Golden Retrievers are among the more active breeds and require a lot of exercise to stay fit and happy. Originally bred for game fetching, these energetic dogs can run much of the day, even late into life.
Training and exercise should start young, at around 8-10 weeks. At first the level of activity should be no more than what the pup is willing to do spontaneously. They’ll scamper around, explore bushes and wrestle with one another in between naps. But add to that by getting them to follow you in a particular direction, at least briefly. That’s the beginning of focusing on you and doing as you ask.
As they mature, their legs and heart quickly become able to tackle small hills and half-mile walks. At about 4-6 months, a good half an hour hike is a possibility, provided water is available.
During this period from about two to six months, the usual ‘sit, stay, heel’ routines can easily be folded into the mix. But there should be time allowed for less structured activities, as well. Goldens can be good show dogs, but they are also very free spirited and sometimes a little unfocused. Not all will excel at that kind of rigorous training. Giving them some time and space to simply run around and fetch a ball or sniff makes for a good balance.
By the time your Golden has reached six months of age, they’re ready to tackle more complex tasks. Many are taught starting at this age (or a little younger) to be guide dogs, rescue dogs, drug search dogs and other roles requiring sophisticated skills. They’re among the most intelligent of breeds and can learn obstacle courses, complex dance routines and the like provided the trainer has the skill and patience.
Also during this early period, introducing them to other dogs and animals they may encounter or live with is a good idea. Golden Retrievers are by nature very sociable, but any dog that is isolated from other dogs, people or pets will be wary. Goldens are very loyal, too, and they can be territorial. Allowing them to safely interact with other dogs will help keep that to an appropriate time and level.
A word of caution: since Goldens, especially those with parents from private owners, may not have been checked for hip dysplasia, you should discontinue exercise at any sign of hindquarter weakness. Have the dog examined. The vet will take an x-ray and check for signs of bone or joint problems. Goldens with this condition can still lead happy, healthy lives but reduced activity and special treatment is warranted.
Like any dog, specialized training will take time. At least an hour per day should be devoted for basics, more for more specialized tasks. Simple goals, like ‘sit’, ‘stay’ and others can be accomplished quickly. Dance routines, obstacle courses, game fetching or other tasks may take months or years to perfect. Guide dog training and similar ‘jobs’ require intensive training for two years or more.
But compared to many other breeds, Goldens will catch on quicker and execute more accurately. They’re eager to please, energetic and highly intelligent. Their trainer just needs to have the same qualities.