Apart from being your absolute best friend, you might wonder why exactly your dog follows you around everywhere. Can I get five minutes alone in the bathroom, please? While it’s incredibly cute and undeniably endearing, if it’s a new behavior, you may be wondering if something else is going on.
Most pups follow their owners out of basic instinct. Some dogs are clingy purely based on personality. Others are genetically bred to stick side-by-side with their human owners. Still others may be feeling ill or have a health condition, and the proximity to you can help them feel safe and protected. In some cases, it’s a combination of all of the above (and more!).
Instinct and Past Experiences
It’s probably no surprise to you that dogs are pack animals. Like their wolf ancestors, dogs instinctively like to remain in packs, which in this case, is you and your family. Your dog has found his tribe and he will stick with you until the end – you’re his forever family – his tried-and-true pack.
Don’t forget too that if you rescued your pooch and he came from a rough background or was frequently abandoned, he may be more likely to stick by your side in an attempt to ensure you aren’t going to leave him.
Personality and Temperament
While all dogs are instinctively pack animals, some take this role more seriously than others. Just as every baby is different, so is every puppy.
As a child growing up, I remember our mini schnauzer, Duncan, was wildly independent, insisted on doing everything on his own and was never into cuddling. Our lab mix, Duke, however, was the 180 opposite – he loved to snuggle and constantly wanted to be around his mom and dad.
While Duncan slept at the foot of the bed at night, Duke curled right up in between his two parents, pressed as closely against them as he could possibly get. Though both liked parental attention, one was simply more clingy than the other based on their different temperaments and personality traits.
While personality can play a role, breed can, too. In fact, certain breeds – particularly herding dogs – are more likely to follow you around all day. Why? Herding dogs, of course, were bred to work with their human counterparts and rally in the sheep and other animals. Without sheep to herd, your dog will most likely stick by your side all day instead.
Typical herding breeds, like Border Collies and Shelties, are prone to exhibit this behavior as well as protective dogs, like German Shepherds.
What’s the difference between a clingy dog and separation anxiety? As the American Kennel Club points out, a clingy dog, or “velcro dog,” will follow you around all day but still be perfectly content when you leave. A dog that is dealing with separation anxiety may panic at the sight of you walking to the door.
Signs of separation anxiety include excessive panting, pacing or whining as you prepare to go to work or leave the house. If your pooch truly has separation anxiety and behavior modification exercises don’t help, consult your veterinarian or a trainer for additional assistance.
Oftentimes when we don’t feel good or are sick, we welcome assistance from our spouses, partners or family. Dogs are the same. Oftentimes, if your pooch is feeling physically ill or is in pain, he may cling to you to feel safe and protected, as well as to ask for help.
If your furry friend has never been overly-clingy before and now suddenly follows you around all day, it may be time to make a trip to the veterinarian to rule out any underlying medical conditions.
When to Seek Help
While not all clingy dogs will go on to develop separation anxiety, it can be a marker of anxious behavior, so if you believe your dog is overly attached, it may be worth asking your veterinarian or trainer for an assessment or ideas for creating healthy boundaries.
Again, if your pup truly is struggling with separation anxiety, this can be frustrating for both you and your fur baby, and in severe cases, it may require professional assistance. If deemed appropriate, medication may even be given to help calm an overly anxious dog.
Finally, any new or unusual behaviors should be brought to the attention of your vet. Again, if your dog has just started to follow you around and never used to, it would be worthwhile to have the vet rule out any underlying health conditions.
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