It’s common for dog owners to refer to themselves as their pets’ parents, and there’s a kind of logic to that. When you do this, you’re telling people that you love and care for your dog as you would your own children.
But a lot of parents could tell you there’s another element to this too. Much like with kids, you can love your pets and not understand them at the same time. But while parents might be confused about whatever hip new phrase their kid keeps spouting, they have the luxury of otherwise speaking the same language.
Not so with pet owners. So until someone finally invents a dog-to-human translator, you’re going to have to learn to read your dog’s body language.
With that in mind, here are 12 common behaviors golden retrievers will show around their owners and what they could mean.
- Constant eye contact.
Now, this one depends a lot on how the dog is looking at you. But if her expression is normal and she’s staring into your eyes, it’s a pretty powerful way of showing affection. In fact, a group of Japanese researchers found a link between this eye contact and increased levels of oxytocin, a hormone that affects how we express attachment and nurturing qualities.
- Bringing things to you.
You might think that he wants to play fetch, especially if he’s bringing you a toy. What your dog may be doing instead is giving you a gift. It’s apparently a leftover of the dog’s hunting instincts, only he’s bringing you things he thinks you’ll like or need instead of dead prey.
- Raising one paw up in the air.
If your dog is doing this while focusing with her head down, you might want to get out of her way. It means she’s on the hunt and getting ready to pounce on some prey, usually a bird.
- Hunching over and making himself look small.
This means that the dog is scared. If you meet a dog who does this without any apparent source of fear, there’s a good chance he’s been abused.
- Chewing on furniture or things.
This one depends on the dog’s training and whether he’s shown signs of separation anxiety. If the dog has been trained not to chew as a puppy and does not suffer from separation anxiety, he’s probably just bored. Try giving him more exercise.
- Sitting on your feet.
There are a lot of reasons a dog could be doing this. If your dog shows a lot of dominant traits, she could be trying to assert herself. If she has separation anxiety, this is a common way of trying to comfort herself by being close to you. If your dog has a jealous streak, this could be a possessive move to show other people or animals that you’re “hers.”
If none of these apply, your dog probably just likes to be around you.
Dogs don’t just yawn when they’re tired. Yawning can also be a sign of stress or fear. If your dog is yawning a lot around someone unfamiliar, that’s a sign that she’s not quite ready to meet that person.
- Relaxed yawning.
To make things more confusing, dogs can yawn when they’re comfortable with you too. In this case, they will often yawn when you do out of empathy. So if you’re yawning and your dog starts yawning too, that’s not a bad thing at all.
If you’re not yawning and an unfamiliar dog is, you might have a problem.
- Leaning on you.
This is your dog cuddling with you. Dogs want your affection and attention when they lean on you. It can also help them feel safer.
- Tongue flicking.
This is when the “dog’s tongue extends straight out of the mouth and retracts again immediately.” This is often a sign of discomfort, either with an unfamiliar person or unwanted contact that’s making the dog anxious. If your dog is noticeably submissive, this can also be his way of trying to appease a more dominant presence.
- Wanting to sleep in your bed.
This has more to do with wanting to be with you than how nice your bed is. There’s some debate over whether it’s a good idea to let dogs do this, but unless you have pet allergies or asthma, most vets don’t see any harm in it.
- Calmly staring at you as you leave the house.
Some owners might feel guilty leaving a dog like this, but this is exactly the response you want. You’ll know a dog is really scared to see you go if leaving prompts her to bark, howl, chew furniture, urinate or defecate. These are all signs of separation anxiety.
If she’s just looking at you and there’s no evidence of any unrest while you were away, then you and your dog are right where you need to be.