Many Golden Retrievers are very active dogs. It can feel really overwhelming if you don’t know how to provide an appropriate outlet for your dog’s energy. I’m going to tell you what worked for me and my Golden, and I’m going to give you ideas to get started happily managing yours!
If you have a young Golden Retriever, you are probably pretty familiar with the concept of high-energy. This energy can really last most (if not all) of a lifetime with a Golden. As puppies, they are typical puppies… rambunctious, jumpy, nippy and full of “pizzazz”. But what about when they grow older and still have all that puppy energy you weren’t expecting to deal with anymore? Dog sports and other fun training activities are a great way to burn off all that steam while enjoying time with your dog!
A Story About Coty
My dog Coty came from a Golden rescue, and while he was a mix, his personality was 100% Golden. Coty became the best dog I’ve ever had, but he also came to us at 4 months old, full of boundless, ungrounded energy. His chasing instinct was pretty strong, which was no help. If he got off the leash, he’d just RUN. He ran because there were fun things to chase (sorry squirrels!). He also ran just because he seemed to really enjoy it. On top of the running issue, when we had visitors come to our house, he would jump all over them in excitement seeming to say, ”Yay! You’re here to see ME!!!!!” In the beginning he counter-surfed, chewed shoes, and jumped on furniture.
As much as I loved Coty, I just didn’t know how to handle him and his baby antics. If I’d known how to train him at that time, it would have saved more than a few headaches and perturbed visitors. We eventually got to the point where he would keep “four on the floor” when greeting a visitor, but he always danced around, wagged his whole body, and sat on their feet. As so many of us know, most Goldens are “People Dogs”. They really love people and just want to be with us all the time. Coty was no exception.
Maybe this sounds somewhat familiar to you? So the question to answer remains the same: What can you do to manage your Golden’s energy/excitement?
There are two pieces of advice I can confidently give you. Take some time and learn how to train your Golden Retriever. Along with that, find ways to exercise your dog that work for both of you and satisfy their needs!
This changed my life with Coty. The turning point for me was one day after he jumped off the porch to chase my family’s minivan down the road. I remember my dad telling me that I either trained him or he was gone. I couldn’t bear the thought of not having Coty in my life, so I delved into the world of training and settled on the method of positive-reinforcement clicker training.
With the encouragement of a friend, I learned about the countless number of dog sports out there, and our journey officially began. We tried many things, but Coty was a somewhat fearful dog (remember, he was from a rescue) so I needed to pay attention to his preferences. We finally settled on long walks and hikes, trick training and trail-running with a pulling harness. He loved it and almost instantly became a better dog every time we got out to exercise well. He started smiling and acting more relaxed (and we all know how endearing a Golden smile is). He still loved to greet people, but he did so more politely. Bit by bit, we built a great, respectful relationship on both our parts, and it was more fun than I can even express.
Preparing to Train Your Golden
So, let’s get you started on this incredibly fun journey! Be ready to spend some quality time exercising and training your Golden. These really are the keys to success and a happy relationship between you.
Often we think of training as being a boring “sit, stay, down, good boy” drill sergeant sort of activity. While training and good solid basic commands will definitely take some work, there is no reason that it can’t and shouldn’t be fun work! Most Goldens are onboard with any activity because they just love hanging out with you. And this really can be a two way street. The great news is that Goldens are an extremely versatile and intelligent breed. You’ll have a lot of options to choose from! Finding what interests you both will be a fun journey in and of itself, but it will also enable you to really incorporate solid training with the activities of your choice.
As an added bonus, if you are competitive, there are various sports that you can compete in with your dog, though you certainly don’t have to. Definitely look into local training clubs for the different sports (and puppy/dog training classes are always a plus anyways so you can get a head start on socialization). You may be surprised at what you find.
Before you start any activity or sport with your dog, please be sure to check with your dog’s veterinarian to make sure you have a “go” to start training for active sports/exercises. It is especially important to keep your Golden from most jumping and strenuous exercise until their growth plates have finished forming. Don’t let that discourage you, though as you can do lots of training and exercising while they’re puppies…just tone the workload down and check with the vet to make sure you’re on the right track.
Activities and Sports to Try
You’re feeling ready and excited to take the next step with your Golden? Great! Here are just a few ideas to get you started. Think about activities that you enjoy, then think about ways to include your Golden!
Do you like playing Frisbee? Look into the sport of Disc Dog.
Is swimming or boating your favorite? Look into Dock Jumping or even just learning to play fetch in the water. This would also be fun for beachgoers!
Dancing? You can train your Golden for some pretty fantastic dances (also known as Freestyle)!
What about something fun that will get you both running in a fast-paced environment? Agility may be right up your alley.
Do you like puzzles and figuring out how to break things down? Trick training would be a great avenue to look at.
If you like hiking and exploring terrain, you could do just that with your dog. (This is more enjoyable if you train your dog to walk nicely on a leash.)
Or if you are interested in outdoor exploration with a twist, look into learning Tracking together. It can be fun to see your dog’s nose in action!
If you like cross-country running (or running in general) or skiing, look into Canicross or Skijoring.
Are you more the quiet precision type? Rally or other obedience-based sports may be an option for you. You might also look into scent work!
Enjoy the Journey, not just the Destination
As you can see, the possibilities are endless! Your Golden Retriever’s energy is not bad, it can really open doors for you to have loads of fun with your dog and can help you enjoy your time together. Take a look at what you may be able to do with your Golden and see if you can find something to do together that will both wear them out and better your relationship. And remember, it’s about the journey even more than it is the destination, so try to have fun with whatever you try!