Most Golden Retriever puppies leave their mothers and littermates around eight weeks of age. It’s the best time to continue socialization, lay the foundations, and begin training. If you’re a new dog owner, you may be wondering how to survive this crucial time in your new puppy’s development. So, how do you train a Golden Retriever puppy?
To train an 8-week-old Golden Retriever, initiate him to being gently handled, and teach name recognition. Train him early with simple commands using positive reinforcement techniques. Let him know that you are the alpha, be consistent, don’t yell or use physical punishment, and discipline at the moment.
There are three golden rules when training an 8-week-old Golden Retriever:
- Train your puppy young.
- Use consistent training principles.
- Target the five core areas of puppy training.
In this all-new guide, you’ll learn exactly how to train an 8-week-old Golden Retriever by implementing the fundamental principles of dog training. We’ll also cover the first five core training areas you should target as soon as you bring your pup home. These are:
- Potty training
- Crate training
- Bite inhibition
- Leash walking
Welcome to my survival guide on how to train your 8-week-old Golden Retriever. Let’s get started!
At What Age Should You Start Training a Golden Retriever Puppy?
When it comes to Golden Retriever training, the best thing you can do is start early and train young. But how young should they be?
Golden Retriever puppies should start training as soon as you bring them home, usually around 8 weeks old. It doesn’t mean that older puppies or adult dogs cannot train; it just means that it’s much easier to train dogs when they’re young as they’re more receptive and eager to learn.
When bringing a Golden Retriever pup home, the first key milestone is around eight weeks of age, as soon as they have left their mother. It’s an important time to lay the foundation for your puppy to integrate into the family.
At 8 weeks old, your Golden Retriever has most likely interacted with several situations and is eager enough to learn and follow your house rules.
A recent study scientifically proved that 8-week-old puppies are quite capable of learning at this young age as they quickly learned to open a puzzle box lured with food and could even remember the skill an hour later. Interestingly, these puppies learned the task better from a human rather than their mother.
Other studies have also proven that it’s beneficial to socialize and teach puppies new skills for their future behavior. In this study, puppies who attended a command and socialization training class for one hour a day for six months responded better to strangers than adult dogs who attended the same classes.
Are Golden Retriever Puppies Easy to Train?
Golden Retriever puppies are easy to train to basic or advanced obedience standards. They enjoy physical activity and have many favorable traits as a gundog bred to retrieve downed game birds. They are friendly and gentle and often train as assistance or detection dogs due to their easy trainability.
Apart from starting training while young, other breed-specific reasons make training a Golden Retriever puppy easy. Here are three examples:
- Golden Retrievers are among the smartest dog breeds. In his book, The Intelligence of Dogs, canine psychologist Stanley Coren ranks Goldens fourth of the brightest working dogs. So, even at just two months old, your puppy has it in his genes to learn and execute commands.
- To perform their original hunting job of retrieving felled ducks and other game birds in the Scottish marshland, Golden Retrievers had to be watchful, eager, and energetic. These are primary learning attributes.
- Golden Retrievers also have advanced skills as gundogs. They can interpret and respond to their hunter’s body language, such as gesturing and pointing and easily understand human voice commands. They also have to excel at obedience. These are core training requirements that make your Golden Retriever easy to train.
To succeed in your training mission, however, there are specific principles you need to follow. Read about these key training standards in the next section.
Key Principles of Golden Retriever Puppy Training
The purpose of any dog training is to have behavioral skills mastered. As in human schooling, a good trainer understands that the trainee learns better when treated well, using patience, positivity, consistency, and healthy regard for the subject’s feelings.
I explain these training requirements in my 10 key principles of successful Golden Retriever puppy training.
Initiate Your Puppy to Being Handled Gently
Golden Retrievers are excellent at cuddling and showing affection. However, they also have to handle grooming, making them feel uncomfortable. Your Golden Retriever can learn to manage this uneasiness if exposed to handling when young.
In one study, puppies subjected to early gentling behaved more calmly at 8 weeks old than puppies not experiencing early handling. You can continue to hold your pup gently as soon as you arrive home.
Teach Name Recognition
How does your Golden Retriever puppy know you are talking to him if you only make commands? It would be best to teach him his name as this is the foundation for his future training. Say his name first, then give the command. That way, your pup knows to answer when you call.
Assert Yourself as the Alpha Leader
In dog training, your Golden Retriever must know that you are the boss from the start. Set rules and boundaries, and be consistent and fair. If you do this correctly, your puppy won’t behave without first looking up to you and seeking your approval. He will respect you as being top of the hierarchy.
Never mistake being the alpha with punishment. A good leader is fair and doesn’t use fear or physical chastisement. It will only cause resentment. An alpha leader is calm and assertive, teaches his dog to be happily submissive, and approves of the behavior.
Start With Basic Skills and Commands
If you intend to make your Golden Retriever the smart dog who hears “AHH AHH!” or “NO!” and stop the unwanted behavior, you need to start with baby steps by teaching basic commands and skills.
Teach your puppy first to obey simple commands such as “no,” “sit,” “come,” “stay,” and “down.” Advanced training should only begin at six months old. Some examples of advanced commands are “leave it,” “fetch,” “quiet, ” “find it,” and “heel.”
Use Positive Reinforcement
Positive reinforcement or rewards-based training is an essential approach in dog training. Rewards reinforce the behavior, and you can use treats, a favorite toy, or activity, in conjunction with lots of verbal praise.
So, if you are training your puppy to retrieve a toy, support him with an enthusiastic “good boy” or “yes” compliment and reward him with a treat at that precise moment. Once you’ve executed the command a few times, your Golden Retriever knows that bringing you the toy is a good thing because it also produces positive outcomes.
Only Give a Command Once
When it comes to training, you reap what you sow! If you train your Golden Retriever puppy to listen to commands three or four times before responding, that’s exactly what he will learn!
This is known as command nagging and is when your puppy doesn’t respond to a cue, so you keep repeating it! By repeating the command, you’ve unintentionally taught your Golden that he doesn’t have to react immediately.
Teach your pup to heed a command the first time you say it. First, you need to get your dog’s attention by calling out his name. Then make lots of eye contact. If your Golden Retriever doesn’t perform the command, show him what you want him to do and make the command again. Repeat until he learns to obey the first time you give the cue.
Discipline at the Precise Moment of the Unwanted Behavior
Timing is pivotal when disciplining your Golden Retriever. It’s no good telling him “no” minutes after the unwanted behavior as he won’t understand what he’s done wrong! Dogs have poor short-term memory and will typically forget an experience in 2 minutes, as discovered in this experiment.
However, dogs can recall your training commands through associative memory, which means they remember based on associations and not memories. For example, if you put your shoes on and grab your car keys, your Golden Retriever knows you are going out.
Once your puppy has corrected his undesirable behavior with the required behavior, reward him with a high-value treat and heaps of praise.
For a greater insight into this topic, check out this guide, How to Discipline a Golden Retriever: And What Not to Do!
Don’t Use Physical Punishment or Yell
Never physically punish or yell at your Golden Retriever as aversive training methods only provoke fear and distrust. It can also cause defensively aggressive behavior in dogs, as found in this year-long study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania, particularly the aggressive techniques known as the “alpha roll” and yelling “no!”
Using aversive training techniques such as hitting, kicking, or grabbing the jowls and shaking, is simply animal cruelty. Other unacceptable confrontational methods include growling at your dog, forcefully removing an object from the mouth, withdrawing food, staring, using a shock collar, or tying your dog for hours.
Be Consistent in Your Training
If your Golden barks for a treat one day and you say “no” and withhold it till he is quiet, but you give it to him while barking a few hours later, you’ll never achieve any positive results with your training! Your dog needs to have consistency, which means everyone else in the household.
Make sure your “no” always mean “no,” otherwise, your poor puppy will be confused. Dogs need simple training instructions, and everyone should also use the same verbal and non-verbal cues. Perform the same basic commands every day. Don’t skip a couple of days, as this will never work.
Don’t make training sessions too long as your 8-week-old Golden Retriever has a short attention span. Once he has made some progress, don’t keep repeating the command. At this young age, ten 1-2 minute sessions are far better than a ten-minute session.
Wean Your Puppy off Training Treats
Your Golden Retriever will eventually need to learn that he doesn’t only obey commands for a treat. For this reason, it is important to wean your puppy off treats when he has repeatedly performed the desired behavior and mastered it, including in different locations and with various distractions.
You’ll need to find what else motivates your dog to comply, irrespective of whether he sees any rewards upfront, such as food. Other alternatives are attention, playtime, affection, or exercise, such as a game of “fetch” or his favorite walk.
With these ten principles, you can now apply them to the essential areas that you need to train your 8-week-old Golden Retriever puppy in first.
8 Week Old Golden Retriever Puppy Training: Key Areas
You must duly train your 8-week-old Golden Retriever puppy in five critical areas. In the next section, you’ll discover what training entails for each area.
How to Socialize a Golden Retriever Puppy
Dogs are social creatures, especially the Golden Retriever, who is super friendly, good-natured, and loves to be around you. Socialization begins with the breeder from around three weeks of age and continues with you until he’s approximately twelve weeks. So, how do you socialize a Golden once you’ve brought him home?
To socialize a Golden Retriever, expose him to many different experiences, places, and situations. Include noises, smells, other people, children, babies, animals, cars, bicycles, objects, the weather, etc. Each experience should be positive, don’t rush the process, and your puppy will thrive.
Early socializing and training your Golden Retriever plays a significant role in developing adult dogs, as found in this exciting study. Check out these two important findings:
- Dogs socialized well as puppies are less likely to display unwanted behavioral problems such as fear and aggression.
- Socialized dogs are more likely to engage in positive social behaviors with humans. They also learn better how to play games, helping them establish a real bond with their owners.
Socialization will make your puppy feel confident around people and teach him to engage in his new world happily.
You can teach your Golden Retriever social skills and confidence through intentional training moments in the family. While it only takes a few weeks to socialize your pup, the lessons he’ll learn will steer him for life.
My best tips:
- Take one step at a time.
- Don’t overwhelm your puppy.
- Stick to his pace.
- Don’t try to force anything.
- Use positive reinforcement.
I often get asked whether you can socialize your puppy before his final vaccinations. The answer is “yes,” but with a few caveats!
Don’t allow your Golden to mix with another dog with unknown vaccination status or go to the dog park where dogs have fouled. Take him to non-doggy places or carry him where necessary.
How to Potty Train an 8-Week-Old Golden Retriever
Your Golden Retriever will definitely leave those little packages around the house if you don’t teach him where to potty, and they are not a pleasant sight or smell!
To potty train an 8-week-old Golden Retriever, create a separate area where you want your puppy to go, establish a routine, and start with hourly potty breaks. Supervise your puppy at all times, learn to spot the signs, and never punish him after an accident. Give lots of rewards and praise when he goes.
When housetraining your Golden Retriever, there are certain things that you shouldn’t do.
Learn Common Dog Housetraining Mistakes In This Video…
- Don’t give your pup too much freedom early on. Keep him on a leash, or when you can’t supervise him, in a crate, playpen, or a puppy-proofed room.
- Don’t expect your Golden Retriever to let you know when he needs to go! Many new dog owners fall for this – your puppy has to learn to tell you he needs the toilet.
- Make sure you take your puppy outside often enough. Stick to your schedule!
- Don’t expect your dog to generalize too quickly. He won’t automatically know that the whole house is a no-go area. It is a gradual process for him to grasp this.
- Don’t rely on correcting your puppy too much instead of teaching him. You should learn to anticipate when your Golden Retriever needs to go – it’s not his fault if he has an accident, but yours!
- Don’t have unrealistic expectations. It may take a few weeks to master potty training, not days!
- Don’t let your pup see you put down potty pads. If using potty pads, don’t let your dog see you put them down, or he may think they are a toy and will want to play with them or rip them up.
In time, you’ll get to know your pet’s potty routine. Usually, puppies will need to go early in the morning, after a meal, and after a play session. Use their natural rhythm for daily poop walks.
Here’s an example practicable routine you could use to potty-train your 8-week-old Golden Retriever:
- Walk your puppy first thing in the morning and before bedtime to give him a chance to relieve himself. Dogs hate messing in their sleeping area, and most will usually hold it.
- Walk your Golden after his morning meal and hang around for 15 minutes or so to allow him to poop. Do the same in the evening.
- Puppies need to be allowed to relieve themselves every hour, and a short walk every 2-3 hours is an ideal routine.
- If you crate your puppy when going out, get friends or family to help you stick to your routine. Repeating this routine for the first few days will give your new pup a pretty good idea of your expectations.
How to Crate Train a Golden Retriever Puppy
Crate training is an essential element of potty training, but it also benefits your Golden Retriever’s safety and comfort when he is alone.
To crate train a Golden Retriever puppy, get him used to the crate by letting him explore it. When he is happy to go in and out freely, introduce treats or feed inside, and close the door; that way, he associates nice things with his crate. Gradually increase the time he spends inside with the door closed.
Here are seven fundamental principles when crate-training your Golden Retriever:
- Let your puppy sleep in the crate at night. Don’t let him sleep in your bed, but you can have the crate near you if he needs to go to the toilet.
- Initiate crate training on the very first day. It will be harder to succeed if he gets accustomed to other sleeping arrangements! You will undoubtedly hear your 8-week-old Golden Retriever cry during the first night, but don’t worry, as this is quite common and to be expected. My puppy cried during the early hours of the first night, but then, she was just fine.
- Don’t over-crate your dog. A rough guideline for puppies to be left alone in a crate is one hour for each month of age, up to four hours.
- Keep your puppy in the crate when unsupervised. For example, when leaving him alone and for safety reasons, such as when you’re cooking.
- Don’t let your Golden Retriever out of the cage when he engages in demand barking. It only sends a message that he can get his way. Instead, reward good behavior in the crate, i.e., as soon as he stops barking. He will quickly associate that being quiet leads to positive things.
- Keep your dog’s crate in the same place to avoid confusion. He will quickly learn that this is his particular spot. Interesting toys and comfy bedding will offer some solace for your Golden Retriever.
- Drape a blanket over half of the crate to give it a “den-like” feel. Dogs are denning animals, so they often go underneath tables or desks.
Watch How To Crate Train Your Pup In This Video…
When buying a crate for your puppy, you should choose a size that will give him plenty of room to stand, sit, turn, and lie down comfortably on his side with paws outstretched. A size 42″ is best for Golden Retrievers.
There shouldn’t be too much room for a young puppy to discourage him from pooping down the other end of the crate! Instead, buy a crate with an adjustable divider that allows him to grow into it.
My favorite is the MidWest Homes for Pets Dog iCrate from Amazon, as it has everything you need, including a divider and a handy removable wipe-clean plastic pan. It’s strong, sturdy, ideal for medium-large breed dogs, and easy to put up as you don’t need any tools. There’s also the option of either a single or double door.
Travel kennels like this Petmate Ultra Vari Kennel (check price on Amazon) are also hardy when you are on the move with your dog. This one is also airline adaptable and meets most airline cargo specifications.
How to Train a Golden Retriever Puppy Not to Bite
Biting is all part of being a dog, and it’s normal for puppies to want to explore their new world with their mouths or during teething. Older dogs will refrain from biting because they have learned their bite inhibition, often called “soft mouth.” It just means that the dog has learned to control the strength of his bite.
To train a Golden Retriever puppy not to bite, let out a loud yelp such as “ouch” when he bites. This sends a message that the bite hurts. Persist by leaving your hand in his mouth to prevent chase drive until he releases. Then, give praise and redirect the biting with a chew toy.
When your puppy gets the hang of repeatedly letting go, and his bite becomes softer, this is a good sign that he is beginning to learn his bite inhibition.
Helping a dog learn to curb the force of his bite is necessary to living with humans. All puppies need to master this technique that they initially began learning from their mother and siblings.
Here’s an excellent short video on acquired bite inhibition. It includes information on why puppies bite, and interestingly, why we shouldn’t try to stop it, and how to train puppies their bite inhibition:
Training your Golden Retriever puppy soft bite must be done in puppyhood as an adolescent dog will not be able to adjust the force of his jaws when he has adult teeth and jaw muscles. This can be a traumatic situation for you both should your dog go on to bite, especially if it’s a child.
Remember to have realistic expectations, as it can take your puppy weeks to learn his bite inhibition.
How to Train a Golden Retriever Puppy to Walk on a Leash
Walking on a leash is not a natural ability in puppies – they need to learn it, but it’s easier than you may think!
To train a Golden Retriever puppy to walk on a leash, practice at home first by introducing him to a collar and/or harness. Teach a leash cue, and start very short walks. If the pup pulls, don’t yank or drag the leash; stand fast and wait for him to come back to you. Reward with a treat and praise.
Review the following steps:
- Introduce your Golden Retriever puppy to a harness and/or collar and leash by first allowing him to get used to it gradually. You can do this by letting him wear them inside the house or yard for a few minutes. I find the best harnesses to be front-attached as they discourage pulling, such as the Walk Your Dog With Love No-Pull Harness. I use this one as it gives you more control, is inexpensive, and comes in various colors and styles.
- Teach a leash cue to call your puppy’s attention when you want to put the leash on. It could be a “come” while holding the leash, but most dogs will soon learn to associate the sound of you picking up his leash and collar with a walk. Give a treat when your dog obeys the command.
- Introduce your Golden Retriever to short outside walks on his leash. It’s unavoidable your puppy will get distracted and will try to pull. Don’t jerk the leash back, but stand still until he comes back towards you on his own accord. If it appears he is about to lunge toward another dog or object, don’t worry, as this is only natural until he is properly socialized. Anticipate the behavior and quickly distract him with a treat. Timing is the crucial part. Reward him every time commands are obeyed and gradually reduce the rewards as the art of leash walking is perfected.
Let’s Wrap This Up
A Golden Retriever puppy at 8 weeks old is the perfect time to train in key areas such as socialization, crate training, potty training, bite inhibition, and walking on the leash.
Follow the excellent training principles above and use reward-based training to train your puppy in these areas successfully. Be consistent in your commands, and always discipline at the precise moment of unwanted behavior.
Are you looking for a puppy training schedule? Check out my seriously ridiculous guide, Golden Retriever Puppy Training Schedule: Month-by-Month Plan.