Why Is My Puppy So Clingy? - Simply For Dogs
Puppy Clingy

Why Is My Puppy So Clingy?

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Do you have a shadow that looks suspiciously like a puppy? If so, you aren’t alone. I never experienced this with Janice and Leroy, but I have had a dog in the past who just would not leave my heels. If I was home, that dog was underfoot, and seemed to think that that’s where she belonged. If I took even half a step, she would be right there with me. At the time I simply thought she was a little too well-trained to heel; now I know that what I was seeing may have been the signs of separation anxiety.

But not all dogs that are clingy suffer from anxiety. There is a difference between a clingy puppy who wants to be with you, and a dog that could use help coping with an anxiety disorder. Some breeds are simply prone to clinginess, and sometimes you may just be dealing with the temporary anxiety that a new puppy faces. Do you know how to tell the difference?

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Last update on 2018-08-17 at 13:35 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

What Does a Clingy Dog Look Like?

If you’ve never owned a dog with clingy tendencies before, you may not be aware of how to the tell the difference between clingy and anxious. So first, let’s define the typical signs of a dog that wants to stick to you like Velcro simply because that’s their nature.

These dogs typically must always be by your side, or at least in the same area as you with a clear line of sight to you. They may stand close to you while you perform a task, and then eventually lay down nearby till you are done. They will most likely follow you to a new space or room immediately, and may or may not try to get your attention. One of the key differences between anxious dogs and clingy dogs is how hard they try to get your attention. If your dog seems content to just chill out with you nearby, you’re probably dealing with a clingy dog.

If you notice any of these signs, you likely have a clingy dog on your hands:

  • Follows you from room to room, even into the bathroom
  • Always having to have you in their line of sight
  • Looking as though they were anticipating your next move
  • Always in the room where people are gathered
  • Always needs to be right next to you

The activities happen when you are around.

As we said above, some breeds are more prone to clinginess. While the linked post discussed clinginess in large, medium, and small breeds, very often the clingiest dogs are smaller lap dog breeds, because they have been specifically bred to be dependent dogs over the years. They were more likely to be bred for companion roles rather than hunting or working roles, for example.

What Does an Anxious Dog Look Like?

Anxious dogs look very different from clingy dogs when you take a closer look – but on the surface, the activity may appear similar. Here’s the main difference though: clingy dogs want to be near you. Anxious dogs don’t want to be away from you. It’s subtle, but those are two separate mindsets that can help you understand why these two types of dogs aren’t the same. Clingy dogs act clingy when you are around. Anxious dogs act anxious when you are not around. When you are around, anxious dogs may or may not be clingier than any other dog.

The common signs of separation anxiety in dogs includes being very destructive when you’re gone, attempting to escape the kennel or room, and much more. If you see any of the following, you likely have an anxious dog on your hands:

  • Excessive barking and howling once you leave
  • Pacing, excessive panting, or excessive drooling
  • Having accidents when you are gone
  • Getting antsy or overly excited when you are preparing to leave

The key is that your dog exhibits these behaviors when you are not there. The anxiety is specifically related to your absence. If you want to learn more about separation anxiety, I highly recommend Nicole Wilde’s book Don’t Leave Me! Step-by-Step Help for Your Dog’s Separation Anxiety. This guide walks you through how to help your dog deal with their anxiety in a way that works for both of you, with the end goal of eventually helping your dog not feel the anxiety at all.

There was a study performed in 2001 that suggested that clingy dogs are more likely to become anxious, but the two aren’t necessarily related. If your clingy dog seems relatively calm – he’s just following you, but without signs of excessive excitement – then you likely don’t have to worry about separation anxiety.

What Causes Clingy Behavior?

If you’ve never experienced a shadow puppy before, you may be curious about what causes this behavior. To be honest, there are many reasons for clingy behavior, and one of them is “just because”. Unfortunately, some breeds just have this tendency, and there’s no easy answer. But here are a few of the other reasons why your dog may be acting so attached to your hip:

  • Age: Dogs that are either very young or very old can start to become clingier than they otherwise will be or were. This can be due to stress in many cases – puppies are stressed because they are often in new homes, are still learning how to walk and communicate, and may be dealing with learning commands as well. Aging dogs can be stressed as their hearing or vision begins to fade, and are sticking close to you for comfort and familiarity.
  • Boredom: If a dog lacks mental stimulation, they can get very bored. Physical exercise is one way to help combat this, but dogs also often need something to keep their brains occupied. This is especially true if you have a working dog, such as a Shepherd, that was bred to perform a job. One way to help your dog get over this boredom is with interactive toys like the classic favorite, the Kong. Stuff this toy full of treats and then let your dog work out how to get the food out.
  • Health: If your dog was never very clingy before, and has suddenly started to stick close to you like glue, there may be something wrong with their health. When dogs become stressed, they often resort to clinginess as a coping mechanism. This could be an age-old instinct from their wild ancestors, who would often cling tightly to the pack when injured as a means of protecting themselves.
  • New situations: Did you recently move? Did your schedule change? Did you add a new pet or baby? Did someone move out? If anything about your regular living situation has changed, your dog may be confused and is sticking close to you for comfort until they learn the new routine. Usually this type of behavior will stop once your dog gets the idea that you aren’t going anywhere, and that the new schedule is here to stay.

Training the Clingy Out of Your Dog

Is the clingy behavior starting to become a problem in your home? Maybe the constantly underfoot nature of your shadow is a safety hazard, or maybe you simply prefer a more independent pet. Whatever your reasons, there are definitely some things you can do to help your pet detach just a little. Just a warning though, these methods all take time. While Janice and Leroy aren’t really shadows, they do like to stay pretty close. I don’t mind – in fact, I encourage it. I love going about my days with my best friends just a few feet away. But I can see how sometimes, you may want your space. If I were to start trying to train my pups out of their clinginess now, it would take many months. The earlier you start with a younger dog, the easier you’ll find it to get results.

First, let’s talk about desensitizing. One of the most common characteristics of clingy dogs is the need to follow you from room to room – and even to attempt to anticipate when you’ll be moving again. One way to help your dog release this need is to desensitize them to movement. Ideally, you want them to barely take note when you move, because it’s no longer a big deal to them when you have to walk to another room in the house. The only way to do this that I know of is simply to move around a lot. Make a point to get up and do mundane tasks frequently, and repeat them until your dog no longer responds by following. You may still find that your dog tracks you with their eyes – but not following is a big step.

If you plan to try desensitizing, consider what triggers your dog the most. For example, many dogs instinctually follow when you put on shoes, because they associate shoes with going outside. Focus on performing these tasks the most, until your dog is no longer triggered by those actions.

The next thing you can do is to teach your dog to follow the stay command perfectly. This is especially important for dogs that tend to follow owners into bathrooms, or dogs that are so clingy that it’s hard for guests to enjoy themselves. In my opinion, and based on decades of research by behaviorists, positive reinforcement is the best way to train a dog to understand a new command.

Another great way to get your clingy dog to give you some space is to play distance-based games. Fetch, hide and seek, obstacle courses, and similar games that require them to leave your side are great ideas. But even just a simple chew toy can help distract them while you work on desensitization. If you go the chew toy route, consider kennel training your dog and making that her “safe place”. Put the chew toy in the kennel and give your dog their own sacred cave. If they know that they alone get to be in that space with that toy, they may be more willing to head there instead of being attached to your side.

You can also try adding more exercise to your dog’s day, to tire them out. A tired dog can’t be too clingy because they are too worn out to stick that close to your side. Longer walks, more active play, active games like tug o’ war, puppy play dates, and interactive games, can all help your clingy dog feel a little more relaxed at home.

How to Accept Your Clingy Dog

There’s one more thing I would suggest to any owner of a clingy dog, to help them accept their newfound shadow: give that pup a job! If you take a look at the list of clingiest dogs I linked at the start of this article, you’ll find that these breeds are, for the most part, working dogs. They are dogs used to having a specific purpose in life, such as herding or catching rodents.

Give your dog a job to do and they may begin to detach as they focus on their new purpose. For example, train your dog to drag laundry baskets around for you while you clean; train your dog to herd the kids outside; train your dog to alert you to your spouse coming home from work. Whatever purpose you give, be sure it’s something that your dog is already interested in, or something that allows them to stay close to you, if not exactly attached to you. And don’t be afraid to set boundaries; if you want to make it a rule that your dogs can’t jump on the furniture, then consider giving your dog a bed right next to your feet so they can feel close to you.\

Dog’s Separation Anxiety Book & Kong Toy On Amazon

Don't Leave Me! Step-by-Step Help for Your Dog's Separation Anxiety
KONG Classic Dog Toy, Large, Red
Don't Leave Me! Step-by-Step Help for Your Dog's Separation Anxiety
KONG Classic Dog Toy, Large, Red
$19.95
from $6.74
-
-
Don't Leave Me! Step-by-Step Help for Your Dog's Separation Anxiety
Don't Leave Me! Step-by-Step Help for Your Dog's Separation Anxiety
$19.95
-
KONG Classic Dog Toy, Large, Red
KONG Classic Dog Toy, Large, Red
from $6.74
-

Last update on 2018-08-17 at 13:35 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Finally, be sure to watch for signs that clinginess has turned into something more. Understanding the difference between a clingy dog and an anxious dog helps you accept your pup for their quirks while still keeping them healthy and happy.

Sources:-

https://www.puppyleaks.com/dog-velcro-dog/

https://www.cuteness.com/article/train-dog-not-clingy

About the Author Ash