The Weekly Q&A: Ask Way of Life™ Dog Training
A Disobedient Golden Retriever Puppy

AskWOL 4

Q: I have a golden retriever puppy. He is 4 months old and becoming very aggressive when he doesn’t get his way … barking and biting. He doesn’t obey us and it is just getting frustrating. I tried working on it myself but he’s my first puppy.

A: Thank you for reaching out about your new golden retriever puppy! I am glad that you acknowledged your lack of experience and reached out to us for assistance. Many people think they should just be able to “fix” their dogs, but even guardians with lots of experience find themselves in need of expert assistance.

One of the ways that new dog owners struggle is in how they interpret their new puppy’s or dog’s behavior. In your case, you are reading your new puppy’s barking and biting as indicating aggression and rebellion in response to not getting his way. You feel that he is not obeying you and therefore you understandably feel frustrated.

Whether the expectations that we have of our pups and dogs are fair or not is one of the many conversations we have with guardians seeking help with problematic behaviors. In fact, dogs misbehave precisely because of the pressure of premature expectations being placed on them. Indeed, some of the expectations that have been placed on your puppy are premature given his age and how little time you have had together. 

Despite what you might have heard, it is too soon to expect a puppy this young to behave, to listen, to know what you want, to please you, and to be the dog that you imagined enjoying when you made that decision to add a dog to your life. One of the most powerful ways to show love to the people and animals in our lives is to manage the expectations that we have of them – expectations that can rapidly become burdens that undermine the health and quality of our relationship.

At this point, we do not place expectations on the puppy. Instead, we place the onus on the puppy’s new parents to ensure that the puppy is managed, guided, and raised in a way that helps him become the dog and companion he is meant to be. All the genetics in the world are not enough – nature needs nurture to blossom. The Way of Life Method provides a powerful program to help dogs of any age transition in their new life and home, and I hope you find it helpful in this new chapter of your life.

For actionable mindsets and practices for solid puppy foundations, please consult our free Puppy Primer at: