As much as we love our dogs, sometimes you might find yourself wondering if your dog will ever give you a break! Often known as “velcro dogs,” there are some dogs that seem to think they must constantly be in your presence.
We’ll dive into what makes a dog clingy, as well as how to know if your dog is being too clingy, and what to do about it in order to have a happy and relaxed dog.
Why is my dog so obsessed with me?
There are several reasons you may find yourself with a clingy dog, which we will consider to be a dog that follows their owner room to room and can’t settle unless they are in their owner’s presence.
One reason for your dog to be clingy is anxiety. Sometimes, dogs with separation anxiety are especially clingy when their owners are around. This is usually so that the dog can keep an eye on their owner in order to avoid being left alone.
Other times, a dog might not have true separation anxiety, although they still have a fear of missing out (FOMO). These dogs often do OK when their owner leaves them alone in the context of their owner leaving the house, but they can’t seem to leave their owner alone inside just in case they miss out on something fun.
Your dog may also just be following you because they like you, especially if their breed is known for being close with their owner. There are a variety of dog breeds (and individual dogs) that simply prefer the presence of their family to hanging out on their own.
Why is my dog following me everywhere suddenly? This behavior is new!
Finally, some dogs become more clingy when they are upset or feeling unwell. However, their body language and additional symptoms of illness should be apparent if this is the case. If your dog is very clingy all of a sudden, and you’re noticing other weird behaviors or symptoms, a vet visit may be warranted.
My dog follows me everywhere, should I let them?
In many cases, there’s nothing wrong with letting your dog follow you and be a part of your life. As long as what you are doing is safe for your dog, they will likely enjoy tagging along around the house!
This is especially true if your dog is anxious about a sudden event, such as fireworks or a thunderstorm. Letting your dog hang out closely with you is a great way to make them feel more comfortable.
Sometimes, owners worry about doing this and “reinforcing” their dog’s fear. However, because fear is an emotion, we truly can’t reinforce it in our dogs. Instead, comforting your dog helps them to calm down, and in turn be less worried in the future.
However, if you find your dog is starting to develop separation anxiety, or barks, digs, whines, or otherwise becomes upset when left alone, some separation is good.
Rather than just forcing your dog to be separate from you, which can make their anxieties about being alone worse in the future, there are a few ways you can use training, management, and behavior modification protocols to make your dog more comfortable.
How to train a dog to not be clingy
Whether your dog is developing anxieties around being alone, or you just want some more personal space, there are several ways you can try to ease the transition to alone time so your dog is more comfortable.
For many dogs with mild anxieties or frustrations about being left alone, you can make this separation easier by giving them something fun to have. A toy that can be stuffed with food, such as a Kong, is an excellent choice.
You can fill their toys with a variety of goodies that they only get when left alone, such as mixtures of plain yogurt, applesauce, wet dog food, and kibble.
This will make the time your dog has to spend alone even more exciting.
Sometimes, you can simply give your dog the Kong or puzzle toy and let them enjoy it! If they have something else to do, they will likely stop being as clingy and spend some of their time away from you.
However, you can also put your dog in another room, behind a baby gate, or in their kennel as well. If your dog is frustrated by the barriers and being put away, start with something easy, such as being on the other side of a baby gate where they can still see you.
As your dog becomes comfortable being on their own, many dogs will start to be able to relax when put in their designated area, such as their crate or a room with a baby gate. They will learn that their owner is not available for play when they are in this location, and that rest is a great option.
If you find that your dog is struggling with true separation anxiety, where they are panicking when left alone and possibly being loud and destructive, it’s best to work with a trainer qualified in this specialty right away.
Leaving the problem for too long will make it harder to fix in the future. A Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer is a great place to start – and many of them work through virtual lessons, so you can take advantage of their expertise wherever you live.