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Your Golden Retriever is now a crucial member of the family. He spends his mornings out for a walk, his afternoons napping and his evenings messing around with the kids. He’s the only member of your household that doesn’t argue back and he’s probably one of the cleanest too. However, he does have one rather bad habit - he bites. It started off as nibbling, which was actually quite entertaining. But now it has become more aggressive and sometimes painful.
Training him to stop biting is essential, for a number of reasons. Firstly, he could do yourself or one of your children serious harm. Furthermore, if he continues this biting habit and attacks another dog or human, he may have to be put down. Therefore, it is essential you get a handle on this behavior before there is no turning back.
Training will consist of firstly taking a number of steps to prevent your Golden biting in the first place. On top of these deterrence measures, you will have to find a productive way to channel his energy. You will also need to look at the underlying cause of the biting and tackle that. In addition, obedience commands will be needed to assert your position as pack leader.
If your Golden Retriever is still a puppy, he should be fairly receptive. This means you could see results in just a couple of weeks. However, if he’s older and the biting habit has been years in the making, then you may need several months to fully stamp it out. Succeed with this training and you will never have to worry about leaving him alone with strangers or small children again.
Before you get to work, you will need to get your hands on a few items. A muzzle will be required until training has proven successful. You will also need chewy toys, plus a decent supply of treats. Alternatively, you can break his favorite food into small pieces.
Set aside 10 minutes each day for training, at a time where you won’t be distracted by a noisy household. Also, a deterrence collar and a water spray bottle will be needed for one of the methods.
Once you have the above, just bring patience and an optimistic attitude, then work can begin!
The Socialization Method
Take him to obedience classes from an early age. This is the perfect place for him to learn how to interact with other dogs and people in a controlled way. The obedience commands he learn will also increase your control.
A person a day
Try to introduce him to a new person each day. This is particularly important if he is a puppy. Meeting lots of new people will build his confidence, which could prevent biting out of fear.
When you do meet new people, position yourself between the person and your Golden Retriever. If you are in front, it is your job to protect him. If he is in front, he will feel obliged to protect you and may be more likely to bite.
Make sure he gets a tasty reward and some verbal praise whenever he plays gently and is well behaved when he meets people. Positive reinforcement is often the most effective way to teach Golden Retrievers.
Until his biting is under control, you may want to consider fitting him in a muzzle, especially when you are out in public. This will prevent any injury being done while training is ongoing.
The Distraction Method
Make sure he gets plenty of exercise each day. Golden Retrievers needs a good run around because they are relatively big dogs. His biting may be a result of pent up energy. So, give him a longer walk or throw a ball for him as you go. A tired dog is a passive dog.
Tug of war
Try and direct his biting energy into a few minutes of play each day. Find a chewy toy and play tug of war with it. This will help teach him where and when the appropriate time for biting is.
Spend a few minutes each day playing gently with him too. Stroke him and talk quietly. It’s important he has time with you where he doesn’t get too worked up. You can also give him the odd treat as you play calmly.
If he does bite, calmly remove him from the room and place him in a time out space. Ensure there are no toys in there and leave him there for 30 seconds to calm down. You can then release him back into the room.
Lengthen the sentence
If he bites again when you let him back in the room, remove him again. However, this time add an extra 30-seconds onto his sentence. Keep adding time onto his time out period until he catches on.
The Deterrence Method
Whenever he bites, rush over and give a firm ‘NO’. You don’t want to terrify him, as this may make him more aggressive. However, make sure he knows you mean business.
Water spray bottle
If the firm ‘NO’ does not have the desired effect, upgrade to the water bottle. Give a quick spray near the face. This will soon get him associating biting with negative consequences.
You may also want to consider investing in a deterrence collar. You simply hit the button whenever you see him bite and an unpleasant spray of citronella will be emitted. This will make him think twice next time.
Make sure he has his own space he can escape to. This is particularly important if he is a puppy. Golden Retrievers can get frustrated when they are pestered by small children. So, he needs to have alone time in a quiet space when he wants.
Never encourage any forms of aggression. That means do not laugh or talk in a high pitched voice when he does nibble or bite, even if it is just playing around. Each time his biting is met without consequence will only increase the chances of him biting again.
By James Barra
Published: 02/12/2018, edited: 01/08/2021