Tricks and Games Your Can Teach Your Golden Retriever

Because much of training involves teaching your Golden Retriever what his place in the family is and how to control himself, training can get to be rather serious.

However, training can also be fun. Teaching your dog games and doing some trick training can really challenge your Golden’s ability to learn. Once you have taught your dog, you can have a great time showing off your dog’s tricks, amusing your friends and family, and just plain having fun with your dog.


As their name suggests, Golden’s are born retrievers that are able to bring back just about anything that moves or is thrown. However, some will chase after whatever is thrown but won’t always bring it back. If your dog likes to retrieve then all you need to do is tweak the game so that he brings the item all the way back to you and gives it to you without playing tug of war. If he hesitates on the way, simply call him to you. If he drops the item, send him back to it, again using encouragement to have him pick it up and bring it to you. Don’t scold him or try to correct him; that will only serve to discourage him.

If your dog likes to take the thrown item and play keep away from you, you have two options. You can stop the game and go inside, leaving him alone. This shows him that you will not chase him and the game will end when he tries to play keep away. Or you can have a long leash on him when you start the game so that if he tries to play keep away, you can step on the rope, stop him, and use the rope to bring him back to you. If you need to use the rope, you still must praise him for coming back to you even if you made him do it. As said before, the come command must be positive.

Once your dog is retrieving reliably and bringing the toy or item back to you, there are unlimited games you can play. Most Goldens love retrieving tennis balls. To make it challenging, tennis balls can be thrown short or far, or bounced off the side of the house.

If your Golden is really motivated, throw several tennis balls at once and see how many he can pick up and carry at the same time.


The name game is a fantastic way to make your dog think. Believe it or not, your dog can think and is capable of learning the names of many different items and people. Not only is this a fun game for your dog, it can come in handy around the house. You can tell your dog to find your keys or your shoes. You can send your Golden after the remote control to the television, or to go find a person. In addition, it’s great fun to show off to your friends or guests.

Start with two items that are very different, perhaps a tennis ball and a bowl. Sit on the floor with your dog and these two items, and have some treats that he likes. Say to him, “Where’s the ball?” and bounce the ball so that he tries to grab it or at least pays attention to it. When he touches it, tell him, “Good boy to find the ball!” and give him a treat. When he is responding to the ball, then lay it on the floor next to the bowl and send him after it. Praise and reward him for getting it. Now set several different items out with the bowl and ball, and send him back again. When he brings back the ball, praise and reward him.

When he is doing that well, place one of his toys out there and send him back again. If he goes for the other toy, take it away with no comment, and send him after the ball again. This is a critical step in his learning process and you may need to repeat it several times.

When he will pick up his ball from among several different items, including toys that tempt him, then start hiding the ball. Make it simple to start, maybe just partially hiding the ball under a magazine. As he gets better, start making it more challenging.

When you can hide the tennis ball and your dog can find it, start teaching him the names of other items, following the same process. You will find that the first three items will be the most difficult. Your dog needs to learn how to learn and he needs to understand the concept you are trying to teach him. Once he understands that each of these things has a different sound, and that he needs to listen to you say those sounds, then he will start learning much faster.


Hide and seek is a fun game that is similar to the hide and seek you played as a child, except that you or your family members will hide and your Golden will find you. You will see that your dog will be much better at finding people than you ever were because he has outstanding scenting abilities.

Start by teaching your dog a family member’s name using the techniques you learned in the name game. When your dog can identify a family member, you can have that family member hide. Give that family member a treat and have her show your dog that she has one. Hold your dog as that family member goes and hides in a fairly easy location. Tell your dog, “Go find Daughter!” or whoever and let him go. If he starts to look around and sniff, just be quiet and let him work and think. If your dog starts to look frustrated or confused, tell him again, “Go find Daughter!” and help him find her. When he goes to daughter, praise him enthusiastically and let Daughter give your dog the treat.

As your dog gets better at this game, you can start making it more challenging. Have family members hide in more difficult places or slightly farther away from your dog. They can also run around a little before finding a hiding place, so that there is a more challenging trail. As your Golden gets better, you can also cover his eyes so that he can’t see the family member go hide.

When your dog has learned the names of different family members and knows how to find them, you can use this skill around the house. For example, you can send your dog out to the yard to get the family when it’s dinner time. Or have him take the remote control to Dad when he asks for it. Hide and seek is a lot of fun, is challenging for your dog and allows him to use his natural scenting abilities.


Shaking hands is a very easy trick to teach your dog. Have your Golden sit in front of you and ask him to “Shake” as you reach behind one front paw and tickle his leg in the hollow just behind his paw. When he lifts his paw to escape the tickle, shake his paw as you tell him, “Good to shake!” and give him a treat. When he starts to lift his paw on his own, stop tickling.


When your dog is shaking hands reliably, tell him “Shake. Wave!” and instead of shaking his paw, just lightly touch your hand under his paw and move your hand away so that he continues to reach for your hand. As he reaches for your hand, tell him, “Good to wave!” With the wave, you want him to lift his paw higher than in the shake and to move it up and down so that he looks like he is waving.


Have your dog sit and stay. Hold his chin with one hand as you place a treat on the top of his nose. Tell him “Stay!” After a few seconds, tell him, “Okay!” and let him toss the treat and catch it. Gradually increase the time you want him to wait before you release him and enthusiastically praise him when he catches the treat in mid-air.


Have your dog lay down. With a treat in one hand, circle your Golden’s head with the treat in the direction you want him to roll, while you tell him, “Roll over!” At first, you may need to physically help him roll. Praise him when he does roll over, even if you need to help him. Enthusiastically praise him when he does it on his own. Once he can roll over by himself, you can ask him to do it more than once. Have him roll over two or three times. Teach him a command for each such as “Three roll overs!” or “Two roll overs!” Impress your friends that your dog knows how to count! 

Please note: This article is part of a collection of dog-related content that we purchased the rights to. Opinions expressed may or may not agree with those espoused by Master Dog Trainer Adam G. Katz. When in doubt, please refer to the advice given in Adam’s dog training book.  This article is provided for your enjoyment, only. It’s relevance to real world working dog training may be limited.