Golden Retrievers as Service Dogs

Service dogs can be an incredibly important part of an individual’s life, whether they are there for emotional support or to assist in performing daily tasks. Because of this, it is important that the dog breeds chosen to be trained as service dogs have the correct disposition. They must further have the ability to be properly trained in service tasks in order to fully assist individuals with disabilities.

One example of a dog breed especially suited to being a service dog is the golden retriever. This dog is kind, intelligent, and dependable, making it a perfect candidate for service dog training. In this article we will discuss the specifics of why golden retrievers make fantastic service dogs and give you some tips on starting to train your own golden retriever in service tasks.

Why Do Golden Retrievers Make Good Service Dogs?

It is important for a service dog to have a certain set of characteristics that make them good candidates for learning skills and supporting their owner. Service dogs need to be able to learn skills relatively quickly, be socialized in a number of different settings, and have the size and strength to perform necessary tasks for their owners. They should also be friendly and attentive without being too reactive or aggressive towards other people or animals.

With these attributes in mind, it is easy to see why golden retrievers make such fantastic service dogs. Golden retrievers are incredibly loyal and predisposed to following their owner around, which can be very helpful for an individual who needs their service dog to remain at their side for long periods of time. They are very friendly in nature and have a tendency to be loving to everyone they meet; this makes it easy to bring a golden into multiple different social settings and around different people and animals without them becoming upset or aggressive.

Golden retrievers also learn quickly and they love to perform tasks for their owners; bred initially as hunting dogs that were given the task of retrieving shot ducks, golden retrievers enjoy the challenge of learning new skills and being given a chance to prove themselves to their owners. Additionally, as a medium-sized dog, they are highly suited to performing tasks that need a little more strength and height, such as opening doors, pushing buttons, and supporting their owners with their body.

What Tasks Can a Golden Retriever Perform?

Golden retrievers can perform almost all tasks assigned to them with the right training, but there are some responsibilities that they are more suited to than others.

Guide Dogs

Acting as a seeing eye dog is where many golden retrievers shine. Seeing eye dogs need to be active and alert of their surroundings, something that goldens excel in, as a larger breed that loves the outdoors. Guide dogs also need to learn a wide range of skills and tasks that help their owner, which is something that golden retrievers are capable of and enjoy doing.

Mobility Assistance Dogs

As their name indicates, golden retrievers love to retrieve. They are a good choice for a mobility assistance dog as they are quickly able to learn commands and enjoy the act of bringing things to their owner. A golden retriever’s size also makes them especially suited to being able to open doors, move items, and provide psychical assistance to their owner.

Therapy Dogs

Because they are highly sensitive to the people around them, golden retrievers are very suited to becoming therapy dogs. They are often seen working in hospitals to provide comfort to patients and are often able to become emotional service animals (keep in mind that ESAs are different from service dogs in terms of legal protections). Goldens are quiet and naturally disposed to being friendly and loving, one of the most important traits needed in a therapy dog.
golden retriever assisting woman in wheelchair

Can I Train My Own Golden Retriever Service Dog?

If you already own a golden retriever or you want to adopt a golden retriever as a service dog, you may be wondering if it is possible for you to train them yourself. After all, the total cost of adopting a trained service dog can be upwards of 25,000 dollars.

It is possible to train a golden retriever yourself, but keep in mind that a professional trainer will likely cost you around $150 to $250 per hour and, if you train your dog completely by yourself, it could take much longer to teach them necessary tasks. However, if you have the time to work on training your own golden retriever service dog, it can be a rewarding and bonding experience.

Where Can I Adopt a Golden Retriever Service Dog?

If you are looking to adopt a fully trained golden retriever service dog, you can search the website of agencies like this one that works to connect eligible owners with a service dog suited to their needs. You can also search for national non-profits or local organizations in your area that may be able to help you find a golden retriever service dog at a lower cost than purchasing one would be.

Additionally, if you want to train your dog yourself or you wish to hire a personal trainer, you can adopt a golden retriever from any local rescue or shelter. You may be able to find a breeder in your area to purchase a golden retriever puppy from, but you should take steps to ensure the breeder is reputable before buying a puppy from them.

Service Dog Training Tips

These training tips can help you out if you decide to start teaching your golden retriever to be a service dog by yourself.

Start With the Basics

When you first adopt your golden retriever, you should start training them with basic, easy tasks. This will provide them with a familiarity of training and will build up a foundation of basic skills that can be added onto at a later date.

Skills you should teach at this point include simple ones like “sit,” “stay,” and “fetch.” It is also a good idea to instill proper housetraining into your dog and possibly teach them ways to indicate that they need to use the bathroom, such as training them with a bell. These actions will allow your dog to express themselves as clearly as possible.

Keep in mind that shorter training sessions throughout the day are the best way to instruct a young puppy.

Work on Complex Tasks

After you have built up a solid foundation of basic skills with your puppy, you can work on teaching them more complex tasks. Before trying to train, you should be making a list of the most important tasks you or someone else will need your golden retriever’s help in completing. This could include things like physical assistance when standing or helping to pick things up.

Once you have determined which skills you would like your dog to learn, start working on training them. If the skills are especially complex, it helps to teach each step individually before slowly putting all the steps together. This video can help you understand how to train dogs in complex service skills.

You may also want to consider hiring a professional trainer for this part of your service dog’s training, especially if you want your dog to assist you in tasks like medical monitoring or advanced guiding skills. It is possible to teach these skills yourself, but it may be less stressful and take less time to outsource these tasks to a professional.

Constantly Reinforce

Throughout your service dog’s training, you should be constantly reinforcing the skills that they have learned and giving them positive attention when they perform tasks correctly. This will help solidify your dog’s association with completed tasks and rewards, making them more obedient and more eager to learn new skills.

Make Sure to Give Breaks

Even though you are training your golden retriever as a service dog, it is important that you give your helper breaks. Your dog should be taught a clear signal that marks the beginning and end of their duty, and they should be allowed to act as a normal dog when not on duty. This includes allowing them to play with toys, lounge around, and spend time outdoors. Keep in mind that being off-duty is not an excuse for your dog to suddenly forget all their training and act wild, but merely a chance for them to act like a regular, well-behaved dog.

This video shows the difference in how a dog acts when on and off duty. Once your own golden retriever is fully trained, you will be able to see the difference in their behaviors as they learn when they should be alert and when it is ok to relax.

A Service Dog That Loves People

A people-loving, tolerant dog, the golden retriever is a perfect candidate for becoming a service dog. They learn quickly, can perform a wide range of skills, and are incredibly dedicated to their owners. If you are considering adopting or training your own a service dog, a golden retriever may be perfect for you and your assistance needs.