Golden Retriever Pawing Behavior-What It Means And Why They Do It

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Written by Cory Eckert

Golden retrievers are known for being a great family dog and an affectionate companion. They are also known for being very social animals with a bit of a stubborn streak and they will make their messages clear one way or another.

In my experience, if a golden retriever wants your attention, they tend to get it! Pawing is just one method they use to get your attention. 

If you're not familiar with a golden retriever's "paw for pets" antics, seeing it for the first time might look adorable (and it is). 

It does however get a bit annoying after the first couple hundred times. If left unchecked, you will never have company again who are allowed to sit in peace without petting your golden the whole time they're at your home.  (ask me how I know!). 

So let's take a peek at WHY they do this in order to understand what can be done about it if the need arises. 


Why Do Golden Retrievers Put Their Paws on You?

In most cases, pawing from a golden retriever is simply a form of getting attention. For example, if you are petting your golden and then stop, the pawing behavior starts. This is your golden retrievers way of telling you, "keep petting me silly". 

 However, attention-seeking dogs might be doing this for other reasons as well, such as telling you that they need to go to the bathroom or that they're simply just bored and want you to play with them. 

Sometimes a gruff bark or whining will accompany this behavior depending on how urgent they feel their needs should be met. 

There may be other reasons a golden retriever will paw at you like this but in most cases it boils down to seeking attention.

If you believe your golden is exhibiting this behavior for other reasons, let us know in the comments section. We love to learn new things about goldens!

In any case, now that we know the most common reason for the behavior, let's talk about how we can control the behavior if needed.

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Get Pawing Behavior Under Control


As with many behaviors, pawing becomes persistent when it has been effective for your pup. If your golden paws at you and you start petting them again, you are telling your pup that pawing is a good behavior and should be continued. 

In the end, the real reason why dogs tend to paw is because the behavior is usually rewarded. If you don't know much about the ways of the dog, giving your dog what they ask for can be an easy mistake to make. Doing this reinforces that behavior because it tells your dog that the tactics they use are effective. After you've shown them it's worked before it's hard to get them to stop. 

Pawing often starts when a golden retriever is just a puppy. This is the prime time to train your dog out of this behavior but it can still be done if you have an older dog. 

When your golden paws at you for whatever reason, ignore the behavior or stop whatever is going on and walk away. I know, it sounds kind of cold but ignoring them completely will show them that their current behavior will get them nowhere. 

After they've calmed down and are sitting politely in front of you give them a treat and a pet. Positive reinforcement is the most effective way to train a dog. You can train them to respond to cue words like 'no more' to get them to stop any behavior you don't appreciate.

Building trust is the key anytime you're training your dog. Using negative reinforcement by yelling or hurting your dog in any way can backfire on you. 


It's also important to be consistent. Try not to switch up your own behavior while you're in the training process. Be consistent with your reward system and when you choose to ignore your dog and you'll find your pup catches on much quicker.

Obviously there are many ways you can train out a behavior or even train an alternate behavior. We'd love to hear some of your ideas and experiences. Let us know by commenting below!

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About the author

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Cory Eckert

Cory is the co-creator of GoldenRetrieverLove.com and a life long dog enthusiast. From training livestock dogs as a child to working with obedience classes as an adult, it's hard to imagine Cory without a dog. Currently enjoying being a dog parent to Remi (a chocolate lab) and Annie (a golden retriever).

  • Avatar Aila Sundelin says:

    My golden girl, who was rescued, would be very sneaky and climb in your lap. She would put one paw up, then another, a third (rear this time) and pretty soon she’d be in your lap. She would do this to anyone that paid attention to her. It was kinda cute. No one seemed to mind! Her name is Alice and she’s an angel now

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