10 Tips for Training Your Golden Retriever
What makes Golden Retrievers such popular dogs? Besides their beauty, Goldens’ typically are very people-oriented dogs.
It is wise, however, to do your research by talking to Golden Retriever breeders, rescues and parents to best prepare when considering adding a Golden to your pack. These are large, energetic canines who often don’t realize their size. The good news is, Golden Retrievers generally are trainable and willing to work, especially for high-value dog treats.
If you’re a new Golden Retriever parent, your next step after your pup settles in is to start dog training. Whether teaching your Golden to lie down, sit or drop it, follow these dog training tips to ensure successful training sessions.
1. Make Dog Training Sessions Fun
Golden Retrievers learn well through games. Keep things fun to retain your Golden’s involvement and intrigue during each training session. Use a happy tone of voice rather than a stern one.
Avoid yelling and exercise patience. If your pet doesn’t respond to a cue from you, you can gain his attention by being playful and making the task a little easier to get him re-engaged.
2. Make It Rewarding
Goldens are highly motivated by food and often by play. When you use highly rewarding training treats, like the Zuke’s Mini Naturals peanut butter & oats dog treat, or toys during your dog training sessions, you reward the specific behaviors you are trying to teach your dog and you build an enthusiastic learner. Teach your dog to love learning.
3. Make Dog Training Age- and Skill-Appropriate
We don’t ask toddlers to do algebra, so make sure your expectations are reasonable for your dog. For example, puppies need shorter training sessions—around 3-5 minutes each—because their bodies and brains are not well-developed yet. Even adult dogs who are new to you and your home may not be ready for high-level training because they still are adjusting to the new environment and people in their lives.
Note to self: Be patient and go slowly.
4. Make It Safe
Because Golden Retrievers can be large, strong and energetic dogs, you may want to consider a gentle leader headcollar, like the PetSafe Premier gentle leader quick release dog headcollar, to give you additional leverage when walking your pet in an exciting environment.
5. Make Dog Training Clear
Using the clicker training method can help you communicate very clear feedback when your dog gets it right. Clicker training is extremely effective and is used worldwide to train all kinds of species!
This method uses a special sound to mark a specific behavior. Using a dog clicker, like the Downtown Pet Supply training dog clicker, lets your pet know he has earned a reward. It doesn’t take long for a dog to understand and then repeat the behavior.
6. Make Training a Regular Part of the Day
None of us master skills without regular practice, and the same goes for your canine companion. Speed up the process by including dog training during daily activities.
Is it time for dinner? Then practice “sit” before you put the bowl in front of your dog. Are you about to take a walk? Call your dog’s name just before you pick up the leash (or whatever cue the dog might notice). Practice “down” and “stay” after your dog’s walk, when he is more likely to respond to your cue. There are many opportunities to practice commands in everyday situations, so use that to your advantage!
7. Make Dog Training a Family Project
Be sure your Golden Retriever has a positive relationship with every member of the family—including other pets. Encourage each family member to practice basic skills with the dog, including sit, down, off (people, counters, furniture), stay, come and “all done” (to end sessions). Encourage everyone to work on emphasizing a default behavior.
You can help other pets feel safe around your Golden by using equipment (a dog leash, crates, baby gates) to separate them as needed when supervision isn’t possible.
8. Make It Consistent
All members of the family must agree on some of the “rules of the house” for your dog. While it’s OK to have slight differences in how each person interacts with pets, the dog will learn best and maintain his manners if the guidelines are consistent. Parents might choose to train basic commands first, and then help the kids show the dog how to ask for them, too.
9. Make Dog Training Progressive
As your Golden Retriever masters basic manners and rules, you can increase your criteria for training. Once your dog understands to sit and lie down at certain times, you can begin to ask him to maintain that position until released from it.
10. Make It a Lifetime Commitment
Even when your dog has very good manners and is a treasured member of the family, there are always new things to learn. Dog training provides excellent brain stimulation, which helps use your Golden’s high energy level. It also strengthens the human-animal bond, which enriches the entire household. Explore new sports and activities, like nosework, agility, rally and therapy visits.
Whether you begin with an 8-week-old puppy, an adolescent rescue or a senior dog, these tips can help your new Golden Retriever understand what to do in his new home. It also enables you to help him burn energy, provide stimulation and build a strong bond between you and your dog.
Janet Velenovsky is a past president of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC), a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC) and Associate Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC) with IAABC. She is also a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA, “knowledge assessed”) and owns Kaizen Pet Training & Behavior in Virginia.