Why is it that some dogs will follow their owners everywhere they go when they are at home? Is this behavior considered acceptable? Is there any reason it should concern you?
As a general rule, Dogs follow people out of curiosity and the hope of some reward. But some dogs will continuously follow their people because they suffer from separation anxiety. Dogs are bred for companionship, so, naturally, your dog should want to be around you.
However, understanding a few of the other common reasons your dog might be shadowing you everywhere might help you determine whether or not the behavior should concern you.
A Few Reasons Your Dog Might be Following You
1 – Dogs are for companionship, so it is expected that they would want to be with you. Especially dogs that were bred as working or herding dogs, they are made mostly to work alongside people.
2 – Some dogs have personalities that are just more clingy, and they will always want to be involved in anything their owner is doing. Besides, often the behavior is reinforced even if you are unaware of it.
3 – If they are treated, or pet, or given attention by following you around, they will have greater motivation to continue following you. They have learned good things come from you.
4 – Dogs are smart creatures, and sometimes they follow you and watch you closely in an attempt to understand you better and better. They will be watching for your reactions and anything you may be communicating to them.
5 – They will be listening and watching for any sign that you might feed them or take them out or that you might be getting ready to leave without them.
However, if your dog is following you around due to separation anxiety or fear of aggression, there could be some real concerns, and you will need to address how to relieve your dog from this stress.
Even when you leave or come back home and make a big fuss about greeting your dog, you are unknowingly reinforcing your dog’s concern. He will become more and more anxious when he sees you preparing to leave and may begin to take up some very bad or unhealthy habits in an attempt to cope in your absence.
Signs Your Dog Suffers from Separation Anxiety
Besides following you’re incessantly anytime, you are home with your dog, and there are a few other signs your dog could be suffering from separation anxiety. Your dog may have increased accidents at the house when you are out. He may take up barking, start chewing up furniture or engage in other destructive behavior.
Your dog may stop eating or drinking normally when you are gone and sometimes even after you have returned. A dog suffering from anxiety like this may also become depressed and lethargic. He may lose his energy and life.
Some dogs will become aggressive because of the fear and anxiety that your absence creates in them. They may become fixated on just one person and avoid anyone else in the home.
Anxiety and stress like this are not healthy for a dog, physically or mentally, and if you think it may be why your dog follows you around everywhere, you need to consider how to fix the issue. If your dog is never calm or relaxed and always anxious in your absence, then it is time to plan on how to help him learn to be OK on his own.
A healthy dog will be OK with you being gone for chunks of time and will be able to rest and be calm while waiting for you or while you are away.
Ways to Help Your Dog With Separation Anxiety
The primary way you can plan to beat separation anxiety in your dog is to catch it early and proactively plan while your dog is still a puppy. Socialization is key.
You need to get your dog out and about, see new things, and meet new people and animals so that he is learning how to handle new or strange situations from an early age.
He will learn to be calm and confident with proper socialization and learn to love and accept many people. This can help him from over-attaching to just one person.
Dogs often have a special bond with one or two special people, but they should also have the capacity to enjoy the company of other people.
They should become comfortable being with other people and playing with other dogs. In this way, should you ask or hire someone to come over and walk your dog during the day to prevent possible anxiety, they will be happy being with someone else. They will also know better how to be confident on their own.
Another way you can plan to help your dog overcome anxiety when you are gone is to get him puzzle toys and chews to distract him from your absence and keep his mind busy so that he doesn’t feel the need to bark incessantly or become destructive.
Sometimes leaving music on or the tv can help dogs not feel as lonely when you are gone.
You may want to avoid a few things when you are around your dog in any way, teaching him that he must always be with you. You may consider not allowing your dog to sleep with you or following you into the bathroom so that he learns he doesn’t need to be everywhere with you, and he knows to settle on his own or wait patiently for you.
While it may be difficult initially if your dog is accustomed, especially with sleeping with you, in the long run, it really may be healthier since he will learn to cope on his own and become confident in his own company.
If you have a rescue dog, you will need to consider the possibility that your dog fears abandonment. You can’t always know the history of rescue dogs, and some allowances have to be made. Y
ou must be extra patient and take whatever spare time and effort you need to reassure your dog that you will always take care of him and that he can relax in your absence.
If you try all this and you still can’t seem to calm your dog, and he still looks overly anxious with your absence, particularly if he becomes aggressive, consider taking him to a professional dog trainer.
Some dogs are just clingy. They long for companionship and attention. Some amount of following you around can be attributed to this and is entirely acceptable and normal. It sure can be cute too.
However, if your dog is displaying signs he is shadowing you because of a fear of separation, you will need to immediately address the problem since it is unhealthy for your dog to be stressed like that.
It also can become dangerous to others at worst, and inconveniently destructive at least.
Both you and your dog should have a healthy relationship, mutual respect, and the ability to cope independently.
Our dogs should be companionable and loving, but they should also handle themselves calmly in our absence.