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We have a 9 month old golden puppy who we love very much. He is our first dog, but we took a lot of time deciding on the right time to bring him home and did tons of research as to what having a puppy would entail. We were fully prepared for the hard work and sacrifice that would go into the early months and years of his life. We spent time talking with our kids (13 and 10) about the puppy and how they could be a part of his life and training process. We told them that the work we put into his early years would reap big rewards in the great dog he would grow into. We found a very reputable breeder with a good reputation and references. We looked into training classes prior to even bringing him home.

Once Gray came home, he was sweet, gentle and he won over our hearts quickly. The land shark phase was tough, but we got through it with lots of patience and redirection. We have been doing classes pretty much non-stop since we brought him home. However, we just feel like things are not "clicking" with him. He knows his basic commands, but only does them consistently in our home without any distractions. I really think he is very smart, as he can learn amazingly quickly at times, but he just doesn't seem to be making the kind of progress you would hope for given the amount of time and training he has had.

These are my biggest concerns behaviorally. Despite multiple classes and lots of work at home, we just don't feel like we are seeing progress in these area:

* He will not drop ANYTHING without trading for a food reward

*He has no recall unless he wants to come

* We have been working on counter surfing for months with very minimal progress

*We have really spent a ton of time working on leash walking. However, while there are some days he does quite well with lots of treat rewards, many days he is all over the place, pulling like crazy, marking spots other dogs have been, etc...

*He jumps up on people feverishly (mainly people outside our family) and pulls on his leash so hard he gags when he sees another dog or a person he wants to greet

*He seems anxious to me... lots of panting and pacing and trouble settling. He has never had any kind of trauma, so I can't figure out what has caused this. He hates when anyone in the family leaves and doesn't seem to relax until everyone is home. He is rarely alone for more than 3 hours, as I am a stay at home mom and am home with him most of the time. Is there a chance this is part of the issue?

We adore this dog, and having a dog is a lifetime commitment to us, but I am struggling with feelings of frustration and concern that this is perhaps just his personality and that this may continue to be an uphill battle. I shouldn't compare, but it seems that his littermates, some of who have done very minimal training, are so much further along behaviorally than he is. As a mom of two, I completely understand that all "kids" are different, and that you have to address the needs of your specific "child," but we are just struggling a bit right now with discouragement. I had been telling myself that maybe this was normal puppy behavior, and just to stay consistent and things would "click" eventually as I have heard many people suggest. But I think the tipping point was last night at class when the trainer (who is extremely experienced and who we respect a great deal) basically told my husband that she thinks there is a disconnect somewhere with his training, as he should be way further along behaviorally given the amount of training classes he has done, the amount of time we work with him at home, and the positive way she sees us interact with him. She suggested private lessons, which we are onboard to do. However, hearing this from her was emotional for us, as it seemed to confirm what we have been feeling and fearing.

I apologize for the lengthy post... emotions are just running high today and I am hoping there might be someone on here who could encourage us with a story of a pup who was not quick to progress behaviorally, but who turned out to be a happy, well adjusted, well behaved member of the family.
 

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FWIW, the dog in my avatar (the one sitting in front of a small portion of his ribbons) sounds a LOT like your dog! During his land shark phase I seriously considered returning him to his breeder! Like you, I had him in multiple classes from the time I brought him home. When he turned two, we had a party with his agility class thinking that somehow, miraculously, he was finally going to "settle down" and be a "normal" dog (not). He was atrocious on leash (all his life - nearly dislocated my arm and several fingers on several occasions), loved to stand on people for attention (fortunately he was gentle about it and most people found it charming), and was something of a spaz right up till the day we lost him to lymphoma, 3 weeks after his 11th birthday. That said, he was an AWESOME agility dog (and agility seemed to go a long way toward teaching him some self control), and a few months before we lost him he earned a perfect 100 score in Excellent Rally. He turned into my heart dog, and the dog all my dog friends remember with a laugh and great affection, and he is mourned and missed even now, 10+ years after I lost him.

So... the bad news is you may still have a long road ahead of you, and your dog may always be a bit... challenging, but I think you'll find that one day you'll suddenly realize that he's turned into a wonderful dog after all. Love, consistency and PATIENCE will likely go a long way...
 

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I think most people on this site would acknowledge similar experiences with a GR puppy. Don't become discouraged. At 9 months, Gray is still a puppy, and the experiences you describe are not uncommon.

There are a couple things you may find helpful. As for the challenges you're experiencing when walking Gray, take a look at the harness and leash links provided below. Brody, our nearly 14-month-old Golden was a challenge too when on lead. He did pretty much what you're experiencing with Gray. The harness I'm suggesting below was just the ticket for Brody. The traditional neck collars choke the dog thus making them more stressed. They don't understand and show this by continuing to pull harder. In my opinion, the chest harness seems to be less stressful for the dog. The leash I'm using provides a handle you can grab when necessary. I like this feature. Over time, my small framed wife began connecting the lead around her waste and listening to music when walking Brody. If people, cars or other dogs approach, she can easily grab the handle for better control when needed.

Also, GR's are working dogs that require plenty of exercise to burn off all the natural energy they have pent up if they aren't getting plenty of tongue hanging exercise. Walking alone isn't enough to handle this. GR's need to run, and I mean run hard. Throwing a stick or ball in a safe open field is a good solution. We do this pretty much daily with Brody. When he comes back inside after running good and hard, he will lay down and sleep. I like the old saying, "A good dog is a tired dog." Gray will let you know when he has had enough. Be careful during the heat of the day to not overdo the exercise. We live in the Central Rocky Mountains. We still have a good bit of snow on the ground, so we don't have an issue with heat except in the summer months. During the summer, we limit his runs to the morning or early evenings when it's cooler to avoid heat stress.

I like the idea of private training lessons to focus on the specific issues your experiencing. In my opinion, the training is as much for the dog handler as it is for the dog, if not more so... I should also add that in time comes age. Gray will begin to settle down more as he gets a bit older.

Lastly, be consistent in your commands and words used. As you have observed, GR's are very smart dogs, but as with any pet, consistency is key in their training.



 

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A couple of things. A lot of what you describe is normal for an adolescent working breed dog. Golden retrievers are great dogs, but it's important not to underestimate the amount of human input needed to achieve most people's "ideal" pet. The period from about 9 months to about 18 months of age can be difficult. So don't despair.

Second, I'd ask what drew you to the pup when you chose him/he was chosen for you by the breeder? What kind of dog did you tell your breeder you wanted?

Last, and mainly, in your shoes I might consider looking for a different trainer. This is your first dog; what you really need is someone who teaches humans how to train dogs. I've had all kinds of dogs throughout my life - from shelter dogs given up because they were "untrainable" to a very assertive golden retriever puppy from a wonderful breeder who gave me exactly what I asked for (the maverick of the litter). If my trainer had ever told me there was a disconnect in the training, or blamed the dog for not progressing, I would have gone to someone else immediately. The things you describe aren't unusual for adolescent dogs, especially the more assertive ones, and you need a trainer who will work with you to find solutions, not undermine your results. Dogs are not all created equal. Some need more input than others.

You specifically ask about "hard" puppies who become great dogs. My Ruby was the pup I mentioned earlier - the maverick of the litter. She was the first one out to escape from the litter box, the first one to fall down the kitchen steps, the first one to climb the puppy agility equipment in the back yard, and so on. She was exactly what I asked the breeder for, but she wasn't an easy puppy. One day she crashed through a closed window to chase a squirrel (broken glass everywhere - thank goodness she wasn't hurt). Another day, she used a buffet table outdoors as a springboard to jump over our 4' pool fence to go and "rescue" the children who were swimming. She broke lamps and furniture indoors, completely demolished a standalone birdhouse outdoors (chasing another squirrel), was sprayed by skunks more times than I care to count, and shredded her way through countless dog beds, cushions and toys (including a red Kong which I found in a thousand pieces one day) and broke into every cupboard in the house that wasn't locked. What happened to her? At age 3, she won her first provincial agility championship, and went on to win it twice more in the next three years. She became only the fourth golden retriever in Canada to earn the prestigious lifetime agility award for agility. And in 2014 she won the national agility championship, after finishing in second and third place in the previous years. She died suddenly and unexpectedly six months after her nationals win, at age 8, of cardiac hemangiosarcoma, and broke my heart for ever.

No dog is untrainable. Some need more input than others. My advice is to find a trainer who understands that.

Best of luck! Hope things work out for you.
 

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It's funny because I considered Rukie a fairly easy puppy but he pretty much did a lot of what you describe. The difference may be he's a bit of a couch potato if he gets a good run every day. I think at 9 months Gray's at the high point of teenage rebellion. Rukie lost his recall around then, he also won't leave anything he wants without a treat to trade, started jumping up on some people, and still pulls on the leash and he's 2 years 9 months. I was really hoping at the 2 year mark, he would suddenly settle down. He failed his 3rd Canine Good Citizen test but I put a lot of the blame on myself for not working hard enough. BUT the good news is at 2 years 6 months I began to see a difference. He passed the loose leash walk in the CGC test and he's starting to have longer periods of walking and checking back with me, correcting himself for pulling by running behind me and lining up at my left side where I want him to walk. It's still maybe 50 50 good and bad but huge progress. Rukie has also started coming every time I call him inside the fence and off leash outside the fence so I'm pretty happy about that. He's my first male Golden and they are slow to mature. and I think more stubborn. His breeder told me it takes two years for the boys to grow a brain.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thanks so much to those who have responded and offered encouragement. It helps to know that we are not alone in these challenges...

Brody's Rockies, I think that the need for lots of heavy duty exercise is so true of Gray. We live in the midwest and since the weather has been so cold, it is harder to get him out for long periods of play time like we did in the summer and fall. He also refuses to fetch, so that is another challenge in getting him the level of exercise he needs. We are still working on that. :) Our trainer also mentioned using a harness for walks. Our breeder was adamantly opposed to them, so we never have tried one, but are open to that idea. Our trainer said that there are "good" harnesses and "bad" harnesses and you have to choose the right one. Thanks for the link to the one you like!

CeeGee: We actually told our breeder we wanted a more relaxed puppy... a snuggler vs a super high energy pup. In terms of the training, I think part of our issue is that we have done classes at a number of different places, so perhaps that jumping around caused us to "miss a step" in the process as our current trainer suggested?

I notice that both CeeGee and Pawsnpaca mentioned their "tough" puppies being very good at agility. I have shyed away from getting involved in any pre-agility work so far, as I was afraid he would struggle too much with focus and distractions to be able to do that, but maybe it would be helpful for him?

Thanks a million for your reassurance! I truly appreciate it!
 

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We live in the midwest and since the weather has been so cold, it is harder to get him out for long periods of play time like we did in the summer and fall. He also refuses to fetch, so that is another challenge in getting him the level of exercise he needs. We are still working on that. :)
I hear ya about it being cold...It was -15F this morning and that's actual temp without windchill. Standby, it's coming your way. LOL!

As for playing fetch for exercise, it certainly helps to start when they're younger, but this is one new trick even old dogs can learn. Get your kids to help you out. After rightsizing our home when we became empty-nesters, we now have a much smaller home, but I can still play fetch with Brody in the house when he gets rambunctions and it's terribly cold outside. It takes a bit of work, but in time Gray we see that the kids are having fun with the fetch game and soon he will want to play, too.

Also, does Gray like to run in the snow? Brody loves it, the deeper the better. Running in snow is like us trying to run in knee-deep water. Doing so requires more energy thus Gray will tire faster while still getting good exercise. There really isn't a shortcut between behavior in a GR and exercise. Regardless of the weather, GR's want to get outside and run because they truly need it to help wear them out, thus calming them down. I made a dog run with the snowblower for Brody. The run is mostly used to let him outside to do his business, but sometimes at night, he will get what is frequently referred to as the Zoomies, and start running like a wild animal back and forth and all around the run until he's tired and ready to come in. I just stand there watching him and occasionally growl loudly, as if I'm going to get him as he races by, which only makes him go faster for longer. Sometimes we just have to get a bit creative in creating the scenario to gain the best results we're wanting.

You're getting lots of great suggestions from others, which will certainly be helpful to you when applied. Hang in there! (y)
 

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Honestly, I think all Golden puppies are rather hard as you say. They are land sharks and some can be strong willed early. Then a huge majority will be great dogs. Of course there are some that are easy but I thin Goldens can be a handful for anyone, seasoned vets and especially people new to the breed and new to raising puppies in general.

The trick like many have said is to get them tired but be careful not to over exercise them physically. Some don't realize that mental stimulation a lot of times goes further to tire them out more then physical running/playing. Training, hide and seek treats and toys. Training should be 5-10 min on about 30 min off and do that a few times through out the night and they will wear out. Remember a bored puppy is a world ender in the house.
 

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We also live with wonderful winter weather. I usually walk everyday ( shorter when it's cold) but then we do 'find it' in the house. That has been great this winter! The dogs have to down stay in the kitchen (that also takes practice , so have a helper until you get that down) until it's their turn to find something yummy hidden in the house. My male has done scent classes and he comes home mentally exhausted after an hour. Another thing we do is feed their dinner in a puzzle ball. (Omega Paw tricky tray ball - large) Exercise and mental stimulation in one!
 

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Our 7 year old 'red' Golden was a real challenge initially. She took forever to house break. We crate trained her but she just did not get it for a very long period, I would guess 5-6 months. It was a cold snowy winter and my wife and I both recall standing out in foot deep snow wrapped in a heavy coat, waiting for our new girl to do her thing! On top of that it was over 6 months before she slept without one or two middle of the night, 'outsides'

Her obedience training was also difficult. In class she would do really well for a period of time, then she would lose interest and just ignore anything we wanted her to do. At the end of the 6wk class the trainer told us he thought it looked like the was immature. At the time, I thought he was crazy!

At six months we took her to stay with a field dog trainer that specializes in Field Training Goldens. It was a six hour drive to drop her off. Two weeks later, he called and said pick up your pup, she is not progressing. When we got up their he showed us how she did fine for a while, then just ignored the trainer. The trainer told us he thought she was mentally immature. He did not charge us for these two weeks and said bring he back in two months.

We did that, and happily she suddenly was a top dog, learning very quickly. within a year she earned her AKC Senior Hunter Title and her WCX! That was my goal for her, so all ended well. I now wish we had run her in Master hunter tests. Maybe we will do it now, she is 7 years old and we have a new male Golden who we will take through the Master Hunter level over the year or so...

At this point it is all fun! Good Luck These dogs always return more than you give!
 

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So this is my 6.5 month old, Rigby, refusing to leave the park this morning after playing for over an hour. He’s such a challenge but I love him so much that I’m happy to do the work. But I don’t know what he’d do if I wasn’t giving him 1.5 hours of solid exercise every day. He’s hard enough to handle even with all that energy expended.

My dogs in the past have always settled down but it can take a while. You should know that your 9 month old is not the same dog that you will end up with. Hard to imagine now but some day you may even miss this crazy version of him. Good luck!

870489
 

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This was exactly the post I needed to read today, Jackson4! Our Khaleesi is giving us a run for our money at 11 months old, and it’s hard not to compare her to our last golden. The stories and wisdom shared in this post made me smile, made me tear up, and gave me hope! Thank you!!!!
 

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it’s hard not to compare her to our last golden.
When our last GR, River, passed at age 11 from Cancer, we seriously considered getting a different breed of dog for the same reason. We were concerned we would always be comparing a new GR puppy to River. Well, what we learned was that no two dogs, regardless of the breed, are ever alike. Our new GR, Brody, is 14 months old now, and Brody is definitely not River. LOL!

Brody has his own personality. He loves to cuddle and sleep with us, something River never did. There is nothing like having your dog lay across you in the morning to say hello to a new day.
 

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When our last GR, River, passed at age 11 from Cancer, we seriously considered getting a different breed of dog for the same reason. We were concerned we would always be comparing a new GR puppy to River. Well, what we learned was that no two dogs, regardless of the breed, are ever alike. Our new GR, Brody, is 14 months old now, and Brody is definitely not River. LOL!

Brody has his own personality. He loves to cuddle and sleep with us, something River never did. There is nothing like having your dog lay across you in the morning to say hello to a new day.
I know exactly what you mean! We purposely got a female this time instead of a male, and she has the English cream color while Oakley was the classic golden color. He was 11 1/2 when he passed, and if I really think back, he could be a little devil when he was a puppy as well. But, of course, we only remember the good! At any rate, it’s nice to hear these encouraging stories and know that our little balls of energy WILL come into their own...someday!:)
 

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Just for the record, after River, a mature, calm and gentle giant, we thought we were crazy being retired, and bringing home a new puppy. LOL! Oh my goodness! what a shift in lifestyle. That said, new life in the home does just that. A new pup is like having a baby again. ? Living such makes you cringe, laugh, yell, laugh some more and enjoy every moment of new LIFE in the home. WOW! ??
 

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Thank you so very much to everyone who took the time to post. Your encouragement and experiences mean so much! It is wonderful to hear that the challenges we are currently facing with Gray are not necessarily permanent ones!

Body's Rockies, Gray does LOVE to run in the snow! Whether there is a path cleared on not, he will take off full force and run around the yard after a big snow! Now that things have thawed and melted a bit here, he is getting into all kinds of trouble out there usually resulting in incredibly muddy paws! :)

Jon, I appreciate your comment that the dog you have at 9 months is not necessarily the one you will have as an adult. Sometimes it is good to see a light at the end of the tunnel and there will be progress even when it is hard to see on a day to day basis. Rigby is gorgeous and his obstinate "I won't stop playing yet" face is one I recognize well!!

I really appreciate all of the tips and ideas for wearing Gray out not just physically, but emotionally as well. Those are great suggestions. But most of all, thanks for the support and encouragement! So nice to know that we are not the only ones to ever experience this!
 
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