Why Does Your Golden Retriever Hold Your Hand?

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You are relaxing on the couch and all of a sudden, your Goldie jumps on it with you and puts its paw on your hand with affection. You are quite happy, trying to process the cuteness but at the same time, you are also curious as to why the doggo does this gesture. Is the dog saying something or is it just a random habit?

It is very normal if your Golden Retriever holds your hand with its paw. Normally, a Goldie does that to ask you to scratch its forearm or get your attention and cuddles. On top of that, if you also praise or treat the dog for this sweet gesture, the dog would be even more motivated to always put its paw on your hand for more rewards.

In GoldenRetrieverForum, a survey was conducted, asking 52 dog-parents whether their Golden Retrievers put paws on their hand. Here is the results:

44 dog-parents (84.6%) said yes of course. So, it means this behavior is not uncommon or abnormal in Golden Retrievers.

Photo by Blue Bird from Pexels

Should you be concerned when your Golden Retriever puts its paw on your hand?

As you can see in the Survey I mentioned above, over 80% of the pet-parents have said their Goldies also like holding hands which can explain that your Golden Retriever is not the only dog that does this gesture. In other words, normally, it is just a learned habit in this dog breed. Therefore, you do not need to be concerned.

Nonetheless, there are a few other reasons which you can get concerned for.

Here they are:

01 – Having a sickness or injury

Golden Retrievers communicate to their owners in many ways such as by barking, howling, hyperactivity and of course, gestures. Although, hand holding is not the first go-to way a Goldie would use to express its thoughts and feelings, this gesture can surely be expected.

So, when the dog is having a discomfort or a health issue, it tries to tell you about it but at the same time, some dogs also do not want to be seen as weak. So, they choose the subtle ways to express its pain such as by hand/paw-holding.

Therefore, when your Goldie puts its paw on you, just also check whether the dog shows other more-apparent symptoms of having a sickness. That is the best way to confirm whether the dog tries to tell you about its health or not.

Sometimes, the Goldie literally will show its paw to you since it feels a pain in it. So, in that case, make sure the dog does not have any splinters, insect bits, cuts and other physical injuries or discomforts.

If you are still not sure, it is better to consult your Goldie’s vet and ensure the dog does not have a health issue.

02 – Coping with negative emotions

Golden Retrievers experience many emotions just like humans and when these dogs get bad emotions, they cope with their emotional state in varies ways also just like humans.

In such situations, dogs usually come to their owners for comfort and love. So, holding your hand can be a way that your Golden Retriever asks for affection and relief.

Some of the negative emotions in Golden Retrievers can be separation-anxiety, fear, boredom, sadness, depression and insecurity.

With a few examples, let me explain why your Golden Retriever would hold your hand to seek comfort when dealing with bad emotions:

  • Fear – A Golden Retriever might get scared of certain people, things and situations. As this breed is family dogs, they seek a safe space from the family and the environment that they are living in.
  • Boredom – If you leave your Goldie at home for too long, it can get bored and lonely. So, too much alone time leads to a worrisome mental state.
    • When you get back home, the dog usually holds your hand to tell you that it was sad and bored while you were away. And do not leave it alone like that again.
  • Separation-anxiety – This is basically the next level of being bored. When a Golden Retriever feels too lonely, it starts to feel insecure about being abandoned by you. So, the dog constantly feel anxious thinking of the worse.

03 – Asking for foods and treats

When a Golden Retriever is feeling hungry and wants to eat, it usually shows obvious signs such as barking or whining.

Hand holding is also another sign like that.

However, sometimes, the dog might not even be hungry but it just asks for foods. In that case, make sure you will not overfeed the dog though because if you are going to feed the dog every time it holds your hand or barks, then, the doggo will gain weight pretty easily.

How do Golden Retrievers learn to hold their owner’s hand with paws?

Well, if you did not train the dog to do this gesture, It can be a habit that the dog has picked up from watching you. You see, after watching how you greet people by shaking hands, your Goldie might also want to imitate human behavior to know what it feels like, especially since it is the dog’s favorite human that does this gesture.

Moreover, sometimes, pets themselves imitate each other. If your Goldie has other dog pals, then, it probably has learned to hold hands from them. `

Dog experts believe that not only Golden Retrievers but all dogs in general, like to imitate their companions since doing so helps them get closer to those loved ones.

Photo by Josh Hild on Unsplash

Should you prevent your Golden Retriever from seeking you out with its paws?

It is fine if your Golden Retriever only hands over its paw occasionally but if the dog continuously seeks you out that it is too repetitive and even overwhelming to you, you should not encourage that behavior and instead try to lessen the dog’s attention seeking tendencies to a moderation.

You see, when a Golden Retriever is too attached to you, it is not good for the dog’s mental health. It can make the dog feel anxious and stressed.

So, if the hand-holding habit gets too repetitive like that, try ignoring the dog when it offers you its paw while also not giving any rewards. That way, the dog will not feel tempted to hold your hand since it seems to not get the Goldie its rewards and your attention.

Next, the dog will find some other way to get your attention and rewards.

Is it good to turn the hand holding habit into a command?

Yes it is surely the most optimal thing to do. If you train your Golden Retriever to hold your hand with its paw and get it off your hand on command, there will be much more control to you to make sure the dog does not repeat the gesture too much but only does it on command.

Here is how you can train the dog:

The command to hold your hand with its paws:

  • Step 1: Name the command first – Call it the obvious “Paw on”. So that the dog can understand and know what command that you want it to obey.
  • Step 2: Get the dog’s paw and place it on your hand. At the same time, say the name of the command.
  • Step 3: Right when you have the dog’s paw on your hand, give the dog a reward such as a treat.
  • Step 4: Now in your other hand, have another treat but do not give it to the dog. Only let it smell the treat.
  • Step 5: Then, repeat the command “Paw on” and if the dog intentionally offers its paw, give the treat now. It means the dog now understands that it can get the treat by giving you its paw.

If the dog did not get it and did not hand over its paw. Try repeating from step 2 to step 5 again.

  • Step 6: Keep on repeating these steps. Eventually, the dog will get the hang of it. After that, your Goldie will obey the command whenever you want it to.

Now, do not forget to teach the dog to get its paw off your hand too.

The command to get the paw off your hand:

  • Step 7: To get the dog’s paw off your hand, first name that command. Call it “Paw off or anything you like”.
  • Step 8: Then, actually, put the Goldie’s paw away from your hand and give a reward after.
  • Step 9: Now, keep another treat in your other hand. Only let the dog smell it but do not give.
  • Step 10: Repeat the command “Paw off” and if your Retriever gets its paw away from you, give the treat. Then, repeat the training a bit more.

In no time, the dog will fully learn these two commands “Paw on” and “Paw off”.

However, do not forget the rewards. The dog is driven to obey the commands solely, because of the rewards (Positive reinforcement).

Photo by Stephen Andrews on Unsplash

Final Thoughts

It is usual when your Golden Retriever holds your hand with its paw. The dog usually means it wants you to scratch its forearm or just craves your attention.

Plus, it can also be due to a few other reasons too such as asking for relief due to a health problem or coping with bad emotions. In that case, dot not overlook these signs. Treat these situations properly such as by giving the dog vet-care.

However, normally, it is not concerning to see your Goldie does this gesture. As long as the dog does not show symptoms of a real health problem, there is no need for you to worry.

Most likely, the dog is just being affectionate with you to get your cuddles.

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