Training Your Golden Retriever

As a dog owner with over 25 years of experience, I can attest that having a dog is one of the most wonderful things that has ever happened in my life. The companionship and joy they bring is incomparable.

History of the Golden Retriever

With a noble and distinguished history, Golden Retrievers have been beloved by families since Lord Tweedmouth brought Nous home in 1865. After being bred with Belle, the yellow pups created a unique line of retrievers that were officially recognized as the Golden Retriever breed by the AKC in the mid-1920s. They remain a popular choice for loving owners today.

Goldens were originally bred for the purpose of being biddable, as well as very calm and sensible, for using them as hunting dogs. These popular dogs excel in obedience competitions and as show dogs, as well as for tracking and service. In fact, several organizations train Goldens, Labs, and Lab-Golden mixes almost exclusively, including Paws With a Cause, Canine Companions for Independence, and Assistance Dog International.

Perfect Family Dogs

Their patient nature makes Goldens the perfect family dog as well. They’re great with kids and enjoy spreading their love around the entire family. They may not be your best choice if you’re looking for a guard dog, however, since they basically love everybody.

They do need plenty of good healthy exercise for avoiding weight gain and boredom. Exercise also helps them with maintaining their rather large frames. So, to keep them in good condition, Goldens require one or more long brisk walks, runs, or jogs every day. And, since they are, after all, retrievers, games of fetch are one of their favorite exercises, however, they also love swimming as well.

Golden Retrievers are consistently ranked among the top five dogs in the United States for popularity. There are numerous very good reasons why that is, including:

  • Wonderful temperaments
  • Very gentle with children
  • Easy to train
  • Reliable
  • Hard workers
  • Always in demand as search and rescue and assistance dogs

25 Reasons Why Golden Retrievers Are Superior Dogs

Importance of Training

With all of these positive attributes and impressive history, it’s easy to see why Golden Retrievers are so eager to please and easy to train. And, training for these beautiful animals is a very important part of their lives. Goldens should definitely have some important basic behavior training. This includes learning the proper response to verbal commands like “drop it”, “down, stay”, and “come”.

Your Golden especially needs training for properly and reliably responding to those three commands, since they can be used for averting disaster. In fact, any one of them could end up saving your beloved Golden’s life at some point. Training sessions with your Golden should always be fun for you both, involving only positive reinforcement of the kind of behavior that you want your dog to exhibit. In addition, all training sessions should always have a positive ending. Safety and a long happy life are, of course, your main goals with your Golden but good behavior and reliable actions from him are some of the additional benefits of dog training.

Positive Reinforcement Behavior Training

The fact is that positive reinforcement could involve a number of things, such as social rewards, treats, or toys. Research has found, however, the answer to the question of whether they prefer food or praise, the majority of dogs preferred either their owner’s praise over food or liked them both equally.

The best case scenario is that your Golden is successful at learning to quickly and reliably respond to your commands each and every time no matter where you both may be and regardless of whatever is happening around you. Before getting started with the actual training, start first with one simple word to remember and that word is “fun”.

The key to this type of training is making sure that your Golden really wants to perform the behavior involved rather than feeling that he or she is forced to do it. Therefore, using anything that will get your dog willingly into the game of positive reinforcement behavior training is great. You always want to make it appear that you and your Golden are about to be having lots of fun. You can do this by using treats and toys, as well as playful body language and a soothing playful voice.

Learn How to Apply Positive Training for Puppies

Recall Command

The "come" command, aka the recall command, may seem simple but it can be one that is a bit challenging when you’re trying to teach it to your Golden. This is because you should only be using this command if something good will be happening to your Golden when he or she responds to the command, not if you plan to scold or do anything else that your dog won’t find enjoyable. In the event that your Golden is already aware that a scolding is at the other end of that “come” command, then you’ll have to change your recall command to something else, like “now” or “here”.

Using a cheerful tone of voice when you call your Golden is an important part of their training. Even in difficult or stressful situations, it is necessary to remain optimistic as this will encourage your pup to come back home. Panic or anger may discourage them from returning, so focus on staying positive.
When teaching your Golden a recall command, it is important to know when to use the command and when to avoid it in order to ensure success. During the learning process, try to avoid using the command while your pup is engaged in an enjoyable activity as this could lead to an undesired response.

In any situation where it’s possible that your Golden may not come when called, it’s crucial that you don't provide an opportunity for him to fail. Just go to him calmly and snap the leash to his collar. In addition, it’s important to bear in mind that some dogs have a tendency to block everything out while having great fun sniffing the great outdoors. So, until the time comes that your Golden reliably responds to the recall command, never assume that he’ll come when called if he’s off-leash. Better safe than sorry, so keep him on a leash until you are completely sure that he will respond to your recall command no matter what.

The Drop It Command

Teaching your pup the drop it command is essential for their safety. Not to mention, it makes for a much more pleasant experience when playing fetch or any other game with your Golden. When training, you can use a positive reinforcement technique such as trade-offs between the item in your pup’s mouth and a treat in your hand. This can help establish good behaviors and make learning the command simpler.

Here are the basic steps involved in teaching the drop it command to your Golden:

Hold your Golden’s favorite toy in your hand, telling him to take it from you. Let him play with it for a few minutes prior to beginning training, but don’t let him play with it so long that he starts getting bored with it.

While he has it in his mouth, hold a treat in front of his nose. Then, give him the treat when he drops the toy.

Repeat as often as necessary until he responds reliably.

Now, hold a treat close to his nose while clearly and convincingly adding the verbal drop it command.

Following a few repetitions, hold the treat in front of his nose, gradually increasing the distance when he responds to the command.

Follow all of this up by using the command without a treat, praising him when he drops the toy.

Down/Stay Command

Let’s say your Golden runs out your front door and then is lucky enough to make it across the street in one piece. If you were to give him a come command, it would cause him to run back into traffic to obey you. That’s when the down/stay command is such a critical part of your dog’s learning. He’ll respond immediately to your down/stay command and then you can run to him, snapping his leash on his collar and bringing him back to safety. In addition, this is a must-have command when you have a big friendly dog who loves greeting everybody by happily jumping on them.

Here are the basic steps for teaching this command:

  1. Take your Golden to a familiar spot where there will be no distractions. Stand in front of him and look him in the eye, giving him your full attention.
  2. Give him the down command, tempting him into position using a treat. Don't give it to him yet but let the treat come in contact with his nose as he is lowering himself.
  3. When he is in the down position, use the stay command and follow it with some treats for preventing him from leaving his position.
  4. Starting with a five-second stay, teach your Golden Retriever the release command and reward them for a job well done with a special toy or treat. Encouraging positive associations between toys, treats, and staying will help your pup remember the desired behavior.
  5. Gradually lengthen the down/stay time by two-second increments while simultaneously decreasing the rewards given after each successful stay. This will help your pup develop reliable responses, even without treats or toys as a reward.
  6. Don't increase the distance between your Golden and you until he performs consistently in close work. If he breaks his position when the distance is increased, turn your back on him while you hold his treat in your hand and say something along the lines of “oops” or "uh-oh". Then, you’ll need to allow him a minute or two for putting together the connection between cause and effect prior to trying again.
  7. Gradually reducing both the toys and the treats until he’s only receiving them intermittently upon responding appropriately will complete the learning of this command.

When to Start Training Your Golden

From an early age, puppies with short attention spans can start picking up simple commands such as "sit," "stay," and "down." Formal training should begin at around six months of age, when your pup will be more receptive to it than before.

Your Golden is inclined to want to follow the pack leader and, guess what? That’s you. They can sense your level of confidence and, if it’s low, they’ll just take over and control you instead of the other way around. This can lead to some bad behavioral issues, including but not limited to chewing, anxiety, leash-pulling, and excessive barking. So, be the pack leader and show your leadership qualities at all times with your dog. Gentle but firm all the way is the key to training your Golden.

From the very beginning of your pup's training, demonstrating your leadership abilities is extremely important. This will guarantee that your Golden grows into a confident and balanced pet, and is well-behaved throughout their life. Consistency is key to being an effective leader so make sure you apply it from the start.

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