How To Piss Off A Golden Retriever Owner

It happened again.

With a hand signal, I asked Honey to lie down on the ground quietly. The person I was talking to said the one thing guaranteed to piss off a golden retriever owner: “Aww, aren’t goldens great? My dog would never do that.”


Honey the Golden Retriever Takes an Apple for Teacher.

I’m beautiful because I’m a dog. I’m well trained because I worked really hard at it.

All Dogs Are Great

Well first, all dogs are great.

They are amazing creatures with an astounding ability to understand what humans want more than humans do themselves.

And while Honey might be able to wait calmly while I’m talking (at least for a little while), she can’t do things that many other dogs do easily—pull drowning people out of a river, chase a rat out of the house, or walk two steps without shedding piles of dog hair.

Honey the Golden Retriever sheds.

Go ahead, groom me all you like. I’ll make more.

So yes, Honey is great. All goldens are wonderful. And so is every other dog.

Especially if you spend time teaching them.

Goldens Aren’t Born Perfect

And here’s the crux of why I get pissed off when someone tells me Honey is perfect because she’s a golden: it ignores the years we’ve spent working together.

Do you want to know what goldens are like in their natural state? Try to adopt one from a responsible breeder or breed rescue group.

Honey the golden retriever puppy chews on a toy.

When you’re this cute, you need to tell everyone the bad stuff or everyone would want me.

To make sure the potential adopter knows what she’s getting into, they’ll tell you about all the goldens’ most challenging traits:

  • high energy needing exercise and mental stimulation every day
  • stubbornness
  • their welcoming attitude toward burglars or door-to-door sales people
  • mouthiness with a tendency to bite and chew things
  • exuberant jumping on people
  • and constant, overwhelming shedding along with frequent matting without regular grooming

When Honey was a puppy, we discovered another challenging trait—a defiant “just you try to stop me” look when she wanted to do something we didn’t want her to do.

Honey the golden retriever sits on the table.

What? You never said I couldn’t sit on the table.

I saw it first when she swallowed a whole, dead pigeon at three months old. I saw it again when she ate a plastic squeaky that eventually led to thousands of dollars in vet bills and emergency surgery.

So no. Goldens are great dogs with wonderful temperaments. But perfect without any training or socialization? No way.

How To Get A Perfect Dog

Honey is practically perfect. But it’s not because she’s a golden.

Let’s see how Honey turned out so excellent.

  1. Honey had the very best start in life. From the day she was born until now, she’s never experienced a moment of trauma. She’s never had to worry about where her next meal was coming from. She’s never been away from people who love her.
  2. We took puppy socialization very seriously. We introduced Honey to all kinds of people and other animals when she was young. We exposed her to cars, buses, bicycles. If you’re supposed to introduce your puppy to 100 people in their first three months, we introduced her to at least 101.

    Honey the golden retriever chases Riley with her toy.

    The people call it puppy socialization. I call it fun.

  3. We started training the first day Honey came home with us. We enrolled her in a puppy manners class. And we worked one-on-one with an excellent trainer.
  4. We continually reinforce Honey’s manners and tune-up her training every week.
  5. Honey goes with us almost everywhere, giving her many opportunities to continually refine her skills.

Yeah, she’s perfect because she’s a golden. None of that other work did a thing for her.

If I Weren’t So Polite…

I knew nothing about the early lives of my first three dogs. They all came from shelters. And they came with their own challenges.

It’s not that rescue dogs aren’t perfect. But when you adopt a rescue dog, especially when they are adults, you have no control over their upbringing and early development.

But I don’t think those people who piss me off by telling me Honey is perfect because she’s a golden are folks who have come up against limitations imposed by their rescue dog’s early life.

Hound mix on the porch

Cherie was our oh-so-loveable and very fearful foster dog. I wonder what she would be like if she had gotten as good a start in life as Honey did.

I think they’re people who’ve never bothered to socialize or train their dogs and who tell themselves mine is perfect because she’s a golden retriever.

And that pisses me off.

If I weren’t so polite, I’d grab them by the collar and say, “Do you have any idea how many hours we’ve worked for Honey to be this good? Do you know how much money I’ve spent on classes and training?”

And then I’d say, “And do you know how much amazing fun you could have with your dog if you’d do the same thing?”

Actually, I have said similar things to people. It just doesn’t work.

They keep telling me what great dogs goldens are.

I think I’ve gone about this all wrong.

Instead of trying to teach people with my words, I need to show them.

Honey, forget everything I’ve taught you. Jump up on that person. Go ahead, right up. Put your paws on their chest.

Honey the golden retriever jumps up.

I wish I was taller. Then I could snatch food right out of your mouth.

Now start mouthing their sleeve. Grab that purse and swing it around like it’s a squeaky toy.

Go knock over that trash can and see if there’s anything yummy in there. Go ahead. Show this nice person how perfect golden retrievers are without training.

I wonder if they’d get it then? And maybe I wouldn’t get so pissed off.

Kurgo Surf ‘N Turf Life Jacket Giveaway

You have until the end of the month to win a great Kurgo life jacket (the one Honey wears).

Kurt Surf 'N Turf life jacket collage.

Find out why your dog needs a life jacket and enter to win today.

Your Turn: Have you ever gotten frustrated because people think all your hard work with your pups came without effort?





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  1. OMG, the title alone had me laughing. I agree with you wholeheartedly as I mentally sketch out How to Piss Off a German Shepherd Owner. I swear, one of these s as I’m going to choke someone . . .

  2. Well, my dogs aren’t even close to perfect, so I’ve never had that problem 😉 People do make broad assumptions based on breeds though…

  3. I haven’t worked as hard as you at training, although I have worked to be sure Kelly and Ike walk nicely and aren’t bothersome to other people and animals. Sometimes the dog is perfect despite all the rules. Our Brooks had been on his own for more than a year having been abandoned, never knew where his next meal was coming from, had been in and out of shelters, probably had no training in his whole life, yet when we adopted him at age 11 he was perfectly behaved, walked beautifully on a leash, never displayed a single emotional issue or behavioral problem. And he just happened to be a golden!

  4. So true. Torrey is the dog she is because I trained her that way. It helps that goldens start out smart however.

  5. Dang those people drive me nuts, too!! Callie and Shadow are good girls on our walks – for the most part at least – but not because they’re Goldens. Still, non-Golden guardians/parents/whatever just don’t get it. And if they haven’t bothered to work with their own dog, it’s even worse. But what really pisses me off is when someone says “at least they’re not pit bulls!” I had someone yell that to me through his car window as he drove past us at the park a few years ago. I was caught so off guard that I was speechless – and that’s quite a feat! – by the time it sunk in, the a-hole was gone and I couldn’t yell back at him. But I wished I could have said something like “my third dog IS a pit bull and better behaved than you!”

    • Yeah, I think pit bull people have it the worst. People will say the rudest things about them.

      I’ve even had people toss it into conversations about goldens?!? Whisky, tango, foxtrot!

  6. Haha – yup! I’m having a problem at the park right near with people encouraging Harlow to jump up on them. Despite me telling them no, repeatedly. I’ve decided to wait until I’m home to correct this issue – she was getting so confused.

    Monty and Harlow

    • OMD! And they always say, “Don’t correct her. I don’t mind a bit.”

      And I want to reply, “Well, I do.” Especially when she can’t tell the difference between someone who loves it and someone likely to get bowled over by golden love.”

      People sure can make it tough on you when you’re trying to do the right thing.

  7. For me, I cringe when people try to tell me what larger percentage either one of the boys are:
    “Harley’s more poodle” or “Jax is more Retriever” Do people hear themselves? Do they know how stupid they sound? I’m sorry, just venting I guess…. LOL

    • Do you think people think dog breeding is like following a recipe?

      “Let’s see. We’ll take 1/2 cup of poodle, 1/4 cup of labrador, and 1/4 cup of plain puppy perfection…”

      In reality, they’re just looking for any excuse to meet you and your good lucking pups. They’re just not smart enough to come up with anything truly clever or charming. :)

  8. These are all great points and something we may deal with in the future. We know the work that is going to go into training Rae, which won’t be easy just because she is a golden!

    • Actually, I hate to tell you this but Honey was the hardest puppy I’ve ever seen (and I used to foster puppies, so I have some experience). The biting stage of a baby golden retriever is killer.

      One suggestion: metal underwear.

  9. We never hear golden, but if you swap that for ‘large dog’ we hear all the same stuff.
    “Lucky” to have such a well-behaved dog is the one that gets my bipeds! The male biped has been heard to mutter that “lucky” now means lots of training and socialisation. But people don’t want to hear the truth, they’d rather continue believing that their own dog misbehaves because they are “unlucky”.

  10. The same phenomenon happens in agility. When someone does well with a herding dog (and esp. a BC), people are all, “well of course she did well, it is so easy with a…BC….Corgi….Aussie…etc.” I’ve tried running my instructor’s BCs who are trained to the World Team level, and let me tell you, they are NOT easy! I would like to have a BC pup of my own someday but when I watch fellow students struggling, I often wonder if I want to work that hard!

  11. That person was probably trying to pay you a compliment. Unfortunately in an unartful way. You’re right though…all dogs are great. It’s our responsibility to bring the greatness out in them. 😉

  12. It’s definitely nice when people have no idea what your dog is. I regularly get comments on how well trained Barley is–probably because that’s a lot easier for people to wrap their minds around than to try to figure out what on earth she is :)

  13. Blueberry is an anomaly. She was around 5 years old when I adopted her and she was pretty close to perfect when I brought her home. I did about 5% of her training – most of what I taught her is just for fun. The other 95% was already in place. When people tell me how well behaved she is I tell them I had very little to do with it. I probably shouldn’t tell them that lest they think well-behaved dogs grow on trees or something – but I don’t see any reason to sugarcoat it. I was blessed beyond measure to have adopted a dog like her. It’s not the norm by any means – especially for a dog with an unknown history – but it can happen! I suppose next to a dog like Honey though, Blueberry may seem less than perfect – but dogs like ours – whether or not we train them or they come to us right out of the package like that (wink wink) – probably seem pretty great to people with their unruly dogs. True, those same may not be consistent in the training department, but there are a lot of dogs with issues despite intensive training anyway. When people say that to you – it’s the perfect opportunity to set them straight and let them know you didn’t pluck her off a tree like that – you put in a LOT of work and continue to do so.

    • Well said.

      I also hate the focus on the results we get with our dogs. As if the only reason to train them is so they behave well in public. But isn’t it also great to be able to work with our dogs just to do it?

      And as you said, some dogs will have issues no matter what kind of training. And they shouldn’t be looked down on for who they are. Some people have issues too, no matter what their training.

      BTW, nice to see you again. I miss seeing your polka dotty girl. :)

  14. No two dogs are the same, even if they are the same breed. Bailie and I have both been raised in the same family with the same rules, and one does somethings and not others, the other one of us is probably the opposite. Any breed can be an easy dog if trained properly.

  15. Since Rita has a lot of issues with strangers (which we’ve been working on for years now) I’ve never had anyone say this to me. Even if she is being a good calm girl (she rarely jumps on anyone except her aunties, whom she loves) they never comment on her good behavior. We are more likely to get snotty comments when she’s in Protect the Momma-mode. (“Is she *always* like that?” Yes, ALWAYS. So please go away right now.)

  16. People are so obnoxious. I always get comments like, “aren’t they aggressive?” or “do they ever fight?” When people have been around us long enough we get comments like, “you should train my dogs.” “My dogs don’t listen as good as yours.” “My dog would NEVER do THAT.”
    Ugh….I try to be really positive. My big thing is showing people that a large and powerful breed does not need nasty tools like prong, choke, or shock collars to get them to behave or walk nicely. Which is really annoying. I can walk both my pibbles, plus our 50 pound foster have a conversation with a woman regarding considering tossing her prong for a new walking method and her comment was, I can’t or she’ll pull. In my head i’m screaming – “And you have a dog because why?” Guess I’ll never understand humans.

  17. Actually, it would be pretty great if you could train her to be unruly on demand haha!

    Maybe they say Goldens are great because they’re think they’re exceptionally smart and easy to train? Some breeds are more stubborn than others.

  18. I’ve never had anyone say anything like that to me, but I can imagine. Our dogs aren’t perfectly trained, but we worked very hard with Sheba to keep her from jumping up on people, and if anyone commented that they thought she did well was because she was a golden, I think I would get upset too. It was a lot of hard work, and it’s hard work for her to keep her butt on the floor every single time too!

  19. I’ve actually had dozens of people ask me (both in real life and online) who Nola’s breeder is, so that they “can get one just like her! I’ve always wanted a dachshund that was nice!”. While it’s true she’s from solid tempered parents, I busted my ass to get her to be the polite, quiet, ready for anything dog they’re seeing.

    • Small dogs have it really tough. People like them for their compact size but they don’t realize that dogs like dachshunds or terriers are active little hunters.

      Yep, if I were you, I’d get pretty pissy too.

  20. I couldn’t agree with this post more. I’ve got a mini Goldendoodle who displays all of the not-so-great traits you’ve listed, and although Beau is a very well behaved little guy now, he got that way from so hard work, and maybe even few lessons on doggy manners from his older sister Maya (Havanese). I work at a pet store and you wouldn’t believe how many times I over hear one pet parent tell another how lucky they are to own a Golden, as if all dogs weren’t absolutely incredible!!! Too many people just expect their dog to magically have perfect manners, and don’t even attempt to put in the work (and play) that is needed when raising a young dog! Love the article, keep em coming!

    All the best,

    • I love that Maya helped with Beau’s training. Dogs are much better trainers than humans. We can learn a lot from watching them. :)

  21. Margaret T. says:

    I worked with a trainer who has had AKC National Champion obedience dogs. She was so tired of hearing, “But you train goldens. It’s easier,” that she picked a terrier breed that had never even had an OTCH dog (obedience trial champion) and trained that “untrainable” breed to that level, just to prove she could. I think her dog is still the only one of its breed to attain that level. It’s work, people! Thoughtful consistency. Do it, for dog’s sake, and don’t use the breed or the background as an excuse.

    • Bwa ha ha! I love that this trainer did spite training. :)

      And I bet that dog had the time of his life.

      Heck, at the Karen Pryor clicker expos, they train chickens and goldfish. So any smart trainer willing to work hard can get results.

  22. Dog’s have all different personalities. What bugs me is seeing an older couple who recently lost their dog get a puppy of the same breed and expecting it to be as well mannered as their previous dog. Did they forget all the training they put in to making that dog so “special”. or maybe they lucked out with the previous dog and ended up with an exceptionally well mannered dog. Either way they just expect this new dog to automatically be just like the previous one because it is the same breed!

    • Or even worse, people who clone their pets thinking the clone will be the same as their original dog.

      We’re all the results of our experiences and can’t just be recreated in a test tube.

  23. Oh, yes, this makes steam come out of my ears, too. Once, when we were walking, someone called out about how lovely Nala was being, walking right by my side! It must be because she’s a German Shepherd! Not like her dogs, who were “at the bottom of the class” when they did obedience. I’m sorry, stranger, but Nala was at the bottom of the class, for a while, too–because she was so out-of-her-mind overwhelmed by the world, and needed help overcoming her hypervigilant scanning and stress-sniffing. To have months of work helping her learn to be more comfortable in the world, hours training skills and focus, and then more hours putting those together chalked up to her breed? *And* dismissing her own dogs simultaneously? I nearly pitched a fit, right there in the street!

    • If you pitch a fit at some ignorant so-and-so who doesn’t appreciate how much work it takes to have a well behaved dog, I’ll be happy to pay your bail. :)

  24. I think it comes from the people who think of dogs more as cute and lovable things rather than thinking, feeling beings.

  25. Thanks so much for this article! I really applaud you for speaking the truth. It’s so sad how many people just give up on their dog if he or she is not perfect, without even trying any training. Having a well-behaved dog takes lots of time, training and patience. But the love you get in return is priceless.

  26. You said exactly what is on my mind sometimes. Donna is a sweet dog, and rescu,e so she has been through whatever traumas she’s been through that I don’t know about. She’s a mongrel so people can’t really attribute breed to her. But come on, give me some credit and don’t just assume the dog is naturally sweet and obedient. HAHAHAHAHA. 😛

  27. Whenever someone says that to me, I say, “You are looking at thousands of dollars in training and oodles of time,” that is how my dog got to be so good.

    The ones that REALLY PISS me off? Those are the ones who say, “My dog is so stupid, he won’t…” I have to bite my tongue not to tell them who the stupid one really is.

  28. That does happen a lot with Goldens, doesn’t it? Everyone assumes they are sweet and perfectly behaved by nature. People remark about Haley sometimes and I’m sure to tell him that it takes a lot of time and training and she’s not perfect by any means.

  29. Thank you so much for this; if there’s one thing I’m sick of it’s the generalization of dogs based on breeds. Every single day there’s another 20 “5best breeds for millenials” or “10 awesome dogs for aerobics instructors.” I don’t understand why we clump all of these dogs together and assume they’re all going to behave the same regardless of what sort of life they’ll be given.

    And I’d be pissed too if people automatically assumed I had it easy because I have a Golden or Lab, etc. We had a Lab growing up – and he needed more exercise & activity than any other dog I’ve owned. Yes he was level headed and friendly, but it wasn’t “easy” to keep him busy enough all the time. As soon as he got bored another piece of furniture was destroyed.

    Anyways enough rambling – I love this article, and I couldn’t agree more. Dogs are individuals, and they shouldn’t only be defined by breed.

    • Actually, just today I was thinking about how people use breeds to talk about a dog’s behavior when what they really want to talk about is their temperament or traits. I wish we would develop a language for talking about dogs that was better than breed traits (especially since most dogs are mixes).

  30. I get a lot of comments along the lines of “He’s a Lab. Labs are easy to train.” Like the only reason my dog is so close to perfect is because he’s half Lab. Frustrating!

    He’s nearly “perfect” for all of the reasons you listed about Honey … a good upbringing, lots of training, socialization, exercise and love.

    I’ve lived with several Goldens. Growing up, I had one that was a real handful because we didn’t train her or socialize her or exercise her enough. She was still a great pet, but far from perfect.

  31. This is fantastic. I hear similar things with Atka when we’re out. “Oh he’s so good. I wish my dog was that good. Pyrs are so great.” Yeah because he just came that way… let’s just ignore the fact that I work with him all. the. time.


  1. […] The blog Something Wagging This Way Comes, written by Pamela and her dog Honey, had such an interesting post on this topic. You can read the whole post here. […]

  2. […] How to Piss Off A Golden Retriever Owner from Something Wagging this Way Comes […]