Most golden retrievers have a good reason for barking. They may bark to be let in or out of the house, when an intruder approaches, or if asked to “speak.” But goldens can bark for not-so-good reasons too. Sometimes, they bark because they’re bored, lonely, or afraid. They might use barking in a territorial sense or when they hear another dog bark. Some golden retrievers bark just to get attention or for no clear reason at all. While a little barking is normal and shouldn’t be discouraged, excessive habitual barking needs addressing.
Why Some Goldens Bark More Than Others
When it comes to problem barking among specific dog breeds, there is good news for golden retrievers: Dog experts agree that Goldens, in general, bark less than many other breeds. But don’t let this be a selling point for the golden retriever. Explains longtime Minnesota breeder Eric Anderson of Sharptail Ridge Goldens, “there are definitely differences between individual dogs.” Although no one can say for sure why some goldens bark very little and others bark a lot, Anderson believes that individual personality may play the biggest role. Even within litters, he notes, one dog might be more vocal than another.
Some might argue that field dogs are more excitable and energetic than their show line counterparts— and hence, more likely to be habitual barkers. Anderson, however, doubts this notion. “We have two dogs with very good field lines. One of them barks and the other not so much. We also have a dog with a fair amount of show background. He is the first to bark when we walk into the barn.”
In Golden Retriever, a Smart Owner’s Guide (Kennel Club Books, 2010), the authors explain that while excessive barking is a problem that needs correcting, as a golden grows, “you will be able to tell when his barking is purposeful and when it is for no reason, you will be able to distinguish your dog’s different barks and with what they are associated.” This insight will come in handy for catching problem barking early on—and eliminating it.
How to Reduce Excessive Barking in a Golden Retriever
Fortunately for golden owners, an excessive barking habit may be easier to break with this breed than with many others—thanks to the golden retriever’s docile nature, responsiveness, and eagerness to please, qualities that make the breed highly trainable. Most goldens are also “treat” driven and willing to do just about anything for an edible reward. Best of all, goldens are patient learners, and when it comes to overcoming problem barking, patience is key.
Here are some helpful tips for curbing excessive barking in a golden retriever:
- Increase the dog’s exercise and activity. A tired golden will tend to be less excitable and noisy.
- Teach the dog a certain behavior other than barking. For example, when someone comes to the door, train the dog to go sit in a special spot.
- Teach the dog to be “quiet.” If you can teach a golden to “speak,” you can also teach him to do the opposite.
- Offer the dog plenty of toys. Most goldens enjoy playing with toys, and toys keep dogs busy and their mouths occupied.
- Keep the dog away from windows if passersby incite barking. This is especially helpful at night or during quiet hours.
- Offer plenty of praise as well as treats for quiet behavior.
- Ignore a barking dog. Leaving the room when your golden barks show him that you don’t condone his behavior.
- When a dog barks for the wrong reasons, don’t give in and give the dog what he wants. You don’t want him to associate bad behavior with a reward.
Many other methods for handling excessive barking exist. Some are controversial and don’t work for all dogs. These methods include squirting a dog with water or lemon juice (followed by a “quiet” command), shock collars, and anti-bark muzzles. Most golden retrievers respond well to less harsh training practices.
The most important thing to remember when training a golden retriever not to bark is to be consistent and treat the dog with respect. Gentle, firm commands work better than shouting at and berating the dog. And keep in mind that barking is a means of communication for dogs. While too much barking is tiresome and problematic, barking is an innate canine behavior and can be useful and necessary at times.
Though problem barking may be nothing to bark about, it’s not all bad for golden retrievers. Thankfully, goldens have the disposition to overcome their noisy habit easily and painlessly. With proper training and care, they can be as quiet as any dog can be.
- Anderson, Eric, Sharptail Ridge Goldens, Saint Hilaire, MN, e-mail correspondence dated July 19, 2012.
- Arden, Andrea, et. al., Golden Retriever, a Smart Owner’s Guide, Freehold, NJ: Kennel Club Books, 2010, 148.
- Bryan, Meredith, “Old Dog, New Tricks: How to Transform Your Difficult Dog into a Model Pet,” O Magazine, Oct. 2010.
- Stevenson, Alana, Training Your Dog the Humane Way, Novato, CA: New World Library, 2011.