Why Is My Dog So Clingy? Answer, Solutions, & More
Dogs almost always like to be with their owners. That’s a fact. If your dog wants to be by your side – that’s normal. If he follows you from room to room – that’s also OK.
Even if he wants to come into your bathroom and see what you’re doing – that’s OK too. Dogs are curious animals and they love companionship, so all of these behaviors are fine.
But sometimes it can turn into a problem. If they start following you absolutely everywhere all the time and can’t leave your side no matter what – then you’ve got a clingy dog.
Clingy dogs are also called “velcro” dogs and it’s something that usually needs to be dealt with. It might be cute or fun at first, but it will eventually become annoying.
That’s not the only problem either. If your dog becomes clingy, it could be a sign of something more serious.
It’s important to know that dogs aren’t born clingy (but some breeds are more likely to become clingy). They become clingy over time or after a specific event.
There are several reasons as to why your dog can become clingy, and the interesting thing is that it’s not always the dog’s fault.
You might actually be guilty of making your dog clingy. In other cases, it may be a sign of a health-related problem.
But there are many other reasons, and some of them are very easy to fix. So, if you’re wondering “why is my dog so clingy?” – then read on to find out!
Why Is My Dog So Clingy: 7 Reasons Why (and What You Can Do About It)
There are many reasons why dogs can become clingy. In this section, we will have a look at some of the reasons for this behavior, and what you can do to make your dog less clingy.
1 - Boredom
This is one of the first reasons that dogs start to follow their owners around. If they have a lot of energy and nothing to spend it on – they’ll start to follow you.
That’s because you’re the only interesting thing that can keep them busy. They need entertainment.
Keep in mind that this can happen when your dog is physically bored and it can also happen when he’s mentally bored.
He needs to do something fun. He needs to run around, play with his toys, and spend his energy on something. His brain needs to be working too. Luckily, this is an easy-to-fix problem.
Solution to Boredom
Make sure your dog is getting plenty of exercise. This will tire him out and he won’t have the energy to follow you everywhere.
Exercise can include daily walks, playing fetch in the park or anything else that will make him run around. You should also make sure his brain stays busy.
You can do this by getting him interactive toys, puzzles, and other brain games. You can also play games where he has to find something by sniffing around the house.
Getting your dog to play with other dogs in the park is also a great method of tiring out your dog, both physically and mentally.
2 - They’re Waiting for Something Good (Treats, Belly Rubs, Affection Etc.)
Remember when we talked about how the owner might be guilty of making his dog clingy? Well, this is it.
If you always pet them, praise them, tickle their bellies, cuddle them or give them a treat whenever they are with you, they’ll want to be with you more often.
It’s a pretty obvious reason, and a lot of people don’t pay attention to this. But dogs learn different behaviors based on what they get for that behavior.
If they stay by your side and get lots of love or a tasty treat – that’s a reward for them. So, they’ll definitely want to do it more.
What You Can Do About It
The idea behind this reason is that your dog makes a connection between your actions, their response, and what they get for that response.
For example – you go to the kitchen (this is your action), they follow you (this is their response), and you give them a treat (this is their reward for following you).
The only solution to this problem is to break that connection. To do that, you need to start doing random tasks during the day without rewarding them.
For example, you can go to the kitchen and start washing the dishes without giving your dog a treat. You can sit on the floor and start reading a magazine without petting your dog.
Your dog will think that you went to the kitchen to get a treat or sat down on the floor to play with him.
But instead, you do something unrelated and your dog starts to understand that your actions and their response don’t always include a reward for him.
Many dogs will follow you when you grab your keys. That’s because they think you’re going outside and will probably take them for a walk.
To break this connection, you can grab your keys then go to the bedroom and lie down. Or you can do something else inside the house without going outside.
Other dogs will get up as soon as you put the TV remote down. That’s because they’re expecting you to get off the couch and play with them.
In this case, you should put the remote down multiple times while you’re watching TV - without getting up. They’ll soon learn that putting the remote down doesn’t mean anything.
After repeating these steps a couple of times a day for several days, your dog will no longer connect your actions to his rewards.
They’ll start to follow you with their eyes only. Eventually, they won’t do that either.
3 - Fear and Anxiety (Including Separation Anxiety)
These are two of the biggest reasons that dogs become clingy. A lot of dogs get scared sometimes, and want to be with their owners.
This could be during something scary like a thunderstorm or fireworks. In these cases, their clinginess stops after the thunderstorm/fireworks stop.
But it’s not always a specific event that triggers them. If they’re used to being by your side all the time, they might get nervous when you’re not around.
This sometimes happens with owners that let their dogs sleep in the same bed as them.
It can also happen if your dog has always been with you as a puppy and is used to having you around 24/7. This can make your dog develop a fear of being alone.
All of this can lead to something called separation anxiety.
Separation anxiety is a completely different story and it’s quite a serious problem. This is when your dog is always scared of being left alone.
Being clingy and having separation anxiety are not the same. Clingy dogs don’t always have separation anxiety. But clinginess can turn into separation anxiety, however.
Dogs with separation anxiety are almost always clingy.
Clingy dogs want to be with you all the time, but when you’re not at home – it’s not the end of the world for them.
But when a dog has separation anxiety and you leave him alone – he starts to panic.
He might start destroying your furniture, peeing and pooping in different parts of the house, barking and whining.
He might also try to escape from your house when you’re not at home. Keep in mind that dogs with separation anxiety do these things when you are not at home.
If they do it when you’re home – that’s a different problem, and it’s not separation anxiety.
If you notice your dog getting anxious whenever you get up or whenever you’re about to leave the house – this could be a sign that your dog is developing separation anxiety.
An interesting fact is that dogs can also get clingy when they sense their owner’s anxiety.
What You Can Do About Your Dog’s Fear and Anxiety
If your dog experiences anxiety and gets clingy only during certain events (e.g. fireworks or storms) – that’s OK. You just need to be there for him at that moment.
If they’re clingy at home and get nervous when you’re about to leave the house, then you need to train them to be more independent.
Otherwise, they might develop separation anxiety. There are many steps that you can take to make your dog more independent.
Firstly, you should avoid letting him sleep in your bed because that creates dependence.
Secondly, you should avoid turning your dog into a “lap dog” that spends their entire day on your lap or by your feet.
Being with your dog 24/7, especially from a young age, will also make him attached to you. While having a dog that depends on you isn’t a bad thing, you need to be careful.
Some people love having a dog that always follows them from room to room.
If you’re one of these people, you can let your dog sleep in your bed, spend a lot of time on your lap and give him constant attention.
But if you notice your dog showing signs of anxiety when you get up or leave the house – you need to take action. Here are some ideas for what you can do.
Give Your Dog a Treat Every Time You Leave the House
Dogs like to make connections between things that happen. If they get a tasty snack whenever you’re about to leave, they will start to look forward to you leaving the house.
That’s because they get something tasty whenever that happens. If they make a positive connection like that, they won’t stress out over you leaving the house.
Make Sure Your Dog Has a Fun and Safe Place for Himself
Even if your dog doesn’t have anxiety, he should have his own crate or den. A special place where he can go whenever he wants to relax or calm down.
If your dog starts to show signs of anxiety when he’s not with you, you should encourage him to go to his safe place more often.
You can do this by giving him a treat whenever he goes to his crate/den. His safe place should have lots of fun toys that he can play with and chew on.
This will keep his mind busy and he’ll start to love his special place. By getting your dog to spend more time in his crate/den, you’ll make him more independent.
That’s because he’ll learn to keep himself busy when you’re not around and won’t get anxious every time you leave.
Play Games With Your Dog That Involve Distance
Any game where your dog will have to put some distance between you and him is a great way to make your dog more confident and less clingy.
Games like this include hide-and-seek, fetch, and finding treats hidden inside the house by sniffing around in different rooms.
These games will train your dog to be OK with not being by your side all the time.
Teach Your Dog the “stay” Command
This is actually helpful for any type of clingy dog, and your dog should know this command even if he’s not clingy. This is a command that you will always need.
You might need to use it when you have guests over, when you take your dog to public places, or when you want your dog to stay in one place so you can do some work around the house.
Start with small distances (e.g. when your dog is 2-3 feet away from you) and slowly increase the distance. Continue increasing the distance till your dog stays in a room that you’re not in.
Take your time with this. If you try to train him too quickly – it won’t work. This command will help keep your dog at a distance whenever he gets too clingy.
These tips will actually help with almost any type of clingy dog – not just the ones with anxiety.
They’ll also help with separation anxiety, but there may be times that you’ll need to take your dog to a vet if he suffers from separation anxiety.
That’s because curing separation anxiety might require professional help, and if you don’t seek professional help – the anxiety might get worse.
4 – It’s Because of the Breed
The answer to “why is my dog so clingy?” is sometimes unrelated to the dog itself. It might actually be because of the breed that your dog belongs to.
Some breeds are more likely to be clingy because of their genetics. These usually include certain herding dogs, guard dogs, hunting dogs, and toy breeds.
These dogs were bred for very specific purposes and all of those purposes include helping humans (except for toy breeds).
To be able to help humans, they need guidance from their owners and this is why they are dependent on humans.
Toy breeds (like Bichon Frise, Havanese, Pug, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Chihuahua, and Shih Tzu) were bred for companionship.
They’re lap dogs and they were bred to spend most of their time with humans. This means that they’re naturally clingy.
Examples of herding, working and hunting dog breeds that are clingy include: Australian Shepard, Labrador, Great Dane, Mastiff, Bloodhound, Boxer, and German Shepherd.
What You Can Do About Your Clingy Dog Breed
There isn’t much that you can do if you’ve got a clingy dog breed.
But the tips mentioned in the “anxiety” section will definitely help (teaching your dog the “stay” command, making sure he has a fun and safe place to play on his own, playing games that involve distance between you and your dog, etc).
5 - Changes in Your Life
Major changes in your life are a huge source of stress for your dog.
This includes moving into a new neighborhood, moving into a new house, getting another dog, having a baby, or changing your routine.
Let’s start with changing your routine or moving into a new house. When you first get a dog, he will take some time to get used to your house.
He gets used to sleeping in a certain part of the house and he gets used to his surroundings and the layout of the house.
He also learns your routine, like when you wake up, when you leave the house, when you come home, when you take him out, etc. and gets comfortable with that routine.
Dogs like knowing when something is going to happen. They love routines, and they love having a place that they are familiar with.
When you move into a new house, they get a bit scared. It’s a new and strange place for them. The only familiar thing they have is you – the owner.
That’s why they might get clingy and start following you around. Imagine you’re in a completely new environment – you don’t know the place and you don’t have any friends there.
Suddenly, you spot one person that you’re friends with. What are you going to do? You’ll most likely want to stick with them till you get used to the environment. It’s the same with dogs.
They also need to know when you’re going to be home, when you’re going to take them outside, when you’re going to play with them, and so on.
If you change your job and start leaving the house at a different time or getting home at a different time – they might experience a lot of stress.
That’s because when your routine changes, your dog’s routine changes too. He’ll get confused and nervous when it first happens and this might make him clingy whenever you are at home.
The other type of change is when you get another dog (or pet) or have a baby. In this case, they get clingy for a completely different reason – jealousy!
They now have to share your love and attention with someone else. You’ll obviously start paying attention to your baby (or new pet), and this might cause you to spend less time with your dog.
Your dog won’t like this and he might even become aggressive towards your baby or new pet. In these cases, dogs get clingy and start giving you more attention with the hope that you’ll give them more attention in return.
They might start whining a lot or rubbing up against you more than they usually would.
What You Can Do About Clinginess Due to Life Changes
Clinginess caused by changes in your life is easy to fix. The first thing you should remember is that it’s best to make changes slowly.
If you’re planning to move to a new house or neighborhood, you can take your dog on a walk in that neighborhood a couple of times, or show him the new house before you actually move there.
You want your dog to be familiar with that house/neighborhood. Secondly, you should create a safe place (as discussed in the “anxiety” section) for your dog inside the new house.
You should also put lots of treats in different parts of the house, so your dog will explore the new area and learn the layout while having fun.
Another great thing to try is the “sniffing game”. This is when you hide a treat in the house and your dog has to find it using his sense of smell.
This will get him to move around the new house and get used to his surroundings in a fun way. It’s important to make this an enjoyable activity because dogs settle much quicker when they get rewarded.
If the clinginess is caused by a change in your routine, you need to get your dog used to your new routine. This doesn’t require much – you just need to give your dog a bit of time.
But make sure your new routine is predictable and doesn’t change, so your dog can get used to it.
If the clinginess is caused by having a baby or new pet in the house, you need to continue treating your dog the same way as you did before.
If you bought a new dog, put him in a different room and introduce him to your other dog near the doorway, with each pet on either side of the door.
If they start growling or show any other warning signs of aggression, close the door and keep them in different rooms. You can try again later on.
But don’t leave them in the same room when you leave the house – they might get into a fight! You can also take them out on a walk together.
Just make sure you keep both of them at the same distance from you. Eventually, they’ll start to get along and your dog’s jealousy will go away.
If you give both of your dogs a lot of love and attention, you won’t have any problems. The same goes for having a baby at the house.
If you continue to give your dog the same amount of attention as you gave him before bringing the baby home, he won’t get jealous.
In fact, studies show that dogs often get attached to children and are great companions for them.
6 – It’s the Trauma
If you get a dog from an adoption center or a dog shelter, there’s a chance that he will be clingy. That’s because some of these dogs were abandoned by their previous owners.
They were left alone in the streets before being found and taken to a shelter. This sort of experience is not something that dogs can forget about.
In fact, the emotional trauma of being abandoned by their owner can stay with a dog his entire life. This is why they can be clingy – they’re scared that it might happen again.
Every time you leave the house, they’re scared that you might not come back, that you might be leaving forever – just like their previous owner.
These dogs might also have separation anxiety, which is a major cause of clinginess.
What You Can Do to Manage Your Dog’s Trauma
If you notice any signs of separation anxiety (as discussed in the “anxiety section”) or your dog shakes, drools a lot, gets aggressive for no reason, or breathes quickly when he’s not exercising – take him to a vet as soon as possible.
He might have anxiety-related problems, or he might be developing separation anxiety. Getting professional help early on is the best thing to do in this case.
Your vet might prescribe medication to help your dog relax. You can also follow the tips in the “anxiety” section.
7 - Aging/health-related Problems
When dogs get older, they often start to have hearing problems and their eyesight gets worse. Even healthy dogs experience these problems when they get older.
They sometimes have memory problems as well (dog dementia). This makes them confused, and confusion quickly turns into anxiety.
All of these will make your dog clingy because their life becomes harder. They can’t move around as easily, and they need your guidance.
They also get nervous (when they have memory problems) and want to be by your side. Healthy dogs that suffer from epilepsy will also get clingy right before they have an episode.
Finally, dogs that get sick will want to stay near you for extra attention and comfort.
What You Can Do About Age/health-related Clinginess
With age-related problems, there’s not much you can do. You should go to a vet and see if your dog needs to take any medication or if you need to make any lifestyle changes.
If your dog is acting sick (he’s less active, drinks a lot of water, acts anxious, drools a lot, coughs, throws up, seems to be in pain, etc), you should take him to a vet.
You should never deal with a health-related problem yourself if you’re not a professional in that field.
If your dog starts to shake violently (a sign of epilepsy), has trouble walking, suddenly becomes weak or confused – get him to a vet immediately. These are signs of a serious health problem.
Your dog might also get clingy if she’s pregnant or on her period. This clinginess is temporary and goes away when she has her babies/when her period is over.
The next time you find yourself asking “Why is my dog so clingy?” – read through this list.
If you suspect that your dog’s clinginess is caused by a health-related problem, take him to a vet as soon as possible.
That clinginess might be a sign of something more serious.
But if you’re sure that he’s clingy because he’s bored (or because of some other harmless reason) – use the tips in this article to reduce your dog’s clinginess and make him more independent.
He’ll start to enjoy his life much more – and so will you!