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Why Does My Dog Follow Me Everywhere: Canine Behaviorist Explains - PawSafe

Why Does My Dog Follow Me Everywhere: Canine Behaviorist Explains

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

Jack Russell Terrier following owner everywhere

As a trainer and behaviorist, I’ve often been asked by perplexed pet owners, “Why does my dog follow me everywhere?” It’s a question that delves deep into the fascinating world of canine behavior, revealing much about our dogs’ emotional and social needs. Joining us in this exploration is Dr. Bonnie Beaver, DVM, a renowned expert in animal behavior whose insights from her book on canine behavior help shed light on this common canine trait.

From my own experiences and the extensive research done by experts like Dr. Beaver, it’s clear that the reasons behind this ‘Velcro’ tendency in dogs can range from deep-seated anxiety issues to simple manifestations of their pack-oriented nature. Dogs, as social animals, often see their human family as their pack and may follow one member more than others due to a stronger emotional bond or even due to how their daily needs are met.

In this article, we’ll dive into the reasons why some dogs seem unable to let you out of their sight, whether they’re clingy for comfort or out of habit, and how to differentiate between affectionate following and more concerning behaviors that might require intervention.

Contents show

8 Common Reasons Dogs Follow Us Everywhere

Dog following owner in field

Now, let’s take a deeper dive into the real reasons dogs follow us everywhere in the house or elsewhere.

1.Reinforced Behavior: Unconscious Rewards

One of the main reasons your dog might be your constant companion is because you’ve unintentionally trained them to be. Think about it: every time you head to the kitchen, there might be a little treat in it for them. Lounge on the couch, and they get snuggles. 

Stand up, and it could be time for a walk. These actions all send signals to your dog that following you pays off in very rewarding ways. This reinforcement makes your dog associate your presence with all the good stuff — food, affection, play — which keeps them sticking closely by your side.

2. Bored Dogs Looking for a Job

Then there’s the aspect of sheer boredom, especially prevalent in working breeds like Collies, German Shepherds, and Belgian Malinois. These dogs are bred for specific tasks and naturally seek activities that stimulate their minds and bodies. 

If they’re not given a job, they’ll turn to the next best thing: you. By following you around, they’re hoping that any movement might lead to a job or a game. This is their way of prompting you to engage them in some form of activity, staying mentally and physically active by participating in whatever you’re doing.

3. It’s All About the Pack

First up, dogs are pack animals by nature. This instinct makes them stick close to their pack leader — that’s you! This behavior stems from their need for group cohesion in the wild, where sticking together means staying safe and successful. At home, this translates to your dog keeping you in sight at all times, ensuring they’re right where they need to be.

4. Velcro Dogs and Attachment

Some dogs take following their humans to another level, becoming what we often call ‘Velcro dogs.’ This super-clingy behavior can be part of their attachment style. Dogs that show these tendencies often feel more secure or comfortable when they’re close to their owner, which can be influenced by how they were raised or their personality.

5. Different Attachment Styles

According to research, dogs can develop different types of attachment styles just like humans. Some might have an anxious attachment, making them ultra-clingy or what we call ‘hyper attached.’ Although this hyper attachment can sometimes be seen in dogs with separation anxiety, not all clingy dogs feel anxious when alone.

6. The Love Hormone And Bonding

Hanging out with you releases oxytocin in your dog, known as the ‘love hormone.’ This hormone boosts their happiness and trust, making them love being near you even more. It’s a significant reason why they might seem like they’re glued to your side.

7. Breed Traits and Independence

Genetics also play a role in breed behavior. Some breeds are naturally more independent and might not follow you as much, like the Shiba Inu mix, while others are famous for their clinginess, such as Golden Retrievers.

In essence, your dog’s shadowing habit is a mix of their social nature, emotional connections, genetic makeup, and even some hormonal magic. It’s one of the many ways they show their love and ensure they’re always part of the action at home.

8. Fear, Insecurity, and Loneliness: Seeking Comfort and Security

Fear and loneliness are powerful emotions that can drive your dog to stick close by your side. Dogs that experience anxiety during loud noises like thunderstorms, or when left alone, may follow you more closely as a source of comfort and security. 

Their dependency increases because your presence helps mitigate their stress and fear. This behavior is often seen in dogs with more sensitive temperaments or those that haven’t been conditioned to spend time alone. They view you as their safe space, and staying close is their way of ensuring they’re protected and reassured.

Clingy Dog Behavior: Signs and Causes

Clinginess in dogs manifests as an excessive need to stay close to their human companions, often following them around persistently. This behavior can be adorable to some, but it may also signal underlying issues that need addressing.

What Makes a Dog Clingy?

A clingy dog will typically exhibit behaviors like following you from room to room, needing constant physical contact, and showing distress when you’re out of sight. These behaviors often go beyond normal companionship, reflecting a deep dependency.

Potential Causes:

  1. Separation Anxiety: One of the most common reasons for clinginess is separation anxiety. Dogs with this condition feel extreme stress when left alone or separated from their family members. Signs can include destructive behavior, excessive barking, and attempts to escape.
  2. Lack of Confidence: Dogs that lack self-confidence often rely heavily on their owners for security. This can stem from inadequate socialization during puppyhood or negative experiences that lead to fearfulness.
  3. Past Experiences: Dogs that have had traumatic experiences, such as abandonment or living in shelters, might develop clingy behavior as a coping mechanism. They may follow their owners closely, fearing another separation.

Understanding the root causes of clingy behavior in dogs is crucial for providing the right support and training to help them become more independent and secure.

Clingy Dog Behavior: Signs and Causes

clingy dogs laying next to working owner

Clinginess in dogs manifests as an excessive need to stay close to their human companions, often following them around persistently. This behavior can be adorable to some, but it may also signal underlying issues that need addressing.

What Makes a Dog Clingy?

A clingy dog will typically exhibit behaviors like following you from room to room, needing constant physical contact, and showing distress when you’re out of sight. These behaviors often go beyond normal companionship, reflecting a deep dependency.

Potential Causes:

1. Separation Anxiety

One of the most common reasons for clinginess is separation anxiety. Dogs with this condition feel extreme stress when left alone or separated from their family members. Signs can include destructive behavior, excessive barking, and attempts to escape.

2. Lack of Confidence

Dogs that lack self-confidence often rely heavily on their owners for security. This can stem from inadequate socialization during puppyhood or negative experiences that lead to fearfulness.

3. Past Experiences

Dogs that have had traumatic experiences, such as abandonment or living in shelters, might develop clingy behavior as a coping mechanism. They may follow their owners closely, fearing another separation.

Understanding the root causes of clingy behavior in dogs is crucial for providing the right support and training to help them become more independent and secure.

Specific Situations and Their Implications

Clingy behavior in dogs can manifest differently depending on various situations. Recognizing these patterns is essential for addressing the underlying issues effectively.

1. Following to the Bathroom

Many dog owners find themselves rarely alone, even in the bathroom. This behavior is a mix of curiosity and the dog’s natural instinct to be with their pack. Dogs don’t have a concept of privacy like humans do; to them, following you everywhere, even into the bathroom, is normal pack behavior. 

They see no reason to respect bathroom boundaries because their instinct tells them to stick close, ensuring everyone is safe and accounted for. This inclination is also reinforced when we respond positively to their presence, perhaps chatting to them or giving them a pat, reinforcing their choice to follow us even into the most private of spaces.

2. Preference for One Family Member 

When a dog follows one person more than others, it can indicate a special bond but also may point to over-reliance on that individual for comfort and security. This can be problematic if the person is often absent, leading to increased anxiety and stress for the dog.

3. Changes in Routine

Dogs are creatures of habit and sudden changes in their routine can cause anxiety, manifesting in clingy behavior. This can include following the owner around more than usual or displaying signs of unease like whining or trembling.

4. During Illness or Aging

As dogs age or when they’re not feeling well, they may become more clingy. This behavior often stems from seeking comfort during times of vulnerability. It’s important to provide extra care and attention during these times while gently encouraging independence to maintain their confidence.

5. After a Move or Addition to the Family

Moving to a new home or changes in the family dynamic, such as the arrival of a new baby or pet, can lead to stress and anxiety in dogs. Clingy behavior during these times serves as a plea for stability and attention as they adjust to their new environment.

Why Does My Dog Follow Me and Not My Husband?

Dog sitting and facing woman follows her and not her husband

It’s not uncommon for dogs to show a preference for one family member over another. This selective attachment can stem from various factors that influence the dog’s bonding process.

1. Emotional Connection

Dogs are highly intuitive and tend to gravitate towards the person who fulfills their emotional needs the most. If you’re the primary caregiver who feeds, plays, and spends the most time with your dog, it’s natural for them to follow you more closely. This connection is reinforced by the positive interactions and attention they receive from you.

2. Daily Routines

Consistency plays a crucial role in a dog’s life. If your daily routines involve more interaction with the dog — like morning walks, feeding, or playtime — this can make you the main focus of their loyalty and affection. In contrast, if your husband has a less hands-on role or a less consistent presence due to work or other commitments, the dog may not feel as strong a bond.

3. Handling and Interaction Styles

Dogs also respond to how they are handled. If you provide a calm and reassuring presence, your dog might see you as a safe haven, especially in stressful situations. On the other hand, if your husband has a more assertive or less engaging approach, your dog might not feel as comfortable seeking him out for comfort or play.

4. Training and Commands 

Who trains the dog can also affect their following behavior. If you are the one who reinforces training sessions with treats and praises, your dog will see you as the leader and provider of resources, making them more likely to stick by your side.

Understanding these dynamics can help balance the attention your dog gives to each family member. Encouraging your husband to engage in more caregiving tasks, participate in training sessions, and spend quality one-on-one time can help foster a stronger bond between them and the dog. This balance ensures that your dog feels secure and loved by all members of the family.

Behavioral Insights: Is It Bad if My Dog Follows Me Everywhere?

Having a dog that follows you everywhere can be flattering — after all, it’s a sign of affection. However, understanding when this behavior is normal and when it might indicate an underlying issue is crucial for your dog’s mental and emotional well-being.

Normal Following vs. Underlying Issues 

Typically, it’s perfectly normal for dogs to follow their owners around as part of their social nature and pack mentality. Dogs are naturally inclined to stay close to their family members for companionship and security. However, when this behavior is accompanied by signs of distress when you’re out of sight, it could be a symptom of separation anxiety or hyper attachment.

Dog Following Me Everywhere: Love or Need? 

While a dog following you around often does so out of love and the desire to be close, it’s important to recognize when this behavior crosses into neediness or dependency, which can stem from anxiety. 

Signs of healthy attachment include following you around but remaining calm and secure when alone for short periods. On the other hand, signs of dependency or anxiety might include pacing, whining, or destructive behavior when separated from you.

Differentiating Between Affection and Anxiety 

To differentiate between a healthy attachment and potential problems, observe how your dog behaves when you prepare to leave the house or when they cannot follow you to certain areas. A well-adjusted dog will understand and accept these moments, while a dog suffering from anxiety may become visibly distressed.

Addressing and Managing Following Behavior In Dogs

Corgi dog sitting in kitchen following owner everywhere

If your dog’s tendency to follow you everywhere becomes excessive, it’s crucial to take steps to encourage more independence and confidence in your pup. Here’s how to manage and potentially reduce this clingy behavior.

How to Stop My Dog from Following Me

Here are the best tips and tricks to stop your dog following you everywhere:

  1. Place Training

    One effective method is place training. This involves teaching your dog to go to a specific spot and stay there. You can learn more about place training through resources like PawSafe’s guide on the place command.

  2. Encourage Independence

    Gradually increase the time your dog spends in their “place,” like a bed or a mat, with positive reinforcements such as treats or favorite toys. This helps them feel comfortable and secure even when you’re not nearby.

  3. Exercise

    A well-exercised dog is generally more relaxed and less likely to follow you obsessively. Ensure your dog gets plenty of physical and mental stimulation according to their breed and age.

  4. Avoid Reinforcement

    Be mindful not to unintentionally reinforce the following behavior. If your dog follows you, avoid giving attention, treats, or petting as a response. Instead, reinforce independent behaviors.

Why Does My Dog Follow Me More Than My Partner?

It’s not uncommon for dogs to show preference for one person over another. This can be due to a variety of factors:

  • Daily Routines

If you’re the primary caregiver who feeds, walks, and plays with the dog, they’re more likely to follow you due to these bonding activities.

  • Emotional Connections

Dogs often gravitate towards the person who provides them the most emotional support and comfort.

Tips for Bonding for Other Family Members:

  • Engage in Caretaking

Have other family members take turns feeding, walking, and training the dog to establish a routine with them.

  • Play and Training

Encourage other family members to engage in play and training sessions to build an emotional connection.

Building Confidence

Building your dog’s confidence through training and controlled exposure to various environments and situations is vital. Confidence-building activities help reduce anxiety and dependency. Training that rewards calm and independent behavior can also be incredibly beneficial.

Night-time Following

Why Does My Dog Follow Me at Night?

  • Explore reasons behind night-time following, including security and comfort.
  • Discuss how to create a comfortable sleeping environment for dogs

Night-time Following: Understanding Your Dog’s Behavior

Many dog owners find their canine companions insist on following them even at night, a behavior that can stem from their need for security, comfort, or routine. Let’s delve into why this happens and how you can ensure a good night’s rest for both you and your dog.

Reasons Behind Night-time Following

  1. Seeking Security: Dogs are naturally pack animals, and they may follow you at night as a way of ensuring the pack is together and safe. This behavior is particularly common in breeds with strong protective instincts.
  2. Comfort and Familiarity: Your presence is comforting to your dog. If they’re unsure about their environment or there have been recent changes in the home, following you can provide them with reassurance.
  3. Routine and Habit: If your dog has always slept near you or followed you to your bedroom, they may simply be adhering to their routine. Dogs thrive on predictability.

Creating a Comfortable Sleeping Environment for Your Dog

  1. Dedicated Space –  Ensure your dog has a comfortable sleeping area of their own. This could be a dog bed in your bedroom or a crate where they can retreat. Make it appealing with soft bedding, a favorite toy, and maybe an item with your scent.
  2. Gradual Transition – If you’re changing your dog’s sleeping arrangements, do it gradually. Start by placing their bed near yours, then slowly move it to where you want them to sleep permanently, giving them time to adjust.
  3. Night-time Routine – Establish a calming night-time routine that might include a short walk, a quiet cuddle, or a gentle play session before bed. This can help signal to your dog that it’s time to settle down for the night.
  4. Comfort Items – Consider items that might comfort your dog if they seem anxious or unsettled at night, such as a white noise machine or calming dog pheromone diffusers.

By understanding the reasons behind your dog’s night-time following and taking steps to make them feel secure and comfortable in their own space, you can help foster independence while ensuring they feel safe and loved. This approach not only helps your dog sleep better but can improve your own sleep quality as well.

Dealing with Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is a real and stressful condition for dogs, marked by behaviors like excessive salivation, destructiveness, and vocalization when left alone. These actions are symptoms of deep distress experienced in the absence of their owners. 

Dr. Barbara Sherman’s studies highlight that between 20% to 40% of dogs presenting at behavior clinics show signs of separation anxiety, reflecting its prevalence among pets.

Causes of Separation Anxiety

Dogs may develop separation anxiety for various reasons including hyper-attachment to their owners, significant changes in their routine or environment, or past negative experiences when left alone. This anxiety is often evident during routine departure times of the owner, leading to predictable yet problematic behaviors.

Managing Separation Anxiety 

Addressing separation anxiety effectively requires a combination of management strategies:

1. Behavioral Adjustments

Training your dog to feel secure when alone is crucial. This can include establishing a comforting leaving routine, using positive reinforcement to encourage calmness when you’re not actively engaging with them.

2. Environmental Enrichment

Ensuring your dog has engaging toys and puzzles can help keep their mind occupied while alone, reducing anxiety.

3. Professional Guidance

Sometimes, consulting with a behaviorist or veterinarian is necessary, especially for severe cases. They might recommend therapies or medications to help manage anxiety.

Solutions for Boredom 

Boredom can exacerbate anxiety and lead to clingy behavior. Providing ample physical and mental stimulation is key:

  • Regular Exercise – Daily walks, playtime, and other physical activities help burn off energy.
  • Mental Stimulation – Interactive games, training sessions, and puzzle toys engage their minds and prevent boredom.
  • Routine – Consistent schedules for activities, feeding, and bedtime help stabilize a dog’s environment, making them feel more secure.

Addressing Boredom and Providing Enrichment

Engaging a bored dog is not only about physical exercise but also mental stimulation. Here are a few tips:

  • Interactive Toys –  Use puzzle feeders to make mealtime challenging and fun.
  • Training Sessions – Regular, short training sessions using positive reinforcement can stimulate their mind and strengthen your bond.
  • Playtime – Interactive play with toys that involve fetching, tugging, or hunting-like activities can satisfy natural instincts.

By understanding the signs and causes of separation anxiety and implementing effective management strategies, you can help your dog feel more secure and content even when they must be alone.

Conclusion

Understanding why your dog follows you everywhere is more than just recognizing their behavior — it’s about understanding their social and emotional needs. Dogs are not just pets but companions that thrive on attention, interaction, and activity. Recognizing the underlying reasons behind their behaviors, whether it’s due to reinforcement, attachment styles, boredom, or anxiety, helps us become more empathetic and responsive pet owners.

Being aware of these factors enables us to provide better care and build a stronger, more respectful relationship with our canine friends. Responsible pet ownership involves acknowledging and addressing the emotional and social needs of our dogs. By doing so, we ensure their well-being and deepen the mutual bond of trust and affection, making our shared lives more fulfilling.

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Meet Your Experts

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Tamsin De La Harpe

Author

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.