are some things you can do to control your mean dog and calm them down:

  • Exercise
  • Control the situation 
  • A trainer or behaviorist
  • Do not make them feel threatened


If your dog is being mean because they are not being active enough then the answer is exercise. It really is this simple.

Keep in mind that golden retrievers need anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour of moderate to intense exercise every day. Anything less than that can make them frustrated and lead to the development of behavioral problems.

Most problems with energetic breeds are because they have too much pent-up energy and don’t know what to do with it, so you will have to free some time to play with them, take them on a daily walk, and running.

Control the situation

If you notice that something, in particular, is making your dog mean such as you playing with another dog, you smelling like another dog, or seeing or coming in contact with a certain dog or person, then you should control the situation by liming their interactions.

You can control the situation temporarily by avoiding playing with other dogs in front of them and if they are mean around other dogs you can take them to socialization training or avoid keeping them around other dogs.

If they are mean towards a specific person it could be that this person is playing too rough with them, beating them, or hurting them in any way and you will need to keep that person away from them. 

I should note here that goldens are generally wonderful with cats, other dogs, children, and people, so your dog acting strange once they come in contact with a specific person or animal is definitely something that deserves your attention and you should investigate the cause behind it.

A trainer or behaviorist

If they are mean in general, then you should take them to a professional trainer or behaviorist to handle the situation well, they will teach them how to act around other dogs and humans and you will need to be there too so they can train them to follow your commands and be more obedient.

Obedience classes and puppy training classes can also have a positive impact on them.   

Do not make them feel threatened

Some dogs such as golden retrievers have mean behavior as a part of their protective instincts, and one way to fight that behavior is by making them feel safe and not threatened by anything.

Your golden retriever should always feel that you’re in control of the situation, so if they do feel threatened by another dog or human, you should carefully pull them away from the situation or stand in front of them to block whatever is bothering them. 

This is a more common problem with rescued dogs and ones that have had a history of abuse with previous owners, but it is not a deal-breaker in any way. It may take a bit more time and effort to train the dogs in these situations, but it is incredibly rewarding and totally worth it.

How do you deal with an aggressive golden retriever?

Here are a few tips to deal with a mean or aggressive golden retriever:

  • You should control the aggressive behavior once it has started
  • Never hit your dog
  • Do not play too rough with them
  • If they are still puppies make sure that they socialize
  • Be consistent that it is not acceptable to bite you, anyone, or other dogs.
  • After you stop their aggressive behavior wait for few minutes then pet them to let them know that you love them no matter what
  • Treat them every time they are well-behaving or doing anything good.
  • You can use water spray and whenever they are being aggressive or you just want to tell them no, spray them.

How do golden retrievers show affection?

There are many ways to tell if a golden retriever is showing affection such as being excited to see you, making eye contact with you, rubbing their nose on you, they lean on you, they bring things to you, they put themselves in vulnerable positions around you, or they lick you.


Any dog can be mean, and yes, this means that Golden Retrievers can be mean, but it’s rare and if you take good care of your dog in general, it will not be something you should worry about it.

Golden Retrievers, and dogs in general, don’t really have what it takes to be truly mean like humans – or cats, actually – because their main driver is the need to please their humans. This makes them much less likely to do things that upset us, while cats, for example, don’t really care much about is and have more individuality than dogs in general.

So, while golden retrievers can be mean at times, it’s very rare for this to become a serious problem in your life. If your golden does something you don’t like, it’s probably an honest mistake and not done out of spite.

Related Questions 

What is a good age for a golden retriever? 

Golden retrievers have the best health between 2-6 years old, when they are about 7.5 to 10 years old they are considered seniors, and age-related issues will start to appear. At 10 years old they are officially geriatric dogs and they will experience more health issues.

How do dogs say sorry? 

They can apologize in multiple ways such as looking at you with wide and watery eyes, they also stop panting or wagging their tails, and if you do not forgive them yet they will start pawing and rubbing their face against your leg or they will sit down on your lap and will be as cute as possible. 

Why does my golden retriever growl at me?

When golden retrievers growl at you they are probably telling you something and communicating with you, they could be trying to tell you that they are scared, in pain, or they have an underlying issue. They can growl at you if they are protecting their territory or possessions.

If you liked this article make sure to share it with your friends and family or even social media, it can help them too, and surely I will be grateful for it too. 

Are golden retrievers stubborn?

Yes, golden retrievers can be stubborn because they are extremely intelligent which makes them easy to train as they easily understand what you want but it also means they can have a mind of their own, so if they do not want to do something they will be stubborn and will simply not do it.


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