Wrong use of a dog prong collar

Miadog writes to me:

I can’t believe I have been using the prong collar with the prongs under my dogs neck, not behind her head!. I have been using it the wrong way for 8 mos. The associate at Petco never even asked if I knew how to use it. I just assumed the prongs went in front. I watched the video on how to walk your dog on a leash and finally saw the right use of the collar. I feel awful. Could I have caused any permanent damage to my dog’s trachea?

Adam replies:
Hi Mia…that’s a cute picture of your dog! Is she a Lab-poodle or a Golden-poodle? She’s got that poodle-y mix look about her!It’s hard to say if there’s any damage, but be reassured that if there is any, it might just be a little bit of soreness depending on how you had it fit, and it will go away quickly. I’m not quite sure what you mean by “prongs under her neck,” because when fit right, the prongs can sit anywhere around the dog’s neck…it’s just up to you if you like the chain portion on either side, behind the head or under the neck. Unless it’s fit wrong and/or used in a very harsh manner, the design of the collar actually prevents tracheal damage because it is a limited-slip design and puts pressure around the entire neck instead of just one small area. The associates at PetCo will never hear this in their training as associates (didn’t work there, but worked at a similar, locally-based, pet retail store and had to write the associate-training information on pinch/slip/electronic collar myself), but the pinch collar is actually a lot safer than the slip/”choke” collar and even the famous “Gentle” Leaders…when used correctly for training purposes.

If you find yourself with more questions regarding training technique or proper use of the collar, feel free to ask. That’s what we’re here for!

Mia responds:

Thanks. She is a labradoodle.


Adam replies:

Hi, Mia:

No, you haven’t caused any damage. That’s actually one of the benefits of the prong collar: It doesn’t put pressure on the dog’s trachea. Supposedly, the slip/chain/choke collar can… but even with that collar, I’ve never seen evidence of it doing damage or injury to a dog, if used properly.

Also: Please note that– as long as you fit the collar the way I show in the video, it doesn’t matter if the prongs are underneath the neck or on top. You can spin it around, depending on what exercise you’re working on… so that it’s easier for you to give the correction.

Example: If I’m teaching the sit/sit-stay, I’ll move it around so that the ring I attach the leash to is at the back of the dogs neck (and the prongs will be underneath– the side where the chest and chin are). This is because the tug on the leash for the sit command is straight up.

It’s the opposite if I’m working on the down, as the correction is in a downward and forward direction.

If you haven’t yet, please read through the Secrets book, as it will be an excellent supplement to the videos.

– Adam.

Mia responds:

Thanks Adam. I got the impression the collar was only used one direction after seeing your video. I am glad to hear what you said. I worked my dog for about 3, 20 min periods today, and she is pulling less on the leash. I can’t wait to get a 30 ft leash and try the off leash exercises.



kafox adds:
Great info! But wouldn’t it be cumbersome to constantly turn the pinch collar every time you want to enforce a command, or is that only for the first steps of training? Can a tab face downward or to the side and you can ‘pop’ it upwards or downwards for a ‘down’ or ‘sit’?

Adam replies:

Hi, Kafox:

Yes, it’s only an issue if, for example: I’m working on the down. I’ll turn it around, so that it’s easier for me, but it will slide around on it’s own– eventually, even if I didn’t.

– Adam.


Dealing with your dog’s prey obsession problems

Andersenm writes to me:

Hi Adam – Just joined and started on the book – I adopted from a rescue orginization a Border collie/Golden retriever mix of 15 months of age. he definitly needs work but has learned some commands while indoors – problem is his prey obsession, I have had to cover some windows and door windows because he has become totally obsessed with the squirrels outside. Since this is entering week four of our relationship I still use a leash on him in my 1.5 acre fenced yard. I realize I cannot rid him of this as it is natural but do have to temper it some. Anything that would help while I digest your book cover to cover would help. I did raise and train a border collie that we had for 15 years before he passed and do not remember having this much trouble with him.
Mike Andersen


Adam replies:

Hi, Mike:

Most likely, with this breed mix, he’s got a pretty soft temperament– which is a good thing– so it shouldn’t be too hard to correct this.

First: Make sure his exercise requirements are met. (This means: A lot of cardio).

Second: You’re correct in keeping the leash (or a long line, outside) on him… until he’s 100%. I would start with correcting the behavior in the house, using the tab (as described in the book). This is mostly an issue of making your corrections motivational, and then keeping him in the dog crate (in the house) or kennel (outside) when you’re not home. This allows us to make sure the dog is getting corrected CONSISTENTLY until he drops the behavior.

You’re actually quite lucky, because you can channel that prey drive into a ball or a toy, and use it as a motivator to get him to respond to commands extra-fast and with a positive attitude.

Read through the book. I think it’ll make a lot of things clear for you. If you still have questions, please post again and I’ll try to extrapolate on any issue that might not be clear.


Some Thoughts on A Few Popular Dog Training Buzzwords

I was talking with a woman who would become a future client, and she was discussing her issues with the three Chihuahuas with whom she shares her residence. In so many words, she admitted that she was part of the problem (applause all around), but something else she mentioned after that made me furrow my brow.

Her words: “I’m not a good disciplinarian.”

I explained to her that, honestly, you don’t have to be. In order to successfully teach a dog appropriate manners and behavior, you just need the capability to set a rule and stick to it. It’s that simple.

The real problem comes when you need to communicate the rules: how exactly do you tell a dog that he can’t jump on the couch or mark your dinner table? It seems so simple, and I see people at the park communicating to their dogs all the time. Lucky for the dog, they’re keeping it simple, to a point: “Leave that alone,” “No, this way,” “Come here!” “Stop it and be good.”

It’s not about the dog being “dominant.”

The real problem is that the dog has never been taught the communication necessary that not only gives its owner’s vocal cords a rest from the constant babbling, but also gives direction, praise, motivation and negative connotations (mostly in the form of the word “No”).

To insinuate that one needs to be a disciplinarian in order to achieve clear communication is a bit backwards. I have said time and again that headcollars and the constant resistance against them shown by most dogs is the exact opposite to the clear communication necessary to teach a concept and properly reinforce it. I find it’s an apt analogy.

Being a disciplinarian and dominant personality has little to do with dog training. It’s more about the personal satisfaction of “showing the dog who’s boss,” rather than simply sticking to your guns and saying “I won’t allow this.” By showing that you aren’t budging on your morals when it comes to what’s allowed and what’s not, your dog will start showing respect for you. Even when this involves the use of a training collar, it need not be confrontational—and as long as the person on the end of the leash stays calm, firm and confident, often the only one making a scene out of it is the one who is so used to having its way that it throws the temper tantrum!

Dominance isn’t a set of actions meant to coerce or subdue another being. It’s a state of mind.

Submission is not the act of rolling over and exposing one’s figurative underside. It’s a state of mind.

Humans achieve it with each other, and even objects, all the time without giving it much thought.

Someone goes to the doctor and says “I’m in pain, it’s coming from my leg.” The patient is submissive to the doctor’s expertise and knowledge of tests used to diagnose the cause of the pain and the methods used to treat it.

In another case, a dog owner might take her cat to the veterinarian and participate in a dominant/submissive business relationship, but she would challenge this by questioning the vet’s judgment on certain topics. “Certainly, the model of yearly vaccinations is not necessary,” she says. “He is fed food that is best for him, which is not the brands you recommend.” The vet can listen, accept her words and the reasons behind it, and become submissive to the owner on these topics, while still remaining the dominant figure in regards to the medical care of that dog.

A teenager manages to land a job for the first time in his life, and finds himself answering to a manager pretty close to his own age. He must learn how to be submissive to someone who doesn’t look like he deserves respect.

A driver stops at a stop sign or a traffic light at a busy intersection. While the sign itself is not “dominant,” the idea that one must obey the signal is there, lest there be bodily harm, death, or discipline in the form of an even more dominant policeman as a result of not stopping.

Something goes wonky with my computer and I take it to my local tech support. As I explain the problem and see if I can cause it to happen again, I am cognizant of the fact that my local tech support is the dominant person here in terms of why I am visiting him. I may know more than he when it comes to some topics, but as to this, I am next to useless.

My dog indeed knows more than me in some ways. I can read a dog pretty well in terms of body language and how they relate to others, but I am no match to her ability to read another dog or quickly teach another dog basic manners about personal space. When she is taken to work as a therapy dog, she has the ability to read people, smell them, and know just who needs a little bit of extra attention. There have been a few memorable therapy visits, especially with Zeke, in which the handler is merely a silent observer as the dog works to ease peoples’ pain, fear and frustration of being in the hospital, whether as a patient or a concerned family member. The dog is the dominant being here. Zeke even gently pulled his handler to a patient’s room one day, the exact patient that he had been called in to visit. He knew.

Yet, when I ask Mallory to recall, or walk at heel next to my side, she becomes submissive and obeys. She doesn’t flip onto her back, urinate, scream or flail wildly in response to my dominance over her actions. She simply accepts them and assumes the submissive mindset of the follower. There are days when she grumbles under her breath and shuffles along like the belligerent adolescent dragged to 8AM Sunday services, but in the end, she still responds and is praised for it.

Back in the day when she had learned what a command meant and decided to blatantly ignore me rather than obey, she had to re-learn that communication transcends the leash. I was in no way a disciplinarian, but I did have to make her understand that she may not want to do that command, she may not like doing that command, but she needs to do it. Oftentimes it looked mean, my slogging through the yard in the morning to enforce a recall, but no one was the worse for wear: my dog learned that she can’t get out of doing a command that might one day save her life. (I, however, learned to put on something other than a pair of sandals to tramp through fresh snow.)

There is no need to domineer a dog, especially one that is learning. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t set and enforce boundaries, literally or otherwise. The fence is there for a reason: to physically restrain the dog in the yard and prevent it from running at large. Training is the mental fence that we build to show that certain behaviors are acceptable or inappropriate. It creates a calm mindset in the dog, instills in it a sense of confidence that can’t be gained from constant reassuring or feeding of treats, and is a solid example of the true form of dominance and submission, as well as respect and trust.

Training Your Chow Chow

Your Chow Chow pup’s socialization process begins when he is still in the litter.

When he is seven to eight weeks old, he gains in independence and is adventurous about his environment. Now’s the best time to bring your Chow Chow pup home.

In the next fortnight, he will begin to be easily frightened and will cling to you for support and reassurance. Don’t make loud noises or surprises at this time and have new experiences that don’t shock him or threaten his peace of mind.

At 10 weeks, he is well over this phase and will now enter the juvenile phase. Watch him nose around and be more exploratory— phase that will go on till he’s an adult. Now, introduce him to more new things He will be more inquisitive and wider ranging in his explorations. But watch him closely now as he may enter a second phase of fear in the fourth or fifth month.

While you socialize your pup, take his health needs into consideration. Vaccinate him completely or he will catch the deadly disease Parvovirus. Don’t take him out in public if his shots are still incomplete.

1. Obedience training for your pup: Even at age seven weeks, when you begin socializing your pup, you can make the whole process fun for him by injecting some gentle play. Use motivational methods and reward-based behaviors by offering treats, toys and food, apart from praise so that he wants to obey you.

Try to set up situations where he cannot go wrong. And don’t use physical punishment while he’s still a pup as this may harm him both mentally and physically. As with all the very young of all species, pups too have very short attention spans. This means that you repeat exercises several times a day. All you need to do is to spend a few minutes a day and watch the difference in his attitude. For best results, start the process a few days after he comes home to you.

Trick training: Here are some commonly taught tricks for all dogs:


1. Take a piece of food or a toy and from in front of him, move it to over his head and simultaneously say “Sit”.

2. He will raise his head and follow the direction of the food or toy, and without knowing it, lower his rear end to the process, lower his rear end to the floor in a sitting position.

3. Help him into this position by tucking his bottom under with your free hand.

4. Now, praise him lavishly and give him the toy or treat as a reward.


1. Try to tease him by showing him a piece of food or toy.

2. Now, say “Down” and lower the toy to the floor.

3. If he needs help, lower his rear body with a slight pressure on his shoulders.

4. When he lies down, as per your commands, give him the toy, even if only for a second and reward him profusely.

5. Now, increase the time period for him to stay on the floor before you give him the toy.


1. While your pup is still in the Down position, say “Stand” and raise a treat or toy high above his head. Help him get into position if he needs it.

2. Let him remain in this position for a couple of seconds, then release, reward and praise him generously.


1. Get your pup into sitting position.

2. Say “Wait” and move back from him, by a couple of steps. Praise him for staying.

3. To reward him while he’s still waiting so that he makes the association between his action and your reward. If he gets up too soon, repeat the exercise and slowly increase the time he waits.

Strut (Heel):

1. Dangle a tasty treat at his head level on your left-hand side.

2. Say “Strut” or “Heel” and walk forward briskly.

3. Allow him to much a bit as you walk.

4. First, just take a few steps, then increase the range. Now, release the pup and praise him. As he gets better at this, raise the level of the treat higher, but don’t reward him for jumping.

By training your pup, you will develop a close bond of love and loyalty Now, reward him, praise him and then release. Remember with him, besides also being a whole lot of fun. As you know, an untrained dog can be a nuisance, and a danger to the family and the neighborhood. But a well-trained dog is a friend for life and an asset to your family.

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.

Showing The Dog That You’re Breeding

You might decide that you want to show dogs. This is something that many breeders do and that is important to lots of different breeding programs. If you decide that you want to show dogs, there are a few things to keep in mind.
First of all, showing dogs can be a lot of work. You will need to be sure that you have the right forms and information so that you can get signed up for the show early enough. You’ll also need to be sure that you are ready to show dogs, meaning that you have had the proper time to work with your dogs.
When you are deciding whether or not to show dogs, there are some questions that you should ask yourself so that you know you are showing the right types of dogs. 

  • Does your dog conform to breed standards?
  • Is your dog well trained or can you train her easily to walk in the ring?
  • Is your dog comfortable with someone touching her and lifting her up?
  • Is your dog comfortable with other dogs?
  • Will your dog bit or will she try to bother the other animals?
  • Are you ready to travel to shows with your dog?
  • Is dog showing something you think you would like as a hobby?

The answers to these questions will help you make sure that you have provided enough information about your dog and that you know your dog is going to be good in the ring. This is something that you are going to want to think carefully about before you show your dog.

Showing a dog can lead to great things for your dog herself. She will be able to be better trained, and as you go through more shows she’ll learn even more. Also, you’ll be able to control your dog better.

Having championships, or having certifications from being shown is an important thing in the breeding world. Many times people will want to have your puppies if the parents have been shown because it shows that your dogs are great examples of the type of dog that they are looking for. 

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.

Dog Breeding: Lifetime Breeding And Ownership

It is important to remember that owning a dog means you are going to have lifetime breeding and ownership responsibilities.

If you are breeding dogs, you are going to need to know that you are responsible for that dog, and you are also responsible for the puppies that come from the dog .This means that as a responsible breeder, one of the most important thing that you can do is make sure that you provide your puppies with a guarantee.


As a breeder, you should be ready and willing to take back any puppies that the new owners cannot keep. This means that you need to be wiling to be responsible for any puppies that you sell, no matter how long you are in business for and no matter how long you breed puppies or how man you breed. This will help you to make sure that you are breeding responsibly.

Also, you need to remember that once you have purchased a dog, even with the intent of breeding him or her, you are responsible for that dog. If the dog doesn’t match breed standards and cannot breed, or if the dog cannot breed for some other reason, you are still responsible for that dog for the dog’s entire life.
Therefore, you might end up owning dogs that don’t breed. Once a dog is finished breeding for his or her life, you are still responsible for owning that dog, and you need to remember this so that you can be a responsible dog owner. 
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.

The Birth of the Golden Retriever

It probably comes as no surprise that the Golden Retriever is one of the most popular breeds in America. However, it may be a surprise for some to learn that these Golden beauties didn’t exist until fairly recently.
Since dogs first became domesticated, humans have learned that by breeding dogs with desirable traits, the likelihood of creating dogs with those traits is increased. By classical Roman time, dog breeding had reached the point that most of the modern dog families were clearly established. Retrievers, however, were not among the established families at that time.
The reason for not having Retrievers back then is easy to understand. As most people know, the trademark ability of the retriever is to bring back birds that hunters can’t easily reach. Until the introduction of guns, birds were usually caught by falcons or by throwing large nets over them. Only when hunters began shooting birds down with guns were they confronted with the problem of getting the birds, which may have fallen too far ahead or into deep water.
With the first muzzle-loading firearms, bird dogs that traditionally were used only to find and point out game also began to be trained to retrieve it. The breech-loading shotgun entered the scene in the mid-1800s, raising the requirements for retrieving. In the past, hunting with a muzzle-loader may have produced ten shot birds in a day.

The ease and accuracy of the newer guns made it simpler to shoot birds in flight, therefore making them more likely to fall in inaccessible places. Bird shooting soon became the new fashionable pastime of the rich.

Popular shooting parties that were part picnic and part fashion show were often held. The wealthier estates tried to outdo each other in terms of extravagant house parties, game, and dogs. The pressure was on the kennelmen of the estates to create and perfect a dog that would stay close until the shooting stopped, find dropped birds, and return them to the hunter without damage.

Around 1840, even greater attention was directed at developing a unique kind of retriever. This special dog would be a good swimmer, very obedient, strong, have a good nose and a soft mouth, and have less interest in wandering around to hunt on its own.

Existing dogs were usually interested in picking up birds, but could not be counted on to return them in good condition, nor were most of them capable of retrieving birds that had fallen in water. While Water spaniels were more skilled in water, the key ingredient came from a type of dog known at the time as the Lesser Newfoundland, a breed developed in Newfoundland as an all-around fisherman’s helper.

This was a dog that could carry items in its mouth through strong seas and at the command of the fisherman. Some hunters had already discovered that those same qualities made them outstanding water retrievers for birds. The first of these dogs, later to become known as Labrador Retrievers, came to Britain in the early 1800s. Crosses of Water Spaniels with smaller varieties of Newfoundlands were proving to produce the best retrievers known at that time, but they still weren’t Golden Retrievers.


The elements for a perfect bird-retrieving dog were there. Now all that was needed was an expert to combine them, the proper conditions to test them, and the resources with which to refine them. This expert was Dudley Coutts Marjoribanks, who later became known as the first Lord Tweedmouth. Marjoribanks, who owned the Guisachan estate in the Scottish highlands near the Tweed River, was a sportsman, dog lover, and serious breeder of many fine animals.

Among his dogs were spaniels and retrievers, but the most significant addition came from an accidental encounter with a golden-coated retriever owned by a cobbler. Because the cobbler had no use for this dog (named Nous), he sold him to Marjoribanks, who in 1868 bred him to one of his Tweed Water Spaniels named Belle. From this union came four yellow retrievers named Crocus, Cowslip, Primrose, and Ada. These four became the foundation of the Golden Retriever.

Marjoribanks, along with some family members who were also dedicated sportsmen, eventually created a distinctive line of exceptional retrievers. These dogs were not only attractive and talented, but because they were owned by prominent families, they were seen and eventually acquired by other wealthy sportsmen as they visited each other’s estates for shooting parties.

While Lord Tweedmouth was close to his dogs, he did allow a few to leave in order to influence retrievers elsewhere. In addition, his family was well connected, and several family members maintained their own kennels that continued Lord Tweedmouth’s lines. Lord Tweedmouth maintained detailed records of his dogs, but his records ended in 1890. The last two dogs mentioned were named Prim and Rose. His descendant did not keep records, so most of the breed’s history during the following two decades have been been lost. 

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 bookThis article is provided for your enjoyment, only. It’s relevance to real world working dog training may be limited.

Emergence of the Golden Retriever

When the need for a supervisory organization to register dogs and set competition rules became obvious, the Kennel Club of England was founded in 1873. And coincidentally, the organization was founded by a retriever aficionado.

In 1913 the Kennel Club began registering them as varieties of Retrievers, so Goldens were then shown as “Retrievers (Yellow or Golden).” A few years later, this was further simplified to “Retrievers (Golden).”

Breed interest gradually increased and the Golden Retriever thrived in England. Goldens were making their names known in both the ring and field as their numbers steadily grew. World War I caused a temporary setback, however, but the breed recovered quickly after the war and was soon stronger than ever.

World War II proved to be more devastating. Not only were shows and competitions canceled, there was not enough food for kennels of large dogs. As a result, many large breeds essentially disappeared from Britain. Fortunately, the Golden had some dedicated breeders who sacrificed a lot to keep the main breeding stock going. After the war, the Golden emerged as the golden child of the dog world once again. 


The first Golden to come to North America came with one of Lord Tweedmouth’s sons in the 1890s. Conflicting evidence exists as to whether the dog named “Lady” owned by Archie Marjoribanks came to America with him or was born from an unidentified Golden female that he brought with him. Either way, Lady lays claim to being either the first Golden import to American or the first Golden born in America. There is also confusion about whether she had a litter while in America. Regardless, it is said that her offspring did not have an impact on the breed in this country. 

In the years that followed, Golden Retrievers were occasionally seen in the United States and Canada, but sightings were far from common. The first noteworthy kennel in North America was known as Gilnockie, which began breeding Goldens in 1918. This was followed in 1928 by one of the most influential kennels—Rockhaven. The owner of Rockhaven, Colonel S. S. Magoffin, eventually acquired Gilnockie as well, but he came to be best known for his part in founding the Golden Retriever Club of America (GRCA). This led to the American Kennel Club’s official recognition of the Golden Retriever in 1932.

Since recognition of the breed in the 30s, a new population of pet breeders began to emerge. For the most part, these pet breeders were largely unaware of hereditary health problems in the 1950s and 60s. They bred despite what the available research said and they failed to follow recommended guidelines suggested by the GRCA concerning hip dysplasia and eye problems. Although the GRCA was instrumental in establishing the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA), pet breeders were rarely informed or concerned about health screenings. Unfortunately, this was a situation that would have many serious consequences for years to come.

With increasing popularity, Goldens began to be cast in movie roles and television commercials. They became a symbol of a wholesome family with an All-American dog.

If every American didn’t already know about the Golden Retriever, they surely did when President Ford made a Golden Retriever named Liberty the First Dog. By that time, AKC registrations had reached almost 22,000 Goldens per year.

Because of the popularity and exposure they were receiving, the breed became exceptionally vulnerable to unethical breeders and puppy mills. Sadly, Goldens were becoming money-making puppy producers. In some cases, they were victims of puppy mills churning out dogs to an unsuspecting public. In other cases, they were simply the pets of naïe backyard breeders unaware of the harm they were doing.

In addition, not every Golden had the temperament, health, or physical qualities that represented the breed; yet these dogs were repeatedly bred with no regard to the quality of the dogs produced or the lives they lived. Dogs with improper socialization, bad temperaments, and poor health were sold to people who didn’t know the difference, and in turn, bred these poor-quality Goldens. As numbers grew and quality fell, prices also fell, and more people bought Goldens on a whim, only to abandon them at the slightest problem.

At the end of World War II, less than 150 Goldens were registered with the AKC each year, but by 1998, over 65,000 were registered. 

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.

Special Golden Retrievers

Today, the Golden Retriever remains a force to be reckoned with in every competitive event in which they are involved. In addition to competing in events and being great household pets, Goldens have made a name for themselves when it comes to helping people in trouble. They have reinvented themselves as extraordinary service dogs.  In addition to winning the hearts of their families, Goldens have gone on to save countless lives, guide futures, and heal hearts.  

Search And Rescue

Search and Rescue (or SAR) teams may search hundreds of miles of wilderness to find a lost child or through tons of rubble to find a buried victim. SAR Goldens have learned to respond reliably to commands, negotiate uncertain footing, follow a trail and locate articles. Most of all, they have learned to use air scenting to pinpoint the location of a hidden person. Golden Retrievers have shown they can retrieve lost people as well as fallen birds.

Therapy Dogs 

Therapy dogs visit hospitals, nursing homes, mental health facilities, prisons, and other places where they can provide people with unconditional love, motivation to communicate, entertainment, or just somebody warm and cuddly to hug. Therapy dogs must be extremely well mannered and well groomed, and above all, be friendly and completely trustworthy. If someone grabs, yells at, or a hugs a therapy dog too tightly, the dog must remain gentle and unbothered. The Certified Therapy Dog letters are among the proudest a dog can earn. The Golden Retriever, with its optimistic outlook and uncanny knack for understanding human emotions has excelled in the therapy field. They are essentially true therapists in fur coats.

Assistance Dogs

Golden Retrievers are among the most popular breeds for helping people with mental and physical challenges. It’s no surprise that the ideal helping dog is one that is intelligent and eager to please, yet able to think on its own. They need to be confident and personable, and of adequate strength to guide or pull a person. Goldens fit the job description perfectly.
Helping the Physically Impaired

Golden Retrievers are one of the most popular breeds for helping people with physical disabilities. This assistance can take the form of pulling a person in a wheelchair, picking up dropped objects, getting objects off high shelves, opening doors, and pushing a 911 button in case of an emergency.
Other service dogs specialize in alerting a person who is about to have a seizure. Exactly how these creatures become aware of an upcoming seizure even before the person knows one is coming is unknown. It is thought that the dog smells a change in body chemistry associated with changes in brain activity. These dogs provide a measure of safety and confidence for their people. Other dogs provide safety once a seizure has occurred, lying next to the person until it has stopped. Seizure dogs must know the difference between friend and enemy, allowing helpers to approach the victim, while discouraging those with bad intentions.

Helping the Visually Impaired

In recent years, Golden and Labrador Retrievers have made up the majority of guide dogs. This is because these breeds have consistently exhibited the necessary traits to perform the job successfully. The working guide dog is expected to take directional commands from the handler, locate specified objects such as curbs, doors, and steps, stop at obstacles, and maneuver around dangerous traffic situations. They give their visually impaired handlers mobility, confidence, independence, and love.
Some guide dog facilities breed their own dogs, whereas others accept donated puppies that pass very strict criteria. Most facilities rely on puppy raisers to provide a caring home environment, well-rounded socialization, and basic obedience to youngsters. The puppies then go to school for formal training when they are between 12 and 18 months of age. Not all dogs graduate, but those that do have a full life of helping others ahead of them.

Helping the Hearing Impaired

Goldens can also provide confidence and assistance for hearing-impaired people.  Although most dogs for the deaf are small dogs rescued from humane organizations, Golden Retrievers have been trained to do the same job. Dogs at the novice or lowest level are trained to alert the person to a smoke alarm, the person’s name being called, and the alarm clock. A slightly more trained dog alerts the person to the doorbell, telephone, and oven timer. The certified hearing dog responds to these same sounds but is also extensively socialized and obedience trained so that he is dependable in public as well as in the home.  


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. 

The Golden Retriever Standard

Golden Retrievers look the way they do because they were built in a certain way to perform a certain job. Originally, the breed was created as a working breed, with function as its main priority. But the breed’s founders also combined other desirable ingredients to mold the dog into what it is today.

Because the breed originated in Britain, the standard used to judge the breed there is also the one used to judge the breed throughout much of the world. 

General Appearance: Symmetrical, balanced, active, powerful, and a level mover.  

Characteristics: Intelligent and possesses natural working ability. 

Temperament: Kindly, friendly, and confident. 

Coat: Flat or wavy with good feathering, dense water-resistant undercoat. 

Color: Any shade of gold or cream, and only a few white hairs on the chest are allowed.  

Height: : males are 22-24 in (56-61 cm); females are 20-22 in (51-56 cm).   


General Appearance: A symmetrical, powerful, active dog, sound and well put together, not clumsy, displaying a kindly expression and possessing a personality that is eager, alert and self-confident. Primarily a hunting dog, the Golden should be in hard working condition. 

Size: Males should be 23-24 inches in height at the withers whereas females should be 21 ½ – 22 ½ inches. Weight for males should range between 65-75 pounds and 55-65 pounds for females.
Coat : The Golden’s coat should be dense and water-repellent with a good undercoat. The outer coat should be firm and resilient, neither coarse nor silky, lying close to the body. It may be straight or wavy. The feet may be trimmed and stray hairs neatened, but the natural appearance of the coat or outline should not be altered by cutting or clipping.
The real beauty of this breed’s coat lies in its ability to protect the dog from cold, water, and brambles. Too little coat won’t provide adequate protection; too much coat can become weighted down or entangled with water and debris or cause overheating.
Color: Desirable color is rich, lustrous golden color of various shades. Feathering may be lighter that the rest of the coat. With the exception of graying or whitening of face or body due to age, any white marking, other than a few white hairs on the chest, are not part of the breed standard. Allowable light shadings are not to be confused with white markings. Predominant body color which is either extremely pale or extremely dark is considered undesirable.
Temperment: Ideally, the Golden is friendly, reliable, and trustworthy. Quarrelsomeness or hostility toward other dogs or people in normal situations, or an unwarranted show of timidity or nervousness, is not typical of Golden Retriever character.
The most beautiful, sound, functional Golden Retriever ever created is no credit to the breed if it is lacking the most essential trait of all: the distinguished Golden Retriever personality.
The ideal Golden Retriever is a versatile and adaptive dog, calm around the house, playful when the opportunity presents itself, intense when working, and always amiable, sensitive, and responsive. 


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.