Why Do So Many People Torture Golden Retrievers On YouTube?

I can’t stand it any more.

Every time I try to find a cute golden retriever to watch on YouTube, I’m hit in the face with torture videos.

Okay, there’s no blood. Or broken bones. But I can’t watch them nonetheless.

Honey the golden retriever relaxes with Oliver the foster puppy.

Oliver is like most foster puppies, a nuisance. But I’ll tell you when he starts torturing me so you can give him a time-out and I can get some peace.

The Curse Of The “Good Dog”

Did you know I’ve actually had people walk up to me while I was training Honey to tell me what a great dog she was? And then say they wish they had gotten a “good dog” like Honey instead of the two bad dogs they got from the SPCA (that they never trained or spent any time with).


And it’s those crazy people who are torturing golden retrievers on YouTube.

Honey the golden retriever with lighthouse.

Someone sure has hyped up golden retrievers. It makes me want to bite someone.

They read the breed descriptions that say golden retrievers are friendly with people and other animals and that they’re eager to please their people and think they’ve found the perfect dog. No training. No exercise. Golden retrievers are good dogs right out of the box. Right?

And because they expect their goldens (or labs or any other breed with a reputation for being easy-going and gentle) to be “good”, they put them in terrible situations.

How often have you seen on YouTube

  • an elderly golden laying on the floor while a baby sticks his fingers in her mouth and pulls on her jowls
  • kids riding a golden retriever
  • and even a kid standing on a lab.

In many of these “cute” videos, you’ll find the dog tensing his body, licking his lips, or trying to get away. But the myth of the good dog prevents the person with the camera from seeing how uncomfortable their dog is.

I call it torture.

Honey the golden retriever licks her lips.

Being a model all the time is torture. Licking my lips is my way of telling you I’ve had enough.

Poor Miley

This morning I googled the term “bad golden retriever” to see what comes up.

I came upon a video of a man demonstrating how bad his golden retriever Miley was. He showed the scratches on the table legs, floors, and door jambs. He videotaped the locks they put on the refrigerator to keep her from stealing food. And then he showed her resisting him pulling her by the collar out to her “beautiful” yard—a small, paved area with a pool, bones, and water.

I had to stop watching.

I know the man didn’t think of himself as torturing his dog. He was a dad who wanted an easy and friendly dog for his kids to play with.

But because of the good dog myth, he was unable to see what Miley needed to become the good dog he expected her to be: exercise, training, attention, and affection. A dog smart enough to open a refrigerator is a dog who needs a job.

And he was absolutely clueless that banishing a sociable and loving dog to her “beautiful” back yard was a form of torture.

The Bad Side Of Breedism

There are plenty of good reasons to worry about dog breeding in this country. But one that’s often overlooked is the damage humans do to dogs when we believe that breed characteristics are more important than training and care.

My dog Honey is what trainers call “bomb proof” when it comes to biting. As certain as I am about anything, I know that Honey would inhibit her bite if a child (or anyone) put their hand right into her mouth.

But that’s not because she’s a golden retriever. It’s because we worked every day on teaching Honey to inhibit her bite, following the method of Dr. Ian Dunbar.

I understand why people who are looking for an affectionate, gentle, and easy-to-train dog would be attracted to golden retrievers. When I first started thinking about adopting a dog to partner with me in doing volunteer work with dogs (I was considering guide dog puppy raising as well as fostering), goldens came quickly to the top of a short list.

And looking back at the many dogs we’ve fostered with Honey’s help, I feel I made a good decision.

Honey the golden retriever plays tug with Zoe the foster puppy.

One of the most important things to teach a foster puppy is how to tug a toy.

But Honey isn’t a good foster-sister just because she’s a golden retriever. She’s a good foster-sister because

  • her breeder socialized her from birth to accept a range of situations, people, and other dogs
  • we continued her breeder’s socialization
  • she attended puppy socialization classes, puppy manners classes, and personal, at-home training with a professional.

Oh, yeah, and we don’t torture her to make “cute” YouTube videos.

Stop Torturing Golden Retrievers

Heck, don’t torture any dogs by making them endure something difficult just because someone thinks it will make a cute YouTube video.

Breed rescues spend lots of times describing the challenges of the breed they’re protecting. Visit any golden retriever rescue website and you’ll read about how goldens are rambunctious adolescents, need plenty of exercise, and can do a lot of damage with their teeth until they outgrow (and are trained out of) their mouthiness.

Honey the golden retriever puppy bites the hand that feeds her.

I remember you thought I’d never stop biting you.

I take another approach when people compliment me on Honey.

I always talk about the training she’s had and the work we do together every day.

Maybe those of us who have goldens and other beautiful dogs of any breed or mix who attract lots of attention can spread the word. It’s not about the breed. It’s about the work we do together every day that makes our dogs so damn good.

And maybe after the word gets out, we’ll stop seeing people torturing their dogs on YouTube because they “know” their breed is good and will tolerate anything.

Your Turn: Do people judge your dog by his or her breed or looks? What do you do about it? 





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  1. Margaret T says:

    Thank you! Shared on Facebook.

  2. I’m with you 100%, Pamela!! I refuse to watch those “cute” videos. They just make me want to wring the necks of the clueless owners! So, rather than get pissed-off and stressed-out, I just pass on watching them.

    Even though we didn’t have the time — or money — to put into the extensive training for Callie & Shadow, we did take them to training classes at PetSmart (all of the classes were with the same trainer). And while they’re not anywhere near as trained as Honey, they’re still trained well enough to be good girls and manageable at the park.

  3. Raising a “good” dog takes a ton of work, patience and love. Most importantly, its a work in progress and never ends. Having three goldens myself doesn’t mean I have good dogs, it means that we work hard to raise them properly to be “good”. I work at a doggie daycare and there are some owners that absolutely should not be dog owners, it’s very say and I often go home thinking about those poor dogs who just haven’t been trained and “loved” properly. Great post! :)

  4. So true – having Labs, I get the same from people. Unfortunately, when we first got Jack he was unpredictable with strangers and it’s taken us a long time and lots of training for me to feel comfortable having him greet visitors…who just want to pet him and love him up. Same with Maggie, who when approached by a stranger will scoot away. People don’t understand that sometimes dogs have ‘baggage’ just like people and those bouncy, loving Labs take work.

  5. Really great post. Fortunately my Cardigan Corgis are not yet as popular as their cousin the Pembroke, but it’s coming. Thanks to the internet and the teddy bear looks of a Pem puppy, millions of people who can’t handle a highly intelligent herding dog, get them anyway. Herding dogs bite to control the flock, herd, or for lack of a job, little running children. If you don’t get a handle on it very early on, the poor dog is in a lot of trouble!

    Labs are considered one of the best family dogs but if you look at bite statistics you would think they were vicious. Is it any wonder, when parents let their kids crawl all over the poor dogs.? Plus being so popular, there are gobs of poorly bred Labs out there (true for many breeds, I am not picking on Labs) whose temperaments aren’t that stable. But to the average joe out there, a Lab is a Lab is a Lab, and they don’t research breeders or learn where that cute pup came from, and they get what they get.

  6. Rebecca Jackson says:

    You hit the nail on the head. Training is crucial. I volunteer with a dog training foundation and am continually amazed at the people who come to us expecting us to “fix” their dog. Really?????? We do the best we can to train the people, but many times they just don’t get it. Thank you for your post. It needs to be said over and over.

  7. We’re still working on Clover being mouthy. Every once in a while she still clamps down too hard, but we’re making progress. Unfortunately, while playing the “brush the puppy’s teeth game” last week, she really got me right on the finger nail. Big bruise. Really hurt.

  8. It is one of the burdens of having taught your dog well. People constantly comment how well behaved my dogs are. It’s because we work damn hard at it.

    Honestly I have to believe that most people just don’t get it. They don’t do their research and learn how to raise/train a dog. We made that mistake with our beagle. We had three kids, no money and no time. She was the one that suffered and I still regret that today. I hope educating people as to what goes into raising/training a dog will help make a difference in some dog’s lives. I’m with you, I can’t watch the videos, it makes me want to scream.

  9. Training/raising a lab is more work than a golden. Mine were. My lab just has so much more energy than my golden boy. She is like the energizer bunny, just keeps on going. No different than raising children. Training is always about being consistent and fair. Doesn’t matter it is a dog or a child. Never stops no matter how old they are.
    I have stopped looking at online postings for “cute, funny” animal or children posts. They aren’t. Most of them (not all) are posted by morons. Have we as a society gone so far overboard that we no longer notice? Do we really need our 15 seconds of “fame” that bad?
    When I was a kid growing up if I had ever tried any of the stunts being posted on line-you get the point. Same for raising my children.

  10. I got my dogs as adults so I can’t take much credit and I’d rather not take much blame for them. Misty is incapable of bad behavior and Timmy has bitten a person that he thought was threatening me. I thought the human needed a lesson in socialization,

  11. People don’t realize how much work it takes to have such a well-behaved dog. Heck Mauja is TWO and we are still working on it. Partly because she still hasn’t matured, and partly because it takes a long freaking time! I love showing Mauja and Atka off as breed ambassadors, but people don’t consider how hard we’ve worked to get there. They see a well-behaved dog and in turn think that breed is just naturally well-behaved.

  12. I think looks are the first thing humans use to judge most anything. I enjoy being a rare breed. I think most of the GBGV videos on youtube are probably mine!

  13. People are attracted to Scout and Zoey because of their markings, but they keep a distance, because our puppies are protective and if you approach without permission, they’re going to very loudly protest.

    People think I either have horribly trained dogs or very protective dogs. It’s the later :)

  14. It’s true, people think Goldens (and Labs) are born sweet and tolerant and that they can do pretty much anything without fear of any type of backlash from the dog. It’s sad to see some of these videos with dogs and babies where the dog looks stressed or uncomfortable and then read hundreds of comments about how sweet the video is.

  15. Yes, just yes. Everything you say I agree with. I am so sick of people not thinking about their dogs needs, or wants… I could rant about it all day. But you did it so much better than I could!

  16. Long ago I put a stop to people running up to Harley w/o asking getting ready to rub, pet or hug him. I put up my hand and say, “hold on” Just because he looks like a cotton ball come to life, let’s respect that fact that he is real, and he would prefer an introduction before moving straight into heavy petting BOL

  17. I was incredibly lucky with my dog in ways I didn’t realize at the time. I got him when he was almost a year, wandering the streets, most likely abused. He had a lot of fear aggression and cowered when we took out a broom. But he had ZERO food aggression– you can take his bowl away while he’s eating, the cats steal kibble with impunity, and so can other dogs. I can’t take any credit for that, he was like that when we got him. I wish I could get him a job, though; his energy levels are through the roof, and when it’s -27 outside, his humans can’t walk him long enough to expend it all. :(

  18. GREAT POST!!
    This is terribly true, we unfortunately are on the opposite spectrum. Bully breeds are just starting to be given more credit but I still run into a lot of people who like to tell me horrible stories about a “pit bull” that they or someone else knew that had a good pit bull that just “turned” one day and bit someone, and how I have to watch my back because you just never know…They can’t be trusted, ever of course…
    AURGH!! Makes me want to pull my hair out and scream!!!
    Every dog bite is preceded by warning signals regardless of breed, and no one breed is more apt to bite. It just has to do with training, and socialization like you said with Honey. Our foster border collie had resource guarding, and food aggression issues. She bit both the hubby and I while we worked her through those issues – she would have bitten a child easily if they came around her food dish, toy, or treat. Now she lives with 2 young kids and is happy and no longer is concerned about her food. But they also respect her and don’t tease her with food, and leave her alone when she’s eating.
    The other dog that bit me, was a lost dog who as it turns out – even his own family was afraid of him! They never touched him for fear of being bitten, just bribed him around and ignored him. CAN WE SAY, LACK OF SOCIALIZATION?
    My bullies? No food/toy/or treat issues, you can give them a treat, take it away, shove fingers in their mouths, hands in mouth, and no biting. EVER. Because we worked hard teaching them that mouth play had to be gentle, and we want to look at their teeth without being nibbled on. I had a friend with a 3 year old who was shocked when her daughter decided to give Dante a cookie. Her version of giving him a cookie involved shoving her whole hand in his mouth with the cookie! Her mom nearly flipped! Funny though, Dante seemed pretty shocked too at such a tiny hand completely in his mouth. He didn’t hurt her though, he gently took the cookie and proceeded to clean her face in the process. It was pretty funny. :-) I know a lot of bully advocates who fail to train their dogs, this makes them a nuisance just because they tend to be a handful. I wish people researched breeds properly, understand energy levels and how much training is required. All dogs need training to an extent, some more than others if they have higher exercise needs. And to go with that, dogs are individuals – sure some breeds are more tolerant than others, but individual dogs within a breed can also be more/less tolerant. I too can’t stand to see most dog videos on youtube, the body language is awful and the poor dogs are subjected to the most ridiculous things thanks to ignorant owners.
    Sorry about the long post…

  19. I’m glad I’m not alone in hating so many of the “cute” videos. I cringe when I see toddlers taking the dog’s food, dog’s being allowed to tug on a crawling baby’s clothes, the list is endless…
    My bipeds are often told how “lucky” they are that I’m well behaved when we’re out and about. They usually tell people politely that it takes a lot of time and training. The other thing we often hear is that big dogs are naturally well behaved. When asked how they’ve arrived at that conclusion the person usually says that they never see naughty big dogs out and about. Then my bipeds tell the person to go and look in the local rescue centre where there are loads of big dogs that are there because they haven’t been trained and they can’t be managed by the time they get to nine months old.