Golden Retrievers and “Paw-resting-on-arm” Behavior. Dominance or Not?

You know what I mean right?  When your dog is sitting next to you and places his/her paw on your lap or arm, either before or after you start to pet them?  Both of my goldens did this ALL THE TIME!  I don’t have a problem with this.

Since this is a blog about goldens, and even has a category called Golden Behavior, I thought I would do a little post about this particular behavior and see what others have read, learned, or experienced.

And of course, I have to throw in the Poll…Does your golden do the “Arm-Paw” ?  I want to try and determine if this is a common “Golden Behavior”  Please participate!  It only takes a fraction of a second.

The conclusion that I have come to is this:  If a dog gets petted when he puts his paw up, he considers this a reward, therefore, he will continue to do this, and in most cases, continue to be rewarded.  If no one ever responds to this behavior, I assume it would eventually not exist.

A dog is man’s best friend, and this is just one of their ways of showing affection, or begging!  Some sites I checked out still believe it is a dominant behavior.  I suppose there is that possibility that it is dominance related in some situations, but generally, with goldens, its just them begging for affection with their adorable cuteness.  If I don’t want to pet Tucker, (like THAT ever happens) I wont pet him.  It is always my decision.  Excuse me while I go pet Tucker…

Related Article – Why Do Dogs Give Paw? by Kevin Behan – Modern Dog Magazine

57 thoughts on “Golden Retrievers and “Paw-resting-on-arm” Behavior. Dominance or Not?

  1. Finn does this ALL THE TIME. I love it. I always imagined her saying, “Don’t touch my head” when she does this, because she will rest it on the arm that is doing the petting, and thus, I can only pet her chest.

  2. I’ve never had a Golden that didn’t do this. …and your right, by petting them we are rewarding them. We have never minded though.


  3. All of the Goldens I’ve had, both my show dogs and my rescues, all did this. And now with Grady it is extra important because he is blind. I think he uses it to get a feeling of where I am and where he is in relation. Then of course it’s both paws, and let’s try to get into her lap..

  4. Our golden did this ALL the time! I don’t remember a time during her 15 years that she didn’t. Many other goldens I’ve met have done it as well. We now have a 3 year old black lab mix who has never once done it.. I definitely think its a golden trait.

  5. My dog does this all the time!! He’s so adorable, and to me, it’s he wants attention(because he acts like he doesn’t get any) lol. He is actually a black lab/husky mix. Having a pure husky before, I know this is a lab thing!

  6. I just voted yes, and now I’m typing one-handed because my golden has my other arm pinned…. 🙂

  7. Our Golden/Yellow Lab mix does this all of the time. He will sit next to my wife and do this, then kiak out his leg so she will rub the inside of his leg. Our Chocolate Lab doesn’t do this nor does our lab/Rotti mix. It is truly a Golden thing.

    • It is not just a Golden thing, my belgain Malinios does this and my german shepherd. I think it is just a spoiled rotten dog thing. I always like when my two do this, it s cute and always gets them petted.

  8. Our Ellie Mae Clampet Peaches does this all the time and we think it’s because she’s pretty. Our Black Lab does this too because he is handsome.

  9. My golden does this and also sits up on his hind legs so he can get both paws on both your arms! my vet was suprized by this – she said this is something only little dogs do!

    i think its a way for them to “hug” you back

    • I agree! Whenever my Addie does it, I tell myself she is just petting me back and returning the favor.

    • when we first took in and homed our oldie golden he would stand on his hind legs and hug me with his paws round my neck; it was a loving thing

  10. My golden does this all the time…more so as he ages. I do think it’s a learned behavior though (much like begging). I paw you, you pet me. I could probably unteach it to him by giving him a negative stimuli when he paws me rather than a positive one but….I like petting him and he’s a good dog. I train him/he trains me. 🙂

  11. I do believe that Goldens are the prominent breed to do this. However my brother’s weim does it and it drives him up the wall. He hates it. My boy will wrap both paws around my forearm and prop himself up on his hiney while I scratch his chest. I just think he’s adorable 🙂

  12. All four of my goldens have done this! We don’t mind it a bit! It’s part of their cuteness.

  13. For the real answer, you could type “why do dogs give paw/modern dog magazine” and go to the web page.

  14. I have a golden named “Tucker” also. My parents have a golden named “Buddy.” They both have done this so many times. I too believe it is a retriever trait. I have had many other breeds, one right now also is a mix mutt and he has never done this. I love it, and always give him the attention he is asking for!

  15. I have had many dogs over the years as my dad is a veterinarian, but Abby is my first Golden and she is so human-like it is crazy. She likes to hold hands with me, if I rest my hand on her paw, she lifts it and puts it over mine. If Iay down next to her, she puts her arm around my neck. If I have my legs crossed and my foot is within her belly reach, she is right there so I will rub her belly. She talks when she wants something. We know her different requests now and the look she gets in her eyes (most serious one is when she has to go outside to do her business). I do not think I could ever have another breed after having this special little girl in our lives. To the lady who left her and her litter mates at the fire station…thank you! She has been a the best thing that has happened to us since we had our ‘real’ children 20 and 22 years ago! 🙂 I love her so much I cannot even think of a day she will not be with us.

  16. My black lab mix looks at me til I pet her, and once I start she puts her paw on me and licks my hand. I don’t mind because she won’t do it til I initiate petting her. Then sometimes she will plop down on the floor and show her belly. So cute!

  17. My golden named Gus has always done this too and he is definitely not a dominant dog. He is very submissive…especially with me. He will jump up to cuddle and put his paw on my arm to get me to pet him.

  18. Thanks for liking Puppy Dreams. It’s one of my favorites. As for the paw on the arm, my dog isn’t a Golden (though part of her might be…she was a foundling) so she only gets the paw thing half right. She rests her muzzle on my knee and will stay there until she gets her pats or, better yet, a biscuit.

  19. From a pure animal stand point this could be looked upon as dominant behavior because they always do it when you are in a vulnerable position sitting down and they know they can get your attention. That is being dominant…..Goldie style. My horses especially one of them is always playing dominant games with me but horse dominant behavior has nothing to do with getting affection. With horses it is all about THEM being in control of a situation.

  20. My golden, Haley, inspired a whole movement with her infamous “pushy paw” (see The Paw It Forward Project:!

    Here’s an excellent article that demystifies the “dominance” myth:
    “De-Bunking the “Alpha Dog” Theory: Why every mention of “alpha dogs” or “dominant” dogs is dangerous to all dogs.
    The alpha myth is everywhere. Google “alpha dog” on the Internet and you get more than 85 million hits. Really. While not all the sites are about dominating your dog, there are literally millions of resources out there – websites, books, blogs, television shows, veterinarians, trainers and behavior professionals – instructing you to use force and intimidation to overpower your dog into submission. They say that you, the human, must be the alpha. They’re all wrong. Every single one of them.

  21. I don’t have a golden but I have a husky/rotti. She always wraps her paws around my arm like a hug when I pet her chest or tummy. I have never taken it as dominant behavior. I find it more of a loving gesture. She sometimes groans or says mum while doing it. Yes she says mum…huskies tend to talk rather then bark. I am the only one in the family she makes the mum sound with and she always greets me with several excited mum sounds when I come home or get up in the morning. She also knows left from right with her paws and has always been rewarded with loving attention and/or a treat when she gives paw. I believe placing a paw on us in most cases is just a loving gesture or a request for love and affection. Possibly with a dominant dog it’s a dominant gesture but for those of us who have respect and love from our four legged family members we know what they are really saying when the do it!

  22. I dont have a Golden, but a Shiba Inu. He´s five months and does this all the time. I find it sweet and think to my self its his way of showing affectionate back to me.. and have let him keep doing it.

  23. My 14-year-old retired Seeing Eye dog Hanni is a Golden/Lab cross and does this all the time. I visit schools with my Seeing Eye dogs and the kids absolutely loved it when Hanni would “hold my hand” as I talked to them.
    My current spunky 4-year-old Seeing Eye dog Whitney is also a Golden/Lab cross. She puts her paw on my lap or on my arm from time to time but only holds it there a split second. She’s too antsy to hold it there for long.
    Thanks for this post — very fun.

  24. My Oliver age 2 does sometimes, but Baxter & Tucker barely , 11 months. They do take my arm and lift with noses when I stop petting them. Most of my other Goldens i’VE HAD THROUGH THE YEARS HAVE DONE THE PAW THING . cOME TO THINK OF IT MY 7 YR OLD mORGAN DOES IT ALOT

  25. My current female does this usually with both paws and she “purrs” too every time she gets loved on!

  26. My Golden Girls, Callie and Shadow, have been doing the paw on the arm thing since they were puppies — they are nearly 10 and nearly 9-1/2 now — and I love it. They’re so cute the way they paw our arms to get us to rub their chests instead of their heads or shoulders. And of course we reward them by rubbing their chests! Why not? They like it and they reward us for loving on them! Our little Corgi/Lab mix tries to imitate her older sisters’ pawing behavior, but she sits in our laps and ends up looking more like a black kitten “batting” at a toy. It’s so cute we have to laugh.

  27. My golden did this naturally too. I had to start ignoring it and even tell people not to encourage “shaking hands” when they met him bc it will disqualify him for the therapy test. He has stopped doing it but when he gets really excited he will back up to you and put both paws out. Goldens are so cute!

  28. my bubba does the same thing. I have two goldens, one paws and one nudges. both are totally rotten 🙂

  29. My Morkie does this all the time. He’ll come up next to me while I’m sitting and he’ll rub his paw across my forearm and then just look at me. Haha. Not entirely sure what he wants, but I assume it’s to tell me he wants affection and to be petted.

  30. My dog does that too me all the time and I think it’s cute how he holds my hands I think he is saying please hold my hands 🙂 or paws

  31. I have a 53kg (116Ib) german shepherd he does this all the time.If I lie on top of him(literally) he puts his paw in my hand. Its not a dominance thing cause he knows better than try that. He is the most loving, affectionate animal I’ve know and in my opinion it’s an affectionate behaviour, they love you and want to be as close to you as possible.

  32. Leo my Golden lab (golden retriever x yellow lab) has always done it. We got him at about 5yr, he had had a emotionally neglected life before, previous life was spent chained up. He was a very insecure dog when we got him but over the years he has become more confident. Every time he comes to me he wants me to hold his paw, his bed it between our chairs and most evenings i sit watching tv holding his paw…if I’m not holding it then I get a paw down the side of my chair till i hold his paw. If he has bad dreams (he suckles like a puppy) then holding his paw front or back one stops the dream. If he feels unsure/worried/threatened or out faced by a situation I have to hold his paw to clam him down. I love him to bits, though sometimes it becomes tiresome. ..he has learnt the word “enough” and will stop but i would never do it when i needs the reassurance or moral support.
    My parents had of one each retriever and lab, the lab Harry always wanted you to hold his paw, Bailey only did it occasionally.

    • My cocker spaniel does this ALL the time. As well as wanting me to hold his paw he comes and sits on my knee, looks up and puts his head on my chest. Cute.

  33. Have a chocolate lab who does this! It always starts if your scratching her chest! Always affectionate!!

  34. I have owned other dogs of other breeds, none of which ever gave me their paw unless I asked them too. This seems to be strictly a golden thing, always his way of making sure my hand is available for a good licking. To me it seems to be a way to show affection and submission.

  35. This happens to me all the time BUT it’s with my Rottweiler (mixed with something idk what it is not golden) and its while I’m petting her. She’s laying on her side while I’m petting her and she get her arm and pulls it down with her arm

  36. Yeah, its not only Golden Retrievers, don’t think your dog is special… All dogs do this. Its a sign of them thinking they are in control of the situation, a sign if minor alphaness.

  37. Katie is a rescue golden and locks her arm around me also offers up paw and will hold hands with me for hours if i would also i took antidepressents for about five years and sence she found me i never took another one i wonder if there has ever been a study about that and when we vacation with out her i miss her and fill ancious and eratated easily ??

  38. My Border Collie Jax also does it. Generally it’s when he wants attention, or if I’m giving him a chest/brisket scratch and then move away and he enjoys it, he’ll grab his paw and push it down on my arm as if to say, ‘wooft whop, woof wis wafmzaing’ – don’t think it’s a dominance thing, my collie is by far dominant, he’s very timid around other dogs but loves humans. It may also be his way of saying, ‘please give me more attention’. I’d say it’s definitely not just a golden retriever thing, I think temperament has a huge thing to play in this particular behaviour, breed agnostic.

  39. I have had three goldens and all three over 20 years put their paw on the arm of whoever was petting them. I thought it too was a golden thing but I just adopted a shelter puppy and guess what he does the exact same thing and this dog has zero golden in him. So it’s all breeds and their way of showing the same affection.

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