10 Tips for Training Your Golden Retriever

By: Wendy Rose GouldUpdated:

10 Tips for Training Your Golden Retriever

What is it about Golden Retrievers that make them such a popular pick for dog parents? Well, besides their beauty, both Golden Retriever puppies and adult doggos typically are very people-oriented dogs who exhibit good behavior, lots of affection and gentle temperaments. Golden Retriever breeders will tell you that these intelligent dogs have lots of energy and usually respond well to training. From basic obedience training and leash training to crate training and fun tricks, this pooch is eager and quick to learn—especially if you’ve got some yummy dog treats in hand!

Positive Reinforcement 101

No matter the dog breed you’re working with, the best training approach is always positive reinforcement, aka using rewards to teach desired behaviors, explains Caroline George, DVM, a veterinarian with the Aliso Beach Animal Clinic in Laguna Beach, California. Not only is this considered the kindest approach, but it’s highly effective for all types of training. Here's how it works: When your dog performs a skill or behavior that you like, you give them treats, toys or praise. In time, your dog associates that skill or behavior with good outcomes and becomes more likely to repeat it.

There's one catch, though: Positive reinforcement works best when pet parents stay consistent. For example, every time they ask a dog to sit or shake—and it is done correctly—a treat or toy should be given. At the same time, it’s best to avoid negative reinforcement, aka punishment, if your pup doesn’t catch on right away.

10 Golden Retriever Training Tips

If you’re a new Golden Retriever pet parent, your next step after your pup settles into their new home is to start dog training. Whether you’re diving into potty training (a must when Golden Retriever puppy training), teaching your pet essential cues like how to lie down, sit, or drop it, or exploring some fun tricks, these dog training techniques and tips will ensure successful training sessions.
A Golden Retriever running in grass with a ball in their mouth
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1 Make Dog Training Sessions Fun

Golden Retrievers learn well through games, so aim to keep things light and fun. This helps keep your dog’s attention span during each training session. Use a happy tone of voice rather than a stern one, avoid yelling, and exercise patience. If your dog doesn’t respond to a cue from you, you can gain their attention by being playful and making the task a little easier to get them re-engaged.
A Golden Retriever holding a dog treat in their mouth
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2Make It Rewarding

Here’s where that positive reinforcement comes in! Goldens are highly motivated by food and often by play. When you use highly rewarding training treats or dog 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.
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A Golden Retriever puppy getting a treat.
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3Keep It Age- and Skill-Appropriate

We don’t ask toddlers to do algebra. In the same vein, make sure your expectations are reasonable for your dog. For example, puppies need shorter training sessions—around three to five minutes each—because their bodies and brains are not well-developed yet and their attention span is shorter.

Regarding age-appropriate training for puppies, Dr. George recommends the following:

  • Potty Training: This should begin as soon as you bring your puppy home. Take your pup out to go potty several times per day and within a few minutes after eating. Make sure you take your pup to the same spot in the yard/the same desired outdoor spot to eliminate each time.
  • Socializing: You can begin socialization—aka introducing your puppy to new people, places and experiences—within a week or two of bringing your puppy home. “Expose the pup to several different people and other dogs of similar ages (if appropriately vaccinated and friendly) in a non-threatening environment,” Dr. George advises. “While the pup is being socialized, avoid dog parks, the dog beach or other areas where other dogs may be unvaccinated, unpredictable, or aggressive.” Find out more about how to socialize a puppy.
  • Obedience Training: Start training your pup around eight weeks of age. Training your dog early will make it easier to take them to visit the vet, go on walks and thrive in other social situations.

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. Feel it out and practice patience.

A man walking a Golden Retriever across a crosswalk
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4Make It Safe

Keep safety top of mind when training your Golden Retriever. Complete your training sessions in a space that’s safe and comforting, like your home or backyard, rather than at a noisy dog park or near a busy road.

On that note, because Golden Retrievers are often large, strong and energetic dogs, you may want to consider a gentle leader head collar, such as the PetSafe Gentle Leader Dog Head Collar. This gives you additional leverage whenever you are walking your pet in an exciting environment. You’ll also need a 4-to-6-foot flat training leash for day-to-day walking and training.

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Close-up of a blue dog clicker laying on white painted wood.
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5Make 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 lets your pet know they’ve earned a reward. It doesn’t take long for a dog to understand and then repeat the behavior.
A Golden Retriever laying on a wooden floor. A tennis ball sits beside them
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6Make Training a Regular Part of the Day

None of us master skills without regular practice, and the same goes for your floofy 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 they’re more likely to respond to your cue. There are many opportunities to practice commands in everyday situations, so use that to your advantage!

A father and son playing with a Golden Retriever in their backyard
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7Make 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
  • “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, crate and/or dog gate) to separate them as needed when supervision isn’t possible.

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A woman training a Golden Retriever in her backyard
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8Make 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 their 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.
A Golden Retriever performing the "shake" command with a man in an outdoor urban setting
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9Make Dog Training Progressive

As your Golden Retriever learns new cues, basic manners and rules, you can increase your criteria for training. For example, once your dog understands how to sit and lie down at certain times, you can begin to ask them to maintain that position until released from it.
A man holding a Golden Retriever
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10Make 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 agility training or dog sports.
Whether you begin with a new puppy who’s two months old, an adolescent rescue, or are training a senior dog for the first time, these tips can help your new Golden Retriever understand what to do in their new home. It also allows your pup to burn energy, provides fun mental stimulation, and builds a strong bond between you and your dog. Need more training tips? Here's everything you need to know about basic dog obedience training.
Expert insight provided by Caroline George, DVM, a veterinarian with the Aliso Beach Animal Clinic in Laguna Beach, Calif.; and Janet Velenovsky, past president of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC) and a certified Animal Behavior Consultant.

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By: Wendy Rose GouldUpdated:

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