You Get What You Reinforce, Not What You Want

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Like us, English golden retrievers respond well to positive reinforcement. Do you remember getting your chores done so that you could earn your allowance? There’s a direct reciprocal between behavior and reward and it works really well for training dogs. Most dogs, and in particular, English Golden Retrievers, are really eager to please. Because they love to be near you, they are all the more motivated to behave in order to be allowed to be close to you.

Keep Cause and Effect Close Together

If your dog has performed well, his reward should be immediate so he makes the association between treat and behavior. Some people like to use a clicker along with a treat so a stronger association is more rapidly formed. The folks at ClickerTraining.com call it “reliable behavior on cue.” You might not be able to get your golden retriever fully trained on one behavior in one fell swoop. There could be intermediate behaviors along the way to the behavior you want, and step-by-step, he’ll get there.

One Word per Behavior

Golden puppies are intelligent and we’ve found that one word commands followed by a treat upon execution of the command works the best. You can develop a list for yourself of one word commands, or you can use these suggestions:

  • watch me
  • sit
  • stay
  • down (which means “lie down”)
  • off (which means “get off of me” or “get off the furniture”)
  • stand
  • come
  • heel (which means “walk close to my side”)
  • leave it

You can use any language, English or otherwise, because dogs understanding the meaning attached to the word. So “sit,” “sientese” or “sitzen” will all be understood by your dog with reinforcement.

Enroll the Whole Family

Teach all the family members what behaviors you are working to reinforce in your dog, and have each of them use them in the same way you do. Encourage them to reward good behavior and give no treats when the dog isn’t behaving.

Tapering the Treats Down Eventually

When you are training a dog, he should receive a treat for every time he performs properly. Once the behavior is learned, however, you can slow down on the treats some. Every other time, with a pat on the head and praise (kudos) — “Yes, good boy!” will allow you to taper off on each time treating. Go very slowly in tapering down the treats because you don’t want your golden retriever to grow frustrated and confused. Before you know it, your words will be treat enough and you’ll both be happier for it.

Wisteria Goldens only trains their English Cream puppies and dogs using positive reinforcement techniques. We feel it is the best way to train and develop a good relationship with your dog. Make training fun for you and your dog!

Billy & Debbie Franklin have been married for over 25 years! We are city girl meets country boy and living happily ever after! We live in the “boonies” in Arkansas, with our numerous English Cream Golden Retrievers, Mr. Tom Cat, cattle, and horses.

We have filled our home with “furry” children, since our human ones had the audacity to grow up into amazing young adults, move out, and begin taking responsibility for their own lives!

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