Spending time with our beloved pets can easily be the highlight of any day, but sometimes when things get busy, we find ourselves tripping over them. Why do dogs follow us? They always seem to be underfoot. But there is more to it than just being “man’s best friend.”
Not all dogs will constantly follow their owner. Some do it naturally, and others are content to stay in their favorite spot or bed. Dr. Rachel Barrack talks about how there are scientific reasons behind clingy dogs. This can be a good reason not to take home a puppy too early. Professionals recommend not removing puppies younger than eight weeks old from their mothers unless there is a medical reason.
Dogs are also creatures of habit, and they are very keen to pick up on those habits. For example, if you give your dog a treat every time they climb into your lap, they will expect it. Some dogs will stay close and follow you for positive reinforcement through pets. This is a reward to them for being directly at your side. So they tend to remain there expecting the reward.
Related: Why Does My Dog Bring Me Toys?
Many dog behaviors are a response to owner’s behaviors and their environment. By making small changes, many dogs will redirect their attention. Having some interactive toys can help to keep them busy.
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Dogs are naturally pack animals, which is why they will often follow a specific person around the house. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the primary caregiver either, though it usually is. Dogs naturally look for order within their household and will identify their family as their pack.
These habits of following a person around can often become stronger by pets that have been adopted from a shelter. They become attached to a person they identify as their savior and stick to them like glue.
Breeds also seem to have their own attachment preferences. Dogs like Doberman Pinchers tend to be more attached to a single person as opposed to a Golden Retriever that will attach more to every member of their family. But all dogs are individuals and come with their own personalities.
If your dog is clingy, the first step would be to understand the why part of this behavior. Is it for a treat? Is it just your dog’s natural pack mentality, or could it be sometimes like old age where your dog’s hearing or sight isn’t as good as it once was? If you notice they become more clingy only at specific times, take them to the vet for a checkup just to be safe.
Some dogs will also be clingy if something traumatic happens. For example, when a dog comes back from the vet after major surgery. If there is an emergency or the loss of a household member, a dog may stay a little closer. Even if a child goes away to college, it can upset the household and cause a dog to cling.
Clingy Dog or Separation Anxiety?
Many dogs suffer from separation anxiety, and being clingy is something to watch for. But when does it turn from just a clingy dog wanting an extra pet and separation anxiety? Both have roots in the fact that being away from their owner causes them some form of stress. However, there are some differences between the behaviors.
The one big difference between a clingy dog and one with separation anxiety is the behavior when the owner isn’t around. Dogs that stick to their owner just seem to prefer to be there. If their owner leaves, the dog most likely will either cling to another family member or go rest in their favorite spot and wait for their owner to return.
Dogs that have anxiety have a very different reaction when their owners disappear. For dogs with separation anxiety, once their owners leave, their world seems to go out the door with them. They experience panic and often become destructive.
Clingy dogs can often develop separation anxiety, but that’s not always the case. That’s why it is important to address signs of a dog that follows you everywhere. This preventive measure can help prevent your best friend from suffering separation anxiety.
There are different things that you can do to help your dog and family find a healthy balance. Yes, your dog should always be a part of your family, but they should also be a bit independent. There is no need for them to trip you while you pull a hot pan out of the oven. They also shouldn’t eat through a wall when you leave the house for a few hours.
Here are some things you can practice for a better-balanced life for your dog:
- Bond with your dog but don’t limit them. Allow your dog to interact with other people and pets often.
- Exercise and mental stimulation can help your dog settle down on its own. It can also keep them busy and less destructive.
- Leave rewards near their bed or area to reward them without you being there. A few treats will often do the trick.
- Switch up who walks the dog. While you still might have to go with younger children, it still can help a dog bond with others.
- Have rules in place and stick to them. Even better, make sure the entire house understands and follows them; otherwise, the habit will only transfer to another person.
Having a dog is a great way to have companionship in your life. But when a dog follows you everywhere, there may be something more to the behavior than just affection. Being aware can help prevent your dog from having anxiety problems in the future.
Puppies will often follow family members and are easy to socialize in the early months of their lives. Take full advantage of those early months.
Finding balance with your dog isn’t always easy. If you seem to be struggling with your dog always following you around, consult with a professional dog trainer. They will be able to help you identify the problem and correct it.
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