How to Discipline a Golden Retriever – The Right Method That Works

Dogs, like kids, are not behaving in the best way all the time. This applies to all dogs, and not just golden retrievers. They can be well-trained and well-socialized dogs and still behave in an undesirable manner – aka, be naughty.

This is inevitable to happen with almost every dog owner there is, and that’s why you need to know how to course-correct in the right way, without making things worse or causing the dog to like you less.

So, how to discipline a golden retriever correctly? To discipline a golden retriever you need to stop them from doing the bad behavior (while in the act) and redirect them to the good behavior. Disciplining a golden retriever in the long term is easily done by reinforcing the good behaviors to replace the bad ones.

Although it’s a relatively simple process to discipline your dog, there is an surprisingly number of people that do it in the wrong way, and thus make things even worse.

In this article, I’m going to show you how to discipline your golden retriever in the right way (the only way that actually works), what to do when you catch them in the act, why sometimes goldens misbehave, and how you can fix the bad behaviors from the root instead of just focusing on the symptoms.

How to Discipline Your Golden Retriever Correctly

sad golden to show how to discipline a golden retriever the right way

Here are the simple steps you can use to discipline any dog;

  • Catch the dog in the act.
  • Stop the dog from completing the action by saying “No!” in a firm tone (without yelling)
  • Ask them to do something instead
  • If the dog doesn’t follow the commands, you can punish them by taking away something they love

As you can see, this way focuses on replacing the bad behavior with a good one. There is no physical punishment involved nor is there any yelling or scolding of any type. We’ll get to why such methods don’t work later, but here are

The only acceptable punishment to discipline a dog should be taking away something they love – and this thing doesn’t have to be something they already have, and can instead be something they expect to get. Now here is where it gets interesting; this thing you take away can vary depending on your own dog.

Let me give you a few examples;

  • If you ask the dog to drop something they’re chewing on, and they don’t, you can hold out on any treats you normally give them when they cooperate
  • If you ask them to stop barking and they don’t, you can get away from them and give them little or no attention
  • You can not take them for a walk in the usual time if they have just done the bad behavior

You get the point. The important thing is that they punishment is done by taking away something they anticipate and love. This signals to the dog that they are being punished, and once they follow the commands and do the good thing, you can reward them with them with the thing you took away.

What does this teach the dog? It teaches them that the thing they did first was a bad thing since it resulted in not getting the thing they love, and that the way to get the thing they like, whether it’s your attention, the walks, the treats, or whatever, is to follow the commands.

This is basically the only way to teach dogs what’s “good” and what’s “bad”. Dogs don’t understand good and bad on their own, and it’s important for us to understand that. They need us to teach them how they should behave by reinforcing good behaviors.

For a more practical example, check out my guide on how to stop your golden retriever from eating everything here. You will find a step-by-step guide on stopping the bad behavior that should be an excellent example of a very common problem with golden retrievers.

For another example, you can also check out my guide on how to quiet down your loud or noisy golden retriever on command here.

12 Common Mistakes When Disciplining a Golden Retriever (To Avoid)

These are the most common mistakes people make when discipling their dogs;

  1. Forgetting they’re a dog, not a person
  2. Focusing on the symptoms, not the root issues
  3. Using physical punishment
  4. Yelling at the dog
  5. Rubbing the dog’s nose in the dirt
  6. Encouraging the bad behavior
  7. Not reinforcing the good behavior enough
  8. Not teaching everyone in the family how to train the dog
  9. Not Making the rules clear from the start
  10. Conflicting actions that confuse the dog
  11. Getting emotional
  12. Not Seeking professional help when necessary

Let’s take a minute to explain each of these problems…

Forgetting your golden is a dog, not a person

Some people forget that their dogs are, well, dogs. They may look and act smart, but you should never forget that he is a dog, not a person. They think the way a dog does and only know what we teach them.

Dogs don’t instinctively know right from wrong. They don’t know what we expect from them unless we teach them what we expect from them. Some people will just raise their expectations too highly for how their dog will behave.

Even the smartest, good-est dog there is will dog things that make you furious at times. That’s just part of the deal. Set your expectations right, don’t expect that your dog will always do the right thing and be ready for when they do the wrong things.

Focusing only on the symptoms, not the root issues

Focusing on correcting every bad act a time is like focusing on treating every symptom of the disease at a time. Yes, it my make you feel better, but it’s just a matter of time before they do the next bad thing. For example, a dog that chews on everything and barks all the time could be bored and has a lot of pent-up energy because they are not getting enough exercise.

You should, of course, teach them to only chew on chew toys instead of everything in their sight, but you shouldn’t also fix the root issue by exercising them enough on a daily basis. This is the only way to make sure you’re actually fixing the problem at its root.

Using physical punishment

Using physical punishment to reprimand a dog is not only cruel and inhumane, it’s also ineffective.

When you are physically punishing the dog, you are not correcting their behavior, and instead, you are teaching the dog to become more aggressive to defend himself, to fear you and trust you less, and to become smarter and sneakier when they are doing the bad things.

Physical punishment should never be used to reprimand the dog in any way. You should never hit or smack the dog in any way. Don’t pull on their ears or tails. You can learn how physical punishment causes aggression in Golden Retrievers here.

Yelling at the dog

The second worst thing after physically punishing the dog is yelling at them. Shouting and yelling at your dog will tell them that you are angry, and this will result in fear and aggression. Yelling at your

– dog can also tell them “hey, we’re yelling” which will result in them responding with barking.

Another reaction to yelling would be indifference. After a while, dogs can learn to just not care about your yelling and shouting any more and become insensitive to it, which means that you will not get any where with it.

In General, yelling is a bad idea with dogs, and it will only make matters worse.

Rubbing the dog’s nose in the dirt

Rubbing your dog’s nose in the dirt is a form of physical punishment, and it’s not an acceptable one at all. Your dog doesn’t instinctively understand that they should only go potty outside. They also don’t understand why you would push their nose in their own urine or stool.

It’s true that dogs learn by association, and that they will understand that you are mad at them and that they have done nothing wrong. But they won’t associate the punishment with going potty inside the house, they will associate it with going potty in general.

So what will they learn instead? That they need to go potty somewhere else that’s difficult to find or going potty when you are not looking or not around at all. It doesn’t fix the behavior, it makes it worse, and makes it even more difficult for you to correct it later on.

So, what should you do instead? You should catch your dog in the act, quickly take them outside and wait until they go outside and reward them when they are done. With repetition, your dog will learn that you want them to go potty outside.

Potty-training your dog is your responsibility. It’s a part of owning a dog, and a crucial one at that.

Encouraging the bad behavior

You might be wondering “how can I ever encourage the bad behavior”? the answer is unintentionally. You are unintentionally rewarding their bad behavior by laughing and saying “how cute” when they start nibbling on your hands when they’re puppies.

This only teaches them that this is an acceptable form of play, and this will teach them that biting when they grow bigger – when it becomes actually painful – is okay. And believe me, goldens do have a strong bite that hurts.

Another common way we’re reinforcing bad behaviors in dogs is by laughing at certain behaviors when they are young or when they do it to others. When your dog jumps at your friend, you (and your friend) should not laugh because you think it’s cute, you should say “no” firmly.

Pay attention to your reactions to your dog from the moment you bring home to not reinforce any bad behaviors.

Not reinforcing the good behavior enough

Here is a piece of news that may come as a surprise to many; Dogs Forget. Yes, they forget their training. As time goes on, your dog will start to forget some of his training. This will show up as they become inconsistent in following some commands.

When this happens, you should immediately work on reinforcing their training. Do it all over again as if it’s the first time you’re training them. Otherwise, as your dog starts forgetting his training, the good behaviors could be more easily replaced wit bad ones.

Not making the rules as clear as they could be from the start

Your dog’s training starts from the moment you bring them into your household. This is the moment you should start making the rules as clear as they could. Be gentle, firm, and consistent.

Keep your rules clear and firmly stop the dog from breaking them for whatever reason. Remember that whatever you teach your dog in their puppy-hood is likely to stick with them for their lifetime, so be consistent and start the training as early as you step into your house with them.

Conflicting actions that confuse the dog

If one time you laugh at them jumping at you but then you yell at them when they jump on your child, that will confuse the dog. The same happens when you make certain rules clear to the dog – such as no begging for table scraps – but then someone at the family breaks it – such as when your spouse give them table scraps.

Making the rules clear is not only about the dogs, but about the whole family. Anyone that interacts with the dog on a regular basis – be it a spouse, the kids, the neighbors, relatives, or friends – should be well aware of what the rules are.

Dogs don’t understand conditionality as well as humans do. They won’t understand that something is not allowed unless x or y. They will only understand that something is allowed or not allowed. So, be consistent and make sure everyone else is consistent so the dog doesn’t get confused.

Getting emotional

Golden retrievers tend to be sensitive dogs, and getting emotional will only make the situation worse. If you get angry at the dog, your dog can be angry as well, and this will make correcting the bad behavior quite difficult.

Keep your emotions under control when disciplining your dog. Pay attention to your body language, tone of voice, and even facial expressions. Your dog can pick up on the slightest hints of your body language and sense what you’re feeling, which will be counter productive when you’re trying to correct a bad behavior.

Not Seeking Professional Help When Necessary

Some dogs are more difficult to train than others. It could be that your dog is too difficult to train, or maybe you don’t have the time or energy to spend on training the dog well enough to correct some bad behaviors. Whatever the reason may be, you need to be able to know when you need professional help and go seek it.

Some people just keep trying the same things and don’t seek professional help even though they can see that nothing they are doing is working. In these cases, it ends up with the poor dog getting abandoned.

Be ready to ask for professional help from a dog trainer when all else fails. There is nothing wrong with that.

9 Reasons Why Some Goldens Misbehave

To make sure your dog doesn’t repeat any bad behaviors in the future, you need to fix any root issues that may be causing them to misbehave in the first place.

Here are the most common reasons why golden retrievers misbehave

  1. They’re not getting enough attention
  2. They’re not getting enough exercise
  3. They are forgetting their training
  4. You are reinforcing the bad behavior unintentionally
  5. They are ill
  6. They are injured or in pain
  7. They are anxious about recent changes
  8. They want to mate
  9. They are bored of the routine

Now let’s quickly discuss each of these problems, how to identify them, and how to fix them;

Not Getting enough attention

Goldens are very social dogs. They like to spend as much time as they can with their owners, engaging with their families, and generally just around people. That’s why they can misbehave if they are not getting enough attention and are feeling lonely.

This is quite common when they are being left alone for long periods of time. If that seems to be the case, there are many solutions to make your golden retriever feel less lonely, the easiest of which is to simply give them more attention and spend more time with them.

If you have to spend some time away from them, there are still ways to make them less lonely. You can learn what to do if you have to leave your golden retriever alone here.

A side note; Keep an eye on your dog when you’re not there

If your dog does spend a lot of time alone, you will want to keep an eye on them for their safety, amongst many other reasons. As someone who has a job in an office which requires me to spend a portion of my day away, I like to stay connected to them when they are alone at the house. I use the Furbo dog monitor for that, and it’s easily the best dog monitor I have used in recent years.

It also allows me to keep training them when outside by giving them treats even while at my desk. For the price, the Furbo is definitely worth every dog owner’s consideration. You can check out the Furbo dog monitor on Amazon here.

Not Getting enough exercise

Goldens are energetic and active dogs. They need at least 30 to 40 minutes of moderate to intense exercise per day. When they don’t get enough exercise, they can misbehave and start, for example, chewing on your furniture, barking loudly and consistently, or going potty inside the house.

Speaking of chewing, you can check out the best toys for goldens that will withstand heavy chewing here.

The solution here is obvious, of course you should exercise them more.

They’re forgetting their training

As dogs get older, they can start forgetting their training – as discussed earlier. Thankfully, with golden retrievers, you can easily identify when this starts happening. Goldens have superb recall of their commands, and so missing a few recalls is a clear sign that something is not right, and that it may be time to go over their training again.

Don’t forget that training your dog is not something you do once and then forget about it, but it’s more of a lifelong thing that you will keep doing with them. You need to re-train your dog at least once every couple of years to keep their training fresh in their minds.

You are reinforcing bad behavior unintentionally

We have also discussed this one before. If you, or someone that regularly interacts with the dog, is intentionally or unintentionally reinforcing the bad behaviors and confusing the dog, you should tell them to stop.

Make the rules clear to everyone that interacts with the dog, and give no exceptions.

They are ill

Dogs can misbehave or even become aggressive when they are ill. If your dog shows any physical symptoms of illness, you should take them to the vet and have them checked out.

Sudden mood swings, changes in sleep schedules, refusing to eat, eating too little, or eating too much are examples of signs that you may want to have the vet check them out.

They are injured or in pain

Dogs can easily hurt themselves while playing, especially when playing outside. This can also cause the dog to misbehave or behave in ways that are not like them. You can easily tell that your dog is injured or in pain if they start distancing themselves from you or if they react aggressively when you touch a certain area – such as their paws.

A very common problem that occur to goldens as they grow older is their limping. Golden retrievers can easily hurt their hips or knees playing roughly when they grow older. In this case, you will also want your vet to check them out.

You can also learn about all the causes of golden retriever limping here.

They are anxious or stressed

Golden retrievers, or any dog for that matter, can misbehave when they are anxious or stressed. There are a lot things that can make a dog anxious and stressed, but most commonly are loud noises, bright lights, changes in routine, and a move to a new house, neighborhood, or city.

If your dog is anxious or stressed, you need to spend more time with them to reassure them and comfort them.

They want to mate

Golden Retrievers can misbehave when they want to mate. Goldens can try to run away even to find a mate, and some of them unfortunately never make it back home.

If your golden retriever has not been neutered, this could very much be the reason they are misbehaving. The solution then is one of two options, you can either find them a mate or neuter them. Punishing them or trying to discipline them is unlikely to work here, mating is a very strong and persistent instinct that can drive even the most well-trained dogs insane.

You can learn when to neuter your golden retriever here and why it’s actually a very good idea in some cases.

They are bored

Dogs love routine, but some dogs can also get bored of living in a groundhog day. If you think your dog has been on the same routine for too long, maybe it’s time to introduce some new changes.

Maybe it’s time to start nighttime walks or to go hiking with your golden instead of the usual walks or runs. Try to introduce some new changes to their life and see if this fixes some of the issues.

If you are going for nighttime walks, make sure to check out my recommended leashes for night time walks here.

Related Questions

How to Discipline a golden retriever puppy?

To discipline a golden retriever puppy, you need to stop them in the bad act, tell them firmly “No”, and then replace the bad behavior with a good one. The only way to discipline a golden retriever puppy is by replacing the bad behavior with the desired one through positive reinforcement.

Physical punishments will only make things worse, so don’t yell, hit, or pull on your dog.

Why won’t my golden retriever listen?

Your golden retriever is probably not listening to your commands because they are forgetting their training, sick, injured, or is fearful. Golden Retrievers could also not listen to their owners if they are anxious, stressed, or feeling lonely.

How do I get a disobedient dog to listen?

To get a disobedient dog to listen, you need to train them using positive reinforcement by rewarding them for good behaviors and following commands while taking something away from them – like stopping treats or ignoring them – when they are not cooperating.

If you liked the article, you can share it using the share and pin buttons at the end of the post. I’ll really appreciate it ♥️♥️

Helpful Resources

Does training method matter?: Evidence for the negative impact of aversive-based methods on companion dog welfare

Dog training methods: their use, effectiveness and interaction with behavior and welfare

Living with a Retriever: Recommendations and Sources


Hey there, I'm Matt, the author behind With a deep love for dogs and a dedication to strengthening the bond between owners and their retrievers, I've created a hub of resources for enthusiasts like you. Through engaging articles, training guides, and product reviews, I aim to provide practical advice that makes a real difference in your life as a dog owner. Whether you're a seasoned pro or new to the world of retrievers, my approachable and informative writing style ensures that you'll find valuable insights. Join me on this incredible journey of discovering what makes retrievers tick, unlocking their potential, and creating an unbreakable bond with your furry companion. Let's embark on an adventure of dog ownership together. Thank you for visiting and being part of our vibrant community.

Recent Posts