So, you have a Golden Retriever puppy? We are overjoyed for you! Golden Retrievers are one of the most friendly and loving breeds…and lucky for you, one of the easiest to train.

Let’s get you all prepped and ready to train your Golden Retriever puppy. In this article, we’ve got lots to share, so bare with us and you’ll do just fine. But before we start, there are a couple of things you should keep in mind…just so you can’t say we didn’t give you a head’s up:

  • They are easy to train but easily bored. Golden Retrievers require a great deal of mental stimulation to avoid going about on their own or becoming frustrated. 
  • They get easily excited and often don’t quite grasp their own size. What we mean by this, is that they like to keep their puppy brains on until they’re up in their adult years, so you’ll want to spend some time teaching about manners and being polite so they don’t jump up every chance they get. 
  • Their love for food is infinite. This is great for training, but not so great when they’re trying to steal people’s picnics and children’s ice creams! 
  • Don’t be surprised if they bring you presents of rolled-up socks, they’re bred to retrieve after all!

Prerequisites for training my Golden Retriever puppy?

What age can I start to train my Golden Retriever puppy?

They start training Guide Dog puppies from 7 weeks old, so there is no reason you can’t start training your Golden Retriever Puppy as soon as you get them home from the breeder. In fact, if your breeder is following programmes such as Avidog or Puppy Culture in puppy raising, then they’ll be doing some of the training before they make it home. Sounds like a good deal!

To make your smile even bigger, you’ll be happy to hear that Golden Retrievers puppies are very clever so training is likely to not be as bad as you think. We can only hope.

What do I need to train my Golden Retriever?

Good news is that in order to train a Golden Retriever puppy you won’t need a huge bunch of equipment. But there’s a bunch of other things you’ll need:

  • A treat pouch. Say bye to that sticky, meaty feeling in your fingertips. 
  • A soft collar: Something that is comfortable around their neck, doesn’t pull on their hair, and doesn’t fall off easily.
  • A harness: One that doesn’t pull or tighten on your puppy when they walk is fab. Golden Retrievers are strong (you’ll see) so a harness will be a good friend when you’re teaching them lead walking.
  • A 2 metre training lead: Long enough to give your Golden Retriever puppy space to sniff the flowers, but too long so they wander off into someone’s picnic. 
  • A piece of non-slip vet bed or a soft mat: For a cosy bed, warm nights, and good dreams.  
  • Treats: The more smelly, the better. We’ve written more about the best training treats here.  
  • Two identical toys: Great for swaps! The name says it all…your Golden Retriever puppy will love retrieving, so identical toys will be great for all the games we have in store for you in the Zigzag Puppy training app.
  • A soft grooming brush: That lustrous Golden Retriever coat will need some grooming; especially those ‘feathers’ on their legs.
  • A crate and playpen: It’s optional, but you’ll love it. Trust.

Good to know about training Golden Retriever puppies

Are Golden Retrievers easy to train?

Of course, Golden Retrievers grow to be big dogs. Baring this in mind, Golden Retrievers can be easy to train as long as you know what you’re doing. They’re intelligent and calm but can have bursts of high energy – which is important to remember when training them.

How much exercise does a Golden Retriever need?

A golden retriever needs 2 hours of exercise a day. However, this doesn’t mean one two-hour session, this should be split over a few high-quality exercise sessions a day. It’s important to note that a puppy and senior Golden Retriever will need less to reduce the risk of joint damage.

What age is a Golden Retriever fully grown?

Golden Retrievers reach adulthood at 3 years of age and are seniors by 8 years old. However, in terms of build, they’ve usually reached their maximum height by 9-12 months old. Though their height has been reached, their weight will still fill out and they will continue to mentally mature.

What are Golden Retrievers bred for?

Here’s a few fun facts to start us off. Distinctly British, the 1st Baron of Tweedmouth developed the breed crossing his golden coloured retrieving dog Nous with a Tweed Water Spaniel – these look similar to Irish Water Spaniels. The cross resulted in a dog that was comfortable being on land and water (kind of like crocodiles), and robust enough to hunt goose, partridge and even deer. Retrieving is the main reason they were bred for, I guess the Baron didn’t feel like getting his prey himself. 

If you’re curious for more, check out the story behind your Golden puppy with the American Kennel Club.

Do Golden Retrievers make good family pets? 

Absolutely! In fact, Golden Retrievers are one of the most loved dog breeds in the UK. 

Besides their retrieving and swimming skills, they’re truly outstanding when it comes to children and babies…they’re loving and gentle even when they’re throwing a tantrum. 

The Kennel Club has a lot more good information and info about them.

What does this have to do with how I train my Golden Retriever puppy?

It’s a fair question actually. But there is a logic as to why knowing the context might help you train your Golden Retriever better:

  • Golden Retrievers love to work. Commonly employed as Guide Dogs, they love having a job to do, which means they will adore training. Perfect. Check out The Southern Golden Retriever Display Team to see them in action!
  • They’re quite food motivated, although slightly less dustbin scavenger-like than Labradors. Anyhow, they will be a breeze to train. They will also do almost anything for your soft words and approval – your praise will work just as well as treats. 
  • Because they are so gentle, they are a great fit for families with a variety of lifestyles and ages.
  • They retain their puppy dog nature until their later years, so you’ll get to take in their playful sides for longer. Yay! 
  • They need a good amount of exercise; mental as well as physical. Let us rephrase – a hefty amount of exercise. A bored Golden Retriever can struggle if not given enough training; you’ll see this by them picking more and more of your clothes to chew on, or simply being quite sad…which you don’t want at all.
  • Besides you and food, being in water is what they love the most! It’s a great idea to join in the fun by going swimming together…don’t be surprised if they try to save you from drowning! They’re just that wholesome. 
  • They have a very strong sense of smell, so retrieving or scent work games tend to be the biggest treat for most. 
  • Golden Retrievers are the social butterflies of dogs. They love most people, and are not discreet in showing it. Jumping up can be quite ‘a thing’, so make sure that they work on lots of sit-and greet exercises so they’re nice and polite. You know how us Brits can be about politeness.
  • Golden Retrievers love retrieving so they’ll love to carry things in their mouths…often things they shouldn’t, like your underwear! That being said, make sure you also teach them the wonders of giving things up. It can lead to great things! Like treats 😉  
  • They can be a little mouthy as puppies – makes sense as a retriever. But it can also be less helpful when they give you a love bite on your arm – give them a toy to carry instead. 

PRO TIP: Golden Retrievers can struggle with frustration sometimes, especially during training sessions, and may start to mouth at you when they’re feeling angsty. If your puppy’s ‘silly switch’ goes off and they become mouthy or jumpy during a training session, this means it’s time for a break. 

Shift to some play, and revisit training later – we want training to be associated with fun, and not something they begin to dread.

Overview of the training programme and topics we’ll cover

Just to make sure we’re on the same page, you were looking for the ultimate guide on training your Golden Retriever puppy, right?

Good, then you won’t be surprised by the long list of topics we’ll be touching on: 

  • Sitting
  • Lying down
  • Learning their name
  • Coming when you call them
  • Walking nicely on a lead
  • Playing fetch
  • Sleeping in their crate
  • Coping with being left alone
  • Going to the toilet in the right place 

Yep, you’ll most likely be using it all. But nothing to worry about – we’ve made it nice and simple to follow!

How we build this programme: Push Drop Stick

Doing the same thing, at the same difficulty day in day out leads to boredom, frustration and ultimately poor performance when training your Golden Retriever. By using the ‘Push Drop Stick’ method to increase difficulty gradually we can get better and faster results. 

Essentially, you do the same thing 5 times and see if you get all 5 right:

  • You did? Great – you’ve got yourself a treat and push onto the next level of difficulty.
  • If you get 3 or 4 right stick to the level where you are
  • Only 1 or 2 right? Let’s drop back to a slightly easier level of difficulty.

Week 1 – Training your Golden Retriever puppy

The first week of having a Golden Retriever puppy is going to be so much fun! You’ll be taking so many pics to show off to your family and friends…as well as spending a lot of time cleaning up wee and getting puppy kisses. 

Your focus this week should just be on settling them into your new home and working on some skills they’ll find easy and will be useful to you.

Socialisation exercises to do this weekTraining to do this weekHusbandry Tasks to do this week
– Let your puppy explore the garden
– Teach your puppy about surfaces
– Name
– Sit
– Recall
– Retrieve
– Crate Training
– Toilet Training
– Alone Training
– Brushing
– Hand Touch

Sleep Training

Teaching your Golden Retriever puppy to sleep through the night will be a gradual process. And will take patience – we’re sure you’ve got plenty of it. It’s likely they’ll wake up in the night for the toilet or for a midnight cuddle, so prepare to be a little sleep deprived for this first week.

Oh, and if you want a golden piece: Let’s not get into letting them “cry it out”, or continually testing out the sleep downstairs rules. It just doesn’t work in the puppy world at all, and makes everyone’s hearts break with those sad cries. 

For everyone to get some sleep and settle into a routine quickly, then letting your Golden Retriever puppy sleep in your room (either in a crate or on their own bed) will definitely do the trick. Of course, they can sleep in the bed with you too, it’s totally up to you!

Alone Training

  • As we talked about earlier, your Golden Retriever puppy is as cool as ice. They’re highly likely to be people-oriented too, which – as great as that sounds – can also mean that leaving them on their own can be a little tricky. They’re just keen on being by your side…can’t blame them – we’ve heard you’re quite the catch. But starting that by teaching them that being on their own for very short periods of time is going to be key to leaving them alone when they’re older. All of this anyway, is to avoid running into any more trouble, like puppy separation anxiety. It can be quite a thing for puppies sadly, but that’s nothing to worry about – especially when we have a step-by-step programme for it like we do in our Zigzag puppy training app. Just saying. Check out our Alone training article for more useful tips.

Toilet Training

  • Toilet training a Golden Retriever puppy is not usually too much of a challenge, but not all Golden Retrievers are great telling you they ‘need to go’. As a tiny puppy, you can be sure that you’ll run into some accidents, but let’s keep it together by not telling them off – the poor things. Besides their puppy eyes, it can actually set your toilet training back which you most definitely don’t want.

Socialisation Exercises To Do this week

This week is all about new experiences. Simple puppy socialisation exercises at home will be more than enough; don’t want to make their brains burst like confetti. Here’s what we’ll do:

  • Letting your Golden Retriever puppy explore the garden
  • Teach your puppy about surfaces

Training To Do this week

  • Teach your puppy their name: Let’s be honest – kind of awks if they don’t know their name.
  • Teach your puppy to sit – ‘Good doggos’ know how to sit. Your Golden Retriever puppy is certainly a ‘good doggo’.
  • Recall training – Of course, you’ll want your Golden Retriever puppy back from all the people that are fawning over them – you want to keep a little piece of them for yourself, right?
  • Retrieve/fetch: If Golden Retrievers were born to do anything, it’s to fetch. Literally. You’ll find that they have a natural talent for them. 

Preventing resource guarding

It’s important that your puppy learns how to give up items willingly as this will help prevent resource guarding…and to make your life a whole lot easier. 

Resource guarding occurs when we force puppies to give up items or snatch things out of their mouths. It can end up looking like an awkward game of tug of war – especially at the park when they steal someone else’s frisbee. 

For breeds like Golden Retriever who are designed to want to hold things in their mouths, this is pretty important! You don’t want to end up with shredded mail while wrestling your pup to give it back…

Husbandry Exercises To Do this week

  • Handling your puppy: Mostly, Golden Retrievers love to be touched and pet so you probably won’t have many problems for this one.

Week 2 – Training your Golden Retriever puppy

You made it to the second week! You can start to train your Golden Retriever puppy in some new skills such as the all important lead walking. Golden retrievers can walk beautifully to heel (check out the Southern Golden Retriever Display Team at Crufts as mentioned earlier) but it will require some work. Better start them off when they’re young. 

As for Socialisation and Habituation work, getting them used to noises, different people and being in the car is what we’ll focus on this week.

Socialisation exercises to do this weekTraining to do this weekHusbandry Tasks to do this week
– Fireworks
– Watch the world go by outside your house
– Play dress up
– Sit in the car
– Invite friends over
– Alone Training
– Crate Training
– Toilet Training
– Name – in garden
– Recall – cue word
– Fetch
– Drop
-Sit – add a cue word
– Lead walking
– Grooming

Socialisation Exercises To Do this week

  • Fireworks
  • Watch the world go by 
  • Play dress up
  • Get started with the car – Golden Retrievers can often struggle with car journeys. We don’t want you to end up sick everywhere in your car – especially in those small spaces on the side of the seats. It’s worth building this one up slowly as we want them to enjoy the car and not find it a worry.

Training To Do this week

  • Alone training
  • Crate training
  • Teach them their name in the garden: The garden will be the ultimate challenge as it’s packed with blooming distractions. Remember how much they love to sniff?
  • Recall training: add a cue word
  • Fetch and drop: Again – the name says it all. Your Golden Retriever puppy is literally born to get things for you. It’s also pretty adorable how they love to please…would make anyone’s heart thud hard.
  • Sit – Add a cue word!
  • Introduce lead walking training: Golden Retrievers grow into strong dogs (you’ll know soon enough) so you’ll want to put some work into walking nicely. 

Husbandry Tasks To Do this week

  • Brushing your puppy: There’s nothing better than a good scratch for Golden Retrievers. If you introduce them to brushing in the right way, brushing will feel like the next best thing from your own scratches. Some of their long feathers (yes, that’s what they’re called) under their belly need some combing since they can get quite knotty, so it’s worth starting this off when they’re young.

Week 3 – Training your Golden Retriever puppy

Already week 3…time just flies. Soon you’ll be thinking about taking your Golden Retriever out for walks so we’ll need to teach them to like wearing a harness this week. 

We’ll also look at jumping up so that they can ‘Sit to Greet’. What good manners they will have.

Socialisation exercises to do this weekTraining Exercises to do this weekHusbandry Tasks to do this week
– Scent Trails
– Go for a drive
– Invite Friends Over
– Write a puppy socialisation checklist
– Recall – outside in the garden
– Four Paws on the floor – Not Jumping up
– Down
– Generalisation
– Alone Training
– Harness fitting

Socialisation Exercises To Do this week

Training To Do this week

  • Recall: Teaching your Golden Retriever puppy recall will make life in the big wide world much easier for you both, especially with park sessions coming soon!
  • Stop your puppy jumping up – Sadly not everyone is feeling the ‘muddy trouser look’!
  • Generalisation – Practice skills with your Golden Retriever puppy to different locations. We love a generalised pup.
  • Teach your puppy to lie down – So they don’t block the telly of course. 
  • Alone training – Yep, it’s quite unfortunate we don’t get to be with them at all times, isn’t it?

Husbandry Tasks To Do this week

  • We’ve already discussed how your Golden Retriever puppy will grow into quite a large breed. Those big muscles will let you know just how sturdy and strong they are to the point they could probably pull on you on a sled. They probably won’t end up doing that to be honest, but you will need a harness. You’ll be surprised by the sheer amount of different kinds of harnesses on the market so if you’re finding it tricky to choose one, check out our guide on lead training to find the best one for your Golden Retriever Puppy. 

Just a head’s up – the one that doesn’t strangle is the best.

Week 4 – Training your Golden Retriever puppy

In Week 4 of training your Golden Retriever puppy, it’s time to build on the skills we’ve already been training. We’ll also teach some shiny new stuff like settling on a mat for all of those cafe and pub visits you’ll be doing. Bet you’re looking forward to those.

Week 4 is also a good time to find a puppy class (ooh, exciting!) so you can learn from other puppies (and challenge yourself as they’ll be great distractions), and get some good insights from great teachers. You can also show off the training you’ve been doing for the last 3 weeks too, don’t worry.

Socialisation exercises to do this weekTraining to do this weekHusbandry Tasks to do this week
– Meet another dog
– Find a puppy class
– Settle on a mat
– Lead walking
– Recall games
– Push/drop/stick on known exercises
– Grooming sensitive areas

Socialisation Exercises To Do this week

In Week 4, you’ll want to keep up the good work of socialising and habituating your puppy to sounds, smells, and other animals. In fact, we’ll just mention that you’ll be doing this type of work throughout your puppy’s life, so better get used to it. 

To help with this, here are some things we suggest you to take on:

  • Meet another dog 
  • Find a good puppy class for your puppy

Training To Do this week

  • Settle on a mat – You’ll know by now that Golden Retrievers are incredible social butterflies, but as much as they love to flutter around, they need to learn to settle their wings. On a mat, specifically. Especially when we take them out and about – they don’t need ‘work the room’ when we’re in a cafe or pub! 
  • Lead walking – Can you feel the pulls? Yep, it’ll take a while to settle them down. 
  • Recall games – Time for a good round of tennis.

Husbandry Tasks To Do this week

  • Grooming a puppy – focusing on sensitive areas like their underneath and their legs. Use lots of treats so it’s a nice experience for them.

Week 5 – Training your Golden Retriever puppy

In Week 5, it’s time to explore the great outdoors…by means of waking on a leash. Don’t underestimate it though…lead walking requires a lot more than you think! And by that, we refer exclusively to patience. Can’t blame the little one – the world outside simply has too many things to offer; for inquisitive Golden Retriever puppies, it’s like a treasure map…with treasures at every corner. Every post needs sniffing, and every leaf needs chasing!

You’ll continue socialisation with things that matter to you, so you can personalise it a little bit more. Perhaps you’re a horse rider, or you like boating? You’ll want to work on those first. Personally, for me and my dog pub visits were important. Don’t judge.

Socialisation exercises to do this weekTraining to do this weekHusbandry Tasks to do this week
– Go to the pub – you deserve it!
– Tick 3 things off your personal socialisation checklist
– Alone Training
– Recall – outside using a lead
– Lead walking – outside
– Push/drop/stick on known exercises
– Pretend nail clips
– Grooming

Socialisation Exercises To Do this week

Remember the settle training you did last week? Great – you’ll need it for when you’re teaching the following to your Golden Retriever puppy.

  • Go to the pub/dog friendly café – you deserve it!
  • Tick 3 things off your personal socialisation checklist

Training To Do this week

  • Alone training: Increasing time alone will be important for training your Golden Retriever puppy. We can’t understand why we don’t get to be with our pups all day to be honest. 
  • Recall – Outside, using a lead, dealing with distractions. Wow, you’re in for a big one, so make sure to bring lots of treats, and get your happy voice in tune.  
  • Lead walking – Outside, loose lead walking. Yep, even more of a challenge. But if you remember our harness suggestions, it’ll be much more comfortable for your Golden Retriever puppy.
  • Push/drop/stick on known exercises – How many did your puppy get out of 5?

Husbandry Tasks To Do this week

  • Start pretending to clip your dog’s nails – And no, there’s no time for nail polish. Jokes aside, Golden Retrievers often have black nails which can be hard to cut as you can’t see the quick (a vein running through their paws), so by practising this early on they won’t worry about it when they’re older.

Week 6 – Training your Golden Retriever puppy

In Week 6 of training your golden retriever puppy, we’ll do more training on a walk, push (or drop, or stick) to polish on exercises your clever puppy has already learnt. It will also be time to check their teeth!

Socialisation exercises to do this weekTraining to do this weekHusbandry Tasks to do this week
– Tick 3 things off your personal checklist– Following on walks
– Push/drop/stick on known exercises
– Check puppy’s mouth

Socialisation Exercises To Do this week

Golden Retrievers are like the dolphins of the earth. But once they do get in the water, they will actually seem like dolphins…water is just their biggest fascination. Go figure – it’s what they were bred to do! That being said, none of them are actually aquatic animals, so teaching them some rules and safety around water might be something you want to do this week. 

  • Tick 3 more items off your socialisation checklist

Training To Do this week

  • Following on walks – This week you’ll be teaching your Golden Retriever puppy that they should follow you. Not only that, but that it’s fun to follow you, and not the lady from up the road. 
  • Push/drop/stick – Remember to keep things interesting and increase the difficulty of exercises so that your Golden Retriever puppy doesn’t get bored.

Husbandry Tasks To Do this week

  • Begin inspecting your puppy’s mouth and teeth – This is important to do while your dog is still young. Golden retrievers can develop dental problems and bad teeth as they age (ew), so prevention and getting them used to having their teeth checked while they’re young is the best way to go. No one likes a snog with stinky breath.

Week 7 – Training your Golden Retriever puppy

In Week 7 of training your Golden Retriever Puppy, we’ll get to walk with your friend and their dog, and let your puppy off the lead. Yay to having friends! But then again, everything can go wrong. It’s alright though – we’ve got you covered with the Zigzag puppy training app. Our team of Puppy Training experts if you’re not sure about getting friendly with other dogs. No real advice on human friendships though.

Socialisation exercises to do this weekTraining to do this weekHusbandry Tasks to do this week
– Puppy Parkour
– Tick 3 things off your personal checklist
– Wait
– Walk with a friend’s dog
– Recall – off the lead
– Push/drop/stick on known exercises
– Pretend eardrops

Socialisation Exercises To Do this week

  • Have a go at puppy agility – or Puppy Parkour! Any training that you can do with your puppy that’s fun, will help your relationship and get them focussed on you more.
  • Tick 3 things off your personal socialisation checklist: what about booking your Golden Retriever puppy in for a swimming lesson? Bet you’re going to die of cuteness.

Training To Do this week

  • Teach your Golden Retriever puppy to stay – No, they don’t need to always join you in the bathroom *aherm*.
  • Go for a walk with a friend’s dog – What could be more fun? Friends, dogs, coffee… life doesn’t get much better. 
  • Recall – off the lead – This will come in handy on that walk with your friends. Let’s not cause a scene when your puppy won’t come back! But the combination of treats, toys and some indoor and garden recall practice will get your puppy more than set. 
  • Push/drop/stick on known exercises – keep it spicy!

Husbandry Tasks To Do this week

  • Pretend ear drops – It’s worth doing these with an empty bottle of ear drops, just in case they have any ear problems later on. It’s simple to do just watch:
    • Treat your Golden Retriever puppy when you lift their ear. After a few goes they’ll not mind you lifting it. 
    • Then try it with an empty bottle and keep those treats coming. You’ll need to practise this many times so that they enjoy you checking their ears over.

Week 8 – Training your Golden Retriever puppy

In Week 8 you can start working on some new skills like a hand target, generalising to different places, and teaching your Golden Retriever to use their talented nose and search skills.

Socialisation exercises to do this weekTraining to do this weekHusbandry Tasks to do this week
– Joggers and Cyclists
– Tick 3 things off your personal checklist
– Practice exercises in different locations
– Teach a hand target
– Introduce nose work
– Push/drop/stick on known exercises
– Nail trims

Socialisation Exercises To Do this week

  • Joggers and Cyclists – Those that whizz by in neon outfits. It’ll be important to teach your Golden Retriever to simply ignore these park goers because they just don’t need a running partner. You’ll use your trusty treats to reward your puppy for ignoring them or focusing on you instead.
  • Tick 3 things off your personal socialisation checklist – What will it be this week? A trip to the beach? Or how about taking the train? If your puppy finds noises frightening, make sure you don’t overwhelm them. You can always make it a little noisier later on. Perhaps revisit some sound habituation in the Zigzag Puppy Training App.

Training To Do this week

  • Practice exercises in different locations – You’ll quickly find that generalisation is so important. After all, only knowing how to sit in the kitchen and nowhere else is no good, is it? 
  • Teach a hand target  – An excellent basis for lots of tricks as well as a confidence builder, and recall cue. Can you tell I like this exercise a lot? Your puppy will too.
  • Introducing nose work to your puppy – Golden Retrievers have exceptional noses and make great hunting and tracking dogs. They will naturally excel at this exercise so definitely start introducing them to it now.

Husbandry Tasks To Do this week

  • Trim your Golden Retriever puppy’s claws – You’ve already done fantastic at practising the  claw clipping, now try it for real! Just the little sharp ends will do for now.

What’s next for your Golden Retriever puppy?

Ah. You can breathe a sigh of relief. Remember how Golden Retrievers love to learn? They’ll be happy to collect the post for you one day. 

Now that you know the big (or shall we say…huge) picture of training, why not have a look at some of the other training you can do with your Golden Retriever puppy in the Zigzag puppy training app

You’ll find a lot more in-depth training, games and socialisation advice tailored just for Golden Retrievers. If you run into some training hiccups, our team of experts will be happy to help you along every step of the way, they’d love to hear from you!

And remember: although the road might look long and wonky, like a Zigzag, it is full of laughter, good memories and joy. Trust us, there’s nothing like it. Looking for more great puppy training tips? Check out our overview of when to start teaching your puppy anything, next.