A, I've been trying to train them with commands, I read online to keep it very short and very concise, a 'Here' works better than 'Come here now Elsa you dog', a point the rest of my family don't get. Is there a foolproof (yeah right!) method for training them? It seems to vary, Gelert, the male, usually comes if called and he's looking straight at me, yet Elsa, the female responds to my voice no matter what I say. They don't seem to get their names yet, what's the typical length of time for them to start learning what their names are....and have they even got the right names?
Teaching them their names takes a couple weeks or more, depending on the puppies, depending on your consistency. All training takes consistency. Use treats and positive rewards (play and praise) and they learn a LOT faster. Timing helps as well - marking when they've done something right.
B, Related to that point above, a pet peeve (no pun intended) is that the rest of my family (my parents are the worst for this) treat both dogs, Elsa, which me and my father share, and Gelert, which is hers, like babies. Now, everything I've read online says NOT to do this, that it doesn't help one bit. Adding to that is the fact my family travels and works a lot so it's usually just me looking after both dogs. I tend to treat them like dogs and remind them I'm their pack leader by rolling them over and making sure they submit to me, which has worked okay, though Gelert's challenging that as of this morning.
I'm with your family. Dogs are family. I'm not making my dogs submit to me. I do believe that the trainer needs to be the "leader" or "authority figure", but calm and gentle authority usually does the job.
C, Is there a way to get them to stop chewing besides chew toys? I did buy them some that for the most part, they aren't into. They'd much rather chew the walls or furniture or shoes, I've had an older Retriever before and she never did that, instead she chewed on dog toys. Whereas the two I got currently chew on anything they can get to, feet, ankles, socks, garbage bins, you name it.
Look in their mouths. If they have bruised gums, it means they are teething and they need to chew. Sometimes trying out different chew items helps locate something that they WANT to chew vs insisting that they chew on a specific item that worked before. Holding the chew toy in your hand for them sometimes helps.
Anxiety and stress also makes them need to chew. As does boredom. Keep that in mind.
I know with my guys they are going out several times a day to burn off their energy. Golden retrievers are an active and intelligent and affectionate breed. They need companionship. They need attention. They need daily interaction with their family, daily exercise, they need to get outside several times a day to play and run - while somebody is home and keeping an eye on them.
D. Barking. This is the big problem. It's mostly Gelert that does this and I'm wondering if it's seperation anxiety. Whenever my parents go out, or at night they're in a cage, the problem is Gelert starts barking straight away and won't stop until my parents come back or somebody gets up to see to him, I've tried leaving a radio on or standing where he can see me. That doesn't work at all, it's got to the point where nobody in the house can sleep due to his whining, I did try covering the cage with towels to try to make it more like a den but he just barked more.
I would go back to square one with crate training. I don't care what anyone says - there is no reason for crate training to include a puppy getting worked up and barking and crying itself to sleep. For the longest time I was anti-crating because of that idea. Having just crate trained both my boys, I have a completely different perspective now on the whole thing. Neither dog has ever barked in the crate or shown any anxiety - a lot of that is because I followed various instructions on playing crate games and always keeping that place positive and AWESOME for the dogs.
My Jacks who never saw the inside of a crate until he was about 4.5 years old will go into the open crate to sleep without anyone telling him. Or I can put him in the crate while we are somewhere and I have to walk away out of sight... while he would bark if I tied him up to a wall or gave him to a stranger, he will be quiet and relaxed while sitting in the crate.
Go online and look up crate games and get busy.
Also suggest putting the crate in a bedroom where he feels safe. Reading over your entire post I get the idea he is more insecure and needy.
E. Fighting. Second big problem here, is that Gelert seems to be coming out with a majorly aggressive streak, he pushes Elsa off her food and whenever I go to stroke Elsa or dry her off from being outside, he charges in and demands attention, should I push him away and make him accept he's lower in the pack than myself and Elsa?
I would drop the pack stuff. You do not choose who is the alpha dog. And I honestly don't see what you describe here as fighting.
The pack positioning - they sort that out themselves. Ideally whatever the dogs figure out with themselves, they will understand that you will still be the one in charge.
Asserting authority does not mean pinning, growling, snarling... or any other kind of inhuman positioning or behavior. It's calm authority. And give and take.
What your job in the cases above is to gently send him off to do something else. Or put a baby gate up to keep the pups seperate while you are cleaning his sister or feeding them.
What you describe is not aggression. It's one pup being more demanding and pushy than the other.