The short answer to “are golden retrievers easy to train?” is – yes. But the answer isn’t universal.
Golden retrievers are famous for their wonderful temperament and intelligence, which make them easier to train than most breeds.
However, every dog is unique, and genetics don’t guarantee training success. A golden retriever’s obedience depends on its socialization, age, and personality peculiarities.
The owner’s effort also plays a role in the training results. An experienced trainer can discipline any dog, whereas first-time owners may struggle to teach an obedient, calm dog essential commands.
Any dog can be disciplined, but the time required for training is hard to predict. Don’t expect a dog to train itself – it’s always a challenge.
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The Most Trainable Dogs
According to American Kennel Club, golden retrievers are among the most trainable dogs. Golden retrievers are eager to please the owner and regularly win AKC obedience championships. They make perfect service, hunting and working dogs.
Golden retrievers are ranked fourth on the most trainable dog breed list, meaning they are easier to train than an average dog. Goldens have all the temperament traits necessary for successful training.
But contrary to a common misconception, golden retrievers aren’t born well-behaved and familiar with all commands. Like every dog, they require extensive training to grow up polite, friendly, obedient, gentle dogs.
Most golden retrievers you’ve encountered are likely well-behaved and well-groomed, but they aren’t born this way. A dog’s behavior largely depends on its owner’s efforts.
Still, teaching a golden retriever to behave well in public and obey commands is easier than training an English bulldog or Afghan hound. For this reason, golden retrievers are an excellent breed for first-time dog owners.
Bred To Hunt
Golden retrievers are a hunting breed and have all it takes to be perfect gundogs. Most hunting dog breeds are intelligent, obedient, friendly, and empathetic, and golden retrievers aren’t an exception.
A disobedient, stubborn dog is a hunter’s nightmare. Such a dog can scare away all prey, jump on other hunters, be aggressive towards other dogs, and run around, ignoring the owner’s commands.
Obedience is deeply rooted in golden retriever genes. These dogs were bred to retrieve waterfowl, and evolutionary developed a great understanding of what behavior is acceptable and what isn’t.
Hunting dogs must be loyal. As a rule of thumb, the more loyal a dog, the better trainable it is. Dogs with a strong bond with their owners are more eager to please and trust humans without hesitation.
Golden retrievers are some of the most loyal dogs. They are affectionate and loving, ready to do anything for their favorite human.
Still, you should remember that a dog’s ancestry doesn’t define it as an individual. Not every show or pet-class golden retriever inherits its hunting ancestor traits.
Golden retrievers continuously prove their right for the most obedient dog breed title by winning American Kennel Club obedience championships. In 2018, golden retrievers earned three out of four final prizes.
A golden retriever Layla was the fourth, Beacon second, and the first place belonged to Streak. The third position belonged to a Labrador retriever – the breed’s temperament is highly similar to that of golden retrievers.
In 2020, a golden retriever Daniel won the sporting group of obedience championship at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, and in 2021, a golden retriever Juicy became the victor of the 2021 AKC National Obedience Championship.
These are only a few examples. If you check AKC Obedience Championship results for any year, you are likely to spot at least one golden retriever in the top five.
Considering that American Kennel Club currently recognizes 197 dog breeds, the odds of one breed constantly winning the competition aren’t high. And yet, golden retrievers always excel.
According to Dr. Stanley Coren’s book, The Intelligence of Dogs, golden retrievers are the fourth smartest dog breed out of 138 breeds participating in the study. The American Kennel Club supports this claim.
Canine intelligence is measured based on how quickly a dog memorizes commands, how often it obeys the orders, how well it communicates with people using body language and vocalization, and how well it resolves complex tasks.
So, at least half of a dog’s intelligence points come from trainability, particularly from memory and obedience. Coren writes that while an average dog can memorize 165 words, golden retrievers can learn over 250 words.
Of course, a dog’s ability to memorize verbal cues doesn’t yet mean it will obey them. But with proper training, golden retrievers obey the owner’s orders without hesitation.
Golden retrievers also have excellent problem-solving skills, which assist in learning complex multi-step tricks.
But intelligence isn’t directly linked with trainability. On the opposite, intelligent dogs may be challenging to train because they may be stubborn and need constant mental stimulation.
To train a golden retriever, you should learn to use its natural intelligence to your advantage and ensure that the dog’s physical and mental stimulation needs are met. Never underestimate a golden retriever’s intelligence – otherwise, the dog may outsmart you.
Golden retriever temperament traits make these dogs highly trainable, but no dog is perfect. One trait that may hinder training success is the high energy level of golden retrievers.
High stamina, agility, and athleticism are beneficial for hunting dogs but may be problematic for a family dog. Golden retrievers require at least an hour of exercise daily to stay fit and prevent behavioral issues.
An under-exercised golden retriever may engage in mischievous or destructive behavior, which doesn’t help training. They may chew on things, bite, run around as if they have a propeller attached to their tails, dig, and jump on everyone.
Golden retrievers may be uncontrollable during the “teenage rebellion” phase and even in adulthood if they lack exercise.
Ensure that your golden retriever gets enough physical and mental stimulation because a tired dog is an obedient dog.
Are Golden Retrievers Stubborn?
Stubbornness and excessive independence are common problems among intelligent dogs, so you may wonder whether golden retrievers are stubborn. Fortunately, most golden retrievers aren’t.
They have natural needs and will try to fulfill them by any means. For example, if a golden retriever is full of energy, it will try to drain it by running around, ignoring the owner’s commands to stop.
Some people perceive it as stubbornness, but it isn’t. Unlike many dogs that are naturally stubborn, golden retrievers will never do something out of spite.
A golden retriever won’t refuse to do something simply because it doesn’t want to. However, it can refuse to do something because it doesn’t yet know the command or because it can’t concentrate due to bursting energy.
The Owner’s Effort
How long golden retriever training will take largely depends on the owner’s effort. Any dog can be disciplined, regardless of breed, age, and personality; there are no exceptions.
Often, owners categorizing their dogs as stubborn and untrainable unintentionally make mistakes that hinder the training, such as choosing the wrong training methods, rushing the dog to learn too many commands at a time, encouraging unwanted behavior, and being inconsistent.
Training a dog requires discipline from the owner. You should train your dog regularly, be strict, and use consistent responses. This way, you will set your dog up for success.
The training success also depends on how well socialized a dog is. Anxious dogs may be obedient at home but struggle to concentrate on the owner’s commands in public places, so dedicate time to getting your puppy accustomed to unfamiliar people, animals, and environments.
The Dog’s Age
Age affects how easy a golden retriever is to train. Puppies are generally easier to train because they don’t yet have an established personality, particularly during the “angel phase” from two to six months.
At that age, puppies quickly pick up new commands and don’t yet have high physical and mental stimulation needs. At six months old, puppies enter the “teenage rebellion” phase when they may become a bit stubborn and hyperactive.
Training a puppy during the teenage phase can be challenging, so canine behavioral specialists recommend starting the training early. Most golden retrievers become mentally mature at about 18 months old and calm down.
Teaching an old dog new tricks isn’t simple, hence the expression. But it’s still possible with some patience and dedication. Golden retrievers are willing to learn even at an old age, although they don’t pick up new commands as rapidly as puppies.
Are All Golden Retrievers Equally Easy To Train?
The most common mistake in golden retriever training is treating every dog the same. Although most goldens share the same personality traits, certain traits may be more or less prominent in individual dogs.
For example, one puppy from the litter may inherit obedience, intelligence, and a calm temperament, whereas another puppy may be energetic and stubborn. Naturally, the second puppy will be harder to train.
In this sense, dogs aren’t different from people. We tend to inherit the personality traits of our parents, but we’re still unique human beings. For this reason, every golden retriever needs an individual approach.