Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, former veterinarian assistant and author of Brain Training for Dogs.
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 them! 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—do they 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. 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.
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 them.
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 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 very 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 their mat in the bedroom and when it's time to sleep, tell them to lie on their 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
Does your dog break and escape from its crate? Every time he does so he may endanger himself to a variety of perils. Learn what causes dogs to escape from their crates and how to solve the problem.
- Why Would a House Trained Dog Start Pooping in the H...
Why is My Dog pooping in the house? A perfectly house trained dog does not guarantee you will be spared cleaning up accidents in the house for your dog's lifetime. There are many things that can happen, from both a behavioral and physical...
- Why is My Elderly Dog Suffering From Sudden Separati...
Dog owners often believe that separation anxiety is a condition that only arises in dogs when they are young, and therefore, they assume that their elderly dog is spared from such condition, since the dog has never exhibited any signs of such...
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Questions & Answers
Question: My dog just turned 1, he’s a Goldendoodle. He follows me EVERYWHERE but he doesn’t seem to be anxious when I leave the house. He doesn’t bark or scratch the door or even try to follow me out. It’s only when I’m home he has to be right beside me or he gets extremely anxious. How should I handle my dog's anxiety?
Answer: The fact he does fine when you leave the house is good, it means you have less to worry about. As to what to do, I would suggest the exercises listed in the article under how to deal with the excessive clinginess. Make sure to go slowly and gradually so as to not cause him to get anxious.
Question: My 7 year old rescued cocker spaniel doesn't play with anything. She follows me all the time, whines if I'm not in the same room as her, cries and howls if I leave the house and won't allow my cat near me, she herds him away. What can I do to help her play?
Answer: If a dog is very stressed, unfortunately play tends to be on the low end of priorities. Your dog may be suffering from separation anxiety and she may tend to be on edge most of the time in fear of you leaving. In order to get her to play, you might have first tackle the underlying anxiety. I know it sounds like a chicken and egg scenario, but if you can lower her anxiety a bit, she maybe more open to relax enough to play when you are around. Try super attractive toys such as toys made of real rabbit fur, interactive toys filled up with tantalizing foods and toys with squeakers. Try hide and seek with a helper who holds her at a small distance (from which she doesn't pani) while you hide and then call her and praise her and give a treat Experiment. Praise even the smallest signs of play.
© 2013 Adrienne Farricelli
Vicky on August 21, 2020:
Hi I have 3 dogs 2 of which are brother and sister, the female Millie constantly wants her belly rubbed all the time, she doesn’t follow me around it’s just every time I sit down she constantly hits me with her paw and sits straight up for you to rub it and when the other 2 dogs come near she growls at them, if I ignore her she then pester someone else in the house and it’s even worse if we have any visitors. Can anyone help me please
Mary guenther on September 19, 2019:
Ronald, I have the same situation. My Spitz that I just rescued, was never taught anything. He is ultra velcro, don't play with toys, super hyper and has separation anxiety. It hurts me, but I have to ignore him most of the time to extinguish the bad behavior and/or the clingy behavior. Only when he calms down do I engage.
Ronald Shannon on August 11, 2019:
I have a Yorkiedoodle that I rescued maybe 2 years ago. I don't think she was socialized well at all. She hates other dogs , she barks and whines whenever another human is near us and she is UBER hyper when we go for walks. I walk her twice a day she is very clingy she literally can't not be in the same room.
Charlene Wright on July 02, 2019:
I live on a gravel road and. My dog has started following my car to the blacktop road. He used to stay when I said stay but as he got older he picked this habit up. I would always have to come home and chain him to the dog house. We don’t go out that much. I thought he had learned his lesson and left him unchained when we left one night. Needless to say say he didn’t. I accidentally ran over him and thank God he wasn’t hurt. He’s never chained only if we have to go somewhere. I don’t like chaining him. We live in the country and I want him to be free. I haven’t read anything about what to do or how do you keep your dog from following your car. Please help. Thank you
B Dailey on May 06, 2019:
I got a pitbull from my cousin. Hes an adult dog and though house broken and not deatructive at all, he is extremely clingy towards me. He doesn't care about treats or toys and I've tried teaching him to stay or go to his place already with no luck. If i go outside without him he whines at the door and waits there for me. Same if i go in my room. Or bathroom. I'm the only one in a house of 4 that he does that to.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on March 07, 2017:
Kimmoi, the same tips apply only that you may have to work with them separately and then put them together and teach them a good stay.
KimmOi on March 06, 2017:
I have suddenly found myself with T H R E E dogs! We first rescued a Neo Mastiff named Clydey, then recently we rescued a Greyhound named Mitch. But now we have this 3 rd dog, a lab called Fergus. I now have ALL 3 following me everywhere. I would love some advice on how to stop this behaviour. To train 3 dogs is certainly going to take some doing. All are good dogs alone, but together, its just a total load of silliness!
Laurie on October 08, 2016:
My rescue bulldog is a velcro dog. If I'm on the computer he forces his way under the desk and lays on my foot so he knows when I'm getting up. He refuses to go for walks and is only interested in playing for a short time and if you know bulldogs, you know how stubborn they can be. His old owner said he crated him and the dog was happy with that so maybe I'll try that.
Angie on December 22, 2015:
my dog is glued to me follows me everywhere - we are working on PLACE on a mat - will not stay. He also barks and tries to nip family members when they leave a room that i am in with the dog - especially when they try to leave the kitchen with food i have just pre-paired for the - he attack them as they exist the room. He has nipped all of them. If i am not home he behaves like a normal dog - any advice would be appreciated.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on April 14, 2013:
Thanks for commenting and the votes up Minnetonka Twin!
Linda Rogers from Minnesota on April 13, 2013:
This hub is so needed for me. I have two black labs and the younger one follows me everywhere. She also moves every time I move. It drives me crazy. I appreciate the great tips. Voted up and hit many buttons.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on April 13, 2013:
Thanks for stopping by Giblingirl. Exercise indeed helps release endorphins which helps dogs relax and feel good.
GiblinGirl from New Jersey on April 13, 2013:
Thanks for sharing. I'm always practically tripping over my dog and it drives me nuts. She is a rescue dog, but she doesn't seem to exhibit other signs of separation anxiety so maybe she is just bored. I'll try seeing if I can give her more stimulation. I do notice that on days when she's more tired - maybe after having gone to the dog park - she's better.