This is why your canine best friend won’t leave your side
It can be annoying to have a clingy best friend following you everywhere: the bathroom, underfoot, even the smallest trips across the room. The pooches who do this are known as “velcro dogs” because they stick to your side.
Clinginess is a learned dog behavior but can also be a sign of a mental or physical problem. Regardless of if your dog’s clingy behavior is cute or annoying, there’s a reason behind it. Here are some of the most common reasons you’re pup just won’t stop following you around.
1: Boredom or need for mental stimulation
Many dogs need more daily physical and mental stimulation — especially young puppies. If they have the energy to burn and no fun activities to funnel it into, they may follow you around. They’re looking for something to do, even if that’s causing trouble.
Our canine companions may not seem like traditional pack animals, but dogs have been domesticated over centuries to accompany humans. Dogs are not designed to be alone. Humans are a dog’s best friend. Dogs are pack animals — and humans are their pack.
3: Lack of confidence and/or anxiety
Some dogs are scared to be alone. Though this can be a sign of separation anxiety, it could just be that your dog is nervous. Some dogs may become clingy during scary situations, like storms or fireworks.
This also applies to human anxiety: dogs can become clingy if they sense their human’s stress or anxiety. This is why they make such good emotional support animals.
4: Positive reinforcement
If your dog gets a treat, cuddle, or affectionate stroke every time they’re with you, they’re more likely to follow you around. You are rewarding your dog every time you give them a treat, cuddle, or compliment. By rewarding your dog, even unknowingly, you’re telling your dog that their clingy behavior is okay.
5: Breed traits
Some breeds are more likely to follow humans because of their natural instincts. These breed traits can include natural protective instincts, herding tendencies, or just a need for companionship.
Herding breeds like Australian shepherds, border collies, and shelties don’t have sheep to chase down — so they’ll keep an eye on the whole family.
Guardian breeds like German shepherds and great pyrenees will protect their herd. Loyal working dogs like doberman pinschers and boxers have been bred to work with humans, and will stay close because they are dependent on them.
Small breeds like Shih Tzus make perfect lap dogs because they have been bred to be companions for dog owners.
6: Separation anxiety
Dogs with separation anxiety may panic when you’re not with them. But while clinginess can escalate to separation anxiety, not all clingy dogs have separation anxiety. They may look similar, but the difference relates to how your dog acts when you’re away from them. If your pup has separation anxiety, they may also engage in destructive or anxious behavior while alone, such as pacing, chewing on things they shouldn’t, using the bathroom in the house, or whining or barking.
If you think your dog has separation anxiety, it’s important to refer to a professional who has experience with behavioral training in this area.
7: Emotional trauma
Shelter and rescue dogs may show Velcro behavior because of their previous life experiences. They may carry a lingering fear of abandonment with them.
Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it could be what’s causing your pooch to follow you to the porcelain throne. Dogs are curious creatures. They want to know what their pack members are up to. It’s possible you’re going to get treats or take part in a fun activity. Your four-legged family member isn’t taking a chance of missing out.
Young puppies from birth to 6 months can imprint on their owners and treat them as they would their mother. This imprinting process involves them accepting humans and other animals.
Puppies have a lot of learning to do: they have to learn how to act and communicate as a dog. Young puppies learn about themselves and the world around them by exploring and observing their environment. If they get constant attention as they develop, they become afraid of being alone, which can lead to anxiety. This is part of why proper socialization and training are important at a young age.
Older dogs with vision or hearing loss may become clingy because they must depend on their humans more. This increased dependence is because their world is suddenly unfamiliar and scary to them.
👉 If you suspect that your dog’s clinginess is caused by blindness, inability to see, deafness, or another health concern, talk to your veterinarian.
Your canine companion’s clinginess can be a sign of behavioral problems
Dogs communicate just as much as humans do, but instead of using words, they use body language. Pay attention to what they are telling you with their body language.
If your pooch is excited or relaxed around you, they may just need some attention or companionship. If they have lots of energy, they may be bored. However, if your clingy dog is acting scared, panicked, or uncomfortable, their clinginess may be a physical or behavioral problem.
The difference between a velcro dog and separation anxiety is the anxiety. Dogs with separation anxiety become anxious, panicked, and scared when their pet parents leave them. Velcro dogs aren’t automatically destined to develop separation anxiety, but they can.
Indications of separation anxiety in dogs
- House messes: urinating and defecating in the house
- Destructive behavior
👉 If your dog is showing signs of separation anxiety, it’s time to seek professional help. A veterinary behaviorist or trainer can help with separation anxiety in dogs and reduce your dog’s clinginess.
How to stop your dog from following you everywhere
If you’re the pet-parent of a clingy dog, follow these five steps to stop your dog from following you.
Tip 1: Increase their exercise to eliminate energy
Increased physical activity will tire your dog out so they don’t have the energy to follow you around everywhere.
If you don’t have time to give them extra walks, it may be worth it to invest in a toy. Make sure to supervise your dog with toys of any kind.
👉 Obedience classes and dog sports are fun ways to bond with your canine companion while funneling their energy into something productive. If you have a busy schedule, consider doggie daycare.
Tip 2: Stimulate their mind
Every dog needs to stay active both physically and mentally. Dog interactive toys are a great way to keep dogs mentally stimulated and encourage independence. But if you don’t want to buy a toy, try some of the following fun activities.
- You can teach your dog new tricks like “bow” or “roll over.” You can set up an obstacle course and make your dog weave or jump through blockades.
- Try playing hide-and-seek with them. Just hide smelly treats around the house in easily found locations and encourage your dog as they go.
- You can even make your dog work for their food: replace a bowl with a food dispensing toy or muffin pan to make them think as they eat.
Tip 3: Provide a safe space for them: dogs need a den
Every dog needs a safe space to retreat to. For many dogs, their crate is their safe space. While some dogs will retreat to their crates when they are overwhelmed or just need to chill, it’s helpful to have a space set aside for your dog.
Set up a dog bed complete with favorite toys where they can be comfortable and entertained without following you constantly. You could even work with a trainer to teach your dog to “place,” going to a certain area, like their dog bed.
Tip 4: Desensitize your dog to your movements and activities
Dogs associate different behaviors with different rewards: for instance, grabbing your keys or putting on shoes means you’re leaving them. Desensitize your dog to these movements by making them normal. To do this, practice the movement without the regular consequence. Wear your shoes around the house. Grab your keys and stay home.
You could also try hiding these visual cues. Leave your shoes outside.
Tip 5: Follow up with your veterinarian, behaviorist, or trainer
It’s always a good idea to talk to your veterinarian, behaviorist, or trainer to create a plan to help your clingy dog. Your vet can rule out any medical conditions and may even recommend calming supplements to help their anxiety.