Q: I'm almost at my wit's end. My Golden Retriever is 2 years old and he's so hyper! He's always into something, chews on the furniture, jumps up on everyone upsetting the guests, he digs under the fence and he's in my face all the time. I thought he'd calm down as he got older but he hasn't. Any ideas?
A: Golden Retrievers are very energetic, enthusiastic, people-loving dogs. What you're describing—being “in your face” all the time, chewing, jumping up and excitability are normal activities for this kind of dog. This doesn't mean that they can't be modified with training but you need to understand that these are some of characteristics of the type of dog you chose. Golden Retrievers, like many sporting breeds, need training, exercise, attention and a job to do in order to be the kind of pet you want.
Goldens excel in obedience competitions. They are very trainable and willing at any age. Training, however, isn't a one-time thing, it needs to be practiced every day. For the Golden who jumps up, tell the dog to “SIT-and-STAY” when guests are about to come in the door. Until the dog is reliable on command, keep a leash on him and use it to enforce the command. Make sure you give lots of praise for obeying; Goldens thrive on praise. Jumping up is an expression of joy over seeing you or a new person, so make the experience of obeying your command (by using treats and praise) more rewarding than the act of jumping up.
For the dog that's in your face—well, that's where your people-loving Golden wants to be most of all. But I know there are times when you just can't have him on top of you. Sign up for obedience class and teach him what “down-and-stay” means. When you need to have your dog out of your hair temporarily, tell him to “down-and-stay or temporarily confine him to a dog crate.
Destructive behavior like chewing and digging, especially when seen in an active breed like a Golden, is often a sign of boredom and lack of exercise. A short term cure is to make sure your dog has plenty of appropriate chew toys. There are bitter-tasting spray-on products you can get and apply to your furniture that will discourage chewing. Keep chewable valuables out of reach. If chewing while you're gone is a problem, get a dog crate. It keep will keep him safe and out of trouble when you can't supervise him.
For a long term cure for chewing and destructive behavior, your Golden needs a constructive way to use his energy. Daily walks are more effective than just being let out into the yard to amuse himself. Walks are fun and healthy for both of you! Take advantage of your dog's natural retrieving and athletic ability—can he catch a Frisbee or a ball? Sure he can! Can you give him a job? Can he fetch things around the house for you like pieces of dirty laundry or put away his own toys? Sure he can—if you take the time to show him how. Obedience training and practice are effective, too. It takes a lot of energy to concentrate and obey commands! You can incorporate obedience commands into everything you do. Walks, games and work to do are all great energy-burners and give him the personal attention he craves.
Your Golden's greatest desire is to please you. You can show him what it takes to make you happy through training and praise. By the same token, you have to understand that your dog has needs, too. Every successful relationship, whether human or canine, involves an understanding of each other's needs and how best to meet them. If you give him what he needs—exercise, training, a job to do and adequate praise and attention, he'll be better able to give you what you need—a well-behaved, calm companion!
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