Golden Retriever Training: From Puppy to Adult Dog
31st March 2023
Categories: How to Train
Golden Retrievers are known for their friendly, outgoing nature and being very people-oriented dogs. Golden Retriever puppies are full of energy and love. They make an excellent new family member if you’re willing to put the time and training into your puppy.
In this blog, we will discuss everything you need to consider before bringing a Golden Retriever puppy into your home, from choosing between breeders and puppy training to meeting other dogs. As with our previous blogs on training Dachshunds, German Shepherds and Border Collies, we draw from the experience of Vislor Dog Trainer Frankie and her Golden Retriever, Molly. Molly has been raised from a puppy in a multi-dog household and has become Frankie’s little helper from retrieving post when it arrives through the letterbox to even fetching clean nappies in times of need.
Golden Retriever Puppy
So, you’re considering a new Golden Retriever? They are very energetic dogs but can make an excellent canine companion for the whole family. Before deciding on a Golden Retriever, make sure you are certain your family will be able to provide the exercise and training these intelligent yet gentle dogs will need. Also, consider how other pets you may have could react to these playful puppies. Finally, you will need time for your new Golden Retriever and plenty of patience for puppy training.
You must find a reputable breeder if you choose to home a puppy rather than a rescue. Check that the breeder has a licence with the local authority and that they are well known. Make sure you can see the Golden Retriever puppy with its mother. You must also confirm that they have chipped and started the puppy’s vaccinations. Your new puppy should be alert with clean eyes and nose.
It is also essential to see the certificates regarding the parents’ hip and elbow health. Golden Retrievers can be prone to dysplasia, which we will discuss later.
Bringing Puppy Home
It is crucial to ensure you have everything you need before bringing your new dog home. A Golden Retriever puppy will be curious, so make sure you have puppy-proofed your home and have all the essentials. Restriction is one of our four pillars of the Following State of Mind, so invest in baby gates to ensure your new dog can’t roam. You should check what food your new puppy has been weaned onto so you can continue with the same food. Having a crate to give your puppy a safe spot after you have done some puppy training is also essential.
Early Training Sessions
Training golden retriever puppies can start from the moment you bring them home. Training can be a family project, ensuring you set out the ground rules from day one. Ensuring that your dog has good manners from the beginning will make your puppy’s life easier, as well as yours! Ensure everyone interacting with your puppy knows what good behaviour you expect and what specific behaviours you want to avoid.
One of the most important parts of Golden Retriever puppy training, and one of the first things to do when you start training, is to crate your new puppy. It would be best to build a positive association with the crate, so they feel safe and will go there happily. Once the puppy has the correct association, it can be left safely alone or kept apart from other dogs, for example.
One of the best training tips is to try covering the crate to make it more of a den and help your puppy learn it is a good place to be by giving them a toy or food inside. This positive reinforcement will ensure your dog understands the crate is a good place to be.
Potty or toilet training is the other most important part of training your Golden Retriever. Somebody in the house must constantly be keeping track of toilet training in the early stages of introducing a puppy to your home. Make sure to take your golden retriever puppy outside regularly and wait until they go to the toilet. It would be best if you also took them after they have eaten, had a big drink, or been let out of the crate. Give them lots of praise when they have toileted outside, or even some highly rewarding training treats.
It can be tempting to return inside before they have been to the toilet, especially if the weather is terrible or your Golden Retriever is very young. If you persevere, your Golden Retriever will be toileting outside reliably within a few days.
Start Training Your Golden Retriever Puppy
When you start training your golden retriever, you will want to try shorter training sessions and basic commands. Hopefully, your puppy will be enthusiastic and enjoy learning good behaviours. Your puppy will love to train if you use a happy tone and make things fun. When you start dog training, you will need those highly rewarding training treats mentioned before to decide on your basic commands.
When training your Golden Retriever, consider how you would like them to behave as adult dogs. Golden Retrievers can be highly energetic, so it is crucial to make sure they don’t pick up bad habits. When you train your Golden Retriever, you must give clear feedback. Behavioural problems are much easier to avoid by working on good behaviour from the start rather than correcting destructive behaviours in adult dogs.
When starting Golden Retriever training, you should focus on positive reinforcement. Give a basic command, such as “sit”, then help shape the desired behaviour. In this instance, gently push their bottom so they sit, then reward them instantly whilst giving praise. Once they start to get the idea, you can reward the behaviour when they do it by themselves.
Clicker Training method
When training your Golden Retriever, consider a dog clicker. You may have seen a professional trainer or another dog owner use one. Using a clicker is so simple any family member could do it. In your training sessions, you will teach your Golden Retriever to associate the noise of the dog clicker with the reward of the treats. Clicker Training can help your puppy learn more complicated behaviours or tricks and keep things interesting. Once they associate the noise of the dog clicker with their reward, you can reward your dog from further away.
You can take your Golden Retriever puppy to a puppy class. Puppy classes can help with their training and meeting other puppies. The puppy must learn to be calm around other dogs and that their default behaviour is quiet and non-reactive with new dogs. Look for a class that encourages good dog training, relaxed socialisation and well-mannered interactions between all the dogs.
Golden Retrievers are popular dogs to work in many dog sports. Teaching them to carry things when they are a puppy may help them in adulthood. For example, during your training session, try putting a small toy in the puppy’s mouth and giving the command “hold” or “hold it”. Clicker training is handy, as you can click when they hold the object and don’t need them to drop it to reward them with a treat.
The training itself should keep your Golden Retriever happy and occupied. Golden Retrievers are very smart and are popular guide dogs for a reason. For example, try some nose work with your Golden Retriever by laying scent pads in your garden and putting food in them for the dog to find as a precursor to track training.
Golden retrievers have a fantastic sense of smell. They are also very even-tempered most of the time and enjoy working. Consider looking into doing scent-based training or work with your puppy or dog. They will enjoy it, and your bond will strengthen when you find something enjoyable and rewarding to do together.
Nose work could be tracking, search and rescue, or scent detection. Many groups are around the country, and it is worth finding one near you.
We’ve talked about Golden Retriever puppies, but what if you would rescue an older dog instead? Again, it would be best if you considered your family and other pets. Consider how much training your new dog may or may not have had. Dogs with behavioural problems get rehomed because people need more time to train them properly. The dog also may not be good with other animals.
If you’re sure you will have the time and patience for a rescue Golden Retriever, they can be very rewarding. Just ensure you have enough time for dog training and socialising an older Golden Retriever. Your training session may be slightly different but should be just as fun.
Dog training is only one thing to consider when thinking about golden retrievers. You need to make sure they are fit and well too.
Golden Retrievers are prone to hip and elbow dysplasia. Dysplasia is a serious joint deformity that can be painful as the dog ages. A senior dog with joint dysplasia may be uncomfortable and not be the happy-go-lucky dog they once were. No amount of training or physio can cure dysplasia, but it can be managed.
The only way to assure your new Golden Retriever is less likely to develop this condition is to see the certificates of both parents showing they have healthy hips and elbows. A reputable breeder will have these on hand and be happy, if not keen, to show them to you.
Ichthyosis is a skin disease that can be hereditary in Golden Retrievers. A good breeder will make sure their dogs have a DNA test to ensure they do not have it before breeding from them. It can make the dog’s skin scaly and prone to infections.
Most dogs with floppy ears are very susceptible to ear infections. They give the Golden Retriever a charming appearance, but infections can make your dog uncomfortable or become serious. Cleaning your dog’s ears with solutions that keep the skin barrier in tip-top condition whilst removing harmful bacteria can help avoid problems. Good foundations in your dog training will help because if your dog is well-behaved, it will sit and stay reliably, making it much easier to clean its ears.
Golden retrievers can be more likely to get some heart conditions than other breeds. For example, a condition to watch out for is subaortic stenosis can be easily picked up during a vet check as it presents with a heart murmur. Another reason Golden Retriever training is a good idea is that a well-trained dog is much happier during vet checks.
This breed of dog is prone to developing certain cancers. Therefore, you should feel confident giving your dog a once over to check their health, and your dog should feel relaxed and comfortable letting you do so.
The Happiest Dogs
The conditions outlined above may sound scary but forewarned is forearmed, as they say. The pros of a Golden Retriever surely outweigh the health concerns, though.
Many people consider them the happiest breed of dog, and there is no denying how loyal and affectionate they can be. So if you train your Golden Retriever from the start, you will have a loyal dog who can be your best friend.
Don’t Forget the Coat
Golden Retrievers are known for “blowing their coat” twice yearly and can shed quite heavily. A good brush and hoover will help you manage this at home. Coat maintenance is why training your dog to be comfortable being groomed by you or a trained dog groomer is critical. If you don’t fancy a tonne of dog hair in your home, grooming is essential in Spring and Autumn as they are the prime dog shedding seasons.
Did you know that the Golden Retriever is a Scottish dog breed? Females can get up to 56cm tall, while males can reach 61cm in height. That’s quite tall for a dog! Although not the tallest, they can also be reasonably robust, so consider any minor children in the home before letting them near your adult dog. (Children shouldn’t be left alone with a dog anyway, and should always know to approach a dog only after asking and very calmly!)
Typically Golden Retrievers can live around 10-12 years. That’s a lot of time for cuddles and companionship but also quite a commitment. So ensure you’re ready to care for a dog for that long.
Despite the name similarity and the comparable disposition, labrador retrievers are not closely related to golden retrievers. They were bred from a type of fishing dog imported from Newfoundland (now a province of Canada).
It is possible to get crosses between the two breeds, as they are both confident and responsive breeds; this usually works well.
With the correct training, a Golden Retriever could be the perfect addition to your family. However, it is always worth taking the time to consider your own life and how a dog will fit in around you and your current lifestyle. Unfortunately, there is no point in trying to change completely.
If you love spending time actively, being outside and taking on a project, then a Golden Retriever could be your choice.
If you need help, or have any questions about Golden Retriever dog training, then Vislor can help. Our team of experts are experienced in helping owners train their dogs and solve behavioural problems.