Are Golden Retrievers Emotional? How to Know What They’re Feeling

Dog owners, and especially golden retrievers’ owners, would often swear by the fact that their dogs absolutely have emotions. They smile, cry, get sad, and be happy, and it seems like their emotions are often connected to our own.

There is a huge discussion that’s been going on for years about dogs and emotions, and let’s start by answering the main questions.

Are golden retrievers emotional? Yes, golden retrievers are emotional, just like people, and they are more sensitive than the labrador retriever. They need positive reinforcement and joyful recognition of their efforts to stay happy and they have emotional needs like children.

So, in essence, your golden retriever does have emotions but not the full range of emotions, or at least not the exact same emotions, that people have, and they have the emotional intelligence of little children.

To find out how to know what your golden is feeling and why they’re being emotional (and what you can do about it), keep reading…

Can Dogs Be Emotional? 

Yes, dogs can be emotional, they have an ability to communicate with us better than any other animal. Dogs can read our body language and smell the changes in our body’s chemistry and understand the emotions we are ging on right now.

They can pick up on our tears, smiles, and even our changing tones of voice and can understand from our tone what is our emotional state.

They can understand our emotions because they also have these same emotions. Dogs have all of the basic emotions, but they can’t really feel secondary feelings such as jealousy, guilt, and pride.

What I mean by basic emotions are essential emotions such as fear, anger, joy, and disgust. This is the same range of emotions as a two-and-half years old kid.

However, they can feel at least some form of regret, they usually understand the fact that they did something wrong even before you find the evidence.

What emotions do dogs really feel? 

Credit: PsychologyToday

Dogs feel all of the basic emotions such as fear, anger, joy, love, and disgust.

Emotions such as shame, pride, and guilt they can’t really feel, however, the world argued that many people have seen evidence indicating their dog is capable of feeling guilty.

It is when your dog starts slinking around showing discomfort and then you find something broken or something brown and smelly in the middle of your living room, however, this is not guilt, they are simply displaying the basic emotion, fear. 

How Do Dogs Express Their Emotions? 

Just like humans, dogs can express and represent their emotions by body language, when they feel angry, fearful, happy, or anxious, body habits can let you know more about what they are feeling at that time.

  • Happy
  • Sad
  • Anxious 
  • Fearful 
  • Angry 
  • Love
  • disgust


Your dog could be wagging their tail which means they are happy, excited, or confident.

More vigorous wagging means greater excitement. If they are wagging their tail to the right it indicates positive emotions but if they are wagging their tail to the left, it indicates negative emotions.

When their ears are relaxed  (floppy ears) against their head it means that they are happy.

When they are happy they are more likely to be more playful and they will leap around you.

Another sign that your pooch is happy is their body being completely relaxed (their posture is relaxed, not tense or stiff) for example; loose shoulders or soft eyes without fixed gaze.

Also, when they are happy they will enjoy your attention even more, so they may come to you for attention and it’s a good sign is they lean into your hand when you stroke them.


Sadness in dogs can be obvious, if you notice one of the following signs you need to examine your dog for any injuries or look for any signs that could indicate that they are ill, and if you did, you need to take them to the vet.

However, if you didn’t find any signs of injuries or an illness, then you should take them to a certificate behaviorist because it could lead to depression that will cause more severe issues.

Signs that your dog is sad
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Lethargic 
  • Abnormality in their behavior 
  • Withdrawn ( not wanting to play or do things they normally enjoy)
  • They will appear restless (they cannot sleep well or other changes in their sleeping pattern) 

If your golden seem to be sad all the time, there could be a serious reason behind it. You can learn why is your golden retriever so sad and what to do here.


Here are some signs that your dogs have anxiety

  • Shivering 
  • Digging 
  • Barking or howling when they are alone 
  • Destructive chewing 
  • Self-harm 
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Escaping 
  • Urinating more frequently 
  • Inability to settle 
  • Excessive licking 
  • Destroying furniture 
  • Hiding 
  • Panting and pacing
  • Showing whites of the eyes

There are many reasons that cause and trigger anxiety in dogs, but the most common type of anxiety in Golden Retrieves is Separation Anxiety. You can learn everything about leaving your golden retriever alone here and how to make sure they don’t get anxious or fearful while you’re away.


Here are some signs of fear in dogs 

  • Shaking 
  • Licking lips 
  • Pacing 
  • Inability to settle 
  • Panting 
  • Hyperactivity 
  • Showing whites of the eye (whale eye)
  • Yawning 
  • Attempting to hide 
  • Salivation 
  • Lack of appetite 
  • Lifting one of their paws 
  • Growling 
  • Loss of toilet training 
  • Too distracted 
  • Lowered body language 
  • Reactivity 
  • Aggression 
  • Goofy behavior 

It’s normal for goldens to get fearful every once in a while, but not normal for them to be fearful of everything or to be fearful all the time. You can learn why is your dog afraid of everything here.

I also discuss what you can do to make them not scared, so make sure to check it out.


Here are the most common signs of aggression in dogs

  • Growling 
  • Ears pinned back 
  • Snarling 
  • Stiff body posture 
  • Baring teeth 
  • Biting (from light snipping to puncturing bites)  

And if you think that goldens are always calm and never get angry, then you definitely need to learn about golden retriever anger here.


Here are some signs that your dog loves you (of course they love you duh);

  • Happy greeting (if your dog greet you at the door, congrats, it’s one of their best feelings, your pooch is genuinely happy to see you, they are not doing this just for the sake of it)
  • Tail wagging (if their tail spins around like helicopter propellers when they see you, it means that you are really special to them)
  • Soft eye contact (when your dog looks you with soft relaxed eyes, it means that they trust you, and as you probably know trust is the highest form of love)
  • Cuddling ( when your pooch cuddle into you they are willingly choosing you from all other people, it’s their way to ask for some love)
  • Licking you ( to be honest, they can lick you for many reasons, but one of the reasons your dog may lick you, is affection because it’s the quickest way to get your attention)


Here are some signs you might notice when your dog is feeling disgusted

  • Staring 
  • Exposed teeth 
  • Growling 
  • Barking 
  • Furrowed brow 
  • Upright posture 
  • Raised hairs on their neck 

Do Golden Retrievers Feel Guilt?

No, Golden retrievers don’t feel guilt because they can’t feel shame. However, they can display the signs of shame or guilt as they learn that it gets them out of trouble completely or more easily.

The following video is an example of one of the many, many viral videos about dogs that look guilty:

But this is not guilt. This is just the way the dog has learned to cope with this tone of voice. They may know that they have done something wrong, but dogs don’t have shame, and so they can’t feel guilt the same we do.

In fact, 60% of dog owners have reported that their dogs feel guilt, but they have also reported that when their dogs display feelings of guilt, the dog doesn’t get the same punishment.

So, in a way, dogs have started learning that giving this look accompanied with the silent and slow movements means they don’t get the bad things – such as the shouting or time-out – and so they have leaned to repeat it.

Related Questions 

Do Dogs Really Laugh? 

No, dogs do not laugh, or they do not laugh in the same sense as humans, however, dogs can make sounds that are similar to a laugh, they do them while playing which is caused by a breathy panting that is forcefully exhaled.

Do Dogs Really Cry? 

No, dogs do not cry, but they can feel grief and sadness, however, they do have tear ducts to keep their eyes functioning properly, but their tear ducts drain the liquid back towards the throat and nose area instead of spilling it out, if they do look like crying, you should take them to a vet. 


Which Emotions Do Dogs Actually Experience?

Do Dogs feel guilt?


Hey there, I'm Matt, the author behind With a deep love for dogs and a dedication to strengthening the bond between owners and their retrievers, I've created a hub of resources for enthusiasts like you. Through engaging articles, training guides, and product reviews, I aim to provide practical advice that makes a real difference in your life as a dog owner. Whether you're a seasoned pro or new to the world of retrievers, my approachable and informative writing style ensures that you'll find valuable insights. Join me on this incredible journey of discovering what makes retrievers tick, unlocking their potential, and creating an unbreakable bond with your furry companion. Let's embark on an adventure of dog ownership together. Thank you for visiting and being part of our vibrant community.

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