If your dog follows you everywhere, then you aren't alone. Most dog owners know what it's like to have their very own four-legged shadow.
But while some people find it very endearing, having to avoid tipping over your canine companion constantly can get a little annoying. But what you may not realise is your dog isn't trying to be irritating. They are just following their instincts.
Why your dog is following you, scientifically speaking
The bond between humans and dogs is incredible. With both being social and loving creatures, the relationship is mutually beneficial. Dogs can help alleviate their owners' worries and make them feel safer, while in return, people care for and nurture their pups. But does this explain why your dog is your constant shadow?
As dogs have become more domesticated, natural selection has shaped them to become companions for humans. The way domestic dogs have bonded with humans is similar to that of human children.
A dog with separation anxiety will want to be with the person they love and trust the most as much as possible.
Imprinting is a form of learning that begins when as a puppy. Dogs have learned to imprint on humans as a form of bonding. They come to regard humans, usually one person in particular, as their source of food, shelter and safety. Dogs often show their bond to their human by following them around everywhere, responding to their commands and listening to them more than other people.
Dogs will often follow their pet parent if they have learned that positive things such as food, pats, walks and fun activities come from that person. This reinforces the bond and encourages the dog to want to be with that person.
Certain breeds such as Border Collie, Shetland Sheepdog, Great Pyrenees, German Shepherd, Golden Retriever, French Bulldog and Pug are sometimes referred to as velcro dogs as they are more likely to follow their owners than other breeds.
Is it bad that my dog follows me everywhere?
The fact that your dog follows you everywhere isn't a big problem. However, it can become an issue if you find it annoying or if your dog becomes distressed when left alone. There's a huge difference between your dog simply loving your company and your dog struggling with you leaving the house. See what happens when you tie their lead to a door or put your dog behind a door gate and leave the room. If your pup starts to get upset, then it's a sign you need to work on ways to reduce anxiety in your dog with some independence training.
How all this following benefits your dog
When your dog spends a lot of time with you, they will also be watching your every move. This will help your dog understand you better and enable them to better interpret the meaning behind your actions.
How does it benefit the human?
Perhaps unsurprisingly, we also benefit from being close to our canine companion. The company of a loving dog stop us from feeling lonely, and the knowledge they want to be near us so much makes us feel needed and loved. This type of unconditional love can do wonders for our emotional wellbeing. Meanwhile, when they want to play and exercise, we naturally benefit too by encouraging us to exercise more regularly.
Do dogs have a favourite person?
It's quite common for a dog to have a favourite human and it tends to be quite obvious who that person is. While every dog is different, they often favour one human over another because of the attention they get from that person, what they associate them with (walks or food), or that person spends time with them the most. It could also be that their favourite human matches the dog's personality. An energetic and lively pup will enjoy spending time with the more playful family member who includes them in fun activities.
What are the reasons why my dog follows me?
Your dog following you everywhere can be due to:
- They might get something good (food, fun activities)
- They want human companionship
- It's a characteristic of their breed
- They have separation anxiety
- They are bored
- They feel unwell or need something (to go to the toilet)
Is my dog's shadowing behaviour a problem?
If you don't mind your dog following you everywhere, then most of the time your dog following you around is nothing to worry about. However, being a velcro dog could be about more than just love and companionship and could be due to a health issue. If their following behaviour becomes extreme or obsessive, they show signs of aggression, depression, destructive behaviour or toileting in the house; it could mean that they are suffering from separation anxiety.
How to stop your dog from following you everywhere
You love your dog, but it's perfectly normal to want a bit of personal space. If your dog's constant shadowing behaviour gets too much, especially with very anxious dogs, try out some of these strategies to encourage your dog not to be at your side at all times.
Use the stay command
You can use the stay command to teach your dog that it's fine to be left alone for a short period of time. Start by using short distances, then gradually build up the distance until you get to the point where you can leave your dog on their own. This should be done very slowly and make sure you give lavish praise to your dog for each step.
Install baby gates
You can use the baby gate as a temporary solution until your dog gains confidence. To stop your pup from getting distressed when you get ready to leave the room, drop some treats or a stuffed Kong just before you close the gate behind you. You want to teach your dog that good things can happen to them when you leave.
Teach your dog "go to your place"
Place a mat on the floor that will become your dog's place. Enthusiastically reward your dog for going to the mat and give them a fun interactive toy to play with that will hold their attention as they rest there. If they initially struggle to stay on the mat, offer them a stuffed Kong to keep them busy while you are gone.
Don't encourage clingy behaviours
They might be lovely to snuggle up to at night, but try to avoid letting your dog sleep in bed with you. Keep their mat in your bedroom and when it's time to sleep, tell them to lie on their mat. It's also a good idea to not let them lie by your feet, on your lap or right next to you as you are effectively encouraging clingy behaviour.
Don't let your dog have run of the house
While you are in the early stages of teaching your dog it's a good idea to use baby gates and close doors, so your dog gets used to you leaving them for a few seconds at a time.
Why do dogs follow people everywhere?
Some dogs seem to want to be permanently close to their owners and follow them everywhere. Perhaps the most obvious reason for this behaviour is that some dogs simply prefer the companionship of humans. However, if your dog following you around is starting to feel like stalking, it's probably time to take action.