Golden Doodle Aggression

We are the owners of a 4-year old Golden Doodle. She is an incredibly smart dog and we are very ‘tolerant’ owners. She has the ability to be very well behaved but we have not displayed the commitment to training her in a consistent manner. Many of her foibles seem minor but her reaction to other animals is challenging us. She is very exuberant and her energy can quickly overwhelm other dogs. She is not initially aggressive but will not back down if another dog begins to become aggressive. In the past few months, she now displays this behaviour with animals on television. Our friends laugh when they direct us to the ‘Dog Whisperer’ for tips and we have to admit that Sally won’t let us watch it. If the commercial or programming includes animals, she will charge up to the tv, and bark incessantly. If we have the energy, we get up and physically intervene, if not, we change the channel. Once the channel is changed, Sally stays in place to ensure the animal is not returning. She will look to either side of the tv. She has the ability to be trained, we just need the will and guidance to do it. Thoughts?

J.T.

Hi J.T.

I suspect that what you see as “exuberant energy” might be described differently by guests and the people at the dog park. The lady in the commercial that learns she can clean up more spills with less paper towels has “exuberant energy”. Your dog comes across as more like what would happen if Jim Carrey and Robin Williams had a child.

Let’s consider two possibilities for now. There is something in dog training called learned helplessness. It refers to a dog that just stops trying because whoever has been doing the “training” has done such a poor job that the dog doesn’t believe there is an answer and it no longer makes an effort. Learned helplessness can be found on the other end of the leash as well. Some dog owners exposure to training has only been the “treat-only”, “all positive”, “ignore the bad behaviour, reward the good behaviour,” which produces the same dismal results with a dog as it does a teenager. If you don’t change your approach you’d better resign yourself to the fact that the kid is never moving out.

Your letter left some clues to another possibility. “We are very ‘tolerant’ owners”, “we have not displayed the commitment to training her in a consistent manner”, “we have to admit that Sally won’t let us”, “if we have the energy”, “we just need the will”. Seriously in any cat’s mind you’d be a dream come true but for a dog it’s the road to bedlam. Dogs need more structure. In fact they crave it.

I have no doubt you love her to death but if it has been 4 years and you’re still trying to find the energy to get off the couch before she knocks the flat screen off the wall you’re going to need a little more caffeine in your diet and an appointment or two with a balanced trainer. If her carrying on is a byproduct of learned helplessness on your part, same answer. Find yourself a good balanced trainer that can show you that a dog is capable of being told and responding to, “Stop it!”, and still maintain its self-esteem and love you as much if not more.

Pawsitively Yours

John Wade
www.askthedogguy.com

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19 thoughts on “Golden Doodle Aggression”

  1. We’ve had our golden doodle for 3 or 4 years now he’s huge over 110 pounds but he still thinks he’s a puppy all he wants to do is be scratched or petted there are
    Problems though he’s very territorial any one or if either of our other 2 dogs approaches his crate when he’s in it he becomes cujo he also steals things like dish towels a paper plate etc which is no big deal but try to get them back you’re lucky if you still have your arm but we still love him he’s just a big doofus he has apparently decided I’m his pet human iz’ll go out back sit in a chair and no matter where he is he’ll come jump in my lap do I can pet him all day

    1. Hi Bob,

      I never know how to advise a dog owner when there’s such conflicting information in their letter. On one hand “he still thinks he’s a puppy and all he wants to do is be scratched or petted” and on the other hand, the same dog in another context “you’re lucky if you still have your arm”. I always feel like a friend has just told me her spouse is occasionally abusive but is overall a really nice guy.

      I’m not suggesting that the dog or the “nice guy” can’t be rehabilitated but a good starting point is acknowledge the behaviour is very serious and not conducive to a healthy relationship and should not be worked around. Contact a good balance trainer and see what they advise. I suspect for the most part that you’ll find the dog is just confused as to who is the student and who is the teacher. However, I have been repeatedly running into this level of resource guarding with the Golden Doodle mutt crossing so it might be a little more hard wired.

      John

  2. I recently rescued a 2 year old goldendoodle, from a family who could not afford or handle how hyper he is. We now have him, he is crate trained but does not spend more than 4 hours per day. We go on 2-3 daily walks a day, lasting 30+ minutes, as well as jogging and skateboarding.
    He goes crazy if anyone is walking past the window, he whimpers and whines to be let out when there is another dog outside or if we are on a walk once he sees a dog he becomes fixated. He has now started to lunge at people when they are leaving the home. We do not know what to do about this behavior.

    1. Cut out all window time unless you’re right there with him on a leash so you can explain the error of his ways. All dogs are negatively influenced by being allowed to look out windows in urban settings. It overstimulates their territorial instincts and make walking and greeting people at the door far harder as they develop conditioned responses that make communicating with them problematic. Read my book – The Beautiful Balance – Dog Training with Nature’s Template.

      John

  3. Been trying to help family that have individual doodles from same litter. I’m doing short-term daycare duty to observe. They play like zebras in the wild but seem to love each other. Second day, noticed one sister dominating the other. Thanks for some incite.

  4. We just adopted a little over 1 yr old goldendoodle…looks more like a standard poodle. His previous owners who also had a dog said they didn’t have time for him. He is very possessive of his toys and lunges at them and snatches them up if our 9 year old puggle gets near them. What should we do? A trainer? Never dealt with this type of behaviour before. Thank you.

  5. One need not use punitive measure to have discipline and expectations. Having experienced some issues with overly intense dogs myself, I’ve found approaches that involve routines and structures based on positive reinforcement work well if they are practiced long enough to unseat existing behaviors. For example, a dog develops a habit of attention barking as the people sit down to breakfast.

    Intervention: the dog is directed into a down stay in an appropriate location prior to people sitting (interrupt behavior chain). A high rate of reward is used initially– say, half of breakfast is withheld and then tossed to dog piece by piece during breakfast for 2-3 days (dog likes petting/praise/toys? sub freely). After that, a few pieces of kibble with an occasional higher value item (bit of egg, treat) are used for another 3-5 days. Option of shaping head down on floor/lie flat if preferred. Following that, the reward schedule is faded to something unpredictable (none, light, none, heavy, light, none, none, light, none, none, heavy, one piece, none, etc) for about two weeks (maybe three– how persistent is this behavior?). Problem likely resolved without punishment– new routine, calm behavior. Of course, with an exuberant puppy or practiced habit, it may take more time.

    Adding fear of punishment or failing to communicate what the dog should do instead (“stop it!” versus “go to your bed” or “leave it” followed by “come” and “down”) with a stressed dog only makes learning more difficult for the dog. If the basic learning is not as solid, it breaks down more quickly with any small change, like a visitor.

    The doodle in the initial question? Sounds like an overly aroused, worked up dog who has practiced a bad habit often enough it will take patient work based on positive reinforcement to develop confidence and calmness. It can be done.

    1. Thanks for your input but what you’re suggesting is based on an aspect of behavior modification developed in a laboratory for controlled setting environments that can only be recommended by someone that has never changed a cranky child’s diaper or raised one to adulthood, in even ideal settings let alone with the myriad of other realities that are a companion dog owner’s home or has entirely abandoned critical thinking. If that is not the case, I would be delighted to learn how you accomplished it. In the meantime, provide me with one legitimate paper that is based on the repeated successful application of what you’re suggesting in a real-world household context by actual laypeople as opposed to by people whose lives revolve around dogs.

      What you’re suggesting should be done and not done is – for likely very sound evolutionary biological reasons, unreflected anywhere on the planet amongst any higher order social species. What you’re recommending is an ideological fantasy. Do some reading regarding behavior modification based on non-laboratory specific behavior from the perspective of ethology, evolutionary biology, evolutionary psychology, sociobiology, anthropology, etc. Before you go jumping to any conclusions, I’m no more a fan of ‘Might Is Right’ alpha nonsense than ‘All Positive/Purely Positive/Force-Free’ nonsense.

      I wrote more about the scientific disorientation so prevalent in companion dog training and about legitimately scientifically appropriate companion dog behavior modification here: Clicker Training Cat Aggressive Pit Bull

      Regards,

      John ‘Ask The Dog Guy’ Wade
      Embracing Science and Common Sense

  6. Hi,
    A couple of months ago, my now 11 month female golden doodle started getting aggressive against me when walking her on the leash. She would be walking nicely and all the sudden she would start jumping, bitting and pulling the leash and sometimes bitting my arm. I don’t know if she is playing or not, but she is also growling at me when doing that. If I push her down and pet her, she stops (I have done this a couple of times but I am not sure if I am rewarding her when doing this). She only does this with me… What can I do?

    1. Hi Noemi,

      There are a few reasons this might happen. One of the most common is your dog is trying to tell you that walks aren’t exercising and she needs real exercise that triggers her cardiovascular system. Another common trigger is pace change. Moving from a walk to a job will often trigger this sort of response in a dog that doesn’t really yet know how to exercise it’s `Suck It Up Muscle’ around one or more people.

      -Regards,

      John ‘Ask The Dog Guy’ Wade
      Embracing Science and Common Sense

  7. I am a 76 year old widow with an 8 month old goldendoodle. He was neutered 2 weeks ago. I have always had a problem with him jumping on people when they arrive, but now he has started jumping on me and playing too rough with me. He has a large yard with an invisible fence so he has plenty of room to run if he wants. He mostly stays inside, but is allowed out anytime he wants to go.
    I am a very mild mannered person and I feel he is trying to show dominance over me. What should I do?

    1. Hi Jeanne,

      Keep in mind I’m guessing as I don’t have a lot to go on, so this is based on the countless dogs I’ve met owned by people with similar issues.

      He’s trying to show you something but dominance (that’s amateur ‘Might Is Right’, Alpha, Pack Leader, Dominant (Yank and Crank) dog trainer talk) is likely lower on the list than what I suspect which is two things. First, he’s an 8-month-old, an adolescent that isn’t getting the level of mental and physical activity he needs. Yards, don’t cut it. He runs, stops, smells pees. He’d be hardcore running, playing and wrestling with his littermates for 20 minutes out of every waking hour in a natural rearing scenario. He may be the sort that needs real cardio. It’s like children, for some, 15 minutes of ‘recess’ isn’t enough for them to settle in the classroom afterward. Dogs, like children, are getting far less physical activity than their bodies, and brains need to avoid being diagnosed with attention deficit and being medicated.

      The second suspicion is that when you’re saying, ‘No!’, he’s hearing, ‘Go!’, in part because of the physical mentioned above but also because few people actually train in a manner that a dog sees them as much more than a roommate, a substitute teacher, or a grandparent. We have to live with and train as if we’re a loving authority figure for at least the first 18 months of a dog’s life which is when they enter adulthood. No different than any other higher-order social species, including humans. Be thankful though, as a human child takes 18 years to get there. 25 years if it’s male. 🙂

      Regards,

      John ‘Ask The Dog Guy’ Wade
      Embracing Science and Common Sense

      >>——->;∞
      I PRESSED ON

  8. Hi my family and I have owned dogs before even multiple at time, I’ve never owned a golden doodle before but I had done research of the breed before getting him. He’s 5 months Old But is really awful for biting we’ve taken him to puppy classes and tried all sorts of methods, we understand his adult teeth where coming through but his biting leaves bruises and often draws blood. No matter what we try weather it was a time out ignoring him making a loud noise to startle him or redirect him with toys he still comes back for our limbs. He’s An extremely smart dog and we love him to death but it’s getting to the point where you can’t even pet him with out him biting you. Theirs no lack of exercise as we take him to the dog park and walk him three times a day, if you have any advice at all on if this behaviour is normal or not and how I can fix it.

  9. BRIAN MANN

    Hi
    We have a Golden doodle. the sweetest, the nicest most tolerant, friendliest dog ever.
    She is 2.5 years old. Everybody loves her and she loves everybody.
    Today we had an issue which we sincerely hope is a one off.
    We go to our sons on a Sunday to see him and our grandson. Bushka as always is tolerent with Max but today she growled and snapped at him. I think Max was pulling her hair which he has done times before but as always she ignores it – until today. I was horrified – I always say to people she is the calmest dog ever and would NEVER bite anyone. She didn’t bite Max but snapped at him – totally out of character. Really upset me.
    What are your thoughts I would be devastated if this happens again as we will not be allowed to take her to my sons.

    1. Hi Brian,

      A dog has to be 3 years or older and never bitten, (and not because their owner is fast, and, or careful) before I would say ‘NEVER bite anyone’. You’re either missing something in your ‘read’ of her or there’s an extenuating circumstance. It may be an undiagnosed illness or injury, or from her perspective enough change in routine to have compromised her natural capacity for stress. I hope it’s a one-off as well, but I can’t say that’s been my experience. You might have her x-rayed, blood work is done, etc. If nothing there, see if you can find a decent trainer to assess her. Read this article first, and if, as I suspect will be the case, you can’t find someone that meets the criteria, consider this, ‘Virtual+’ – Training Consult/Assessment With John Wade. For Dogs With Behavior Problems.

      – John Wade (www.askthedogguy.com)

  10. Hello, we have a three year old miniature golden doodle. When he was 8 months he snapped and bit a child who had reached into his play area but that seemed to be a “ provoked” incident. Since then I’m always on guard and never let him be around children unattended. He is for the most part sociable loving adorable and very much part of the family but he is very short tempered and seems to be getting more so and will lunge at people if he’s stroked when he has had enough or just because…. we really don’t know what to do as we love him very much but fear that he will harm someone more seriously. Help very much needed.

    1. Hi Sarah,

      Provoked is kind of an overused concept in the dog world. Yes, a dog can be legitimately provoked, but a child reaching into his play area is in my mind, not a provocation. Dogs don’t have play areas, they don’t have toys, they don’t have bones. If they are bred for stability, biddability, properly imprinted between 3 – 12 weeks of age, trained and their training maintained (as they should be) their owners have play areas, toys, bones, and the dogs understand they just get to use these things. Read this about breeding – Questions To Ask The Breeder Or A Rescue Before Deciding This Is Where You Want To Get A Dog.

      To top it off, his sort of behavior in a guarding breed isn’t surprising without one or more of the aforementioned characteristics. In a ‘Doodle’ it’s a huge red flag. Something is the matter here that’s related to what I just mentioned. Find a trainer that’s knowledgeable and experienced (Read this first – ), or book a ‘Virtual+’ – Training with me.

      – John Wade (www.askthedogguy.com)

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