Golden Retrievers are intelligent, but many owners don’t realize just how intelligent they are. We are here to educate you on your Retriever’s capabilities.
The number of commands a Golden Retriever can learn depends on the complexity of the command. For example, if most commands are one word, they will learn more.
However, if you include phrases, the number of commands they can learn decreases. In total, Golden Retrievers can learn about 250 words.
There is a ton to learn about how to train Golden Retrievers and what they are capable of. Read on below to find out more.
How Do Golden Retrievers Compare to Other Breeds?
Stanley Coren, a renowned psychologist and researcher, wrote his book, The Intelligence of Dogs, to demonstrate the intelligence of specific dog breeds.
Golden Retrievers placed fourth on the list. Most dogs can learn an average of 165 words. Dogs in the top twenty percentile can learn an average of 250 words. Golden Retrievers, being in fourth place in dog intelligence, are in this top twenty percentile.
Golden Retrievers are in the top tier of working dogs. They are able to learn new commands with less than five repetitions. They also obey commands at least 95 percent of the time.
Golden Retrievers aren’t limited to words, though. Coren found that most dogs are capable of very basic math. They can usually learn to count up to four or five. They can also recognize simple arithmetic, such as 1+1.
They are also capable of learning more complex cognitive skills as well.
For example, Golden Retrievers can learn deception, location of valuable items, how to best navigate an environment, how to operate certain mechanisms, and the meaning of various symbolic concepts.
Types of Intelligence in Golden Retrievers
Coren defines a breed’s intelligence by combining three different intelligence categories. These are instinctive, adaptive, and working and obedience intelligence.
Instinctive intelligence is specific to the individual Golden Retriever. It is measured by using a canine IQ test. This is related to the original purpose for the breed. In a Golden Retriever’s case, that is being used as a hunting dog.
Adaptive intelligence is also measured using canine IQ tests and it is also related to the specific animal. This refers to the Golden Retriever’s problem-solving ability in various situations.
For example, a Golden Retriever has joined its owner on a hunt. Its owner has shot down some game and now the Golden Retriever needs to determine how to navigate the environment in order to go collect the game.
Lastly, working and obedience intelligence is specific to the breed rather than the individual dog. This type of intelligence defines how well a Golden Retriever can learn and obey new commands from humans.
For example, this relates to the previously mentioned statistic that shows Golden Retrievers learn new commands within five repetitions, while other breeds may require many more.
Golden Retriever Breed History
Interestingly enough, the Golden Retriever is a breed that came about by accident. Their story begins in 1865. Dudley Coutts Marjoribanks, a wealthy socialite, was on a walk with his son.
It was during this walk that they came across a dog with a golden, wavy coat named Nous. Both of Nous’ parents were black.
What makes this even more special is the fact that Nous had survived. Typically, breeders disposed of golden puppies in these litters. This is because black dogs were seen as fashionable, while other colors were undesirable.
However, Nous was lucky in that he had been gifted to a tradesman. Otherwise, he may have experienced a similar fate of other non-black puppies and been disposed of.
Marjoribanks acquired Nous and, three years later, bred him to a Tweed Water Spaniel named Belle. The thought behind this breeding was to create a hunting dog that was just as skilled in navigating water as it was on land.
These dogs were designed to hunt partridge, grouse, and red deer. The puppies of this first litter are considered to be the world’s first Golden Retrievers. Their names were Cowslip, Crocus, and Primrose.
Golden Retrievers today can still be used as hunting dogs. They also have so many more jobs that they are capable of doing.
For example, Golden Retrievers today are also used for tracking, rescue, service, and therapy dogs.
Training Over the Years: The Lewine-Cochran Method
Training should start early in a Golden Retriever’s life but it will look different as time goes on.
This framework of training comes from two very well-known breeders, Nancy Lewine and Jenny Cochran. They are the leaders of GoldenSoul Dogs and are considered American Kennel Club Breeders of Merit.
This begins with the Angel Phase, which includes Golden Retrievers aged two to six months. A group-based setting or “Puppy Kindergarten” is the best way to get your Golden Retriever started with training. This will include basic obedience skills and socialization.
The main purpose of this phase is to establish a foundation of training for the next few life phases. Main focuses should include routines, schedules, rules, home expectations, and other boundaries.
You should also start training them to get used to the grooming process. This includes clipping nails on a weekly basis and bathing them occasionally.
Another area to focus on is fear exposure. This helps to lessen your Golden Retriever’s anxiety and aggression over the years. Do this by exposing them to loud and/or unexpected noises, such as crying babies, fireworks, or thunderstorms.
You should also expose them to unexpected movements to help them stay calm in various situations.
Examples of this include toddlers, other puppies, and people with disabilities. Lewine and Cochran recommend a three-step process for coping skills; examine the source, leave it alone, and ignore it.
Teenage Rebellion Phase
The next phase of life is the Teenage Rebellion Phase, which is Golden Retrievers aged six to eighteen months.
Training in this stage is heavily dependent on training established in the Angel Phase. So, it is incredibly important for you to build that early foundation.
Socialization is also very important in this phase, but to a closer degree. What this means is that you should strive to find your dog a best friend.
This could mean adopting another dog, introducing them to the neighbor’s dog, frequenting a local dog park, etc.
In this phase, you can start to introduce more complex commands and skills into your Golden Retriever’s repertoire.
They have pretty intense exercise needs at this age, so work in tricks, rallying, agility, diving, scent work, and obedience are great mental and physical stimulation for them.
Signs of Maturity Phase
The Signs of Maturity Phase occurs between ages eighteen and twenty-four months. This should be an easy phase as long as training was done properly in the last two phases.
This phase should focus on obedience. Continue with the tricks and skills that you’ve been teaching them and try to add more complex ones from time to time.
Best Commands to Teach Your Golden Retriever
The best commands for you to teach your Golden Retriever really depends on what their specific purpose is.
For example, there are general commands that you can teach them. However, Golden Retrievers that will be assigned a specific job should also learn various other commands.
General commands should be taught to every Golden Retriever regardless of their intended job. This includes Golden Retrievers who will simply be family pets without specialized training.
The following are the best general commands to teach your Golden Retriever:
- “No” or “Stop”: gets them to stop their current action or scolds them for bad behavior
- “Good” or “Yay”: rewards them for good behavior
- “Crate”, “Bed”, and “Down”: instructs them to go to a specific location
- “Sit”, “Stand”, “Up”, “Down”, “Lie down”, or “Open your mouth”: position commands
- “Treat”, “Breakfast”, “Dinner”, “Hungry”: food commands
- “Gentle” or “Easy”: gets them to take something gently from your hands
- “Fetch”, “Grab”, “Drop”, or “Give”: gets them to play or give you something that’s in their mouth
- “Stay” or “Heel”: gets them to stop their current action and wait for you
Hunting Commands for Golden Retriever
Hunting commands should be taught in addition to the general commands listed above. This will make the Golden Retriever a better pet overall, and it will make them a better listener when it comes to hunting.
The following are the best commands to teach your Golden Retriever if you plan on taking them hunting:
- “Hup” or “Sit”: gets them to sit and stay where they are
- “Come” or “Here”: gets them to come to you
- “Heel”: gets them to stop their current action
- “Ok” or their name: get them to continue their previous task which was stopped
- “Dead” or “Back”: gets them to blind retrieve game
- “Two Quick Pips on the Whistle”: gets them to change their direction
Service dog commands are much more in depth than general and hunting dog commands. However, like with hunting dogs, you should teach service dogs all of the same general commands that you would teach any Golden Retriever.
It should be noted that service dogs require specialized professional training.
There are both basic and advanced commands that service dogs should learn. The following are basic commands for service dogs:
- “Watch me”: gets them to focus on you
- “Under”: gets them retrieve items from underneath furniture
- “Careful”, which is similar to the “Gentle” command
- “Quiet”: gets them to stop barking, whining, etc.
- “Go now” or “Get busy”: gets them to use the bathroom
- “Don’t”: stops unwanted behavior before it happens
- “Off”: keeps them off of furniture and/or individuals
- “Let’s go” or “Go”: tells them that the both of you need to move
- “Leave it”: keeps them from touching something you don’t want them to touch, such as trash
- “Settle”: gets them to calm down
- “Back”: gets them to step backward
- “Follow”: gets them to follow behind you
- “Go around”: gets them to move around an object or person
- “Go to NAME”: gets them to go to a specific person
- “Release”: lets them know that they’re done with work for the day
The following are a list of advanced training skills that you can teach a service Golden Retriever:
- Guiding: gets them to guide you to various places
- Retrieving medication
- Balancing: gets them to help you balance during dizzy spells and other medical issues
- Grounding and Deep Pressure Therapy: gets them to help owners through anxiety issues
- Hallucination detection
- Searching rooms
- Interruption or redirection: gets them to interrupt self-harm and other dangerous behaviors
- Buffer: gets them to act as a buffer between their owner and other individuals
- Seeking help
Do Golden Retrievers enjoy training?
Not only are they incredibly intelligent but Golden Retrievers also love to learn.
They are very eager to please, and training will be an enjoyable activity for you both. They also require a lot of physical and mental stimulation, and training helps to fulfill these needs.
Are Golden Retrievers naturally well-behaved?
For the most part, yes. Golden Retrievers make good family pets as they are good with children and other pets, and they are not very disruptive to the household.
That said, they do still need a good amount of training if you want them to be exceptionally well-behaved. Golden Retrievers are vocal. They also need a job or activity to do most of the time and could behave badly if they are not provided this.
Is socialization training easy or difficult for Golden Retrievers?
Socialization is probably going to be one of the easiest parts of your training.
Golden Retrievers love meeting new people and animals. They are very social creatures that tend to get along well with everyone they meet.
Can Golden Retrievers forget commands?
Like anything in life, commands may be forgotten if you don’t use them for a while. If there’s a specific command that you want them to remember, make sure you practice it with them periodically.
If you go years without using the command, it is likely that they’ll forget it. That said, it would be easy for them to relearn it.