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Socializing your Golden Retriever puppy is one of the most important things (if not the most important thing) you can do for it to grow up well adjusted to the world around it. The good news is a Golden Retriever is generally a curious, friendly and happy go lucky type of dog. During this time, you should always do everything you can to ensure that your Golden Retriever puppy has positive experiences meeting other people, other animals and being comfortable in its surroundings. It is just as important for it to interact and have good experiences with your family, as it is for it to interact with strangers, different animals and other unfamiliar surroundings (eg: walking along the road with cars passing). One of the things I did to socialize my two Goldens was to walk them by the sea front on a leash when they were about twelve weeks old. Being so super cute, we were stopped every other step so that children could hug them, adults could pet them and they were exposed to all sorts of smell, dogs, people and things on wheels. This will be the difference between a well adjusted happy and friendly Golden Retriever or a shy, retreating and possibly aggressive one. In the wild, puppies would have had its mother and other members of the pack to protect and guide it. Whatever happens to it at puppy hood will determine what sort of dog it will grow up to be. Before you go out and about with your Golden Retriever puppy, make sure that it has had its vaccination. Encourage it by playing and talking softly to it but be careful not to overwhelm it with too much too soon.
Instead, make light of what they are fearing, be positive and show them there is nothing to be fearful of. Getting used to humans is probably one of the most important skill in socializing your Golden Retriever puppy. Not only do people come in all sorts of color, age, sizes and shapes; they may also wear hats, have beards, wear bright colors or carry a bag. Make sure your Golden puppy is comfortable with all this by walking it by a school or park, but be careful not to have too many children crowd around it. This would also be a good time to start teaching it not to run after the kids and remain calm. So the more people and situations it is exposed to, the better chances of it being well adjusted with all types of human. It is really important that puppies should be introduced to other dogs, adult and puppies, so that they can hon their social skills.
But make sure their experiences with other dogs are good positive ones as this will have a great impact on their lives afterwards. Choose adult dogs that you know are well socialized themselves and are used to, or gentle with puppies. Be mindful when you walk your puppy as a curious but well meaning dog could scare your puppy by rushing up too fast or being too over excited. It is best to engineer these situations at the beginning so your puppy can pick up essential social skills from other dogs in a positive learning environment, and know what to do in certain circumstances when they are older.
As for other animals the trick is to make sure they see them so often, especially before 4 months old, that they get bored.
Restraining them whilst young and teaching them not to chase animals you see regularly will certainly come in useful later on.
Despite everything that you do, there will come a time when you couldn’t control the situation and your Golden puppy had a bad experience.
Depending on the temperament of your puppy, you could re-create the situation again but make it a positive experience. You could re-create someone ringing the bell whilst you are playing with it or giving it a treat so it starts associating positive things with the door bell ringing. It will pay long term to deal with bad experiences as soon as they occur, so that it is comfortable with its surroundings and will not react badly (or aggressively) later on to these bad memories.
Take your puppy out and about as much as you can so that it can experience a wide range of different situations, objects, humans, machines and animals. Getting a puppy used to the world around it and socializing your golden retriever properly when young will result in a healthy happy dog.
You may think nothing of a bus thundering past, but to your Golden puppy, it could be the most frightening thing ever.
Look at the world through their eyes, pay close attention to their body language and try and make every experience a positive and happy one. You will need to be patient socializing your Golden Retriever puppy during these times, as it will need quite a bit of reassurance from you but done right, you will have a curious, amusing, happy, relaxed companion for a long time. Valerie, a golden retriever, demonstrates her ability to connect with a sailor at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence.
CAM modalities include therapies such as yoga, meditation, and creative art therapies, shown to have an effect on the mind’s capacity to regulate the brain and body’s response to social and environmental challenges by reducing stress and enhancing the immune function through the release of the neuropeptide oxytocin by the brain.
Olff et al3 suggest PTSD symptom treatment would be improved by increasing endogenous levels of oxytocin through optimizing of social support. Oxytocin neurons originate in the hypothalamus and connect to the major brain centers that control behavior and emotion. Oxytocin has also been shown to modulate the serotonin system and reduce levels of cytokines, adrenocorticotropic hormone, and cortisol.
The Warrior Canine Connection (WCC) is a nonprofit organization, based in Brookeville, MD, that enlists “wounded warriors” with PTSD and traumatic brain injury (TBI) in the training of service dogs for fellow veterans as a therapeutic intervention.
Procedures used in training service dogs require the trainer to focus on the dog’s point of view of the present, in order to recognize the “teachable moments” when instruction will be most effectively processed and retained.
Occupational therapists utilize some of these programs as therapeutic “work therapy” internships with the goal to facilitate a purposeful and meaningful occupational intervention that builds skill sets for functional independence.


WCC’s training philosophy is based on positive methods of shaping behaviors and the premise that mastering the skills and patience required to train a service dog helps the WCC trainers regain control of their own emotions, focus their attention, and improve their social competence and overall sense of well-being. Service dog training requires that the dog is exposed to a wide range of experiences in the community. For example, the soldier-trainers are taught to praise and treat the dogs when they hear a car backfire or other startling events. Additionally, the dogs can help offer veterans who often isolate themselves from society, opportunities to experience positive interactions with members of the community. In order to shape the behavior of a service dog, trainers with PTSD must also overcome their emotional and affective numbness in order to heighten their tone of voice, bodily movements, and capacity for patience so that they can deliver their commands with positive, assertive clarity of intention and confidence. WCC service dogs are also bred to be affectionate and have a low-arousal temperament that puts their trainers “at ease.” With these dogs at their sides, trainers perceive greater relaxation and social competence and are able to shift out of their hyper-vigilant, defensive mode into a relaxed state that makes them ready and able to connect with others.
A Marine injured by 13 separate improvised explosive device (IED) detonations during his multiple tours in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom had been in a PTSD treatment program for several weeks but was not responding despite a myriad of behavioral and pharmacological interventions.
He sat in the corner with his sunglasses on, occasionally twitching his head from side to side in a tic-like manner. A young Marine Sergeant was referred to the WCC program as part of his treatment for PTSD and TBI. The Marine was offered an opportunity to keep the dog overnight after he developed a bond and sufficient skills to handle the dog. The Marine was encouraged to use the same positive techniques of using praise and patience with his daughter. These cases demonstrate the effects service dog training as a purpose-driven intervention have on the symptoms of PTSD and mild TBI and how such a program can facilitate psychological and social improvement, and functional independence. A number of studies now show that human-dog interactions, such as those used to train service dogs, naturally increase circulating oxytocin levels in people. Rick’s new program concept, involving Veterans with PTSD in the training of mobility service dogs for fellow Veterans, yielded very positive results.
Marcia Cullison Lucas: Does this mean it is 'cat fleas' that are hanging out on rodents, including rabbits?
Lynn Utecht: Personally, I believe any large pet food company's food is not healthy to feed your pet. They like to be around people and have a calm and relaxed temperament so you are already off to a good start. It was early evening and many families with children, pushchairs and other dogs would be out and about. As a result, they are now totally blase about these things and accept them as part of their world. The time frame for this to take place is short as dogs mature at a much faster rate than humans; in terms of socializing, by the time your golden retriever reaches age 6 months, it is the equivalent of a 15 year old child. At this stage, they are curious and fearless but as the puppy grows older and starts exploring on its own, it will be more weary of unfamiliar objects and situations. The breeder or the home where you got your puppy from plays a vital role which is why picking the right Golden Retriever Breeder is so important.
Some vets would vaccinate a puppy at six weeks but vaccination normally occurs at eight to twelve weeks. If it is approaching new things with enthusiasm and tail wagging, it is having a positive experience. You must give your puppy time and let it approach the item or situation at its own time and pace. They could be a running toddler, screaming five year old, a group of nine year old playing hide and seek, a twelve year old kicking a ball or teenagers riding a bike.
Again encourage children to give it a treat or to play a little with it so your puppy gets used to children. Nothing could be more frightening for a child than a dog, albeit a happy excited dog, running after you and knocking you down.
Invite people to your home so it starts experiencing different types of people on its home turf. Keeping them away from other dogs will do more harm than good and may lead to aggressive behavior later on as they will not know how to react with other dogs. Introduce them on an one on one basis in a place where they can both play and explore one another.
Your puppy could either retract and become fearful or could become aggressive; or run away if they are not on a leash. My two unfortunately were not exposed to cats and now give chase the second they see or hear one; however, they were exposed to horses and donkeys early on and now do not even look up when they walk by at close range. Studies show that dogs can provide such an optimization of social support and that positive interactions with dogs may offer a safe, effective, and relatively inexpensive way to increase endogenous levels of oxytocin and other important anti-stress agents in humans. Human oxytocin research has shown that oxytocin can increase our sense of trust, empathy, and optimism and even increase our response to hypnosis. Oxytocin modulates the hypothalmic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis), the locus coeruleus, the central amygdala (CeA) and other arousal centers of the central nervous system to attenuate stress-induced neuroendocrine activity. As we will demonstrate, shaping the behaviors of service dogs requires the focused nurturing social attention towards dogs that has been shown to naturally increase oxytocin blood levels in humans. WCC currently has dogs in training at several military treatment facilities (Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Fort Belvoir, and National Intrepid Center of Excellence) and the Palo Alto Veterans Administration (VA) Healthcare System.(see Sidebar). The interventions in the program are targeted to remediate each category of these symptoms as follows. The presence of the dog during a stressful situation or encounter changes the context of the arousal event and anchors the trainer in the present, reminding the service member or veteran that they are no longer in dangerous circumstances. The program engages service members in a healing mission, instructing soldiers with PTSD and TBI on how to train service dogs for fellow veterans with physical and psychological injuries. Rather than turning inward to ruminate on their past trauma, they must get outside of their own heads to focus on the dogs and their mission to help another veteran.


The training program requires soldiers who have likely “numbed” their feelings to instead demonstrate positive emotion, such as praising the dogs to successfully teach them. In doing this, trainers soon discover they can earn their dog’s attention and best guide them to the correct response. The WCC training technique allows the trainers to experience rewarding positive emotional stimulation and social feedback. Their sensitivity to and reflection of their trainer’s emotional state provides immediate and accurate measures of the trainer’s projected emotion. His peers were hesitant to interact with him due to his body language and lack of response to their attempts to connect with him.
Although the Marine rejected the dog’s first several attempts, the pup’s persistence paid off and soon was able to elicit a smile from the Marine.
He endorsed difficulty sleeping, isolating, regulating his emotions, and parenting his 4-year-old daughter. He reported that learning to train the service dog had a profound impact on his parenting style. They also indicate that the focus, intention, and nurturing social contact involved in shaping the behavior of young service dogs may be acting as a potent agonist of neurophysiological systems know to be dysregulated in PTSD.
Further research is required to establish the psychological and behavioral effectiveness of the service dog training model and to investigate the underlying physiological mechanisms that support the observed reductions of PTSD symptoms. A stronger scientific understanding of cause and effects of therapy dog training will provide scientific, objective guidelines for the appropriate training for therapy animals and policies that regulate how and when therapy animals may be used to help service members and veterans. COL (ret) Elspeth Cameron Ritchie, MD, MPH, is Chief Medical Officer, Department of Mental Health, Washington, DC. All these new experiences, as long as they are positive, will only reap benefits for your puppy. Oxytocin receptor-expressing neural circuits in the CeA connect to the medial prefrontal cortex to suppress neurons that produce the freezing reaction to fear, while promoting risk assessment and exploratory response to frightening stimulus. As part of the training, the service members are responsible for teaching the dogs that the world is a safe place.
Many program participants have reported that this use of positive emotion has significantly improved their family dynamics as their children respond to this positive “parenting” strategy.
The basic daily needs of a service dog involve structured activities that also bring the trainer and dog into the kind of close nurturing contact that further creates a behavioral and psychological antidote to social avoidance. This also challenges the trainer to overcome his or her tendency for startle reactions so that he or she can relay a sense of leadership and positive feedback when their young dogs are faced with environmental challenges such as cars backfiring or being approached by strangers.
Noticing the emerging connection, the treatment staff asked the Marine if he would consider helping to train the dog to help a fellow veteran.
Instead of leaving the PTSD program without successfully completing it, he was able to finish the entire program and process his trauma through the support of his dog, peers, and treatment team. The dynamics between him and his daughter also showed improvement following the dog’s overnight stay.
Rather than focusing on his daughter’s mistakes, he began to look for opportunities to praise her and set her up for success. A psychobiological rationale for oxytocin in the treatment of the posttraumatic stress disorder. An examination of changes in oxytocin levels in men and women before and after interaction with a bonded dog.
Short-term interaction between dogs and their owners: effects of oxytocin, cortisol, insulin and heart rate.
Associations between psychological characteristics of the human-dog relationship and oxytocin and cortisol levels. Exploring the convergence of posttraumatic stress disorder and mild traumatic brain injury. Brain imaging studies have shown enhanced activity of the amygdala in individuals with PTSD. Neuroanotomical evidence for reciprocal regulation of the corticotrophin-releasing factor and oxytocin systems in the hypothalamus and the bed nucleus stria terminalis of the rat: implication for balancing stress and affect. Intrathecal administration of oxytocin induces analgesia in low back pain involving the endogenous opiate peptide system. Effects of oxytocin and prosocial behavior on brain responses to direct and vicariously experienced pain. Effects of intra-nasal vasopressin and oxytocin on physiologic responding during personal combat imagery in Vietnam veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder. His commitment to helping other warriors along with his interest in the dogs prompted him to participate in the service dog training program.
Through training the service dog, the Marine learned to teach the dog to associate loud noises with praise and treats. He specifically focused on using his “praise voice” when marking and reinforcing desired behaviors, and while regulating his emotions when correcting unwelcome behaviors. He now has his own service dog and is working with his local VA to develop a service dog program in his local area. Laurent, MS, OTR, is Chief, Occupational Therapy, Department of Rehabilitation, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, MD. To do this, he had to challenge his automatic thoughts about his own triggers in order to convince the dog that the world around him was a safe place.



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