Temperament and Behavior of the Golden Retriever

The image of a friendly, active Golden Retriever is familiar to anyone who has seen a magazine ad or TV commercial. And there’s a good reason that breed features prominently in so many of them: it’s all true!

Golden Retrievers are one of the most easily trained breeds because they are smart, active and sociable. They take readily to any sort of outdoor activity because they enjoy anything that gets them moving. From their beginning as a derivative of Russian circus dogs in the mid-19th century, they’ve been bred to retrieve. Fetching a tennis ball, jumping short fences and other such activities are a natural extension of retrieving game.

They’re easily socialized and friendly with people and (usually) other animals. Individuals vary, but they typically adapt well to children and other pets. But proper socialization does take a modest amount of training. Golden Retrievers can be territorial and will bark at or chase animals and people who are not part of their regular environment.

In general, they don’t make good watch dogs or guard dogs despite their ready bark. They will definitely alert on the approach of the delivery person, but they also will bark at random movement. Teaching them to tell the difference can be a big challenge. They may bark at a stationary car outside the front screen door or a rabbit darting across the grass outside. Too many false alarms make most of them unsuitable for that role.

Also, since they’re so friendly by nature, they will almost never attack a person. Training them to do so is not consistent with their nature. Though they bark, they rarely bite. Their bark is a greeting, not a warning or a sign of anger. And though they can be mouthy, owing to their breeding history, biting in anger or protection is almost unknown.

They’re among the most intelligent of breeds, though, and can learn a wide variety of behaviors with only modest effort. They’re easily housebroken and will give clear signs (after initial training) that they need to be let outside to eliminate. Training them to fetch is almost automatic, but they can also be taught easily to sit, stay, roll over and more.

Reducing leash tugging for a Retriever, as with many large breeds, can be a challenge. But since they’re eager to please they can be taught to patiently wait at your side, or walk along without pulling forward. Like any training program, this will take a few weeks with most individuals and is best carried out young.

Since they’re so active and energetic by nature, it’s important to give them plenty of room to run and lots of exercise. Inside the house, they can get into trouble without intending to. Their tails wag often because they’re generally a happy and active breed and this is how they express it. That can cause objects to get knocked off the coffee table, or anywhere else low enough for them to reach.

They prefer company and being left alone for long periods is not healthy. If there’s no person at home during the day, having at least one other dog as a partner is best.

They’re best for people who want an active, friendly dog, one they’re willing to devote time and attention to.

5 people thinks stuff!

  1. Yup Hart, Right On!! Sounds like my golden. Gentle, playful, love people…love life!

    Comment by Ruth on February 28, 2008 6:24 am

  2. I like the part about the barking šŸ™‚

    Comment by HART (1-800-HART) on February 28, 2008 7:52 am

  3. I do not necessarily agree that Golden Retrievers are the most easily trained. They are indeed great dogs, however many dog breeds are eager to learn. I personally know that Pomeranians and Chihuahuas , see http://www.petchidog.com , are loyal and obedient. Very trainable.

    Comment by Carol on March 7, 2008 2:55 pm

  4. I own a black Labrador, who much like the golden, is a very popular breed. Training my dog has been one of the biggest joys as a pet parent. Right now I am working on teaching him how to wave hello! If anyone has any tips on making this trick a big success please let me know.


    Comment by Hoosier Dog on May 12, 2008 11:46 pm

  5. I can suggest how I do it (successfully in my mind) with my Papillon dogs. I have trained them to “High Five” me .. when I put my hand up, and say “high five” I repeat it a few times and say “Yeah!” each time šŸ˜€

    But – to wave, I just do the “High Five” but, this time I don’t actually touch my palm of my hand to their paws .. there is space .. and then I do my Queen Elizabeth wave and instead of “Yeah!” I say .. “Good Wave!”

    Now, my wife thinks I’m completely nuts, and reminds me that this is the same as me teaching our Budgie years back to whistle the theme from Star Trek!

    Comment by HART (1-800-HART) on May 13, 2008 1:16 am

What do you think?


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