YGRR Policy on Aggressive Goldens



Aggression in Goldens is a problem that must be acknowledged. As rescue workers, perhaps we see a greater number of aggressive Goldens because the population of dogs we work with is skewed -- made up of Goldens-in-need. Nonetheless, aggression in our breed generally is definitely on the rise.

The 1982 breed standard for Golden Retrievers pertaining to temperament reads: "Friendly, reliable and trustworthy. Quarrelsomeness or hostility towards other dogs or people in normal situations, or an unwarranted show of timidity or nervousness, is not in keeping with the Golden Retriever character."

While a Rescue organization cannot and should not turn down potential rescue dogs because they fail to meet the breed standard, the phrase "not in keeping with the Golden Retriever character" has value when evaluating temperament. That is because most people -- those you meet while walking your Golden along the beach, those who stick their arms into your car to pat your Golden or those who allow their children to run up to your Golden -- expect Goldens to be big teddy bears. When they are not, people may get hurt.

To quote GRRIN (Golden Retriever Rescue in Nebraska): "Yes, as members of GRRIN we provide shelter, food, care and (most importantly), love to the dogs we rescue. But we must also remember that our purpose is to assess the dogs. Aggression is very real, and we must be realistic in dealing with it. If we make excuses in an effort to save every dog, we must then take the responsibility for what happens when the aggression recurs, either to another dog, another person, or to the dog himself. I do not advocate the hasty euthanasia of any dog with a problem; it is a difficult and frequently agonizing decision every time we have to make it. I do recommend that we all remember the personality of the Goldens we love and seek to find those characteristics to be consistent with the dogs we foster."

Years ago, the YGRR Board of Directors set a policy of never admitting a dog with a confirmed history of aggression towards people or severe, uncharacteristic aggression towards other dogs (which can put other people at risk). When we receive a placement call about a Golden that has bitten or that is severely dog aggressive, we decline the dog but offer the names of animal behaviorists and obedience instructors. We also suggest that the dog have a thorough veterinary examination to make sure that the aggression is not caused by a medical condition. We further counsel such callers to consider euthanasia rather than to place a dangerous dog.

We admit strays based on the evaluations of animal control officers. These dogs are further tested by YGRR and, if they show no signs of aggression, will be placed with adopters who have no children under the age of ten.

The admission limitations we adopted years ago are still in effect today and sadly, the percentage of Goldens who are ineligible for YGRR services because of temperament is increasing. Among those dogs there may be dogs who have bitten that do not have the classic "bad temperament" and, in some cases, it may be because the dog was not properly trained or socialized. But we cannot, and will not, risk the viability of our entire program by taking a chance on a dog with a confirmed history of biting. We cannot handle the financial burden of a lawsuit and our directors, staff and volunteers cannot handle the emotional burden such a dog would cause.

During the first year of YGRR's operation, YGRR directors had the tragic experience of taking responsibility for a seven month-old Rescue Golden who severely injured a child, resulting in hundreds of facial stitches, facial paralysis and hospitalization. The dog, who had been given up because he growled when children approached his food dish and had "nipped" several times, was carefully evaluated for YGRR by a very experienced breeder, veterinary technician and obedience instructor. After two months of evaluation and training, the dog had shown no signs of aggression and we placed him in a home with no children.

His new owner continued obedience training with him and he was a star pupil. She called often to tell us of his progress. On the fateful day, he went with his owner to a family gathering. He spent the day surrounded by children and adults and enjoyed playing with everyone. That night, as he sat next to his owner at the dinner table, her nephew (a toddler of three) bumped against him. The Golden turned and viciously attacked the child. It took several adults to pull the dog off the child, but not before a great deal of damage had been done.

Because of this pivotal incident and the emotional and legal conditions it brought to light, the foregoing policy on aggressive Goldens was adopted. We accept the fact that there are some dogs for which we cannot and should not accept responsibility. Animal control officers, shelter professionals and veterinarians have been advised of our position on aggressive Goldens and we know they understand and respect it. However, any Golden of good temperament, no matter how old, young or ill, will be admitted and given the comprehensive care for which YGRR is known and which our members and supporters make possible.

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Yankee Golden Retriever Rescue, Inc. is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization founded in 1985.
Rescue and Adoption services for Golden Retrievers from the six New England states.
Address: P.O. Box 808, Hudson, MA 01749-0808
Hotline: 978-568-9700


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