Clingy Dogs: Is Your Dog a Velcro Dog?
Does your dog follow you everywhere? If so you’re certainly not alone; many people refer to their dogs as their own personal shadow. It seems many of us are the owners of a velcro dog.
My Dog Follows Me Everywhere
When I first got my dog Laika she was always nearby. If she wasn’t at my side she was strategically placed to have a clear line of vision to me; it used give me the creeps. I’d never had a velcro dog before (nor had I ever owned a German Shepherd mix) and I felt like I had my own little personal stalker. I’d heard of ‘velcro dogs’ before, and now I found myself with a super clingy dog of my own.
No one appreciates the very special genius of your conversation as the dog does. – Chris Morley
What is a Velcro Dog?
A velcro dog is a dog that is always by your side. Often called their owners shadows, velcro dogs want to be close to their owners at all times. Does your dog follow you everywhere? Do they follow you from room to room, even when you go into the bathroom? Your dog might be a velcro dog.
Separation Anxiety vs. A Clingy Dog (aka “Velcro Dog”)
A lot of times velcro dogs and dogs that have separation anxiety are clumped together. Both are associated with not wanting to be away from their owners. Although the differences might seem subtle they’re important to watch out for.
Velcro dogs want to be close to their owner, dogs that suffer from separation anxiety panic when they’re away from their owner.
Many dogs that exhibit separation anxiety have a tendency to be velcro dogs as well, but not all velcro dogs have separation anxiety. Separation anxiety is specific to when you leave your dog. A velcro dog exhibits closeness behaviors while you’re home.
Separation Anxiety Symptoms in Dogs:
- Barking or howling when you’re gone
- Destructive chewing & destruction (such as doors, window sills, household objects)
- Escape attempts
- Excessive panting or drooling
- Urinating or defecating when you’re gone
- Pacing around
- Your dog becomes anxious when you’re getting ready to leave
- Your dog exhibits inappropriate behavior only when you’re not there
Velcro Dog Symptoms:
- Following you from room to room
- Constantly needing or wanting to be next to you
- Keeping an eye on you at all times
- Anticipating when you may be getting up
- Always wanting to be where the action is
Some people consider velcro dogs to have pre-development separation anxiety. There was a study in 2001 that found that dogs who have hyper attachment to their owners are more likely to develop separation anxiety. If your dog a a mild case of separation anxiety one thing that can help is giving them something to do when you leave. I gave Laika a stuffed Kong every morning as I was leaving for work. After a few days she understood the drill and started looking forward to the moment I left because it meant “I get something yummy.”
What Causes Velcro Dog Syndrome?
Some dogs develop velcro dog syndrome because of our own behaviors. If we stop every time we see our dog to give him praise, a pat on the head, or a treat he learns that staying close leads to the good stuff. Letting your dog sleep in your bed creates a dependence on being close to their owner.
Aging dogs might stick close to their humans, especially if their hearing or vision starts to change. Those changes can be stressful & scary, so they’ll stick close to your for extra comfort.
Some breeds have been selectively bred to be dependent. A lot of working, herding, and hound dogs have been bred to work side by side with their humans. They rely on their owners body language and directions for guidance. Many toy breeds were selectively bred to be lap dogs. Some breeds such as German Shepherds and Akitas are commonly known to attach themselves to one person.
Boredom and lack of mental stimulation can lead to velcro dog syndrome. It becomes a strategy to kill the time and find something to do. They find their own form of entertainment by following their owner around. Does you dog seem bored? Check out some easy indoor games to keep your dog busy.
Dogs with separation anxiety have a tendency to also be velcro dogs. Some dogs develop a dysfunctional hyper attachment to their owners which causes anxiety when they’re away or out of sight.
Sudden onset of a clinginess in dogs may be health related. When your dog becomes sick it can be confusing; they may stick to you as a coping mechanism.
Moving into a new house and neighborhood can cause dogs to become extra clingy. Moving can be stressful on dogs, just like it is for us.
When Your Dogs Clinginess Becomes a Problem
If your dog has separation anxiety you’ll want to look into getting help to modify the behavior. Separation anxiety is one of the most common causes of consulting a pet behaviorist. If not treated the behavior will not go away.
It’s similar to anxiety disorders in humans; it can become quite serious if not treated. I highly recommend reading Creature Clinic’s article on Separation Anxiety, it has a lot of great information on how to manage and make things better for dogs with separation anxiety.
If your dog has a serious case of separation anxiety I highly recommend picking up a copy of Nicole Wilde’s book Don’t Leave Me! Step-by-Step Help for Your Dogs Separation Anxiety. It not only helps explain the behavior but it includes a handy worksheet to help you come up with methods that will help manage your dogs anxiety.
If your dog is only exhibiting velcro dog symptoms it’s up to you to decide if you want to modify the behavior. Some people don’t mind it; but when it becomes an annoyance there are ways to help reduce it.
If you suspect your dog has velcro dog syndrome because he’s bored you’ll probably want to look into giving him some more mental stimulation or a job to do. Dogs that are bored can develop destructive behaviors if left unattended. There’s a lot of simple and quick ways to relieve dog boredom & lots of fun indoor activities to keep your dog busy.
6 Ways to Reduce Your Dogs Clinginess
If you’d like to reinforce some more independence in your dog there’s some simple training techniques and activities that will help make your dog less clingy.
Desensitize Your Dog to Your Movements
If your dog gets up every time you stand up repeat this behavior until your dog doesn’t give a reaction. Eventually he’ll become desensitized to your movement and will stay in place as you get up.
Think of all the triggers that get a response from your dog. Does he get up when you put down the remote or when you put on your shoes? Work on desensitization with all of the triggers. Once he’s seen enough of them time and time again he should start to stop reacting. He will eventually get tired of responding since these triggers will no longer have meaning.
Teach Your Dog the Stay Command
When you’re in the kitchen or bathroom teach your dog to stay at a distance. Start with brief distances and gradually move further away. Give your dog a lot of praise when they stay to reinforce that it’s a desired behavior and that they’ll receive positive reinforcement when they stay.
Play Games That Rely on Distance
Nose work games, hide and seek, and fetch are all fun games that reinforce having fun while you’re at a distance. Chew toys can be a great choice because they will give your dog something to focus on while on their own.
If you’re looking for a really simple way to keep your dog busy for a bit try stuffing some food into Kong or West Paw Tux toy and then freezing it. If you’re not sure what foods or treats to use check out 39 healthy treats you can stuff in a Kong.
Teach Your Dog to Go to Their Special Place
Using his dog bed or mat create a special place that’s “his” and train him to go to that area. Reward him when he goes there and be sure to add some extra incentive such as toys or treats, something that will make want to stay there. Long lasting dog toys or a stuffed Kong toy are good at creating distractions while you’re up and about.
Since I don’t like having my dog in the kitchen while I’m cooking I’ve taught her to “go to your chair.” It’s her own little place at the kitchen bar that she sits at while she keeps an eye on what’s going on.
Add More Physical Activity to Your Dogs Routine
We’ve all heard that a tired dog is a good dog. If your dog has enough energy to follow you around everywhere chances are he could use some extra exercise. When your dog has enough physical activity he’s much more likely to sleep and relax at home. He might not even notice when you get up since he’ll be so tired.
Do you walk your dog every day? If not check out these 5 tips that will help keep you motivated to go for that daily dog walk.
Add More Mental Stimulation to Your Dogs Routine
Dogs thrive on meaningful play and activities, so try adding more mental stimulation to their routine. Keeping their brains active makes them tired just as physical activity does. Basic obedience training, agility, nose work, hide and seek, playing tug, and learning new tricks are all ways to mentally tire out your dog.
As I mentioned above one of the easiest ways I’ve found to give my dog some extra mental stimulation is using a stuffed Kong with healthy treats.
Our Dogs Thrive When Given a Purpose
Does your dogs clinginess annoy you or do you find it flattering? You’re the one who decides how you’d like your dog to behave. If you don’t mind your dog following you from room to room but don’t want them in the kitchen while you’re cooking set some boundaries. Our dogs look to us for cues; instead of just telling them what not to do offer some acceptable behaviors.
Be aware that if you’re suddenly changing the rules take it easy on the dog and use positive reinforcement. They don’t know why the rules are suddenly changing.
I worked with Laika on teaching her some boundaries at home. For the most part she’s pretty independent now. If she does start those velcro dog tendencies I know it’s because she’s getting bored. It means I’ve been slacking on giving her enough exercise or mental stimulation. I take it as my cue that it’s time to go for a nice long walk, do some nose work, or play a nice game of tug.
Keeping your dog mentally and physically challenged will help build your dogs confidence. There’s lots of simple indoor activities you can add to your daily routine to keep your dog busy and entertained.
Is Your Dog a Velcro Dog or a Little Clingy?
Does your dog follow you around everywhere? Do you call them your own personal shadow?
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