Training Golden Retriever Puppies

How do you train a Golden Retriever pupppy?

Golden Retrievers are a medium to large-sized dog breed and were originally bred as gun dogs to help retrieve ducks and other waterfowl as part of hunting parties. Hence the name “retriever”. They love water and, fortunately for us, are very easy to train!

The breed is often used as guide dogs and even as a search and rescue assistants. But the Golden Retriever is too friendly and gentle to be a professional guard dog. They are very popular as family dogs – third-most popular breed in the United States, fifth-most popular in Australia and the eighth-most in the United Kingdom.

They need a lot of outdoor exercise, but can adapt in suburbs. The Golden Retriever has an instinctual tendency to explore, so they must be kept behind proper fencing if you do not want your pup wandering off. The breed is very fond of playing and this natural inclination to seek out human attention and affirmation makes it highly trainable.

Why Training Golden Retriever Puppies Is Important

The importance of dog training is to help your puppy fit better into your home. Left to their own devices dogs will take over your home in no time. Because dogs are pack animals, they need to know who is in charge. You need to be the pack leader, otherwise they will gladly grab the title.

golden retriever puppy training

Golden Retriever puppy training offers you the opportunity to create a well-behaved dog that you can take with you anywhere. It will also save you lots of embarrassment when you have visitors at your home. Golden Retrievers often have strong personalities, so you need to train them from a young age when it’s time to play and when it’s time to be more docile. The training is especially important if you are going to allow your dog to be indoors with you.

The Most Used Training Method - Operant Conditioning

This type of dog training takes advantages of a dog’s natural love of rewards. Combine that with the Golden Retriever’s natural love of pleasing people, and you have a winning formula for Golden Retriever puppy training!

You know the story of Pavlov’s dogs? If you repeat the sequence of rewarding a certain type of behaviour often enough, your Golden Retriever’s clever brain will make the connection. Same goes for bad behaviour. If there’s negative consequences to not listening to you, they will stop doing whatever it is that’s annoying you.

There are four different ways to implement this kind of training. The combinations are: positive reinforcement, positive punishment, negative reinforcement and negative punishment.

To elaborate on the concepts, a reinforcement means an action that will increase a behaviour and a punishment means an action that will decrease certain behaviour. Positive means that something has been added to reinforce or punish, and negative means that something has been taken away.

Positive reinforcement - For example, when you praise your dog for bringing the ball back and dropping it at your feet. The more fuss you make over the accomplishment, the bigger the chances are that they will do it again next time.

Positive punishment - For example, spraying your dog with a water bottle when you catch it digging in your flowerbed. The fright it gets from the unexpected squirt will eventually make it stop digging. It might also make the connotation between the water bottle and getting a fright, so you could even try just placing the bottle between the flowers after a while.

Negative reinforcement - For example, while saying “sit” you press down on your dog’s bum until they sit and then release the pressure while saying “good boy/good girl!”. Eventually the word “sit” will remind them of being forced to sit down and they will do it themselves.

Negative punishment - For example, if they do something you don’t like, turn away and ignore them. Because Golden Retrievers are so people-orientated this will be torture for them, so they will soon learn to stop doing whatever it is that causes you to ignore them. You can add the words “bad dog” before turning away and ignoring them to make the punishment even more concrete.

DID YOU KNOW?

Studies have concluded that the average dog can understand up to 165 different words. You can increase this amount with proper training. Source: animalplanet.com

Classical Conditioning

This training method harnesses Pavlov’s experiment and it’s perfect for training golden retriever puppies. Golden Retrievers were bred to follow instructions, so they learn very quickly if you are consistent with your training.

You can use little things to train them, such as the sound of their bowl being filled with food. Or making a big fuss over getting the leash when it’s time for their daily walk. In modern dog training a concept called “charging the clicker” is used.

What Is Clicker Training?

A clicker is a small hand-held device that makes a distinct clicking sound when pressed. It’s a great tool to use to “mark” a behaviour that you want to reward at the exact time. Basically it works on the same concept as the bell that Pavlov used with the dogs that he conditioned in his experiment.

First off clicker training uses classical conditioning and thereafter it moves into the operant conditioning method of positive reinforcement. You “mark” the good behaviour with praise and a reward while clicking the clicker.

The reason why the clicker is so useful is because getting the “marker” timing right can be quite tricky. Say for instance you’re training your Golden Retriever puppy to sit and it obeys you for a moment, but then jumps up for the reward, the clicker can help you to train it which behaviour you want to reinforce.

By clicking the moment your puppy’s bum touches the ground and immediately giving it a reward, it will understand that the sitting is the important behaviour to master. But for this to work, you need to “charge the clicker” so that your Golden Retriever puppy understands it’s an important sound to take notice of.

What Does It Mean to Charge The Clicker?

This is where the concept of classical conditioning comes into play. You need to train your puppy’s brain to make the connection between the clicker sound and the feeling of getting a reward. It’s very easy to do. You click, reward, click, reward, click, reward until the sound evokes the pleasure of getting a reward.

The best way to charge the clicker is in a quiet room with just you and your puppy. Find somewhere to sit with a container of treat rewards close by and the clicker in your hand. Click and immediately give the reward.

Wait until the puppy loses interest and then repeat. Do this for several minutes. Make sure that the dog is not repeating some behaviour, you don’t want it to associate to a specific action or pattern. At first all you want is the association between clicker and reward. Repeat at least 20 times. Start the process again with about two hours between sessions.

Below is an adorable video of a Golden Retriever puppy getting clicker training. It takes a few minutes into the video before they get to explaining clicker training, so if you want you can skip to somewhere around minute 4:17 into the video to skip right to that part.

Once the puppy has successfully made the connection between the clicker and a reward, you can start using the clicker as a marker for specific behaviours. Implement one training goal at a time so as not to confuse your puppy.

What Benefits Does Training Offer For You And Your Golden Retriever Puppy?

When embarking on the journey of Golden Retriever puppy training, you should realize the importance of investing time in the training process. If your dog is well-trained, you can keep it safe from troubling situations with just a simple command.

For instance, you can train your dog to know what it means when you shout “drop!” if they want to chew a hazardous object. Or to obey “stop!” if they are about to run into a busy road. These two points can save you lots of unwanted vet bills.

After the Golden Retriever puppy training is completed, you will have a well-adjusted dog that fits into your home-life without being disruptive. You will be able to take your dog on walks and you won’t be dragged around the neighborhood.

Because Golden Retrievers were trained to assist humans, your dog’s life will be more enriched when it’s trained properly. The training will strengthen the bond between you and your dog, it will feel that it is serving a purpose in your life. And you won’t have to worry about coming home to a destroyed garden or house!

Conclusion - Training Golden Retriever Puppies

All dogs should be properly trained, but it is especially important to invest time in Golden Retriever puppy training because of its heritage as a helper dog. Your dog will become very frustrated if it doesn’t have a set of clear-cut rules to live by.

Yes, it is a big time and energy commitment, but the long term rewards you will reap are definitely worth the effort. You will have to be patient and stick to a regular routine. You might even have to learn a new set of skills yourself. Visit totallygoldens.com to read up more about the breed.

What method have you been using for training golden retriever puppies?