Are Golden Retrievers Protective?

Golden Retrievers are loyal dogs, but they aren’t normally very aggressive – which means that they don’t make the best guard dogs. 

Golden Retrievers are intelligent, obedient dogs – so you can certainly train them to act more protective. But don’t rely on them confronting someone, as they’d probably wag their tail and lick them rather than fight.

Read on to find out what qualities a dog needs to be a good guard dog (and whether a Golden Retriever possesses those qualities), how you can train your Golden Retriever to be more protective, and more.

What Makes an Ideal Protective Dog?

In a perfect world, a protective dog would stand between their owner and danger – be that of other humans or some sort of animal. 

So ideally, a protective dog would be:

  • Big: In this case, bigger dogs come across as a bigger threat and might be enough to deter any problems before they escalate. Bigger sometimes means stronger and more athletic too. 
  • Loyal: If your Goldie is loyal and wants to protect you, they can be relied on. They’ll stay focused and remember their job.
  • Obedient: A dog that follows your commands is important here. As their owner, you can judge a situation and command them to stand down or carry on depending on what’s best to do.
  • Intelligent: Being able to follow instructions and understand situations is a huge benefit here. It’s also easier to train an intelligent dog.
  • Aggressive: In certain situations, some aggression is necessary. This should be something the dog has been trained in though, not just random, uncontrollable outbursts.

Golden Retrievers are certainly intelligent (they’re the 4th smartest dog breed in the world!), and there’s no doubt about their loyalty, obedience, or size.

The quality they lack here is aggression. While they can be aggressive, this isn’t the norm for them which makes them better suited for being a family pet rather than a protective, guard dog.

Why Do I Need a Protective Dog?

For a lot of people, having a protective dog is a deterrent as well as a safety measure

They can alert their owners of approaching danger and scare off any intruders. This includes not just people, but other animals too.

While a Golden Retriever might be a comforting companion if you’re home alone, and their bark might seem intimidating, they’re not suited to guard-related roles. They were originally bred in Scotland to hunt and retrieve game.

Differences Between Protective Dogs and Guard Dogs

While Golden Retrievers can be protective dogs, they aren’t naturally guard dogs. But as with any breed, a guard dog needs thorough and consistent training.

Guard dogs have been trained as working dogs, often used purposefully by the police or military. Their whole lives revolve around fulfilling their jobs. Guard dogs are always ‘on’ too – they don’t relax at the end of the day. They’re always in work mode.

On the other hand, protective dogs are dogs that will protect and defend their family in threatening situations. But they’re also social, family-orientated pets.

Can I Train My Golden Retriever to be a Guard Dog?

Because of their high intelligence and obedience, you can train your Golden Retriever in a few ways to be a better guard dog.

Marking the Boundary

This teaches your Golden Retriever to recognise boundaries (such as around your property or just in your house).

How to train your Golden Retriever to mark the boundary:

  • Start by taking your Golden Retriever for a walk, but don’t talk to them or make any noise for the entire duration. 
  • When you get back home, put a long leash on your Golden Retriever and tether it into place. It should be long enough that they can get anywhere and explore your entire property.
  • Next, teach your dog to bark on command whenever a stranger or animal comes onto your property. This should be one bark to alert you, but nothing more aggressive. 
  • When your Golden Retriever barks at a stranger, reward them with a treat. If they become too aggressive or bark inappropriately, don’t praise them.
  • At the end of the day, take your Golden Retriever for another silent walk. This reinforces to them that the public streets aren’t part of where they need to protect. 
  • Repeat this every day for a week or two. Your Golden Retriever will learn that they should be protective at home but nowhere else. The boundaries should be your home and property.

Bark on Command

This teaches your Golden Retriever to bark at certain triggers such as if someone walks on your driveway. They can either be taught to bark until you acknowledge it or until whatever caused them to bark moves away. 

How to train your Golden Retriever to bark on command:

  • Firstly, let your Golden Retriever hear unfamiliar, suspicious noises without seeing where the noise is coming from. For example, the noise could be someone knocking on the door or opening your garden gate.
  • Give your Golden Retriever the command to bark at the noise. They should continue to bark until you command them to stop. Keep repeating this until your Golden learns to bark every time they hear that noise.
  • Reward your Golden Retriever every time they start barking at a noise, and every time they stop if the noise stops.
  • You could combine the stop barking command with your appearance. This will mean that your Golden Retriever stops barking when you respond to their barking.

Day One

Training your Golden Retriever puppy when they’re young will instill good habits for life. They’re quick learners – so if you teach them to notice someone coming to the door and reward them when they react, they’ll quickly pick it up.

Make sure that you’re consistently training them while they’re pups. For example, you can teach them to bark on command or when someone is at the door.

Is It Worth Training a Golden Retriever?

It’ll take a considerable amount of time and effort to train your Golden Retriever in one or all of these methods. You’ll need to stay consistent during this time too – so they can learn properly.

If you want your Goldie to protect the house, then it’s well worth spending some time to train them. Because they’re so intelligent and easy to train, the process is usually straightforward. 

You can also take them to a class or have a trainer come in to help you with your Golden Retriever. If you’re struggling, this is a good option to quickly train your Golden.

Other Things to Consider When Training Your Golden Retriever Guard Dog

When you’re training your Golden Retriever, as well as them learning the boundaries of their home and responding to commands, there are a few things you should do to help them become the best guard dog that they can be.

Make sure that you:

  • Train them to resist impulses: This means that they learn not to accept treats from strangers. As friendly and food-motivated pets, they can sometimes be distracted by treats. This is not only a risk of abandoning their protective role but could lead to them eating something dangerous or toxic.
  • Teach specific command words: As well as the basics like ‘sit’ or ‘stay’, your Golden Retriever should know specific commands that are unlikely to come up in casual conversation. 
  • Teach good vs bad: Your Golden Retriever should recognise family members and frequent visitors that are welcome in your home. On the flip side, they should be wary of unfamiliar people – but only act on your command (unless they’ve been trained to bark at intruders).

By dedicating time to training your Golden Retriever, you could end up with a perfect guard dog. But keep in mind that they aren’t naturally inclined to guard, and you should consider looking into other breeds if you want a working guard dog.

Golden Retriever Barking

Golden Retrievers usually have deep, loud barks. Without seeing them, this sound might be enough to scare away an intruder. Even in a situation where they’re face to face with someone or something, their bark might still be intimidating. 

If you teach your Golden Retriever to bark on command or bark at unfamiliar noise, then you have a living, breathing alarm system. 

Fun fact: The Guinness World Record for the loudest bark belongs to a Golden Retriever called Charlie from Australia. In October 2012, they recorded a bark of 113.1 decibels.

Are Golden Retrievers Protective Over Their Puppies?

Yes, Golden Retrievers are protective over their puppies. During pregnancy and birth, a hormone called oxytocin is released which increases the mother’s protective instincts. 

This will fade over time, and the maternal instinct will calm down, but she’ll continue to recognise her puppies and care for them.

If the puppy stays with their mother, they’ll form a bond of friendship that takes over the mother-child bond.

When the puppies are newborns, the mother might be aggressive when people approach. Only if she knows and trusts you might she allow you to get close and handle her pups. 

Are Golden Retrievers Territorial?

Yes, Golden Retrievers can be territorial. This is something that’s seen more in female Goldens than males. Though males Goldens are typically bigger, it’s the females who will be more protective over their family members, puppies, and home. 

Both male and female Golden Retrievers will mark their territory too. This is something that settles down after they’ve been neutered. It’s also more common in males who will urinate to mark territory. To learn more, check out this post.

Closing Thoughts

So, what’s the bottom line?

In short, Golden Retrievers can be trained to be protective guard dogs – but they’re not usually an aggressive dog breed.

So while they can absolutely warn you of danger (e.g., if someone is at the door), they might not be all that useful in a confrontation.

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