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Puppy Training – 10 Most Important Things to Teach Your Retriever

Contents

Introduction

As a dog owner, whilst you need to teach your puppy the basic commands such as sit, stay, etc, these are relatively easy to do in the controlled environment of the house in a few weeks.

The following 10 items take a little more effort but if you put in the time and teach your new puppy these 10 things you are on the way to a happy and well-trained dog that everyone will love. We have not included crate training or potty training as these will feature in their own specific posts.

We cannot stress how important it is to put the effort in at the basic puppy training stage as it is much more difficult to correct a teenage dog!

Take the time to master these in the first 6 months and you will be rewarded with a wonderful pet for life.

Socialise your puppy

Golden Labrador and black lab

One of the most important things to do when you get a new puppy is to start socialisation early. This means getting your puppy used to different people, places, animals, and situations. It’s important to do this gradually and patiently so that your puppy doesn’t get overwhelmed or scared. Your puppy will look to see how you react to a new sound or environment. Fireworks are a classic example,

Here are some tips for socialising your puppy:

  • Introduce your puppy to as many different people as possible, including children, men, women and people with disabilities.
  • Take them for walks in different environments such as the park, beach, or city streets.
  • Get them used to being around other animals by taking them to pet stores, dog parks, or on play dates with friends’ dogs.
  • Gradually expose them to different sounds, smells, and experiences so that they become confident and happy in all kinds of situations.
  • If you come across something new such as a loud car or fireworks be calm and act like this is normal, ideally distract by playing with them as you would normally.

 

Get your puppy to recall 100%

Retriever puppy on lead

Nobody wants a dog pegging it over to them out of control, especially a 30kg adult dog! At best you will be lucky and the person who they jump on loves your bundle of joy. The more likely outcome is less favorable – it could involve them running to someone who is petrified of dogs, running into traffic, or even approaching an aggressive dog on a lead and getting bitten.

You must nail this one before letting your dog off in public places. If you are getting there but not 100% use a long line as this gives you a backstop.

There are a few things you can do to get your puppy’s recall up to par. Here are a couple tips:

  • Once your puppy is reliably following you around the house, start taking him or her outside on a leash for short walks.
  • Make sure you’re rewarding your puppy generously when he or she comes to you. This could be in the form of treats, petting, or verbal praise – whatever your pup loves best.
  • Get creative with your recall commands but always use the same word (like “their name and come “), your dog needs to associate coming back to you with great things!
  • Practice in different environments
  • Run the other way when you call your dog – this works really well
  • Save their favorite treat for recall training (our all time cheat treat is Aldi Hotdogs cut into bite size chunks!)
  • When your puppy is sitting calmly beside you, give him or her an obedience command such as “watch me” or “heel” and then start walking.
  • Always walk your puppy on a leash until you are 100% comfortable, this will help them learn how to behave around other people and animals. This will also help keep them safe.
  • Don’t let your dogs just play with other dogs in the early days, they will soon learn that other dogs are more fun and will run off as soon as they see another dog!
  • You have to first establish that YOU are the most fun thing to be around so make a fuss of them when they come back.
  • Lastly if they don’t come back or you have a fail, don’t scold them or they certainly won’t come back next time.

Train your puppy to be alone to avoid separation anxiety

Golden Retriever puppy in bed

Leaving your puppy alone can be hard, but it’s important to do to prevent separation anxiety. Here are some tips to make it easier:

  • Start by leaving your puppy on its own for short periods, like while you go to the bathroom or run a quick errand. Gradually increase the amount of time you’re gone.
  • Make sure your pup has plenty of things to keep him occupied while you’re gone, such as toys, bones, and chewies but nothing they can choke on and certainly not wrapped up in a blanket like the picture!
  • Make sure your pup is nice and tired before you leave them.
  • Don’t make a big drama out of leaving or coming home – just act like it’s no big deal.
    Likewise, no major fuss when you return. Wait until they are calm to give affection.
  • If possible, have someone else come over to check on your pup while you’re gone so he doesn’t feel totally alone.
  • Get a decent wifi camera – these are so helpful. We use the Eufy camera system and it is absolutely brilliant. It gives peace of mind but also allows you to check how your pup is doing as you build up the time, if they are doing something really bad you can talk to them from your phone which distracts them.
  • If you are really into tech you can get a wifi camera that dispenses treats such as the SKYMEE Dog Camera from Amazon

Train your puppy to enjoy car rides

Two retrievers in a car

One of the first things you’ll need to work on is getting your pup comfortable with car rides. This can be essential for vet visits and trips out, so it’s worth taking the time to train your puppy to enjoy the car. Most dogs love the car but some are not big fans and if you see the signs they are not comfortable then here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Start by just introducing the car to your dog, put them in it and give them some treats without even going anywhere. This helps them associate the car with a good thing.
  • Take some short car rides with your puppy. Just drive around the block or to a nearby park. The goal is to get your puppy used to being in the car, so don’t worry about going too far at first.
  • Make sure the car is comfortable for your puppy. If possible, put a soft blanket or towel down for them to lie on. You may also want to bring along some of their favorite toys so they have something to keep them occupied during the ride.
  • The Law is pretty clear in the UK. Rule 57 of the Highway Code states you must ‘make sure dogs or other animals are suitably restrained’. This is to stop them distracting whilst driving and for your safety.

Consistency

One Adult and one puppy Golden Retriever

This is more for the owner rather than the puppy – It’s important to remain consistent with the basic cues you use, use positive reinforcement, and keep in mind the tone of your voice and the rewards you offer. Like people, puppies are individuals and will learn at different rates, so it’s important to tailor your training method to fit your puppy’s personality. If you have several adults/children in the household, one of the first things to agree on is which commands to use. This will avoid confusion and speed up the training sessions.

Teach your puppy not to eat food from the floor on walks or drink from puddles

Golden Retriever puppy on beach

Most of our random vets’ bills have been from messing this one up so teach this one early!

You’re out on a walk with your dog, enjoying the fresh air and each other’s company when suddenly your pup stops dead in its tracks and chows down on something they found on the ground. While it may not seem like a big deal to you, eating food off the ground can be very harmful to your dog and can make them very sick. Dogs are attracted to food on the floor because they are scavengers by nature. In the wild, dogs would eat anything they could find including carcasses and feces. There is a huge risk of bacteria and other contaminants when food is found on a walk.

The same applies to puddles of water. Puppies and adult dogs will often get thirsty on a good walk and drink from any source they can find, often with horrible consequences.

Here are some tips to help ;

  • Train your dog the ‘leave it’ command. This can be done at home and build on this as you start going outside.
  • Keep your dog on a leash until they are good with the ‘leave it’ command.
  • Make sure YOU are their focus and not scavenging. You can build on this by treating them when they look at you.
  • Don’t walk in areas where you know there is likely to be food on the ground, e.g after a sunny day in a picnic area.
    If you are going on a long walk, carry a doggie water bottle so your dog has no need to seek out those muddy puddles or drink polluted river water.
  • In the early days, a couple of our dogs loved to eat cow or horse poo. This can seem impossible to solve but actually is fairly simple. The key is to correct the behavior when they are on a lead or long line. Again using reward training rather than harsh punishment. If all else fails you could resort to a remote control citronella spray collar, (this is current No 1 seller on Amazon UK) totally harmless but very effective – just make sure you do not overuse. Before falling back on to this I would book a 1-1 with a good local trainer, will probably be the same price and your dog will prefer this option.

Teach good, basic manners

2 Golden retrievers

As first time pet parents, it is important to teach good manners from a young age. You need to quickly get to a stage where can meet new people, in new environments and spend quality time together without having to worry about what those sharp teeth are going to do to someone. With patience, you can teach basic training within the first few weeks and build life skills from there. We highly recommend puppy classes or older dog training classes and combine this with your own puppy training schedule.

Two examples of basic training are impulse control relating to food. Your puppy must learn to only take their food when you give the command – no grabbing the food as you are trying to put it down! Likewise, they should not rip treats out of your hand but take them gently.

Great way to achieve this ;

  • At meal time, give the wait command and start to place the bowl down on the floor, if your puppy tries to go for the food, raise it back up. They will very quickly learn they only get the food if they stay in the sit position. Once sat and calm, you can release them to eat.
  • It is exactly the same with a treat, have the treat in an open palm and lower it to your dog telling them to leave it. If they try to grab the treat just close your hand so they cannot take it until they wait patiently, you can then open the palm and release them to take it.
  • This can be the best time to introduce clicker training to a young puppy and can be a valuable aid to proper training. If this is your first dog you will be amazed how quickly they learn basic obedience with a clicker.

Train your puppy to sit and be calm when getting on and off lead

Golden retriever puppy sat

It can be very exciting for dogs to be let off the lead and they quickly learn to anticipate this. If you don’t get the basics right here you can have a dog that jumps around whilst you let them off the lead, not a good look. The best way to deal with this is to only let them off when they are calm and in the sit position. They must then wait for your release command. This is where consistency and patience come in. Retrievers are in the top 10 of most intelligent dogs so will quickly understand what they need to do.

Likewise, when it is time to get them home, you need to have smashed the 100% recall, see point 2 and again, get them calmly to sit, give them a big reward, and on with the lead.

Having had 2 Golden Retrievers, we have found this breed, in particular, can refuse to walk on the lead to return home, they can be somewhat stubborn but as long as you don’t give in and they quickly understand that playtime is over and there is always the next adventure to look forward to.

Train your pup to chew toys and not the furniture!

Retriever chewing on a toilet roll

Young puppies love to chew and if left to their own devices, don’t really differentiate between dog toys and your furniture. If your dog is chewing on your furniture/shoes/household items, there are a few things you can do to stop them;

  • Dogs usually chew on furniture because they are not being supervised, are bored, or have separation anxiety.
  • The Key is to be present if your puppy is not in a cage. You will then be on hand to guide them to chew toys and not the carpet etc.
  • Do not scold or punish your dog if they chew something they are not supposed to. Simply make it clear you disagree with your tone and give them something they CAN chew. Once they are engaged on the right item, give them praise. Basically, you are teaching them if they chew toys they get your attention and good things happen.
  • If leaving your pup alone in the early stages, make sure they are physically and mentally tired. The aim is for them to sleep when you are not there, rather than destroy your home.
  • Make use of a Wi-Fi camera, this lets you test them out when you pop upstairs for a few minutes and can quickly correct if they chew the wrong thing. You can build from there.

Teach your dog not to pull on the lead

Retriever puppy pulling on lead

This is an absolute must. Being dragged along by your dog does not make you feel good and certainly is not good for the dog. You will come across many owners with adult dogs that do this, often they are smaller breeds so the pulling does not seem to bother them and they will tell you they have tried everything. It is easier to train when they are a puppy but equally, any dog can be taught not to pull, it just takes some patience.

Start this training even before you take your retriever pup outside. It can be a lovely way to bond with your dog. The Key is for the dog to focus on you and not on the destination!

Some tips to achieve this ;

  • Start early in their life, in the comfort of your home, and use treats to reinforce good behavior, not punish bad.
  • Use a front clip harness instead of a collar. A great option is the easy walk harness. This gives you much more control than a standard collar.
  • Always walk your dog on the same side, then they get used to the correct position and mix it up by trying a different speed.
    When starting out, every time your dog looks at you, give them a treat. The aim is to get them to focus on you and not the destination.
  • When you need them to focus on you, give them a command such as ‘watch’ or ‘on me’ and reward them with a treat. This can be very helpful when you come across a distraction such as another dog or squirrel.
  • If your dog starts to pull, stop, turn around and go the other way. This teaches them if they pull they don’t get to where they want to go. Also that you are in control not them.
  • Instead of feeding them their food in a bowl all at once, use it as a reward when you are training to lead-walk. That way you can give them loads of ‘treats’ i.e their own kibble without over feeding.
  • When you give them the reward, give it to them in the correct position, that way they learn where you want them to be.
  • Be patient, this takes time but it will reward you 10 times over in later stages.
  • Even though it can be frustrating, do this lovingly and positively, and do not attempt when you are in a rush to go somewhere – as you will be tempted to let the pulling happen!
  • It is not the dog’s fault if they are pulling, it is always down to the owner so if it is not working, take a step back, re-think and go back to basics.

Summary

Getting a puppy is an exciting time but is also a huge decision to take. If you decide to take the plunge then by mastering the above you will be on the right track to avoid behavior problems in the future whilst creating a strong bond with your new pup. Make sure to allocate plenty of time for your puppy’s training and the best idea is to spend a small amount of time on a daily basis and always on a positive note. We highly recommend puppy training classes or professional obedience training for older dogs, and if you get really stuck there are plenty of good trainers offering private lessons.
Adult and Puppy Golden Retriever

Sometimes they will test your patience….

But remember, you are their world.

 So always use reward based training.

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