When we got our Golden Retriever, I expected that he would not bark a lot, as that has always been my experience with this breed.
While all dogs bark, some bark more frequently, some bark for apparently no reason, and others seem only to bark when necessary. Golden Retrievers fall within the latter category.
As a general rule, Golden Retrievers do not bark a lot. The breed is not known for incessant barking or barking for no reason. Instead, Golden Retrievers bark when necessary, such as when excited, during play, if scared or anxious, or to get their owner’s attention.
So, Golden Retrievers do bark. Barking is one of their ways of communicating or “talking.” But their barking is usually focused on something in the environment that they feel is bark-worthy. They have a reason to bark. They think it is necessary.
So, let’s explore why Golden Retrievers bark, and some solutions on how to deal with barking if it becomes a nuisance.
Why Do Golden Retrievers Bark?
Golden Retrievers bark to express feelings, thoughts, wants, and needs. Barking is a form of communication for Golden Retrievers, and they typically bark for one or more of these reasons:
- Territorial or defensive
- Demand or attention
- Fear, frustration, or anxiety
Often these reasons will overlap as well. For example, a Golden Retriever might bark because there is a neighbor dog in the alley. It starts with territorial barking but soon after is followed by excitement barking.
Technically, all dogs bark for a reason. However, some dogs were bred to bark for a specific purpose, and if that purpose is no longer available to them, they often bark much more and for seemingly no reason.
For example, beagles are known to be one of the breeds that bark the most. This is because beagles were bred to bark and howl to alert hunters of a fox or other animals.
Well, most beagle owners today don’t hunt foxes, so now the beagle brays and howls at any noise it hears. It’s expressing its instinctual behavior; just not for the purpose it was bred for.
As a side note, Golden Retrievers were bred to retrieve waterfowl from a water body. Therefore, not barking and waiting patiently to retrieve the birds is a requisite for the job.
After all, a Golden Retriever that barks at birds would chase away the potential target of the hunters, so not barking is desirable behavior in the retriever breed of dogs.
Golden Retrievers commonly bark when they’re excited. Excitement barking is associated with joy or curiosity and can be accompanied by yips or yowls and even a low-level, happy growl (our pup Bailey does this – he sounds like a Wookie).
Excitement barking is usually accompanied by tail wags, full-body wiggles, darting around, and other animated body movements.
Excitement barking can happen during greetings, impending walks, car rides, seeing another dog or cat, or anything else the Golden Retriever is curious about, interested in, or takes joy in.
For our dog Bailey, getting to go to doggie daycare is one of his favorites things. Usually, he whines while we’re driving. Still, once we start to pull into the premises, he often barks as part of his unbridled excitement.
Territorial or Defensive Barking
Golden Retrievers, like any dog, have specific areas that they may consider their territory. Usually, the house and backyard are obvious territories. However, the car can also be their territory. Or even YOU can be its territory.
Demand or Attention Barking
Attention barking is easy to identify because the barking is directed at a person, usually the owners. It is characterized by wanting attention from you. Demand barking is characterized by a more forcible bark, such as when wanting some food that you are eating.
A Golden Retriever might make eye contact while barking at you, or it may run up to you and then back towards whatever has caught its attention.
For example, our Golden Retriever Bailey saw a woman walking in the alley, so he started barking at her through the fence (territorial barking). Following the lady was a little dog, which he turned his attention to (excitement barking).
The little dog stopped to sniff him through the fence. Bailey wanted to play with him, so he ran back to the door and barked to be let in (attention barking).
Once he was inside, he grabbed his harness off the table, ran to me, and dropped it at my feet (smart dog), and then alternated between forcibly barking at me (demand barking) and running to the door. Bailey wanted me to take him to meet the little dog.
Notice the commonality of all that barking – it was all for a reason. This is a typical Golden Retriever.
Fear, Frustration or Anxiety Barking
Golden Retrievers bond very closely with their owners and do not like to be left alone for long periods. As a result, a Golden Retriever may bark when owners leave, i.e., the dog experiences separation anxiety.
Anxiety and frustration barking is often a persistent frantic barking. For example, the Golden is barking because it does not want to be left alone and wants to accompany its family. It can often be accompanied by whining and howls and pacing back and forth.
Fear-based situations can also cause barking, and if a Golden Retriever feels threatened and is fearful, it may bark.
For example, one of the Golden Retrievers I used to dog sit for was terrific with other dogs and people off-leash. Still, on a leash, she did not like other people or dogs approaching her.
She felt constrained by the leash and would sometimes bark as a way of saying “leave me alone,” and it was fear and anxiety-driven.
Barking is part of being a dog and one of the ways dogs communicate with one another. They’re social and vocal animals.
Golden Retrievers are well known to be exuberant puppies, and that puppyhood can last well into adulthood. The breed loves to play, and play barking is a frequent type of barking when they’re engaged in this social activity.
Play barking can even be when the dog is playing by itself. For example, our Golden Bailey will often play with an old shoe or find a plastic bottle. Usually, he’ll start barking at it while rolling around or jumping all around it.
How Can I Stop My Golden Retriever From Barking?
Let’s begin by emphasizing that it’s unreasonable to think that your Golden Retriever will never bark. That should not be a goal of yours. That’s like asking your kids never to talk.
A Golden Retrievers nuisance barking can be managed through training and behavior modification. As a first step, the reason or source for the barking needs to be identified, and then barking can be addressed using positive-based training solutions if required.
To begin, ensure your Golden has had adequate physical exercise and play. Goldens are high-energy dogs, so meeting their physical and mental needs can go a long way to reducing barking. For example, a bored dog might bark to get attention, amuse itself, or out of frustration.
Make sure your Golden has lots of stimulating mental activities to keep it engaged. Kong toys, puzzle games, and chew toys are needed for your dog to keep itself preoccupied when you are gone or busy cooking and you cannot attend to the dog’s wishes.
One of the best ways to address barking is to control it early on when a dog is still a puppy. The problem is that often everything that puppies do is seen as adorable, and owners often reinforce behaviors unwittingly, only to deal with the consequences of that reinforcement later on.
So, for example, let’s say your adorable Golden puppy barks you to get attention because you have food that it wants. Feeding the treat reinforces that behavior.
In essence, you have taught the puppy that if it barks at you when it wants something – in this case, food – that it will get it.
A better choice would be to wait for the puppy to stop barking and then reward. In this way, the puppy learns that it only gets rewarded when quiet.
Separation anxiety and fear barking can often be addressed with proactive training early on as well. Teaching your Golden puppy to be alone for increasingly longer periods lays the foundation for reducing anxiety when leaving. Ensuring your dog has lots of chew toys and is not left for too long can also help.
I wrote an article on how to raise a Golden Retriever puppy while working. In the article, I discuss separation anxiety and other ways to ensure your Golden puppy adapts well if you work. However, whether you work or not, there are some handy suggestions in the article, and I suggest you give it a read here: Raising a Golden Retriever Puppy While Working: Guilt-Free Solutions.
In turn, fear-based barking is often born out of poor socialization. The more people, dogs, animals, settings, and situations you expose your puppy to early on, will go a long way to developing a confident dog that is not fearful and is calm in most cases.
If your dog has never been exposed to other dogs on a leash, then don’t be surprised that it might be nervous and bark if it feels anxiety or fear.
The key takeaway is this. The more proactive you are in taking a hand in training your puppy early, the easier it is to prevent many undesirable behaviors later on, including barking for attention, boredom, frustration, and separation anxiety.
In contrast, many attention-based barking behaviors can be ignored.
Ignoring a dog is a form of operant conditioning that is considered a negative punishment. However, it is still an acceptable one, i.e., it is not an aversive such as a shock collar or shaking a jar of pennies (we’ll get to this in a moment).
The punishment for the dog is “you do not get my attention.” This method is most effective when you combine an alternate positive behavior that is instead rewarding.
For example, let’s say the dog barks at you when you walk in the door as part of the greeting. You could turn your back to the dog until it settles down. Then ask for a sit and reward the dog with a treat.
You are teaching the dog that barking and jumping will get no attention (the punishment is ignoring the dog by turning the back) and the alternate desirable behavior that gets a reward is to sit and be calm and quiet.
You can also teach your Golden to bark on cue. Barking on cue puts you in control.
Watch below, as the trainer discusses teaching a dog to bark on command, and why it’s effective.
The final solution is to reward calm behavior. In most homes, the dog only gets attention when engaged in behavior owners don’t want. So, the dog gets attention (and sometimes reinforcement) for behaviors that we deem undesirable.
It learns, “hey, if I bark, then my owner give me attention” – yes, it might be lousy attention, but it’s attention nevertheless. In contrast, when the dog is calm and well behaved, it gets no attention.
So, reward your dog throughout the day when it’s calm and well-behaved. These are the behaviors we want from our Golden Retrievers, so reward them often.
Should I Use Punishment to Stop My Golden Retriever From Barking?
So, what about punishments such as shock collars, yelling, physical reprimands, or makeshift devices like shaking a can of coins or using spray bottles? Please don’t use them.
First their inhumane because they’re based on physical punishment or fear.
Second timing needs to be spot on, which most people are not well equipped at doing effectively. Using shock collars, for example, the aversive needs to be delivered within one second of the undesirable behavior, and if any later, it’s too late.
Thirdly, devices such as e-collars can become a crutch. People often expect the device to do the training for them. Unfortunately, most of us are not professional trainers, so it becomes a misuse of a tool.
Lastly, punishment or feared-based methods often cause more problems than they fix.
Usually, the dog has no idea why it’s being yelled at or physically punished for doing what comes naturally. Or the punishment or fear can be generalized to other behaviors that you didn’t want to affect.
For example, shaking a can of coins at a dog to scare it or using an e-collar often creates a fearful, insecure dog with anxiety. Often that can be generalized to other unrelated situations. So now you have an anxious dog that barks and is afraid in cases that it wasn’t before.
Lastly, punishing a dog can create a fearful, insecure and unconfident animal, and it erodes the trust and bond the dog has with you.
Bark collars are pretty much useless since often, the dog doesn’t know that barking is the behavior we don’t want. So, the barking doesn’t stop because the dog doesn’t understand that it’s being caused pain for that behavior.
Furthermore, bark collars punish all forms of barking, not just the ones you deem as problematic. So, the dog gets punished for barking during play or when it’s happy to see you. See the problem?
In my article, Dog Training Methods: Which One is Best for Golden Retrievers? I take an in-depth look at the best training methods, and I also discuss the role of punishment, including aversives, and why they are not ideal.