>I am interested in hearing from Golden owners who are dealing with (or
>have dealt with) severe behavioral problems, particularly aggression
>in any form.

>My Charlie, now a 7 year old neutered Golden didn't make any headlines
>in 1991 when he attacked my 85 year old neighbor in the local park. I
>sometimes think that, if he were a different breed, he may have made
>the news that day :). If society believes that all
>Rottweilers/Dobermans/Pitbulls, etc, are nasty, then it also believes
>that all Goldens are loving, gentle pets. It ain't so. (I've read
>some studies to prove it.)

>Charlie is our fourth Golden. He was obtained, at 8 weeks old, from a
>very reputable breeder from whom we bought our first Golden over 20
>years ago. Of course, we made sure that he came from generations of
>*cleared* dogs with great personalities. He is, however, severely
>dysplastic (had hip replacement at 6 months of age) and, up until 2
>years ago, suffered from *epileptic* seizures. (Are his behavior
>problems related to this? The *experts* say no.) His hips were
>examined 2 months ago and the vets are astounded at the improvement.

>Charlie is *never* off lead (or without his Halti) outside our doors -
>not even in our secure, fenced yard. (He will hurt himself running
>into the fence when attempting to attack anyone who walks by.) We no
>longer have friends over, with the exception of a few doggy people who
>are understanding. When someone besides my husband or myself is in the
>house, Charlie is tethered to me with a 6 foot lead. We're used to
>tolerating the snarling and the barking - but the gas meter reader is
>not amused :). Walking down the street is pure hell - Charlie is
>*always* under control - other dogs are not. Of course, on seeing a
>Golden, everyone wants to come up for a cuddle. But Charlie despises
>(hates, fears, whatever) everyone in the world with the exception of
>myself, my husband, our two cats and our other Golden (a lovely spayed
>lady of 9 years who has the *ideal* Golden temperament).

>We have, over the past 6 years, consulted veterinarians, trainers,
>behaviorists, breeders, books, videos, etc. We have tried the
>Promise, the Halti, the Aboistop, the rattle can, drug therapy and more
>(and have rejected some rather dubious *training tools* as well). We
>have been to obedience class after obedience class. We try to forget
>the thousands of dollars and the time spent agonizing over this
>problem. That said, Charlie is a totally delightful dog within his
>family unit. He is affectionate, intelligent and extremely clever,
>inventing *games* like hide and seek with his toys. He understands an
>incredible number of words, loves to work (would have been a great
>competition dog) and even helps me put the groceries away!

>Perhaps the last behaviorist I consulted said it all: *If you insist
>on keeping him, just love him and keep him safe*.

>There's an awful lot more to this story and I'm sorry to have gone on
>for so long. I am sure that Charlie, even within his confined
>existence, is a happy dog. But I still agonize over finding a
>solution, a reason, *something* to explain this dog and his behavior
>over the past 5 years.

>Any ideas, thoughts, solutions, suggestions?

>Thank you for listening.

I have not owned Golden Retrievers, so I can not help you with breed related aggression problems. Nor have I specifically dealt with dog related aggression problems.

You are obviously a highly responsible and loving owner. Is your dog in physical pain?. Perhaps he has learned to control the fear and anger associated with this pain when dealing with his family group. Perhaps he associates strangers with the infliction of past or on-going pain. If the pain continues to grow as the dog gets older, his aggression may begin to spill over to the family group as well.

If the dog is in pain, the FIRST priority is to relieve that pain through medication, surgery, physical therapy, massage, etc. Once the pain is minimized the dog needs to begin to associate strangers with pleasant experiences (giving treats, etc.) You may wish to use a special command "Say Hello", for example, to tell the dog to make a special effort to greet a stranger or semi-stranger. You will have to work slowly, initially with leash restraint and with people he has at least some acquaintance, preferably affection for. Your dog needs to understand you are comfortable with this person (chat with them, laugh, etc.). The stranger must not exhibit eye contact, should be turned sideways and should hold out a treat as the dog approaches. It may even be helpful to fast your dog for a day to give the treats special "meaning". His ring of "friends" will need to expand very gradually.

Note: Other than minimizing/eliminating pain, the above recommendation may be TOTALLY inappropriate. If the dog can not be controlled to any degree in the presence of any person outside the family then the above training technique is dangerous and not recommended.

What slight encouragement you have given me in your post is that the dog exhibits NO aggression problems within the family unit. This dog needs to understand that his standing in his family is diminished by his aggressive behavior outside the family unit. Keep him off the bed or couch, talk to him for hours at a time, go through CONTINUALLY /DAILY/HOURLY reinforced obedience training (at home, in front of strangers, everywhere)- Do what ever you have to do to communicate this to him. Above all, do not pity him for his health problems. Believe it or not he will sense your pity and it will only ENCOURAGE his fearfulness and aggression.

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