How to Stop Your Velcro Dog From Following You Everywhere
Why Do Some Dogs Follow You Everywhere?
Owning a Velcro dog that follows you from room to room can become a bit frustrating, especially when you repeatedly trip over him! These dogs seem to learn all the smallest cues, such as when you're about to get up and go to the kitchen, bathroom, or wherever you're heading. Watch your dog carefully . . . does he get up the moment you rest your arm on the chair to get up? The moment you put your slippers on? When you put down the remote? Through careful observation, your dog has learned how to recognize signs you are about to get up and walk. Why are some dogs predisposed to becoming your shadow? What triggers this behavior? Here are some possible explanations:
- Belonging to Dependent Breeds
Some dogs were selectively bred to heavily rely on their masters to perform their jobs best. These were working dogs who spent a great part of the day with their owners following directions and relying on their owner's body language to perform their jobs. Herding dogs like collies and other shepherd-like dogs tend to look up to their owners for guidance a lot. Hounds which were used to hunt in packs and toy breeds which were selectively bred to be lap dogs, often warming up the feet and laps of many aristocratic ladies also can also be quite clingy.
- History of Separation Anxiety
Often, clingy behaviors are seen in dogs suffering from separation anxiety or in the pre-development stage. These dogs develop a dysfunctional attachment to their owners which leads to extremely clingy behaviors and signs of anxiety even when the owner leaves the room with the dog behind.
- Shelter/Rescue Dogs
A high incidence of mixed breeds from shelters have a history of separation anxiety, which often entails extra-clingy behaviors as described above both when the owner leaves the room or out of the home. It's not clear why this may be a factor, and it's unknown if these dogs were relinquished because of destructive behaviors when left alone in the first place, but that's what studies have shown.
- Boredom/ Lack of Mental Stimulation
In this case the following behavior is a good strategy to kill time and keep the mind active. Because pretty much nothing special happens all day, these dogs find their own forms of entertainment by becoming a shadow. After all, owners do many interesting things such as opening the fridge, eating something and leaving crumbs behind, talking to the dog, and possibly petting him.
- Social Mentality
While the old alpha owner/dominance myth has been debunked by many reputable organizations and dog behavior professionals, dogs remain social animals at heart that seek companionship. It's quite normal for dogs to wonder about the whereabouts of their owners, as long as it doesn't become an obsession. Ideally, dogs should be in the golden way in between: concerned or at least interested about their owner's whereabouts, but capable of relaxing and self soothing when their owner must leave the room.
How to Reduce Excessive Clinginess
So you have a loyal dog who follows you everywhere, but you would like to reduce this behavior and instill a little bit more of independence in your pooch, what can you do? There's the short cut which is training your dog to stay more and more separated from you along with the aid of doors/baby gates and other barriers, and then there's the deeper approach that goes on to gradually instilling more confidence in your dog. You should work on both approaches in synergy for better results. Remember: excessive attachment is often an outward manifestation of an internal turmoil which is often lack of confidence. Following are some tips to make your pooch more independent.
- Train the Stay Command. This command will teach your dog that it's OK to be briefly left alone. Start with brief distances, such as just a step away, then gradually build on distance until you reach a point where your dog can be left in a room while you're in another. Make sure you go very gradually and slowly in the process and praise lavishly for each step. You want your dog to see this as a game.
- Train your dog "go to your place." In this case, you will place a mat on the floor and make it your dog's place. Reward your dog lavishly for visiting the mat and give him long lasting toys while resting there. Put "go to your place" on cue so that your dog is re-directed there instead of following you. If your dog has a hard time staying there initially, offer a stuffed Kong to keep him busy while you're absent,
- Install baby gates. If you're looking for ways to reduce the Velcro dog syndrome a baby gate will prevent your dog from following you all the time. This can be used as a temporary solution while your dog gains more confidence. To prevent him from getting into distress, every time you must leave the room, toss a stuffed Kong or some treats right after closing the gate behind you. You want your dog to learn that great things happen when you leave.
- If your dog refuses to eat or is not much treat motivated, keep some special toys on a table that's hard for your dog to reach and give them only when you're leaving the room. When you come back, get them back.
- Desensitize to getting up. If your dog gets up the moment you get up, repeat this action over and over until your dog gets tired of responding to it since it no longer has a meaning. If your dog gets up when you put the remote down, frequently put the remote down over and over. Eventually his senses will tire and he'll give up responding to it. Then progress and get up repeatedly. Then take a few steps repeatedly. If your dog follows you, walk in circles, until he gives up as he learns that you don't go anywhere and thinks you're just coo-coo~!.
- Don't let Scruffy sleep in bed with you. This may encourage clingy behaviors. Instead, keep his mat in the bedroom and when it's time to sleep, tell him to lie on his mat.
- Don't let your dog always lie down by your feet, on your lap or right next to you, glued to your side. Use the mat command.
- Don't let your dog have the whole run of the house--at least during these initial stages of learning. Use closed doors/baby gates/barriers so your dog gets used to gradually leaving for a few seconds at a time.
- Train games that work on distance. Fetch, hide and seek and scent work train your dog to have fun when you're a bit behind.
- Instill confidence in your dog through agility, free-shaping, clicker training.
- Provide exercise and loads of mental stimulation. A tired dog is a good dog. At some point, your dog may be snoozing heavily and barely notice you just left the room!
For Further Reading
- Dog Behavior:The Best Crates for Escape Artist Dogs
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Does your dog follow you room to room?
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© 2013 Adrienne Janet Farricelli