How To Train A Golden Retriever Puppy?
[And Many Tips]

Aaron Rice Expert Dog Trainer
Written: January 17, 2022

So you want to learn how to train your Golden Retriever? Using my expertise as a professional dog trainer, I’ve compiled the top things you need to know to train your new puppy with ease. 

Read on to find out more! 

Originally bred to retrieve shot waterfowl by hunters (hint: that’s how they got their name), Golden Retrievers are highly trainable. Lovable, friendly, and eager to please, you and your golden puppy are about to begin the adventure of a lifetime. 

I’ve been helping pet parents train their Goldens for years, and the #1 mistake I see is an assumption that their puppy will essentially “train itself.” 

Golden Retrievers are notoriously jovial and well-behaved, but they require your assistance to get there, which begins with proper puppy training from day one. 

Wondering when to start training?

If you got your dog from a reputable breeder, hopefully, they started training before you picked them up with things like mild crate and potty training and correcting behaviors. If you got your pup from a shelter or rescue facility, this might not be the case. 

Either way, it’s important to note that dogs should not be separated from their mother and littermates until at the very least 7-8 weeks of age, ideally after three months old. Personally, I say the later, the better. 

Give your puppy their best chance at happiness by allowing them to spend those full 8 weeks with their biological family. They’ll still bond to you quickly once you bring them home, and you’ll be ensuring you don’t have to deal with any behavioral issues down the road. 

Must-Have Supplies for Smart Puppy Training

Before your puppy arrives home, you’ll want to pick up a few items.

  • Crate – Be sure to buy some soft bedding to make it extra cozy.
  • Baby gates – Not mandatory, but will help prevent your favorite throw pillow from being chewed when you can’t be there to supervise your puppy 100% of the time.
  • Indoor leash – This is helpful to use for indoor training purposes.
  • Outdoor leash – Should be shorter than the indoor leash.
  • Healthy food – Always check ingredients when purchasing food and treats. Many companies advertise healthy options, but the ingredients are all filler. You can also check with your breeder/veterinarian to see what they suggest.
  • Treats – You’ll want plenty of these on hand for training and reward purposes. Again, be sure to check the ingredients before buying—the fewer, the better! Also, consider purchasing a variety of treats. Smaller, low-calorie treats are great for training so that you can save the juicy ones for high-value treat time.
  • Toys – Golden Retriever puppies have lots of energy! You’ll want to have an abundance of plushies, chew toys, and ropes for them to play with (and gnaw on). This will also increase their likelihood of leaving your favorite pair of shoes alone!
  • Dog collar – Your new fur-baby will require a new flat buckle collar with tags. It’s essential to put their collar on when they leave the house, but inside it’s up to you. I like to let my pup feel free at home. That way, when I do put her collar on, it’s exciting because she knows it means we’re going outside. The choice is yours. In any event, you’ll want to get your new pup at least used to their collar, so let them spend some time wearing it.
  • Dog brushes – This is an important tool in keeping your Golden’s coat shiny and healthy. There are many varieties here, so be sure to do your research to find the best one. I like the hair removal glove. That way, I can pet my dog and brush her at the same time.

Phew! Now that we’ve got that settled, it’s time to learn the 4 basics of training your Golden Retriever puppy: crate training, potty training, leash training, and socialization.

Crate Train Your Golden

Learning how to crate train a golden retriever puppy is not as challenging as you might think. With a little diligence and forethought, you can get your puppy started on the right paw from day one. 

It’s crucial to begin crate training your puppy the first night. It’s tempting to get caught up in the excitement of bringing your new dog home for the first time, but you’ll thank me later if one of the first things you do is introduce your puppy to their crate.

Begin With Short Training Sessions  

Your baby Golden should feel the crate is their home, not a prison. Short sessions in the crate will help establish this connection.

To give your new puppy a chance to explore their crate, leave the door open and let them sniff around. Place some plush toys, treats, or food in there so that they associate it with feeling happy.

Then shut the door for 10 minutes. You can reward them with treats while they are in the crate to reinforce the comforting connection of being inside it. 

When the time is up, open the door and sit with them. Be sure to give lots of hugs and snuggles—no need to provide them with a treat at this point. Your love is the reward! 

Be sure to repeat this process a few times throughout the day.

First Night In Their Forever Home

Your new pup will have their first night’s sleep in the new crate to which you’ve slowly acclimated them throughout the day. 

The early stages of raising a puppy are not so different from bringing a newborn human home. Your puppy will wake up in the night, so be prepared. If you’re lucky, it will only be once or twice. 

Upon rising the next day, you may find that your puppy has had a little accident in their crate. This is normal! Please do not scold or punish your puppy for this. It would be akin to punishing a newborn for going potty in their diaper. 

To attempt to correct this behavior in a punishing manner is not only ineffective but potentially damaging to the psyche of your new puppy and will undermine the relationship you’re attempting to build. 

No matter their age, always be gentle and loving with your pets!

Now that you’ve learned the basics of crate training. It’s time to move on to the most critical step in training your Golden Retriever. 

Potty Training Your Golden

Potty training is the most critical stage in your puppy’s development. It will ensure you both lead a very happy (and clean) home life. Sadly, poor potty training practices are one of the top reasons people abandon dogs at shelters.

It’s therefore vital that you spend intentional time potty training your Golden baby. 
Puppies are a lot of work, and it takes time to teach them these necessary basic skills. If neither you nor anyone in your household has the time to spend potty training in those critical first weeks, you will want to strongly consider whether it’s the right time to be getting a puppy. 

That being said, potty training doesn’t have to be a huge headache! With some planning, patience, and practice, your pup will be potty trained in no time, leaving you free to get back to the essential business of playing and cuddling. 

Potty Training Tips 

Tip #1 Puppies Have Teeny Bladders

  • Be conscientious and watch your puppy diligently. They can’t hold their pee for long and must be taken outside often. I recommend taking them out to go potty every hour to start. This will also help get them used to their outdoor potty area and play space.  
  • You’ll want to take your Golden puppy out every time after they play, eat, drink, or wake up from a nap. 

Tip #2 Sometimes It’s Okay To Scold

  • If your puppy happens to pee or poop in a no-go zone (e.g., inside your home), it is okay to scold them—“No, Piper, we do not go potty in the house!” Then lovingly lead your dog outside to familiarize them with where it is appropriate to go potty.
  • If they pooped in the house, I recommend you scoop it and dispose of it outside. Keeping it there for a little while will help your puppy to understand where to go. When they smell their scent next time, they’ll remember, “This is where I go, potty!” 
  • Likewise, be sure to clean any accidents thoroughly so that your puppy doesn’t think that territory has been marked. A good inexpensive solution is white vinegar and water, but there are also various reputable pet cleaner brands on the market. 

Tip #3 No Treats After Potty Time

  • The reward of relieving themselves combined with a loving, “Good girl!” or “Good boy!” from you is more than enough praise to reinforce your furbaby’s proper potty training manners. 
  • Giving a treat after potty time could even work against you as some doggies are extra clever and will fake going to the toilet to get the treat!

A key step in potty training your puppy leads us to our next training step, and one your dog will love: Walks!

Leash Training Your Golden

It’s important to leash-train your baby Golden early on in your relationship. While it is one of the more challenging aspects of training, it can also be one of the most rewarding.

Walk time with you and your pup is a beautiful bonding experience that you’ll learn to cherish every day. Daily walks are not just good for your dog; they’re a great chance for you to get out and stretch your legs and breathe in some fresh air! 

To train your Golden Retriever puppy to walk on a leash, you’ll want to begin by introducing said leash so that they can get comfortable with it before you attach it to their collar. 
Let them sniff and nibble on the leash a little to familiarize themselves with it. Similar to small children, dogs learn about objects in their environment through smell and taste. 

Be ready for your little doggy to be overstimulated on your first walk together. They will be discovering their neighborhood for the first time, and there will be lots of new smells, people, and dogs to meet and greet!

Please note that it is unnecessary to bring treats with you on a walk, even for leash training. The walk itself is enough reward. Also, this may set an annoying precedent that forces you to always walk with treats. 

Helpful Leash Training Tips 

  • Pick a command word like “heel,” “steady,” or “slow. 
  • When your puppy speeds ahead of you, shout the command word. “Piper, HEEL!” 
  • Do not yank forcefully on the leash. You never want to risk harming your little furbaby. Simply tug gently on the leash and wait for them to come back to your side. Once they have, you may proceed with your walk.
  • Continue reinforcing this behavior using your command word, pausing in your walk when they start to get overly excited and running ahead of you. Only continue forward once they’ve calmed down and followed your instruction. 
  • Repeat these steps until your dog gets it! In the beginning, I recommend you take your dog out for short walks (5-10 min), 3-5 times per day. Once your Golden Retriever begins to understand how to walk on a leash, you can lessen the frequency of walks (e.g., 2 walks for 30 mins a day). 

Now that you’ve learned to properly walk your Golden puppy on a leash, it’s time to socialize!

Socializing Your Golden Retriever

The first three months of life are a critical time to begin socializing your puppy. 

Socialization isn’t just about getting along with other dogs. Your pup must become accustomed to other humans, and regular household sounds as well. 

Fortunately for you, Golden Retrievers are one of the most social breeds!

Introducing Your Golden to Household Pets

If you have other pets at home, you’ll want to introduce them to their new roomie gently and over time, particularly if your other pet or pets are rambunctious and excitable. 

Your new Golden buddy is vulnerable at this young age, so be sure to supervise these early interactions to prevent injuries. 

You’ll also want to introduce your puppy to lots of new people, pets, and objects to better familiarize them with the outside world. 

Exposure to Sound

Getting your puppy used to everyday household sounds is strongly advised so that your dog doesn’t end up becoming easily frightened or skittish. 

You can do things like turn on the vacuum for a few seconds, then shut it off when they run away, flush the toilet and turn on the shower in front of your dog, use the blender, and turn the tv up loud. Let them become accustomed to these sounds. 

Above all, if your dog ever displays fear over a sound or an object, do not force it on them. Instead, pick them up and comfort them, placing the item safely away and out of sight. Let your pup return to the object again at a later time and on their terms. 

It can be tempting to get carried away when introducing new sounds, so don’t overdo it! Too many stimuli can be a bad thing. Go slowly and have fun with it. Your dog will pick up on your energy and follow your cues.

One final tip for exposing your Golden to household sounds and objects: Let them explore safely on their own while maintaining constant supervision. Your socks and shoes will thank you!

From Puppy to Adolescent

After one year of life, your puppy graduates to being a teenager! The adolescent period of a Golden Retriever lasts 1-3 years. Your early training should continue to last, but like all teenagers, your dog may decide to test some boundaries. 

For this reason, you’ll want to continue to encourage the good behaviors you taught them when they were young. You may need to reinforce old commands or resocialize your adolescent Golden with other humans and dogs. 

Above all, don’t give up. If you call your dog over and they don’t come, keep at it until they do. If you let them get away with not listening to you, they’ll learn that they can do whatever they please. This will undermine your authority in the home and lead to a regression of bad behaviors. 

A Final Word to the Retriever Savvy

Training your Golden Retriever can be challenging, but ultimately it will be one of the most beneficial experiences of your life. Our pets teach us so much about being present and remembering to stop and smell the roses (or that weird blob on the sidewalk). 
Let your intuition guide you when communicating with your dog. Each pup is different and comes with its own unique personality. In the end, they’re not so different from we humans! Your dog will have likes and dislikes, quirks, and eccentricities. Learn from your Golden just as your pup is learning from you. 

As your dog gets older, remember to continue to spend intentional time together, playing, walking, snuggling, and having fun. Dogs live in the Now, and rightly so, considering it’s the only time that actually exists! 

The past is gone, and the future is not yet written, so when you feel yourself getting stressed or pulled in multiple directions, take a cue from your dog. Go for a walk, play with a friend, or take a nap. You’ll be glad you did, and your lovable Golden Retriever will reap the benefits of extra quality time with their loving and conscientious pet-parent.