15 Signs Your Golden Retriever Loves You (and 5 That He Doesn’t)

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As Golden Retriever parents, we can’t help but wonder what our dogs are feeling and thinking. After all, we know a lot is going on in there. We can see emotions and intelligence in their eyes, and we often see the wheels turning. 

We know our Golden Retrievers feel sad, happy, jealous, scared, and can get angry. So, it makes sense that they would also experience love. And, on some level, we know they do. We’re sure of it. 

We love our dogs. Often, we are amazed at just how much. And, so it’s natural to wonder if they love us too, and if so, how do they show that love.

Golden Retrievers are very affectionate dogs and show love in many ways. Some signs that your Golden Retriever loves you include greeting you enthusiastically, sleeping on your feet, making eye contact, running to you when scared, licking you, or cuddling with you on the couch or bed, among others.

Ah, is there anything as glorious as knowing our dog loves us? Maybe they even love us more than anyone else. We know it shouldn’t matter, but we can’t help but feel that somehow we’re a bit more special knowing that someone in this world loves us so unconditionally. 

While Golden Retrievers are not known for being a one-person dog, there are some definitive signs that your Golden Retriever loves you and maybe, just maybe, loves you more than anyone else. 

15 Signs Your Golden Retriever Loves You

Greets You Enthusiastically

If your Golden Retriever loves you, it will greet you like you’ve been gone for weeks, even if it’s only been a few hours. It’s a hallmark Golden Retriever thing. The big dash to welcome you, running side-ways, full-body wiggles, exuberant happiness, and maybe happy growls or barks. 

For the Golden Retriever, absence does make the heart grow fonder. And, that absence does not even need to be a long one. Often, you’ve just come back from a short trip to the grocery store or even from another room in the house, and it’s a full-on celebration. 

All Golden Retriever owners know this greeting, and it’s one of the things we love the most about them. Few, if any, other dogs breeds greet us like the Golden Retriever. The Golden Retriever wins the Gold medal for their unabashed celebratory greetings. 

Licks You

Your Golden Retriever may lick you to show affection. Most owners like to call these puppy or dog kisses, which is pretty much what they are. It’s common for most dog breeds, but some more than others. 

Golden Retriever can be big kissers. It’s usually part of the wild greeting celebration, but it can often happen spontaneously with cuddles or for any reason. Other times they seem worried about you for some reason, or often they seem to lick us to say life is fantastic, I’m so happy, and you’re a bit part of why! 

It’s not uncommon to get a full-face bath if you’re a Golden Retriever owner. And, this should not be surprising. After all, dogs greet other dogs they like by licking their faces. So, if they love you, expect some dog kisses. 

Follows You Around

If your Golden Retriever loves you, he’ll want to be around you. Some people call this clingy, but it’s a show of bonding and genuinely wanting to spend time with you (provided it’s not a separation anxiety thing). 

Your Golden Retriever may follow you from the living room to the kitchen and even decide to join you in the bathroom. If Golden Retriever feels bonded to you, they can be very focused on keeping you in their sight.

Most often, your Golden Retriever doesn’t want anything other than just being with you and is happy just spending time with you wherever you are. 

Looks For You

Closely related to following you around is looking for you. If your Golden Retriever wants to know where you are, it’s because of a desire to be around you. Yes, this is when a Golden Retriever becomes a tracking dog. 

Maybe your Golden has awoken from a nap, or they’ve just realized you’re not around, so off they go looking for you. A bark or the sound of a nose sniffing under the door alerts us that the Golden bloodhound has found us. 

And, once they discover us, cue the enthusiastic greeting!! 

Sleeps on Your Feet

A promising sign that your Golden Retriever loves you is when you find it sleeping on your feet or legs. Often, they’ll lay on your feet (or legs) if they sleep in bed with you or while watching TV. But, it might be while you’re sitting at the kitchen table eating, having a cup of coffee in the morning, or almost anywhere. 

Another good sign your Golden Retriever loves you is they have designated your feet as the official sleeping spot. Meaning, they may sleep on something or someone else, but they always return to their favorite place, which is your feet. 

Snuggles With You on the Couch or Bed

True cuddles are when they snuggle up to you on the couch or when in bed. Your Golden may put his head on your lap while you’re watching TV or may squeeze up tightly against you on the couch. Or maybe you’ll find your Golden spooning with you in bed. 

You might find your Golden Retriever snuggled on your feet when you’re first going to bed, only to wake up later to find that it’s nestled against your back.

The only downside of this show of cuddle love is Goldens tend to “hog” the covers or push you to one side of the bed (and almost off). This specialized talent leaves you waking up cold and coverless or teetering on the edge of the bed and clamoring for more solid ground. 

If you’re interested in whether Golden Retrievers like to cuddle, then be sure to check out this article:

Do Golden Retrievers Like To Cuddle?

Bailey snuggled with me on the couch (and sharing a blanket) while watching a repeat of the TV show Mom.

Puts Its Paw on You

Another touch-related one. Your Golden may do this to get your attention. Maybe for a treat, because it wants to play, or because it seeks affection. But more likely is that your Golden is just making physical contact. It’s usually to say “hi” or a precursor to some love and affection. 

Just like you might put your hand on the shoulder, leg, or small of the back of someone you love, your Golden is doing the same thing when it puts its paw on you. Touch is a powerful thing.

Puts Its Head on Your Leg or Lap

Golden Retrievers learn this one quickly and what differentiates it from snuggles on the couch or bed is this happens when you’re sitting and almost always involves eye contact. Your Golden is coming over to say “what’s up” and to say hi. Sometimes your Golden may want something, while other times, it’s just for emotional and physical connection.

While your Golden’s head is on your lap, you may also find it gazing into your eyes. As discussed next, the eye gaze is a great sign your Golden Retriever thinks you’re alright and loves you. And, even science backs that one up. 

Makes Eye Contact  

Two types of eye contact often occur with your Golden Retriever. The first is when you’re engaged in an activity. Often your Golden will look at you for what to do next. This eye contact is a sign of a strong bond of trust and communication.

The second is more emotional. As discussed earlier, a gaze often happens when Golden’s come to say hello and put their heads on your lap or sit in front of you. You’ll know it when it happens because it’s a deep gaze, and you can sense a real connection.

And, there’s some science to support this. Humans bond when we gaze into each other’s eyes through the release of oxycontin. Guess what? That same thing happens with our dogs. 

Researchers in a Japanese study found that mutual gazing increased oxytocin levels. The researchers found oxycontin levels of dogs increased when gazing into their owner’s eyes. Interestingly, wolves, which rarely engage in eye contact with human handlers, were resistant to this effect.

Comes To You When Scared

Lightening? Garbage truck? Fireworks? Maybe something got pulled down? Whatever it was, there is a good chance that your Golden Retriever will come running to you for comfort or protection.

Running to you when scared is unique to dogs. No other animals run to humans when scared. 

Coming to you when scared or feeling threatened is a sign that your Golden Retriever sees you as someone who gives them comfort and protection. As humans, we only seek comfort from those we love, not from those we don’t, so this is an excellent sign your Golden loves you. 

Brings Toys To You

Play is a show of love and affection. The offer to play by bringing you toys is a Golden Retriever’s way of saying you’re fun and you’re someone I like to play with. 

It’s kind of like the guys or gals getting together for a game of hockey shiny or shooting some hoops. We do it with our “bro’s or gals” – those we love and feel bonded to – and so our Golden Retriever is probably not much different. 

Often, the affectionate Golden will designate a playful person as their go-to friend. Kids quite often get selected naturally as the play buddies. 

Asks for Belly-Rubs

Bell-rubs are a vulnerable position for a dog, and offering this to you for affectionate reasons versus submission or appeasement is a show of trust. 

Golden Retrievers love belly-rubs, but if your Golden Retriever is offering this to you for pure enjoyment and affection, then your dog most certainly trusts you. And trust is a big part of love. After all, do you share intimacy with people you dislike or don’t trust? 

Bailey at about 10 weeks and just after a belly rub. Is that a smile I see!

Stands in Between Your Legs

Standing or sitting in between your legs seems to be a uniquely Golden thing. Of all the dogs we’ve had and those I’ve encountered, I’ve only experienced this with the Golden Retriever. 

The Golden will come and stand or sit in between our legs. It can be backward or forward, and it’s usually an invitation to get a “butt” or head scratch. Still, it is almost inevitably for affection and only solicited from those they love. 

Noses You

Most dogs seem to do this, and Golden Retrievers do it as well. It may be a nose to the hand, back of the leg, or anywhere. It says I’m here, and it might be an invitation to be petted, play, or just a show of affection. Or, it may just be to smell you to get your scent.

Dogs experience much of their worlds through their noses, and you are a big part of their world. 

In a 2014 study on canine brain responses to familiar and unfamiliar scents, researchers found that when dogs sniffed their owners scent the dog’s caudal nucleus (this coordinates our neural reward center).  

Five scents were presented (self, familiar human, strange human, familiar dog, strange dog). All produced a positive response, but only the familiar human produced the maximum response. 

Leans on or Into You

Leaning on or into you can be related to protection or security. And, often, this behavior happens if your Golden is feeling scared or threatened. But it doesn’t always have to. 

Sometimes the lean is spontaneous and doesn’t seem to occur for any reason other than being in physical contact with you. It’s not unlike when we put our leg against that special someone under the table or when we walk with our shoulder against our significant other.

It’s an affectionate touch and a desire to be in contact with someone we love. It gives us a sense of security and closeness. And, you Golden is most likely doing the same.

5 Signs Your Golden Retriever Does Not Love (or Even Like) You

Scared of You

If your Golden Retriever is scared of you, it usually is because of an event or situation that caused some fear. Maybe an inadvertent stepping on a tail or paw or screaming when your favorite hockey team scored a winning goal. Such fear-based incidences usually are temporary. 

But, suppose you find your Golden is always scared of you. In that case, it’s usually due to some harsh physical or verbal corrections or some aversive-based training techniques.

Dogs do better with reward-based training. Golden Retrievers, being a sensitive dog breed, are especially suited to this training method. 

If you’re interested in why reward-based training is the best method for training your Golden Retriever, then check this article out:

Dog Training Methods: Which One is Best for Golden Retrievers?

Avoids You

If your Golden Retriever avoids you, it may be because he doesn’t trust you or feel bonded to you. A Golden Retriever avoiding you might be especially common if you are not a “dog” person. 

Golden Retrievers are highly intuitive. The dog may have picked up on your vibes or emotions, which could be sending the message that your stand-offish with dogs. 

In a 2016 study, researchers found that dogs recognize human emotions, including positive (happy) or negative (angry/aggressive). So, maybe your Golden Retriever doesn’t like you because you don’t like him. Or because you’re mad a lot. 

Avoids Eye Contact

As discussed above, research has shown that Golden Retrievers (dogs in general) gaze into their owner’s eyes to bond through oxycontin release. 

If your Golden Retriever avoids eye contact, then this deep, meaningful bonding interaction is missing. It may be due to him being scared or avoiding you, as discussed earlier. 

Just as humans will avoid eye contact with someone they do not like, your Golden Retriever might do the same if it doesn’t like or feel bonded with you. 

Prefers Everyone Else

Golden Retrievers are generally “love sponges.” Meaning that they seek love from those they hold dear and even seek affection from strangers. Everyone and anyone who will give them love can be the target of a Golden Retriever’s focus.

But, suppose your Golden Retriever spends an inordinately long time avoiding you and seems to gravitate to everyone else, even when called. In that case, there’s a reason for it. You may remind your Golden of somebody it had a bad experience with, or it senses you’re angry or that you’re not fond of dogs.

Or, your Golden Retriever just doesn’t like you.  

Cowers When You Try To Pet It

Often dogs get startled by hands coming down from above to pet them. They don’t see the hand coming. That’s normal, albeit temporary, and a minor reaction to being surprised.

But, if your Golden cringes each time you try to pet him, then it is scared of you or has become afraid of being petted in general.

Harsh verbal or physical reprimands or training techniques are usually the blame. Now is the time to start using reward-based training only and make a point to build a positive, trusting, and affectionate relationship.

This poor pup is scared. Notice the lack of eye contact, avoidance, and cowering. If your Golden Retriever looks like this, that’s a bad sign!

Do All Golden Retrievers Show Love This Way?

No, chances are your Golden Retriever will show love in some of these ways, but not all. Some might offer one or two, while others might show 10 or 12. It depends on the individual dog. 

Golden Retrievers are unique individuals, and just like us humans, they have their distinct personalities. While some specific traits generalize across a breed, each dog is different and unique in its own right. It’s what makes them so special. 

It also depends on you. 

A Golden Retriever may show love in one way to a family member and then show love in an entirely different way to another family member. After all, we show affection differently to the various people in our lives as well. Our Goldens are not different.

Golden Retrievers are very intuned with our emotions, likes, and dislikes and will adapt their show of love to our preferences. Golden Retrievers quickly figure out that one family member may like to snuggle; whereas, another prefers to play.

Can We Really Be Certain It’s Love?

Some will argue no, we can’t be sure. After all, a dog can’t speak, so it can’t describe to us what its feelings are. Yet, I don’t think anyone would make the same argument about dogs feeling anger or sadness, so why is love any different? 

Consider a small child or a person who is unable to speak. Are they incapable of showing affection (love), and do we think it is any less valid or doesn’t exist because they can’t tell us? Or, maybe dogs do tell us, but we don’t understand their language. 

It seems a little arrogant to believe that because humans have a language and can label an emotion like love, we are the only species to feel it. Research has found that dolphins and orcas have their own language and great apes have language skills equivalent to a small child.

Dogs have intelligence comparable to a 2-year-old child. And most parents will attest their 2-year-old children most definitely can feel love.

No, I would argue that Golden Retrievers feel love just like we do. They might not be able to tell us, or we don’t have the science yet to prove it. But science hasn’t definitively proven what love is in humans. Sure, they can explain that this or that chemical process is involved. Still, they can’t explain the experience any more than they can consciousness. 

No, I choose to believe that our Golden Retrievers love us just as much as we love them. Heck, I might even say they love us more! 


Here’s a video on all the sciencey stuff I referred to. It sounds very much like Golden Retrievers can feel love. Was there any doubt?

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