How Do Golden Retrievers Show Affection? (Find Out Here!)

Wouldn’t it be great if Golden retrievers could speak our language? Then they could just tell us how much they love us! Unfortunately, it’ll probably take ages before scientists come up with a dog-to-human translator. In the meantime though, you can watch for some telltale signs to see if your Golden Retriever loves you as much as you love them. How do Golden retrievers show affection? Let’s find out!

Golden Retrievers show affection in obvious ways like wagging their tails, licking your face, and sitting on your lap. Less obvious, yet more meaningful signs, include guarding you while you eat, bringing you dead animals, taking care of your kids, and stealing your precious apparel.

How do these signs signify love and affection? That’s what I’ll explain in today’s article. Let’s get going!

How Golden Retrievers show affection.

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Getting Excited After Hearing Your Name

It’s no secret that Goldens are highly intelligent, and in fact, can learn to recognize up to 250 words. With the right training, they’ll start responding to verbal commands when you call them by their name.

But if your Golden truly loves you back, he’ll also learn your name, and he’ll feel on top of the world whenever someone mentions it, especially if he hasn’t seen you in a while. 

Guarding You at Unusual Times

Being descendants of wolves, all dogs lived in large packs before they took a liking to us. In the wild, they had to watch each other’s backs since danger was lurking around every corner.

Although today’s dogs don’t encounter the same threats, they still show the same protective behavior, just out of instinct. But who would they protect, now that they don’t live in packs? Well, believe it or not, your Golden Retriever considers you a part of his pack, or perhaps even the pack’s alpha leader. 

That’s why your Golden may show affection by standing next to the dinner table until you finish eating. Don’t be surprised if he also sits in front of the bathroom door while you’re doing your business!

Recommended Reading: The 5 Ways Golden Retrievers Protect Their Owners (Explained)

Doggie Kisses

Dogs lick each other in order to show affection and acceptance. When they do this with their humans, they are trying to tell us that we’re members of their pack too!

Do your Golden retrievers licks really mean they love you? Well, yes and no. Dogs work in a rather reciprocal manner – if a dog licks its owner’s face, and the dog owner responds positively with a hug or a kiss then the dog will want to repeat this behavior.

Even if a Golden retriever is licking you for other reasons besides showing affection (like being hungry), they’ll continue doing it as long as you keep rewarding them with positive attention.

Bringing You Toys and Dead Animals

As you may already know, Golden Retrievers were originally bred by Scottish hunters who wanted an energetic dog breed to catch and retrieve their prey.

Although the vast majority of Goldens don’t go on hunts anymore, they still have that behavior hardwired in their genes. That’s why they may try to please you by bringing you toys and dead animals, especially birds.

I know that having dead animals in your home isn’t delightful (I’ve been there!), but it’s just what your dog was bred to do. There are some creative ways to break that habit gently, but scolding your dog is undoubtedly not one of them.

‘Herding’ Your Young Kids

As I said earlier, dogs can show affection by considering us as their pack members, particularly young kids.

Goldens retrievers love to look after kids. They’ll chase them around the house to make sure they don’t run into any trouble, and they may also nap next to their crib to guarantee optimal safety.

That behavior becomes even more evident when you go for a walk. If one of your kids steps off the sidewalk suddenly, your Golden will probably dash forward to prevent them from going astray.

Rubbing Their Heads Against Your Face

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that dogs express love through physical means. Licking is probably the most famous way, but nuzzling is equally important.

Yes, Goldens like to rub against their owner’s faces just like cats. They do that to stimulate the sweat glands on a human’s face to release scent markers — and that’s how they claim you as part of their territories. You smell like them and they smell like you.

Nuzzling can also be a way to reconnect with motherly love, especially if your dog was taken away from his mom at a young age. Make sure to nuzzle back at your dog as much as you can to communicate your love in a way your dog can understand.
Watch this sweet Golden Retriever love on his mom.

Gazing Into Your Eyes

Just like babies, dogs can decipher your facial expressions and know how you feel, even if you don’t say a word. They do that mainly by gazing into your eyes.

But if you notice that your Golden retriever is always trying to maintain eye contact, he might be trying to encourage you to read his facial expressions, hoping that you’d realize how much you mean to him.

Surprisingly, a recent study has also found that gazing at each other’s eyes can release a hormone called Oxytocin, which is commonly dubbed as the “love hormone!”

Recommended Reading: Why Does My Golden Retriever Sit or Lean On Me? (10 Reasons)

Stealing Your Stuff

I’m sure nobody loves seeing their favorite shoes and shirts ripped apart by their dogs, but that’s just another sign of a dog’s affection.

They seem to be interested in dirty laundry and stinky footwear because that’s where they can find an infinite supply of your unique scent. That scent may seem yucky to us, but dogs probably smell past that yuckiness. After all, dogs’ noses are said to be 10,000 times better than ours!

Excitement Peeing

Does your Golden retriever puppy dribble some pee right after you return home from a long day at work? Well, I’m happy to tell you that your potty training isn’t necessarily regressing.

As it turns out, that behavior is fairly common in the dog training world — it’s known as submissive urination.

As the name suggests, submissive urination happens when your dog encounters a sudden surge of emotions like excitement, anxiety, and fear. That can happen when you return home, when a new person pets your dog, or when you scold your dog after breaking one of your rules.

Luckily, Golden retrievers typically break that habit automatically as they grow older. If you want to speed up the process, try distracting your dog with treats whenever he faces any distressing situation.


It often doesn’t take long for a strong bond to form between a Golden retriever and their humans. When this happens, Goldens will start to want to cuddle up close to you in order to show some love and get some in return.

If you’re in need of some cuddling, a Golden retriever will be one of the first to sit next to you, lean on you, or even jump into your lap. Leave it to a Golden to show affection in a very needy and demanding way!

How To Show Affection to Your Golden Retriever

Alright, now that we’ve seen how Golden Retrievers express their love, I thought it would only be fair to show you some creative ways you can express your love back.

Talk To Him Affectionately

We’ve known for decades that dogs can understand what we’re saying by paying attention to our tone of voice.

But a recent study has taken the world by storm after proving that dogs can understand words like “good boy” and “well done,” even if said in a neutral tone.

Dogs also seem to love when you talk to them the way you’d talk to a baby — with a high-pitched voice and exaggerated expressions.

Recommended Reading: Do Golden Retrievers Have a Favorite Person? (Explained)

Belly Rubs

If Golden retrievers have a top ten list of the things they like most, then a belly rub would definitely be near the top! If you want to show your Golden some love, just cuddle up next to them and give them a good long belly rub. Nothing will relax them more or make them happier.
These Golden Retrievers and babies love each other a lot. So sweet!

Discover how to train your Golden Retriever by playing games: 21 games to play with your Golden that will make them smarter and better behaved!

Rub Their Ears

All dogs love being showered with endless petting, that’s for sure. But as it turns out, they specifically love ear rubs more than anything. A Golden retrievers ears are swarming with nerve endings that stimulate all sorts of feel-good hormones when you massage them.

Don’t Be a Couch Potato

In today’s busy world, some people can get so wrapped up in work and personal errands that they completely ignore their dog’s physical needs.

That’s incredibly harmful to Golden retrievers because they were bred to be energetic. They’ll be more likely to show destructive behavior if you don’t take them for regular walks.

So get up off the couch and show your Golden some love by taking them on a trip to the local dog park, the beach, or by taking them on a hike.

Watch Out for Signs of Distress

I’m sure nobody wants their precious dog to experience even the slightest bit of sadness. But if you don’t know how your dog expresses his anxiety, you might miss it. Here are the typical signs of a stressed dog:

  • Shaking: Just like your dog shakes after taking a bath, he might shake to ease negative emotions.
  • Pacing: It’s common for Goldens retriever to walk back and forth when they’re anxiously waiting for something.
  • Changes in eyes and ears: Stressed Goldens may hold their ears back against the head or show a bigger part of the whites of their eyes.
  • Tucking the tail: A stressed Golden retriever will often tuck their tail between the legs.

By noticing the signs of distress, you can soothe your Golden retriever by showing him or her some affection in one of the several ways mentioned above.

Final Thoughts

If your Golden retriever doesn’t show his love in the ways mentioned above, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t love you. Every dog has a unique way of expressing affection, so don’t worry about that. Just continue being a fantastic, responsible Golden retriever owner and let nature take its course.


Bryan Mullennix

Bryan's a freelance travel photographer and happy dog dad. He currently lives in Las Vegas with his wife, his son, and two dogs Nom Nom & Speck.

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