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Why Golden Retriever Puppies Experience Anxiety

Golden retriever puppy laying on floor 

Few things in life are as exciting as adopting a new puppy— even better, Golden Retriever puppies! You'll find your new fluffy friends to be playful, charming, and surprisingly clever companions for your whole family. Fun as they are, the adjustment to a new life can be challenging for your puppy. Their new home comes with new smells, sounds, and people. They may feel overstimulated or even anxious. How can you identify anxiety in your Golden Retriever puppies? What makes them feel anxious, and what can you do to help them feel better?

Golden Retrievers

The Golden Retriever is one of the most popular dog breeds in the United States. The breed traces its origins back to Scotland, where it was developed as a gundog to help hunters retrieve game. A Scottish aristocrat named Dudley Marjoribanks needed a new kind of hunting dog to help him in his pursuit of wild game, so he embarked on a decades-long breeding program that crossed Yellow Retrievers with Tweed Water Spaniels, Irish Setters, and Bloodhounds. The result of this extensive and well-documented breeding campaign was the dog we all know and love today!

Golden Retrievers have a reputation as intelligent and enthusiastic dogs who are excellent playmates and workers. While most Golden Retrievers live as house pets, others have jobs. Many owners use their Goldens to help them track game or fetch prey when hunting. Golden Retrievers are commonly used as working dogs in search-and-rescue applications, as guide dogs for the visually impaired, and as support or therapy animals. They are highly trustworthy, easy to train, energetic, and playful. The boundless energy of Golden Retriever puppies continues into adulthood; Goldens love to play and romp, and take special delight in swimming and playing fetch. Golden Retrievers were added to the American Kennel Club's breed registry in 1925.

Golden Retriever Puppies

Golden Retriever puppies are some of the most adorable creatures on the planet. These friendly and fluffy dogs have a way of instantly finding a place in our heart. But before you dive in and bring home a basket of Golden Retriever puppies, it's important to be sure you are ready for the responsibilities of raising a dog.

The first thing you should do is ensure you have realistic expectations for your dog. Golden Retriever puppies are highly intelligent and relatively easy to train, but that doesn't mean they come out of the womb ready-to-go. Because they can walk, eat, and learn, it's easy to forget that puppies are baby dogs. They need a lot of time and attention to become the full-sized, well-trained companions we want them to be. Your new Golden Retriever puppies will require time for training, socializing, and doctors visits. They will need plenty of exercise and adequate space in your home. And they will need patience and reinforcement to become potty-trained. If your life circumstances won't let you provide these things for your dog, you should wait to adopt one. It's hard to resist those adorable Golden Retriever puppies, but as a responsible dog owner you need to ensure you can meet their needs before you bring them home.

Some people may worry that male Golden Retriever puppies are more aggressive than females, and that a male Golden might be more likely to get into a fight with another dog or bite someone. While this might be a valid concern for some breeds of dogs, Golden Retrievers are very good-tempered and are not known for being aggressive to people or other dogs. Whether you choose to adopt male or female Golden Retriever puppies, you can expect them to be friendly and not aggressive.

Puppy Psychology

Like humans, dogs have their own unique psychology. There has been a lot of research into canine psychology over the years. While dogs generally seem to understand humans, sometimes humans forget that they have to understand dogs. Dogs lack the global perspective that human beings enjoy. For example, we know that a trip to the vet is for the health of the dog: he'll get some shots and a physical examination to see if he's healthy, and then go back home! Your dog, however, has no idea what is going on. They are going from their familiar home environment to a new place that is full of sights, smells, and sounds that are very different from what they're used to. There will be strange animals at the vet's office. To top it all off, your dog will then be poked and prodded by a new person, sometimes in painful or uncomfortable ways. While we know that all of this is for the good of the dog, the dog is likely to be uncertain about what is going on, and may experience anxiety or fear in this new environment. Even Golden Retriever puppies, who are generally considered to be very even-keeled, will probably feel overstimulated or fearful in a new environment.

Anxiety

Anxiety is a feeling of fear, unease, or dread. It is an unpleasant mental state in which one feels nervous, tense, or on edge. In people, it can drive maladaptive behaviors like drinking, drug abuse, or compulsive behavior. In dogs, it can drive behaviors like barking, toileting, or destroying. Anxiety usually comes from a "fight-or-flight" response to some kind of unpleasant stimulus. In nature, anxiety is helpful because it drives an animal to flee from a dangerous or untenable situation. In our modern homes, however, anxiety is an unwelcome guest.

Why Golden Retriever Puppies Experience Anxiety

While people can suffer from anxiety for any of a million reasons, anxiety in dogs usually stems from one of three main causes: fear, separation, and aging. We'll skip aging for now, since your Golden Retriever puppies are still brand new!

Anxiety from fear is usually easy to detect: a startling event or a new stimulus will trigger a response in your dog. Common causes of fear-based anxiety include loud or sudden noises, like thunder, sirens, or fireworks; new people or animals; unusual or new objects, like an umbrella, a hose, or even a hat; or specific situations or things that the dog has learned to associate with fear. For example, if you have a rambunctious toddler that likes to pull your Golden Retriever puppies' tails, they will likely develop a fear-based anxiety response to the toddler. Or, if you live a block from the fire station, your dog may develop a fear or anxiety response based on the unpredictable occurrences of loud noises from the fire trucks.

Separation anxiety is another common form of canine anxiety. Dogs with separation anxiety don't like to be alone, and often find themselves panicking when they are separated from their family members. This makes sense: dogs are descended from wolves, and while we Americans sometimes like the image of the "lone wolf," canines are pack animals by nature. A dog suffering from separation anxiety is likely to engage in behaviors like going pee or poop in the house, barking, or destroying objects. Golden Retriever puppies may be susceptible to separation anxiety since Golden Retrievers are such a sociable breed. In other words: your dog loves you, and he misses you when you're gone! You're his family and his best friend, which is why your absence makes him feel sad.

Signs of Anxiety in Golden Retriever Puppies

So we know why our Golden Retriever puppies might feel anxious. They might be perceiving a threat or experiencing fear, or they might be emotionally distressed that you're gone. What are some of the behavioral cues we can look for to tell if our Golden Retriever puppies are feeling anxious? Some of the most common signs of canine anxiety include aggression, toileting, destruction, and barking.

Aggression

One of the most common signs of anxiety in any dog is aggression. If a dog feels threatened or afraid, it's fight-or-flight system may become triggered and the dog could experience a rush of adrenaline. This can make your adorable Golden Retriever puppies suddenly become aggressive. While Golden Retrievers are not normally considered an aggressive breed, any dog can become aggressive if they feel threatened.

Aggression in dogs can be subtle or obvious. Subtle signs that your Golden Retriever puppies are reacting aggressively include changes in body posture and facial expressions. More obvious signs of aggression include barking and growling. While your Golden is probably a very sweet and docile dog, it has strong jaws and claws. If your dog is reacting aggressively to a stimulus, remove them from the situation and reward them when they calm down. Be mindful that some dogs can experience what is called redirected aggression where they may attack a third party if they can't attack the source of their aggravation. This is not likely to be an issue with your sweet-tempered Golden Retriever puppies, but you should be vigilant for signs of aggression in your dog and remove them from threatening situations when possible.

Toileting

Anxious dogs may also lose control of their bladder or bowels in the house. They may also drool excessively or begin panting at a high rate. These are physiological responses to the dog's state of worry. If your house is at a comfortable temperature but your dog is panting frantically, it may be experiencing anxiety.

Destruction

Destructive behavior is another common manifestation of anxiety. Destruction can be a way for your dog to try and escape their environment. Chewing, clawing, or digging around crates, windows, or doors might signal that your dog was trying to get out. Why does your dog want to get out? Usually, he wants to come find you! This is especially true with Golden Retrievers and Golden Retriever puppies: they are sociable dogs who are good at tracking, and when they miss you, they are highly motivated to come find you. As frustrating as it might be to come home and find that your dog has eaten the entire door frame, it is a behavior driven by love: your dog isn't trying to damage your home, he's trying to get out so he can come get you.

A second reason that dogs manifest destructive behavior is that they are trying to modify their environment. This is a response that can be seen in human beings: an anxious person might clean or declutter their home in an effort to deal with the anxious energy they are feeling. Your dog does this too, but since it doesn't have opposable thumbs or a concept of cleaning, it randomly modifies objects around it to displace it's nervous energy. This might include things like shredding pillows or knocking objects over. While this can be very frustrating to a dog owner, remember: your dog is not being malicious. He is afraid and anxious, and needs an appropriate outlet for his nervous energy.

Barking

Sometimes, a dog that is anxious will bark. If your Golden Retriever puppies are feeling worried, fearful, or lonely, they may end up barking, baying, or howling as a way of communicating their distress. This can be especially distressing if you live in a neighborhood with other people nearby: continuous barking can be a major source of friction with neighbors and is not going to make your dog any friends in the neighborhood.

Golden retriever puppy running through field

How To Prevent Anxiety in Golden Retriever Puppies

The most important thing you can do to help prevent your Golden Retriever puppies from developing anxiety is to use positive reinforcement techniques when you train them. This means rewarding them with play, affection, and treats when they successfully accomplish a task. This is compared to aversive training, where dogs are punished for failing tasks.

Unfortunately, many people are inclined to punish their dogs. And to be fair, it can be hard to keep your wits when your Golden Retriever puppies are acting up. When you find a poo on the floor for the second time in a day, or the puppy has chewed up your remote control or your AirPods, you can feel explosive! However, yelling at your dog is not productive. Recent science shows that dogs experience increases in stress hormones and exhibit more stress behaviors when they are trained using aversive training techniques like yelling, spanking, and leash-jerking. Dogs trained using positive reinforcement, on the other hand, tend to display fewer stress behaviors, and also tend to show more overall signs of happiness.

Think about it like this: if your boss yells at you over mistakes, you probably kind of hate him, and it makes your job miserable. On the other hand, if your boss ignores small errors but gives you a bonus when you do a good job, you feel motivated and happy! Your Golden Retriever puppies want you to be a good boss, not a bad boss.

Treatments for Anxious Golden Retriever Puppies

Even though Golden Retriever puppies are known as a happy breed of dog, some individuals can still feel anxious. Just like in people, differences between specific puppies can make some more predisposed to feeling anxious than others. If you have an anxious puppy, what can you do to soothe them? Providing them with tools that help them stay calm, such as cuddle beds and chews, is a great way to help your puppy feel relaxed and at ease in their new home.

Calming Beds for Golden Retriever Puppies

In today's world, it is inevitable that you'll have to leave your Golden Retriever puppies at home sometimes. Providing your dog with a comfortable, and secure place to rest and relax will help them keep a level head even when you have to leave them home along. Calming Dog Calming Cuddle Bed is made specifically to meet the comfort and relaxation needs of your furry friend. The bed's unique materials provide enough support to keep your puppy's joints supported while also offering enough softness to keep them nice and cozy. The Calming Cuddle Bed is also built with special circular ridges that let your Golden Retriever puppies burrow into the bed itself, providing them with a feeling of warmth, safety, and support. A skid pad on the bottom keeps the Calming Dog bed in place so that even when Fido burrows in deep for a nap the bed doesn't move around on the floor!

Calming Chews for Golden Retriever Puppies

Golden Retriever puppies love to chew. Chewing is a great displacement activity that helps your dog direct their nervous energy into an activity that they enjoy. Unfortunately, this activity sometimes comes in the form of chewing up shoes, remote controls, couches, walls, bowls, boxes, and more or less anything else that is within your dog's reach. Calming Dog Calming Zen Chews are soft, peanut-butter-flavored dog chews that are specifically made to help your dog feel at ease. Calming Zen Chews are formulated to include natural agents that help dogs relax, such as L-Theanine and L-Tryptophan. They even include chamomile, which many humans like to use to relax! After a few minutes of chewing on these delicious treats, your anxious pups will feel much more relaxed and calm. Chews are a useful tool for humans, too: if something is upsetting your dog, giving them some love and handing them a Calming Zen Chew will help them settle down.