The Real Reason Why Golden Retrievers Put Their Paw On You

For anyone lucky enough to own a golden or be around someone who does, you know just how quirky and silly these pups can be.

Goldens love to be loved, and they make for one of the most affectionate and snuggly breeds there is.

If you’re like many of us golden owners, you’ve probably noticed that your dog will paw at you from time to time, especially when you’re petting or rubbing on them.

This pawing can range from a slight swipe of the paw across your arm or leg, to what feels like a full-blown bearhug as they clamp onto your arm and try to pull you in closer.

While this pawing can be cute and affectionate it can also be annoying and even painful all at the same time.

So what’s the real reason golden retrievers put their paw on you?

There are two types of pawing that goldens are known for – the social paw, and the bossy paw.

The meanings behind the two are completely different, but in both cases your golden is trying to communicate something to you.

Social Paw And Bossy Paw

When training to become a certified professional dog trainer, one of the first things you learn about dogs’ behavior is that they paw at you for two different reasons.

Social Paw

The most common pawing among golden retrievers is called “social pawing”.

Social pawing is gentle and reciprocal, and is generally done out of love in response to you being affectionate to them.

When you’re getting all lovey dovey with your golden and giving them a good chest or belly rub, many times they’ll lift their paw and place it on the arm you’re rubbing them with in response.

Touching equals affection, so this is your pup’s way of showing love back and is a sign of the connection between the two of you.

This pawing is also done as a sign of your golden’s happiness and enjoyment in this moment, almost like them saying “pleeeease don’t let it end!  Keep rubbing meeee!”.

You can even view this pawing as a way of your dog petting you back in return for the love you’re showing them.

Bossy Paw

Bossy paw is the other form of pawing, and while cute, it’s not a sign of affection but rather your dog telling you they want something – almost like a toddler demanding something from their parents.

If your golden rakes their paw across your leg while standing, or comes and starts pawing at you randomly as you sit on the couch one day – they’re trying to tell you they want or need something.

Sometimes this can be a sign of a spoiled, bossy golden demanding a cookie or treat.

Other times it can be your golden telling you they need to go outside and do some business – almost as if to say that if they have to keep holding it, it’s only fair that you hold something too (their paw).

Bossy paw can also be a sign of your dog simply wanting you to love on them and show them attention.

Now all this pawing can be pretty endearing and is just one of the many reasons we love our goldens, but it can also be a problem.

The Problem With Pawing

Pawing can be annoying and painful in the cutest way possible.

Many times social pawing isn’t just a light placement of the paw on your arm or leg, rather your golden will use their paw to almost forcefully pull your arm in towards them so that you can’t get away and end their enjoyment.

They don’t realize it, but when doing this they’ll dig their claws into your arm.  

Add in their sometimes rough paw pads also scraping across your skin, and your golden “petting you back” isn’t all that enjoyable for us humans.

Aside from trying to train this behavior out of your dog, the only real solution for this is to groom your dog’s paws regularly so that this pawing isn’t as uncomfortable.  

(Sorry, can’t help you in the annoying department!)

Be sure and use a nail dremel to trim and smoothen your dog’s claws on the regular.  

This offers a number of benefits to your dog, but also makes it much less uncomfortable for you when they dig into your arm.

To get rid of the rough and scratchy paw pads, apply a paw balm like Paw Soother Stick to your pup’s paw pads regularly.

Not only will a good paw balm moisturize and relieve cracked, peeling and dry paw pads, but it will also help make your golden’s pawing much more comfortable on your arms.

Other Reasons Your Golden May Paw You

While most golden retriever pawing falls into either the social or bossy bucket, there are some other reasons your pup may be pawing you.

Comfort Me

If your golden is the nervous type, pawing you may be a sign of them looking for reassurance or comfort from you.

This can happen if you have someone they’re not familiar with over to your house, or during fireworks or a thunderstorm.

Let’s Play

If your golden is simply bored and wants to go outside and play, oftentimes they’ll paw at you to let you know.

Just like we humans will tease or pester a friend until they give in on something we want to do, goldens will do the same thing to their owners when they want to have some fun.

Leader Of The Pack

Another sign of a golden extending their paw to you is that they respect you and recognize you as their “pack leader”.

This has been programmed into their brains from the long line of generations before them, and is a gesture of them both deferring to you and trusting in you as their human.

Final Word

The question of why golden retrievers paw you normally comes down to it being for either social reasons or them trying to tell you they want something.

While most of us golden owners view this pawing as pretty adorable, there are times when it can be annoying and even painful from our dog’s claws and paw pads scratching our skin.

But at the end of the day, this pawing is usually a pawsitive sign that our dogs sim-paw-ly adore us.

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