According to this blog post, the golden retriever is now the Number 4 biter in Canada. This should make anyone who has ever had a golden retriever extremely angry.
This blog seems to think that it’s upbringing that creates biters. That is true to a certain extent.
With goldens, though, it’s breeding.
Goldens are not historically biters. They just aren’t known for it. None of my dogs has bitten me, except out of play behavior as puppies. My last adult golden used to share her bones with the new puppy. The two dogs chewed opposite ends of the bone.
This breed should not be anywhere near the top biter list at all, and I blame bad breeding practices for it.
I blame most of this on breeding calmness in golden retrievers. Well, wait, how can breeding for calmness lead to aggression? Temple Grandin argues that breeding for calmness in goldens has made them more likely to develop seizure issues, because the fundamental brain chemistry of the dog is messed up. (Read about it here.) Grandin points out how hard it is to breed a dog that is both unafraid of people and unlikely to bite. Both of these temperament issues are a balancing act. If something gets out of sync, you’ll have a biting golden retriever on your hands.
My advice to prospective is simple. The behavior of goldens is not calm. It’s working gun dog that can be calm in the house, but it has a need for mental and physical exercise. If you won’t give the dog what it needs in those regards, don’t buy it. And stay away from any breeder who is selling you a “mellow” or “calm” dog. Those are the dogs that are going to attack someone. And I’ve never seen a field-type golden with anything like aggression problems.
Bruce Fogle mentions a European study of German long-hair lines in The Dog’s Mind. This is a breed that does not have a wide variation in appearance between field and working lines. It’s very uncommon outside of Germany, although its black and white relative, the Large Münsterländer, is somewhat better known outside of its homeland.
The study found that working long-hairs were far less likely to bite than those bred for show. (I’m quite shocked, considering how similar show and field long-hairs in appearance.) The authors of the study found that breeding for high trainability, which in old German dog training includes physical correction, and for low aggression with other dogs had actually resulted in better dogs as companions.
I wonder if some of these factors might be involved in turning the golden retriever into a savage beast.
If the golden gets a reputation as a biter, its days of super-popularity are over, but I don’t see this reputation appearing in popular dog culture. The American cocker has this reputation, and it’s now no longer a top registrations breed with the AKC.
And losing popularity wouldn’t be such a bad thing. I’m seriously not doing this in hopes of sabotaging the golden’s popularity. It just angers me that now this breed that I love so much now has aggression issues– the one issue that it never had before.