Before you begin any advanced training with your Golden Retriever it’s a good idea to make sure he knows some basic obedience training.
If your Golden knows commands such as Sit, Lie Down, Come, Stay, how to walk on a loose leash, and Heel, then his advanced training will go more smoothly. You will be able to give him a simple command and expect him to comply without having to stop and teach it to him before you commence the advanced lesson.
Basic obedience commands are typically taught to dogs on-leash. Commands such as teaching your golden retriever to Come, walk on a loose leash, and Heel rely on using the leash (or a long rope in the case of the Come command). You may practice off-leash to some extent during basic training, but most training is done with your dog on the leash.
In advanced training, it will become important for your golden retriever to be able to follow all commands off-leash. Your dog will have to be reliable off-leash. This means you and your dog need to keep practicing all of the basic obedience commands on and off-leash. Off-leash training will require “proofing.”
Proofing Your Dog
Proofing your golden retriever means that you will need to train with an increasing amount of distractions in order to make sure he will follow your commands under any and all circumstances. You can start by training in your own fenced yard or another enclosed area so your dog cannot get away when he is off the leash.
Then, move to other enclosed areas that are less familiar such as a friend’s yard or an enclosed park. Your dog may not be as responsive at first because of the unfamiliarity of the site and the increased distractions so keep your expectations low at first. Repeat lessons as much as necessary.
You will have to continue to proof your golden retriever in various locations. Be very cautious before trying to train with your dog off-leash in any open areas. You should be absolutely certain that your dog will obey you before you risk training in an open area or your dog might decide to chase a ball that’s tossed in your direction or run after a squirrel.
There are lots of distractions in any open area and you can’t anticipate all of them. Most trainers will tell you that proofing is something you should continue to do with your dog throughout his life to remind him to obey you off-leash. Some dogs can forget their lessons if they don’t get refresher courses periodically.
The “Stand” Command
Stand is not a difficult command to teach, though it’s not always taught as a basic command. Show golden retriever puppies typically learn this command when they are very young so breeders, handlers, judges, and others can evaluate their conformation. But the command comes in very handy for other purposes, too. The Stand command is useful when you take your dog to the veterinarian or to a pet groomer, for example. A dog that will stand still and let someone touch them and go over their body is much easier for these professionals to handle.
You can teach your golden retriever to stand from the sitting position. With your dog sitting, hold a treat at the level of his nose, about six inches away from his face. Give the command “Stand” and slowly move the treat away from your dog’s face, keeping it level with his nose. Your dog should begin to lean forward and then stand in order to follow the treat.
Once your golden retriever is standing, you should give him an enthusiastic “Yes!” and praise him, then give him the treat. Keep repeating so your dog learns to associate the command “Stand” with the action. You can gradually start reducing the treats. However, if your dog is in a stressful situation, such as when he’s at the vet or going to the groomer, you can always give him a few treats to help reduce the stress.
The “Go To Your Place” Command
Training your golden retriever to go to his place, or the “Place” command, is one of the most useful commands you can teach your Golden. It has many applications but it’s especially helpful when you are answering the door. Many dogs become very excited when someone knocks at the door or when you have visitors.
The door is open and, in the bustle, golden retrievers often escape outside, especially an exuberant, energetic dog like a Golden Retriever. Or, dogs can jump up and knock someone down, especially kids or seniors. If you can tell your dog to go to his place, i.e., to his bed or a mat that you have designated, and stay there until you release him, it is safer for your dog and for your guests.
Your dog needs to know the Lie Down and the Stay commands before he can learn the Place command.
To teach your golden retriever the Place command, attach the leash to his collar. Tell him “Place” and lead him to the spot you have chosen for this command. It can be his bed or a mat in another room but wherever you choose, you should use the same spot each time you practice the lesson. When you reach the spot, tell your dog, “Yes!” and give him a treat. Keep repeating this part of the lesson until he understands what you mean when you tell him “Place.”
Then, you can remove the leash and give him the command. If he goes to the bed or mat, tell him “Yes!” and reward him. If not, re-attach the leash and keep practicing. Once your golden retriever will reliably go to the mat off-leash when you give him the “Place” command, you can add the Lie Down and Stay commands. Start out with just a short stay of about 15 seconds and then say, “Yes!” and reward your dog. Then give him a release to get up using a word like “Okay!”
You should repeat the entire lesson, with the Lie Down and Stay command, until your dog can stay in his place for about three minutes. You can gradually lengthen the amount of time your dog stays in his place.
There are many other benefits of your golden retriever knowing the Place command. If you’re in the kitchen cooking, it can be a good idea to send your dog to his place so he’s not underfoot, for example. If you’re putting up the Christmas tree, your Golden might be better off in his place. You get the idea.
The “Touch” Command
The Touch command is another very useful command. If you intend to do agility or other dog sports with your golden retriever, then this command comes in handy as you teach your dog to touch pieces of equipment to earn as many points as possible, or to go to a certain spot on an apparatus. But the command is also useful at home. You can train your dog to move where you indicate, for example. Or, you can teach your dog to touch certain items in order to pick them up.
You can teach the touch command quite easily by taking a treat that smells good and rubbing it on your hand. If the treats you usually use aren’t quite appetizing enough, then use something that will get your dog’s attention such as some baked chicken pieces.
Your hand should smell like the treat. Hold your hand out in front of your golden retriever, about one foot from your dog’s muzzle, and tell him, “Touch.” Your dog should lean forward to smell your hand and touch his nose against it. When he does, you should say, “Yes!” and give him the treat.
Keep practicing until your golden retriever will touch your hand whenever you ask. You can start applying the command in various other ways as you try holding your hand to the side of your body when you ask your dog to touch it.
Take it and Leave It
Take it and Leave it can be taught together since they are two sides of the same coin, or two sides of the same command. You can teach the Take it command by holding a treat in your hand in front of your golden retriever. Keep your fist clenched and don’t let your dog have the treat. Your dog can lick your hand, nudge you, poke you with his nose, or hit you with his paw, but keep your hand closed. However, the moment your dog appears to give up, you should praise him, open your hand, and say, “Take it!” Repeat the lesson several times so your dog understands it. Most dogs catch on very quickly.
You can add the Leave it command during subsequent lessons while you have your hand closed. Keep practicing the Leave it command when you have the treat in your hand, too, followed by “Take it!” when you open your palm. You can vary this lesson by placing the treat on the floor and practicing the Take it and Leave it commands. Cover the treat with your foot to hide it, then uncover it to reveal it.
These are important commands for several reasons. The Take it command can be used later to encourage your golden retriever to pick up items to retrieve and fetch. The Leave it command is an important way to keep your dog from eating things that could be poisonous or harmful to him. If you are out walking your dog and he stops to eat something he finds, you can give him the Leave it command to tell him not to bother it.
The Drop it command is different from Leave it. With the Drop it command, your dog already has something in his mouth and you are telling him to give it up. You probably already know that dogs can be reluctant to give things up, whether it’s food, toys, or a stick they find in the yard.
The idea with the Drop it command is to show your dog that you are willing to trade high value treats or very desirable toys with her for the item she has. Once she accepts this concept during training, she should always be willing to drop the item she has when you tell her because she believes there will be a payoff later. Yes, it is bribery, but it works. And if your dog has something she really needs to drop, a little bribery is fine.
You can practice by making sure you have some high value treats with you, ready to use. High value treats are more than your regular training treats. They could be pieces of cheese or meat. Or, you could use your dog’s favorite toy, or anything that she is really crazy about.
When she has a toy or bone that she likes, you can go up to her and offer a trade, saying, “Drop it.” Wave the high value treat or favorite toy in front of her. She might drop the toy she has right away and you can praise her and give her the new treat or toy. Or, she might want to hold on to the toy or bone she has. You might have to find something more appealing to her to get her to trade.
As soon as you can get her to trade with you, give her lots of praise and the high value treats. You will need to repeat this exercise often so she understands that you are not taking something from her. She has to learn that you are giving her something better when you tell her to “Drop it.”
Practice these trades with your dog often so she gets used to the Drop it command and is willing to trade with you. She has to learn to trust that you will always follow through and give her something better when you tell her to drop it. If you continue to practice, your dog will follow the command if she has something dangerous in her mouth later.