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 sorta gave 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, but never had one. And now I found myself with a 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 follows you around and wants to be by your side at all times. Often called clingy, velcro dogs have a desire to be close to their owners.
Certain breeds, such as lap dogs, are more likely to be velcro dogs because they’ve been bred to be more dependent. Breeds that have been bred to work alongside their owners are also prone to developing clingy behaviors such as velcro dog syndrome.
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. Velcro Dog Syndrome
A lot of times velcro dogs and dogs that have separation anxiety are confused with one another. Both are associated with not wanting to be away from their owners, but there are some distinct differences. And although the differences might seem subtle they’re important to watch out for.
The difference between veclro dogs & dogs with separation anxiety has to do with the anxiety itself. 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 a dog that panics and gets anxious when you leave. A velcro dog simply exhibits clingy behaviors while you’re home.
Separation Anxiety Symptoms in Dogs
Does your dog panic when you leave or go out of sight? If so they’re exhibiting classic signs of separation anxiety.
The most common symptoms of separation anxiety in dogs are:
- 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
Does your dog follow you around everywhere? If so you probably have a velcro dog.
The most common symptoms of velcro dog syndrome include:
- 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
How to Spot the Difference
Some people consider velcro dogs to have pre-development separation anxiety. There was a study in 2001 that found dogs who have hyper attachment to their owners are more likely to develop separation anxiety. Velcro dogs may be more susceptible to developing separation anxiety, but that doesn’t mean it’s inevitable. There’s plenty of velcro dogs that never develop signs of separation anxiety — some dogs just want to be near their owners.
If you’re concerned that your dog is being too clingy and/or may develop separation anxiety pay attention to their mood when they’re following you around. If your dog is excited when he follows you around it may be a sign that he’s bored and looking for something to do. If your dog stays calm when following you around it’s fine – it’s a common behavior that many of us find flattering.
But if your dog gets anxious when you get up it’s a sign of 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 Kong stuffed with healthy treats 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?
Wondering why your dog is so needy? Here’s 7 common causes for 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 can create a dependence on being close to you. Now this isn’t a bad thing, it’s a personal preference. If you don’t mind it that’s great – it’s just important to understand that many times we encourage our dogs behavior without realizing it.
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. Dogs can get bored if they’re not given enough mental & physical exercise. Since they’re looking for something to do they’ll leap up and follow you around wherever you go. You’re their main source of their entertainment, so if your dog gets excited when he’s following you around it may be a sign that he’s bored and looking for something to do. If that’s the case check out these indoor games you can play 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 that causes anxiety when they’re away or out of sight. If your dog is anxious when they’re unable to follow you around they have separation anxiety, not just velcro dog syndrome.
Sudden onset of a clinginess in dogs may be health related. When your dog becomes sick it can be scary and confusing; they may stick to you as a coping mechanism. If your dog exhibits any sudden behavioral changes it may be a sign of an illness.
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. If your dog seems extra clingy after a move you can help them relax by sticking to a predictable routine to help them settle in.
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 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.
If your dog is only exhibiting velcro dog symptoms it’s up to you to decide if you want to modify the behavior. The behavior itself isn’t bad, and many of us find it flattering. But there may instances when it’s hazardous for your dog to follow you around, such as when you’re making dinner or cleaning the bathroom.
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
Many dogs react every time we get up because it means ‘uh oh, they’re going somewhere.’ If you practice getting up without going somewhere or doing something important your dog will start to see that it’s really not a big deal or something they need to worry about.
To desensitize your dog to your movements practice getting up and doing something mundane. Repeat this behavior until your dog doesn’t give a reaction anymore. Eventually she’ll become desensitized to your movements and will stay in place as you get up. She might still watch you, but she won’t feel the need to check on every single thing you do.
Think of all the triggers that get a response from your dog. Does she get up when you put down the remote, or every time you put on your shoes? Work on desensitization with all of those triggers. Once she’s seen enough of them time and time again she should start to stop reacting. She’ll eventually get tired of responding since these triggers will no longer have a strong meaning.
Teach Your Dog the Stay Command
Does your dog have a tendency to follow you into the bathroom and kitchen? If so work on 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. Those rewards will let her know that staying is the best choice possible, and she’ll be more likely to repeat that behavior later on.
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 and giving it to your dog. If you’re not sure what foods or treats to use check out 39 healthy treats you can stuff in a Kong. By giving your dog something to do, it shows them that they can have fun and relax, even if you’re not right by their side.
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 can keep an eye on what’s going on. Before I taught her that she’d follow me into the kitchen, and I’d end up having to lead her out. The problem was I was just correcting the behavior, rather than showing her an alternative.
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.
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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