When a Bite Is not a BITE

8 month old golden retriever Orly smiles for the camera
Orly loves giving puppy kisses …

Orly loves to connect with people. One way she does this is by holding their hand.

Orly doesn’t have hands, and it’s awkward for her to stand on three legs to hold paws with someone. So she has a more expedient method: She takes the person’s hand in her mouth.

Now, unfortunately, many people see this as a bite. But Orly is not biting them. She’s very, very gently holding their hand.

But, I hear people objecting: Her teeth are touching someone’s skin. And holding on!

True. They have a point …

But it’s not biting. She is using no force. She has not an iota of aggressive intent. She’s simply holding hands.

It’s still not a great idea. Some people — in my friend group, there are many dog-savvy people (go figure!) — get it, even think it’s sweet. Orly really likes those people.

Others freak out a little: “She’s biting me!” Understandable, if inaccurate.

On their account, I am strongly discouraging this method of connecting with new friends. Although I am not sure the non-dog-loving contingent will like what she’s trying instead any better — up close and personal doggy kisses. What’s an aggressively friendly puppy to do?

3 thoughts on “When a Bite Is not a BITE

  1. Owning Goldens forever (Jake is in the GRLS with Jesse as a supporter) I get that they use their mouths a LOT! I had a trainer help me with Jesse by having her nose me in the hand……well when someone shows up and doesn’t have their hand out they get nosed right between the legs and it isn’t always appreciated! Goldens = LOVE and want to show it!


  2. You most likely can redirect this behavior into licking and nose thrusting. As soon as teeth touch skin, say no to scold a little, and she will most likely start licking. Licking is much more acceptable on the hand. Placing the hand over the nose is somewhat dominating and dogs usually respond to that by calming slightly when they are being exuberant. Praise a lot for licking and she’ll get the hang of it in no time.


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