Dogs are the best. They always come running when I call, they love to cuddle with me, and they have an uncanny ability to sense that something is wrong with me just by looking at my face.
Unfortunately, there’s one tiresome aspect of having a dog – sometimes it seems like your dog doesn’t want you out of their sight for even a minute! Whether they’re following you around the house or refusing to go outside without being on a leash next to you, this can get old really quickly.
So why does my dog not want to leave my side? Your dog may stick by your side because they are fond of you or because you have inadvertently encouraged the behavior. They may be bored or because they are experiencing stress from separation anxiety. They may keep following because they want something from you or because they are fearful of something.
Whatever your dog is following you around all the times and however problematic it has been for you, here’s what you need to know about the reasons why dogs follow their owners and some things that you can do to reduce the dog’s behavior or make it more amenable to your lifestyle.
Here are some possible reasons why your dog is following you around all the time and won’t leave your side. Before we go deeply into these possible reasons, please bear in mind that my post is not a substitute for expert advice. Dog owners should always consult their vet or dog behaviorist first before trying any sort of self-diagnosis and treatment.
1. It’s In Their Nature
Some dog breeds are naturally more loyal and choose only one particular person. These traits are often found in breeds that have been bred for a certain type of work, such as hunting. German Shepherds and Labrador Retrievers are among the breeds that may be fiercely loyal to only one person.
These breeds are predisposed to only following one person and not leaving their side because that is what they have been trained to do to complete the job.
2. Due to Domestication Process
During the long course of domestication, natural selection has resulted in the taming of wild dogs into house pets who need human companionship everywhere and every time.
Some people call these dogs “velcro dogs.” A velcro dog follows its human companion everywhere and does not want to be left alone for any length of time. This trait is sometimes also found in older dogs, as they can become less confident when separated from their person.
What dog breeds are known as velcro dogs? Some well-known velcro breeds are Hungarian Vizla, Border Colie, Maltese, Doberman Pinscher, and Pug.
3. Separation Anxiety
Behavioral issues, such as social or separation anxiety, are often the main reasons for many dogs’ behavioral problems.
A dog with a separation anxiety disorder would be very distressed at even a very short period of time away from its human companion. This disorder can affect dogs of any breed and age, and it usually develops for one of these reasons:
- The dogs might be improperly socialized.
- The dogs might be overly bonded with their human companion. A recent study by the ASPCA found that older dogs often struggle with separation anxiety and are so intensely bonded to their human companion that a great deal of distress ensues when separated for any period of time.
- The dogs might be overly sensitive to separation because their human companion has been gone for long periods of time during the day or left home alone too often.
A velcro dog is not the same as a dog with separation anxiety. Dogs that are velcro dogs (or clingy) don’t mind staying home alone, and they will be just fine as long as their human companion is nearby, which means the human can wander around within a certain distance of the house or yard where the dog is located without causing any problems.
The difference between an anxious dog and a “velcro” is usually determined by how quickly they return to normal after separation from their person. Anxious dogs often exhibit signs like destruction when their humans leave home, excessive barking, phantom scratching in walls or doors, etc., while a velcro dog tends not to do this sort of thing.
4. Social Anxiety
Similar to separation anxiety, social anxiety can cause a dog to be clingy. Dogs with social anxiety tend to be overly anxious about being around different people, different places, or around other pets.
Dogs that have this type of issue will not be able to enjoy themselves as much in a park because they don’t want the owners to leave them there without supervision. They may also exhibit avoidance behaviors like refusing to go near certain areas where strangers might show up.
Some dogs are more at risk of developing social anxiety. These canines are ones that lack confidence and have a high-strung temperament.
The best way for owners to deal with social anxiety in their pets is by providing them as many opportunities as possible to get used to being around people and other animals.
Just like humans, your canine friend also needs stimulation and exercise. A bored dog can display many behavioral problems, including aggression, barking, chewing, mouthing, and being needy and clingy.
The best thing an owner can do for a dog is to provide them with plenty of playtime in the form of walks, games, training sessions, and social interaction with other dogs outside of the home.
6. Learned Behavior
You might not have advertently trained your dog to do this, but it is possible that you may have encouraged the behavior. For example, if you tend to reward your dog every time they come to your side, either by giving food rewards or just by giving them praise, they will eventually start to develop a pattern of how to get that treat.
Dogs that have developed fearful and anxious behaviors are likely not to want to leave your side because they are fearful of the world outside.
This fear can stem from fear or anxiety over being left alone, separation distress disorder, past trauma like abuse or neglect- anything that caused them pain in their past can lead to your dog having some pretty intense reactions when reencountering those same situations.
Over time, your dog could have developed what’s known as “fear aggression,” which means that there will always be an underlying layer of fear when confronted with these situations again.
How to Correct Your Dog’s Behavior and Make Them More Independent
1. Don’t Reward Unwanted Behavior
In essence, the way to modify your pet’s behavior is to reward the behaviors that you want to happen with things that your dog likes, such as treats, fun activities, and ignore or don’t reward unwanted behavior.
In order to correct this problem of your dog being too attached, it’s important not to give them a lot of attention when they do things like cling to you- but rather rewarding them when they do things that you like, like lying quietly.
2. Redirect Their Focus
According to dog behaviorist Cesar Milan, it is a good idea to divert your dog’s attention away from you if they are clinging too much. This could be accomplished by giving them an interactive toy that will take their attention, such as doggy puzzles or some food-stuffed toys; these can help teach independence and discourage clinginess in general.
You can also try leaving a television playing when you’re out of the house to provide a distraction.
3. Socialize Your Dog Enough
As mentioned before, social anxiety can be the root of clingy behavior, so it is a good idea to give your dog enough positive socialization.
You can do this by taking them for walks on the leash with other dogs; they will be able to sniff and make new friends while you maintain control over their interactions.
You could also take them out in public places like dog parks or even pet stores where there are many people around- this way, they’ll get used to being around strangers.
4. Treat Their Separation Anxiety
In many cases, desensitization can be a proven behavioral solution to separation problems.
You can do this by gradually increasing the time they are away from you. For example, you can ask them to stay in another room while you go outside for a few minutes.
It would help if you also tried to ramp up the value of positive experiences with lots of rewards when they do manage to spend time alone- this will help teach them that being left is worth their efforts.
5. Get Help From Veterinarian or Other Professionals
Regardless of whether it’s clingy behavior or other behavioral issues, it is best to get help from a professional.
They can provide you with the right tools and experience for dealing with these types of problems, as well as offer advice on how to manage your dog better in general.
Now that you know the most common reasons why your dog is clingy, it’s time to help them out.
Whether you want to give them more independence or just need some downtime away from your furry friend, there are a few things you can do to encourage their independence and make for a better relationship with both of you in the long run.
Dogs are pack animals and they instinctively want to know where you are, including which direction you’re in.
They also instinctually see humans as being the leaders of the pack (something we’re not always consciously aware of) and perceive your attention as some kind of acknowledgement that they had behaved correctly, even if there is some unwanted behavior mixed in.