Golden retrievers are known for bringing love and light everywhere they go, and this pair from Perth, Australia, is no exception.
A “Star Wars” fan named Kieran Lehane owned a Golden retriever named Kylo. The canine was less than a year old when he decided to add another four-legged member into the family—a puppy named Vader.
“It was this immediate connection,” the 29-year-old told TODAY. “Vader immediately connected with Kylo as his sort of big brother, constantly snuggling up into him.”
Kylo, nine months older, readily welcomed Vader into his life. The gentle dog was unbothered by the puppy’s constant affection and immature behavior.
Vader would teeth on his tail and play with him all the time, but his older dog “brother” simply didn’t mind.
Eventually, the bond between the two dogs grew stronger.
Vader continued to be clingy toward Kylo, so Kieran thought he could teach the smart pups how to hug. Kylo, the larger of the two, appeared to be receptive to any touch from his friend, so it was Vader who he had to train more.
Kieran read studies about positive reinforcement training and understood its overwhelming benefits. He also knew about the problems caused by physical harm and punishment when training, so he didn’t resort to those methods.
Plus, he couldn’t bear the thought of hurting his beloved pets.
Kieran used positive training methods by rewarding Kylo and Vader’s desired behavior with a special treat: cooked chicken.
Vader, who loves chicken and any cooked meat, already knew basic obedience and how to offer a “paw” on cue to shake hands.
(If you want your dog to learn this trick, you can try holding a treat in your fist and let your pet smell it. When your dog paws at the treat, say “paw” and give him the treat to teach the cue.)
“I basically did it step-by-step, very slowly,” Kieran explained. “I would use a ‘paw’ and then move my hand a little bit higher. And then I ended up putting my hand on an object like a chair. Then every time I did ‘chair,’ I’d put my hand on the chair and then move it quickly so Vader would put his hand on the chair.”
He eventually started training Vader next to Kylo. Every time Vader would put a paw on his older dog pal, Kieran would say “BFF” and reward them both with chicken.
“I could see he worked out ‘If I hug Kylo, then it would be worth it.’ So I would just say ‘BFF,’ and every time, he would do it. It eventually got better and better. Kylo’s just chill so he would sit there and get a treat, too,” Kieran said.
Sometimes when they’re on adventures to parks or beaches, Vader would automatically hug his best friend.
Because of their adorable antics, the Retrievers have amassed a huge following on social media. To date, they have over 111K followers on Instagram.
Their fans would frequently send messages to Kieran to say that the canines cheer them up.
“In some of the captions I put in a message or even a reminder to tell someone to hug the people closest to you or send some love,” Kieran said. “I would love to increase all the positivity and just the pure joy that Kylo and Vader and goldens and dogs tend to bring to people, especially during hard times.”
Even though Kylo and Vader are named after “Star Wars” characters who crossed over to the Dark Side of the Force, these dogs are far from being villains in real life.
In honor of National Hugging Day on January 21, Kieran shared a video montage of Kylo hugging Vader in different places.