Why Can’t Golden Retrievers Catch?

Golden Retrievers certainly are great at retrieving objects, but I have always wondered if these dogs can catch. So I did some research, and here is what I found.

Why can’t golden retrievers catch? Actually, they can catch, but they have to be trained to do so, just like any dog. Golden Retrievers do have some predispositions, but nothing is hard-wired into their genetic code.

If your Golden Retriever can’t catch, there is hope! Read on to find out how training can bring out the best in the qualities your dog was born with.

A Golden Retriever’s Physical Traits

A goldies traits does explain why Golden Retrievers can’t catch anything. And “anything” includes balls, frisbees, food, treats or bones when thrown in the air. It reinforces the importance of being able to train your dog to catch.

Bringing items back to you

Golden Retrievers do have a predisposition to look for objects that move, whether that be a ball, stick or bird. However, they don’t have an innate trait to automatically retrieve and put the object in their mouth to bring back to you. This explains why Golden Retrievers can’t catch. Catching needs to be taught.

Sometimes a golden will return objects without being trained to do so, but this doesn’t mean it is an innate quality. It also means that the dog will likely not retrieve consistently without training.

Soft mouth

It is a common misconception that a golden retriever has a “soft mouth”. This is certainly not the case. The dogs are not born knowing how to carry things in their mouths without damaging the object. Instead, the dog must be trained to gently pick up items.

Owners that want a Golden Retriever with a “soft mouth” must begin the training early in the puppy stage and definitely while the pups are in the socialization phase. Golden Retriever pups are known to be very “mouthy”. They chew on any item around the house (e.g. your favorite slippers) and carry things around –- a lot!

High energy

They are also very exuberant as pups and jump around often. They are very easily distracted by any noise, person or moving object. Puppies and young dogs are extremely high energy dogs. They’re goofy, too! They don’t mean to harm things, but they are so large that they can easily knock a person over.

Need for stimulation

Remember -– Golden Retrievers were bred as hunting dogs. So they are naturally both smart and athletic. They need to do interesting things. They do need an outlet for all that physical pent-up energy as well.

They’re certainly not like other dogs where you can just let them out in the yard to run. They need a bit more interesting activity than that.

It is very important to provide your golden retriever with sufficient exercise otherwise their boredom increases exponentially.

You will find that when your dog has mastered the catch, they can move onto more interesting ways to include the catch as they interact with you each day.

Why Golden Retrievers Can Respond Well To Training

Goldens have some great behavioral traits that make them relatively easy to train compared to other dogs.

Eager to please

Golden Retrievers are very eager to please their humans. But they are also very easily distracted by noises or movement, so the dogs must be trained to follow your commands.

golden retriever can't catch anything

Calm and gentle

Goldens are very calm, gentle dogs. This does not necessarily mean your dog will be compliant and always do whatever you want him (or her) to do. Consistent training, praise and reward all get results, but you do have to put in the effort. No pain, no gain!

They will get tired

While golden retrievers do have a lot of energy, this doesn’t necessarily mean the dog will work tirelessly to keep retrieving objects for you.

Goldens are large, sturdy dogs, but they like any other dog (or human) do not have infinite energy. Yes, Golden Retrievers do have physical limitations. Just like humans, a golden retriever needs breaks in training and play time, too.


Every dog is different, so early on in training, monitor your dog closely to become aware of the dog’s limitations. Dogs usually do realize their own limits, but the human must learn it too, since the owner is the person ultimately responsible for the pet’s overall health and happiness.

Cheerful and welcoming

The good news is that Golden Retrievers are generally welcoming and cheerful dogs. When they bark, it is usually a bark that says “Come play” rather than “Stay away.” Goldens have very steady temperaments and as such tend to be very peaceful, dependable dogs that are very responsive to training.

Need stimulation

Temperament and behavior are heavily influenced by training. This is a very important concept to keep in mind. Golden Retrievers need mental stimulation as well as physical stimulation (exercise). The last thing you want is a bored golden retriever. You are likely to come home to destruction and a very rambunctious dog!

7 Steps to Training A Golden Retriever To Catch

Your Golden Retriever has great physical and mental qualities, but you still must train them to catch. Here’s how to do it.

Step 1

Buy some tennis balls or a soft dog disc (specially made for dogs and not a human frisbee).

Step 2

Associate the tennis ball with positive things. This will get your dog excited about it. For example, put the tennis ball next to the food bowl for a week or rub a hot dog on the tennis ball to make your dog interested in it.

Step 3

Play tug with the ball. Always let your dog win. In other words, don’t pry or rip the ball out of the dog’s mouth.

Step 4

Reward all your dog’s attempts to get the ball. Even if the dog jumps up and grabs the ball out of your hand, reward that behavior. Also reward when the dog picks the ball up.

Whatever you do, never tell the dog to drop the ball. Get a second ball and entice the dog to drop the first ball, then reward the dog with the second ball.

Step 5

Next, begin by rolling the ball on the ground and teaching the dog to chase it. This activity helps to transition from playing to retrieving. Golden Retrievers love to chase. This helps them hone in on or target the ball to pick it up.

Step 6

After the dog has mastered ground retrieval, throw the ball into the air.

Start with short, slow throws. Avoid accidentally hitting the dog with the ball.

At first, the dog will most likely let the ball first hit the ground before retrieving it, but keep at it.

Be patient.

Eventually, the dog will grab the ball out of the air before it hits the ground.

Step 7

Goldens are naturally driven to go get the ball, so encourage that drive.

Over time, you will see the dog track the ball in the air.

The drive gets so great that the dog will not want to wait for the ball to hit the ground, and instead will retrieve it from the air.

Advanced Catch and Retrieve Routines

Give your goldie a job

Have you heard of this concept of giving a dog a job? I’m not talking about the obvious interpretation where we have dogs working in the military, the police department, in protection, in search and rescue or in a service function.

I am talking about more simple ways at home that you can give your Golden Retriever that much needed mental and physical stimulation each day. And, as a reward, they obtain a treat.

Build on the catch

Your dog has mastered the basic catch with a ball. How can you stimulate your dog further with more advanced catch-related routines you can build into their day as jobs? Here are some ideas.

  • Look at how Rose gets her dogs to play catch with dog treats on their daily hike.
  • Throw your dog a toy. Teach them to put it away each day into a box while saying “Pick up”. You may have trained your children to put their toys away, now your dog can be taught the same thing.
  • Get your dog to grab the paper off the front lawn each morning and bring it inside.
  • Ask your dog to retrieve your slippers when you get to sit down in front of the television each night.
  • When you put out the wet washing on the line, ask your dog to bring the bucket of pegs.

What other catch-based tasks can you think of to give to your dog?

You can ramp up catch to next level. Consider these physically and mentally demanding jobs tasks like Frisbee or Flyball.

And going beyond catch, here are 17 jobs you can give your Golden Retriever to keep them stimulated and happy.

Each job you give your dog will increase the strength of the bond between you and your dog.

No job at your peril

I am maybe sounding like a broken record here…Golden Retrievers are smart and need stimulation!!!

Boredom is the enemy.

Many dog owners swear that working the brain of their dog wears them out faster than working the body!

If you don’t give your Goldie a job, they may appoint their own role in your home. This could be destructive and noisy. They may take on the role of the neighborhood watchdog and bark at every passer-by. They may give you an excuse for a new couch and cushions since they’ve chewed your existing one to death.

Related Questions

Do Golden Retrievers like water?

Golden Retrievers absolutely love water. But don’t be surprised if your dog is a bit skittish at first sight of water.

It is a misconception that dogs can stay in water for long periods of time. Although the thick coat does protect a Golden Retriever from the cold, they can get hypothermia just like a human does.

Don’t keep your dog in cold water for long periods. Don’t make them constantly retrieve objects from cold water.

Why has Fritz the Golden Retriever given all Golden Retrievers a bad reputation?

Fritz is a lovable golden retriever with many famous YouTube and other videos. He has been featured by ABC News, Huffington Post and other media outlets over the years.

Fritz is a fantastic and beautiful Golden Retriever. He has mouth-eye coordination issues. His owners toss everything from fruit to frankfurters at Fritz, and he misses every time. Fritz brought to life why can’t Golden Retrievers catch. And now everyone thinks that all Golden Retrievers can’t catch. That’s just not true.

What are the other types of retriever breeds?

In addition to Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers are very popular worldwide. These dogs are also gold or yellow. They can have a chocolate or black coat. Like Golden Retrievers, the Lab is very playful and very loyal and loving.

Here is one you may not have heard of –- the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever. Wow, that is a mouthful! These dogs are enthusiastic and instinctively clever -– and very physically active. They are the smallest of all retrievers, and they love water –- and ducks!

The Chesapeake Bay Retriever has a quite different temperament than other retrievers. These dogs have a tendency to be much more protective and are suspicious of strangers. They need proper socialization and because of their behavior tend to be more difficult to train, although the dogs are extremely intelligent. It is very important that they have proper training so their behavior does not become destructive.

Finally, the last two types of retrievers are the flat-coated and curly-coated retrievers. The flat coat is quiet and gentle and absolutely loves being part of a family unit. The dog is very relaxed but very active and still needs lots of exercise. There are yellow, black and dark brown flat-coated retrievers.

Alternatively, the curly coat is very shy. They are cheerful and very smart and love being part of a family. They too require lots of exercise. The dogs are rare and actually listed on the UK list of vulnerable native breeds. Let’s hope this wonderful breed does not altogether disappear.

Want To Read More About Golden Retrievers?

When you are enjoying the outdoors, Golden Retrievers make great companion dogs. We hope you enjoy reading our other blog posts about this wonderful breed:

Author - Jacqueline

Jacqueline is surrounded by outdoor dogs. Her dog Riley, a Doberman mix, is 80+ pounds of muscle. Riley is very active and they both love to walk in the woods. They love camping too. Jacqueline's son is a dog dad to Cooper, a 95-pound Golden Retriever. Cooper swims and retrieves from land or water. Jacqueline's sister owns Tank, a 140-pound Great Pyrenees. Tank is a star along the San Antonio River. Tourists actually stop to take pics of him. Tank has his own Instagram page, thank you very much!

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