Is your dog always by your side?
While this can be quite endearing, to begin with, it can soon start to be irritating when your dog is tripping you up!
Some dogs will do anything to stay close by, even follow you to the bathroom which is less than ideal.
If this is happening to you then you are probably wondering, why your dog is needy and what you can do to improve the behavior.
Here we will explore all of this, Velcro dog syndrome and what you can do to help your pup.
What Does Velcro Dog Mean?
The term ‘Velcro dog‘ describes a canine companion who wants to stay close to you, most of the time.
They stick next to you like Velcro or follow you around like a second shadow.
This clingy dog behavior is seen more commonly in some breeds than others, particularly those that were bred to work very closely with people or those that were designed to be lap dogs.
Velcro dogs are usually bonded to one owner, in particular, favoring them over other family members, though some dogs just enjoy being in the close company of anyone.
What Is Velcro Dog Syndrome And What Causes It?
As previously discussed Velcro dog syndrome describes a dog being needy, following you around the house, and wanting to stick by your side.
In many dogs, it is a learned behavior or part of their breed characteristics, but it could also possibly be a sign of a greater underlying problem.
Let’s look at all the things that could cause your dog to be a Velcro dog.
You Have Accidentally Reinforced The Behavior
Many owners find a needy dog very charming, to begin with.
The dog seems loyal and is acting like a faithful companion by sitting next to you or following you around the house.
You might reward them by petting, praising them, or feeding them treats when they sit by your side.
Allowing them to sleep on your bed is another reward too, further encouraging closeness between you.
If your dog is receiving positive reinforcements like these for his actions, then he will continue doing it.
Lack Of Mental Stimulation
If your dog does not receive enough exercise or mental stimulation, then he will become bored.
Part of his way of dealing with this might be to follow you around, hoping to be where the action is.
He’s looking for something to do and thinks that you might be able to provide that for him.
A dog that is well exercised, happy and tired will usually settle for the evening and rest on his own bed.
A dog that is under walked and not played with enough will be more likely to jump up and follow you around.
Some Breeds Are More Likely To Be Velcro Dogs Than Others
Certain breeds are more likely to cling to your side than others.
For example, hunting breeds, like Labradors or vizslas, are bred to stay near their owner’s side in order to work closely with them.
Other dogs like German shepherds or Akitas are often bred for working and guard dog tendencies which can make them protective and loyal to their owner.
Lapdogs that are bred for companionship like Shih Tzus and Pekingese are very reliant on the bond with their owner.
This may be the answer you are looking for to ‘why is my dog so clingy all of a sudden?‘.
Dogs that develop health problems can start to become clingy whereas previously they were independent.
Losing their sight or hearing can make dogs feel vulnerable so sticking by your side helps to create a feeling of safety.
Some older animals can develop cognitive dysfunction as they age too, which can lead to confusion and restlessness.
Following you around gives them some comfort.
Your pet may have something causing him discomfort like a splinter in his paw that he’s trying to seek attention for.
Give him a check over and take him to the vet if you think there is a problem.
Your Dog Is Inquisitive
Some dogs are just nosy!
They hope that by following you around that they will be the first to see what is happening.
They don’t want to miss out on the opportunity of food, treats, or play.
Some dogs can act like this before a walk, sticking by your side, keen not to get forgotten.
Previous Emotional Trauma (Especially With Rescue Dogs)
Not all dogs have had the best start in life.
Some rescue dogs may have suffered from abandonment or neglect and fear the same thing happening again.
By following you around they are constantly reminding you of their presence and trying to prevent any chances of them being left behind again.
A commonly asked question is ‘why is my puppy so clingy?’.
Young puppies have a lot to learn!
When they leave their mother, they are away from all that they know.
Some puppies try to bond to a new owner to get that same guidance and protection.
While this is natural behavior your puppy must learn how to be happy in his own company too.
Socialization is so important in your pup’s early months, making sure he experiences other people, as well as various animals and environments.
It’s also important that your pup is trained to be left on his own, for short periods initially, so that he is comfortable in his own company.
If your puppy receives constant attention and reassurance from you all of the time, then he might be scared to be left on his own which can lead to behavioral problems.
A Change To Their Environment
If you have recently moved houses with your dog, got a new pet, or had a new family member move in, then your dog may be feeling a little more clingy than normal.
He could be looking for extra reassurance and protection from you during this stressful time, especially if his normal routine has been upset in the process.
Your dog may need something!
By following you around he is reminding you he is there and that something needs doing for him.
Perhaps he needs to go to the bathroom or maybe he’s thirsty and his water bowl is empty?
Some dogs will just follow you around in the hope of some more treats!
He is just trying to attract your attention.
Your Dog Has Separation Anxiety
Being a Velcro dog and following you around the house is a symptom of separation anxiety.
These dogs become overly attached and reliant on their owners, such that it causes extreme distress for them to be parted.
We will explore separation anxiety in more detail next as there are other symptoms of this behavioral problem too.
Does Your Dog Have Separation Anxiety Or Is He Just Clingy?
The main difference between separation anxiety and clingy behavior is the anxiety part.
Both types of dogs want to be near their owners, but the difference is that dogs with separation anxiety will become highly stressed when they have to be away from you.
Velcro dogs will prefer to be close by to you when you are home, but are relaxed and content in their own company when you are away.
Dogs with separation anxiety, however, will panic when not with you, becoming destructive, vocalizing, and stressed.
So if your dog follows you around the house, but seems happy enough to be left alone, then chances are he is just a Velcro dog.
Differences Between Separation Anxiety And Velcro Dog Symptoms
Let’s look at some of the symptoms of Velcro dogs vs a dog with separation anxiety.
Velcro Dog Symptoms
- Following you from room to room
- Always sitting by your side or at your feet
- Keeping half an eye on your whereabouts and jumping up when you move
- Favoring you over other members of the family
Separation Anxiety Symptoms
They will show many of the Velcro dog symptoms above but in addition, may also do the following:
- Howling, crying, or barking when left on his own
- Pacing and panting excessively when left alone
- Scratching, digging, and chewing in the house – destroying possessions
- Inappropriate peeing/pooping in the house
- Showings signs of aggression, growling or snapping at people that approach their preferred human
- Becoming depressed and disinterested when you are not there
Sometimes there are physical clues that your dog has been anxious while you have been out of the house.
You might come home to find your belongings have been chewed, there are feces on the floor, or perhaps your neighbor complaining that he’s been barking all day.
Other dogs may display more subtle signs, however, so if you have concerns it would be worth considering a doggy camera to check in on your dog remotely while you are out.
If your dog is pacing, panting, or drooling then he is showing signs of anxiety.
If he’s asleep on his bed or happily amusing himself with his toys then your dog is just a Velcro dog.
Why Is My Rescue Dog So Clingy?
As mentioned previously, some rescue dogs can be clingy due to previous experiences or trauma.
Rescue animals may have a fear of abandonment and will stick close by to you so as not to be forgotten.
They may feel scared and anxious especially if they have just recently joined your home and don’t yet know your routine.
Your rescue dog may bond quickly with someone they trust for protection.
This clinginess should improve as your dog builds his confidence and gets used to his new environment.
But we will look at some steps which can help with this next.
How To Help Your Dog’s Clinginess Before It Becomes A Problem
While it can initially seem quite sweet, a clingy dog may go onto develop anxiety if they are not appropriately trained.
All dogs should be trained to feel happy being left on their own for short periods, so this is something you should ideally begin when they are a puppy.
While you might be lucky enough to be able to spend most of your time with your dog, it is impractical to have them with you 24 hours a day.
Trips to the grocery store, medical appointments or restaurant dinners all mean leaving your dog alone for a short period, so he must learn not to feel stressed during this time.
If your dog has already developed Velcro dog type tendencies, then the first step is to work out why this might be.
Using our list of possible reasons that we explored earlier you might be able to narrow things down.
Here are some steps you can take to help him feel more secure:
- Look at your own behavior. If you regularly spoil your dog or give him a treat every time he is nearby then you are encouraging him to stay by your side. Instead, you should only praise and reward him when he does something to earn it.
- Use calming appeasing pheromones to help your dog feel more relaxed at home. These have been shown to help reduce levels of anxiety and make dogs feel more secure. You can purchase these as a plug-in diffuser type product, sprays to spritz on bedding or dog crates, or impregnated collars.
- If the behavior has only recently started, you should check your dog over for any obvious health issues. Look at his paws and ears for any signs of infection. Take them to a veterinarian for a more thorough exam if you still aren’t sure.
- Check that your dog’s needs are being met. Ensure his mealtimes are remembered, his water bowl is always topped up, and he has regular access to the yard to do his business.
- Make sure your dog is receiving plenty of physical and mental stimulation. A dog that is tired and fulfilled is more likely to be relaxed and happy. Working dog breeds will need plenty of walks or exercise through other means like agility classes. You can also stimulate your dog by using puzzle feeders and playing with him in your garden at home. If you are struggling to exercise your dog enough then ask friends and family for help or consider employing a dog walker.
You may also need to explore some specific training techniques to help improve your clingy dog’s behavior.
Why not try the following?
- If your dog leaps up every time you get up, then try and desensitize them to this. If every time you get up it is to get them a treat or because you are going out somewhere your dog will continue to react. However, if you start getting up to do dull things like putting the kettle on, do some washing up, your dog will soon become bored.
- Teach your dog to settle on his bed or in a dog crate rather than lying by your side all the time. Use a command word like ‘bed’ and encourage your dog to lie there with the help of a treat and praise. Try giving him some long lasting chew treats or a puzzle toy to try and encourage him to stay there longer. He will start to build a positive association with this area and you can use the command word to direct him.
- Teaching your dog the stay command can also be helpful. If you need to get up and go to the bathroom and don’t want your dog accompanying you, then get them to ‘stay’ while you go.
- Introduce games and activities that put some distance between you and your dog. Play games like scavenger hunts, hiding treats, and toys around your home. This will help to work his nose and his brain, and once he gets going, he will be too busy to be sitting by your side.
- Make sure your dog is happy being left on his own. Once your dog is good at lying on his bed by himself, start moving further away from him within the same room, returning to praise him. Then try moving into the room next door very briefly, and then come back, rewarding him again. Once he’s happy with that, start shutting the door between you before coming back in again. Gradually increase the length of time you spend apart as well as the distance. You should be able to start leaving the house for short periods, gradually extending this too.
- Speak to your veterinarian and a qualified behaviorist if you are struggling with any aspects of your dog’s behavior. Don’t ignore problems as they will only get worse over time.
Final Thoughts On Clingy Dogs
Velcro dogs seek your company and enjoy sticking close by your side.
This isn’t necessarily a problem as long as they are happy to be left in their own company for periods of time.
Dogs that become stressed or anxious on their own have separation anxiety and this needs to be dealt with appropriately.
If you are struggling with any aspects of your dog’s behavior or training then speak to your veterinarian for help.