Why did my 5 yr old Golden suddenly turn aggressive towards squirrels/cats? - Golden Retrievers : Golden Retriever Dog Forums
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post #1 of 15 (permalink) Old 06-17-2019, 06:44 PM Thread Starter
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Why did my 5 yr old Golden suddenly turn aggressive towards squirrels/cats?

My 5 year old golden lives with a cat and has no problems. She's be spayed (about 8 months ago) and has always had the calmest disposition. She lives to be petted and doesn't show an agressive bone in her body. She rarely barks - never at people, only at squirrels and that's very rare (maybe once every other month).

Last week , she saw a squirrel in the yard and burst through the closed screen door and ran and killed the squirrel. She came back to the back porch with the squirrel in her mouth.
Since then she's been going after squirrels and today went after the neighbors cat (poor thing ran up a tree REALLY high, and kinda slid/fell down)

(a) Why is she doing this
(b) what can I do to stop this
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post #2 of 15 (permalink) Old 06-18-2019, 08:03 AM
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post #3 of 15 (permalink) Old 06-18-2019, 11:01 AM
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OK, a couple of comments about this.


1. Goldens are hunting dogs
2. Squirrels are game. (In fact, I have a great squirrel recipe. PM me if you would like it.)
3. This is not aggression. It is prey drive.
4. I never let my dog stare out the screen dog, he is a hunting dog and I know what he will do.
5. You probably could train the dog to not do this but there is something called "instinctive drift". Lion tamers get bit by "tame" cats. This probably explains why Roy Horn (Siegfried and Roy) was bitten by the white tiger, Mantacore. Good chance that counter conditioning won't work.
6. I keep my door shut.


Good luck!
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post #4 of 15 (permalink) Old 06-18-2019, 11:19 AM
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Welcome to life with a dog that was bred for hunting.


Your dog is absolutely not aggressive. She's just doing what she was bred to do. My last Golden, Ruby, was a sweetheart but she had rather more hunting drive than was good for her, and most memorably broke through a closed window to get at a squirrel. There was glass everywhere and it was pure good luck that she wasn't hurt. I lost count of the number of screen doors we had to replace until we finally decided to live without them. My current Golden, Duster, considers it his duty to keep our yard free of squirrels. We make sure windows are closed unless it's dark outside or the dog is closely supervised.


I'm not sure you can stop this. Cats will learn to keep out of the yard - our neighbour's cat, which goes everywhere, now gives our yard a very wide berth after a couple of close encounters with my dogs. As for squirrels, maybe they'll just have to learn to run faster.

Christine

Ruby 13-01-2007 to 18-03-2015.
My dog of a lifetime. I'll miss you forever.
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post #5 of 15 (permalink) Old 06-18-2019, 07:46 PM
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Every dog has a different level of prey drive but like it has been said, you do own a hunting dog. My girls will chase but have very little desire to actually catch the critter, it's simply the excitement of the chase.

If your dog is allowed in the yard unsupervised there is a chance they have caught one before. Once a dog learns how to "hunt" for themselves it's very self rewarding and really hard to stop. You can teach or redirect a behavior if you are present but a waste of time if they are still allowed the opportunity to hunt alone. Basically, you can't untrain instinct... just manage it.

But this is certainly not aggressive behavior. You could use this drive to do something more suitable like agility, flyball or obedience. Learn how to do field work and teach her to hunt for you? People pay big money to have a dog with high prey drive :-) Just find an outlet for this skill.
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post #6 of 15 (permalink) Old 06-19-2019, 09:22 AM Thread Starter
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Why do you think it just started now (had her for about a year) - she's ~5 years old
she had within range but very high thyroid. Do you think it's gotten worse and causing increased aggression.
Also note this at the same time that she's started panting a lot (even though the house is not hot)
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post #7 of 15 (permalink) Old 06-19-2019, 10:21 AM
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This was always there. Your Golden finally acted on her impulse. To put things in perspective, from THE SANDLOT, Squints and Wendy Peffercorn, Squints says: "I can't take this no more!" The boys had been "intrigued" by Wendy, the lifeguard, for years and finally Michael Squints Polidori hatches a plan to kiss her and carries it out.


Google to see video.
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post #8 of 15 (permalink) Old 06-19-2019, 10:58 AM
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gdgli what lovely morning giggle! Thanks...

OP I don't remember you saying anything about only having the dog for year or having thyroid issues, sorry I missed that. I would certainly have the thyroid checked. Any change in the behavior you know is always worth checking out.

There is always the chance the dog has done this in the past, without having a history we on the forum can only guess. Hope everything checks out with the vet!
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post #9 of 15 (permalink) Old 06-19-2019, 10:59 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cgott42 View Post
Why do you think it just started now (had her for about a year) - she's ~5 years old
she had within range but very high thyroid. Do you think it's gotten worse and causing increased aggression.
Also note this at the same time that she's started panting a lot (even though the house is not hot)

It's not aggression. Aggression is something else altogether. Your dog didn't kill the squirrel because she's aggressive, she killed it because squirrels are prey and she is a hunting dog. Ditto for the cat.



She simply did what she was bred to do. She hunted the squirrel and killed it. As for why she's only just done that at 5 years of age, there are lots of reasons. She might have tried to get the squirrels before and been unsuccessful. She might not have had a chance to get at them before. She might have chased them and not caught them. This particular squirrel may have been injured or sick, and unable to get away. Etc.


FWIW, my current Golden is a sweetheart with a very "soft" personality. He doesn't have an aggressive bone in his body. He lies on his back to play with puppies. He's gentle in everything he does. But he's relentless in his pursuit of squirrels. And the neighbours' cats have learned the hard way not to come into our yard. I would never, ever describe this behaviour as aggression. He's just being a Golden Retriever.



Only your vet can tell you if your dog's thyroid is causing problems. If you're in doubt about this, or worried about her panting, ask your vet to examine her. But even if the thyroid levels are outside the range, this isn't why she killed the squirrel or chased the cat. She was just following her instincts.

Christine

Ruby 13-01-2007 to 18-03-2015.
My dog of a lifetime. I'll miss you forever.
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post #10 of 15 (permalink) Old 06-19-2019, 11:46 AM
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Re cats. I walk my dog 3-4 times a day. Thor dove under a parked car for a cat while on leash. Ever since then, he is checking under every parked car for a cat when we walk. I now try to stay away from parked cars.
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