How to Train a Golden Retriever
Golden Retrievers are great dogs that make wonderful pets. However, even a Golden Retriever can act like a bad dog if it isn’t properly trained. Training your dog can teach it desired behaviors so it can spend more time doing things with you. Start by housetraining your Golden Retriever, and then teach it basic commands.
Housetraining a Golden Retriever
1. Crate train your dog.
Crate training helps establish routine and boundaries for your Golden Retriever. You should put your dog into the crate when it sleeps, when you have company, and when you are gone. This helps reduce accidents, along with other unwanted behaviors like chewing.
- Make sure you pick a crate big enough for your Golden Retriever. It should be able to comfortably stand and turn around. You will probably need a large crate, for dogs over 70 pounds. Choose one with ventilation on all sides, like a basic wire crate.
- Golden Retrievers are very social and love being with their families. Place the crate in a common area in your home, not in a room no one uses. This helps your dog still feel like it's part of the family.
- Never treat the crate like a punishment. It should be your dog’s personal space where it feels comfortable. You should use it to help keep your dog confined when you can’t see it.
2. Set up a schedule.
To help house train your Golden Retriever, you should set up a schedule for it. This helps it learn routine and figure out when it should go outside to use the bathroom. Try to walk it at the same time every day so it gets into a routine.
- Set up a feeding schedule for your dog, too. This helps you estimate when it will need to go out.
- When you first start training your Golden Retriever, take it out every hour or so, along with when you first get up and before you go to bed.
- When you create your schedule, consider your dog's age. Puppies can usually hold their bladders for 1 hour for each month old they are, plus 1. This means that a 3 month old puppy can hold its bladder for a maximum of 4 hours.
- House training will be much easier if you set and follow a schedule, which will help you avoid accidents.
3. Take your dog to its elimination area.
Help your dog figure out where its elimination area is. Put it on a leash and walk it to the spot every time you take it out. Don’t let it play out there. Stay for about five minutes, and then return to the house even if it hasn’t gone yet. Try again later. Your Golden Retriever will eventually figure it out.
4. Reward your Golden Retriever for correct behavior.
When your dog does its business in the elimination spot, give it a reward. This may be a treat or verbal praise. Provide the praise as soon as it finishes, not when it is back inside the house.
5. Watch for signs that your dog has to go out.
It’s important that you listen to your dog when it is trying to let you know it has to go out. Your dog may start sniffing around, walking around the house, dancing around, or standing by the door. If your dog starts stirring, take it out to be safe.
- Puppies usually want to potty shortly after waking up, after eating, and after a play session. Take your puppy out after these occurrences to avoid accidents.
Training Appropriate Behavior in Your Dog
1. Leash train your Golden Retriever.
Golden Retrievers are large dogs, so you don’t want it running around wherever it wants. Work on leash training your dog. Start by taking it for short walks. If it starts to pull on the leash, stop walking and stand there. Don’t move or let the dog go the way it wants. Start walking again when it comes back to you, sit, or let some of the tension from the leash.
- Reinforce the positive behavior of not pulling on the leash with praise or treats.
- If your Golden Retriever gets too excited and starts jumping around before you place the leash on it, wait until it calms down to put the leash on it.
2. Teach your dog to sit.
Teaching your Golden Retriever to sit is important. The sit command is the basis of almost every other command that you teach it. You can use the sit command to enforce basic obedience.
- Tell your dog to “sit” as you hold a treat over its head. Move the treat back and forth until it sits. You can also push its hind section down to achieve the desired action. As soon as it sits, give it verbal praise and let it eat the treat.
- Eventually, stop moving your dog and instead use a hand signal or verbal cue. The dog should respond and sit, or learn it with repeated practice.
3. Train your Golden Retriever to come.
Teaching a Golden Retriever to come when you call it is important to your dog’s overall behavior. It can help keep it out of trouble and improve its life since you can take it more places.
- Use positive reinforcement to get your dog to come. It should associate coming to you with praise, treats, or toys.
- Say the word “come” as you walk backwards. The dog should want to follow you. Say the word once before you move backwards. This helps your dog associate the verbal command with the desired behavior.
- Keep moving backwards until your dog gets to you. You want the dog to understand that it has to come all the way to you. As soon as your dog makes it to you, give them a treat and lots of praise
- Add additional distractions, like toys or food, as your Golden Retriever gets better at the command.
- Make sure to only say the command once. Repeating it makes it lose meaning for the dog. If the dog won’t come to you, try running farther away or tempting it with a treat. As soon as your dog comes to you, give it praise or treats.
4. Teach your dog not to jump.
Your Golden Retriever may have a bad habit of jumping on you. Try using aversion training to discourage the behavior. When the dog jumps, turn your back on it and ignore it. This shows that they will not receive a reward for jumping. When they calm down or sit, turn around and praise it. You may have to turn around multiple times.
- Another technique you can try is to walk backward and tell your dog "off" or "down." Praise your dog when all of its feet are back on the ground.
- Try to redirect the Golden Retriever's jumping by using the "sit" command.
- Jumping can be a hard habit to break. Be sure other family members and guests are also turning their back when your puppy jumps for attention, or your puppy may learn that they get rewarded “sometimes”, making the behavior worse.
Creating a Positive Environment for Training
1. Be patient.
Golden Retrievers are smart dogs who can be trained. However, it won’t be trained overnight. Keep your expectations reasonable as you train your dog. Understand that it may take it awhile to learn the command, but with persistence and having it repeat the action over and over, it will learn it.
- Stay calm. Getting upset doesn’t build trust between you and your Golden Retriever. Getting mad also can upset your dog, causing it to act out.
2. Use positive reinforcement.
Positive reinforcement is one of the most effective ways to train your Golden Retriever. Dogs respond well to treats or praise when it does an action, and it naturally wants to do the same thing again. This helps you show your dog what behavior you desire, and it knows it will receive some sort of positive reward for complying.
- Ignore unwanted behaviors. If you respond, this is reinforcing it by giving it attention. Ignoring the behaviors shows that the dog won’t get a reaction from you, so there is no reason to do them.
3. Provide plenty of rewards for your dog.
You can use a variety of treats with your dog. Make sure they are small enough that it doesn’t have to take a long time eating it. At the same time, use verbal praise, like saying, “Good job!”. You may also pet the dog or give it physical attention.
- Make sure to provide the reward immediately after the action. Don’t wait until later. The dog has to know that the treat comes from that behavior.