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Why Are Dogs Clingy?

↯ Key takeaway points

  • Clingy behavior in dogs can be a sign of underlying health issues, environmental changes, lack of activity, etc.
  • Velcro dogs are dogs that never leave their owner's side and follow their every movement.
  • Separation anxiety is different from velcro dogs; velcro dogs want to be with their owners all the time while dogs with separation anxiety experience anxiety when left alone.
  • Ways to help your dog be less clingy include teaching "stay" commands, playing games that encourage distance, increasing physical exercise, providing mental stimulation, creating a safe space, desensitizing them to your movements, and seeking professional help if needed.
A pet lover passionate about educating readers about animal health and care. Love reading studies and recent research.
Taimoor is a well-traveled practicing veterinarian performing duties related to pet care, staff supervision, laboratory work, and diagnoses.
Published on
Monday 25 July 2022
Last updated on
Wednesday 13 September 2023
Why Are Dogs Clingy?
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Dogs being clingy is natural, but if their clinginess is becoming beyond the norm, then it is already a sign for you to start addressing their behavior. With that, this article contains everything you need to know about why are dogs clingy and ways to help them be less attached. 

Why Is My Dog So Clingy?

There are many possible reasons why your dog is so clingy. Some of these reasons may be because of underlying health issues, environmental changes, innate breed behavior, lack of activity, and more. 

For context, a clingy dog is abnormally close and attached to their owners to the point that they follow them all the time – whether in the bathroom, kitchen, or anywhere else. Dogs like these are also referred to as velcro dogs.

What Are Velcro Dogs? 

The velcro term came from the name VELCRO – a known company that sells hook-and-loop fasteners that are used to connect two objects. Velcro dogs are dogs who never leave your side and follow your step-to-step movements all the time. 

This velcro dog behavior may look adorable and wholesome, but it can also be irritating and dangerous. For example, trip-and-fall accidents may happen if tiny dogs always follow their owners’ movements, and velcro dogs are also prone to emotional problems such as anxiety. 

According to Dr. Joanna Pendergrass (2019), a veterinarian, dog clinginess is often a learned behavior. Thus, most velcro dogs are not innate, and there are several possible reasons why they acquired that behavior. 

12 Reasons Why Your Dog Is So Clingy

Below are some of the reasons why your dog is clingy. Knowing the reasons why a dog is clingy is helpful in addressing and correcting their behaviors.

1. Learned Behavior

Dogs can be very clingy because of the way their humans interact with them. If you always let them be beside you and give them praise or treats every time they come near you, this can make your dogs codependent with you. Thus, they will start to develop a sense of need to be with you all the time

2. Aging or Illness 

As dogs grow older, they can develop different health problems like hearing and vision loss, poor sense of smell, and overall weak physical health. With this, they can have trouble identifying and navigating their surroundings, so they need constant assistance and companionship from their owners. 

3. Stress

There are two reasons why stress can cause dog clinginess. First, when dogs are stressed, being with their humans can be their sense of coping mechanism. And secondly, if dogs sense that their owners are stressed, they become more clingy as a way to comfort them.

4. Breed Traits

Some breed traits are naturally more clingy than the other dog traits. Some examples of these are Shih Tsuzs, Labrador Retrievers, Maltese, Hungarian Vizslas, and working dogs. Working dogs can be extra clingy because they have the training to be dependent and disciplined, and they always rely on the orders and guidance of their owners. 

5. Separation Anxiety

Dogs can be so clingy because of the fear of abandonment by their owners. Dogs with separation anxiety always want to be with their owners and they tend to feel stressed and anxious if they are not with them. 

6. Seeks Companionship

Most dog breeds, being domesticated for a long time, always seek companionship from their owners. In addition, dogs have this natural “pack” and “following the leader” instincts; therefore, they view their owners as their leaders, resulting in following them everywhere. 

7. Estrus

Estrus can be another reason why dogs can be very clingy. It refers to the part of a dog’s reproductive cycle on which a female dog can get pregnant. According to Llera and Yuill (n.d), “A dog that is in the estrus stage is said to be in heat or season.”  –  this explains why your dog becomes more clingy during this period. 

8. Emotional Trauma

Dogs who experienced emotional trauma, especially those from an abusive environment, sometimes have a fear of being left out by their humans, so they follow them everywhere to ensure that they will not leave them. Dogs experiencing postpartum depression can become more attached to their owner.

9. Boredom

If dogs do not have much entertainment and activity to focus on, they become more clingy and attached to you since they do not have other things to do. With this, they tend to follow your every move and be with you as their main source of activity. 

10. Curiosity

Dogs are always curious about everything and everybody – especially about their human companions. By this, they tend to always stick around their owners to know what they are doing, what they are up to, and many more.

11. New Environment

A new environment or home can cause unfamiliarity and stress to dogs, so it is expected for them to be more clingy and dependent on their owners until they have fully adjusted to their new surroundings.

12. Vision or Hearing Changes

Since dogs heavily rely on their sharp vision and hearing senses, changes and loss of these senses can severely affect their daily life and routine. Thus, they became more dependent on their owners. 

What Is The Difference Between Separation Anxiety and Velcro Dogs?

Most people confuse the difference between dogs with separation anxiety and velcro dogs – they usually see them as one. However, both have their distinct characteristics and signs. 

Separation anxiety among dogs is the fear of being left alone by their owners. According to the American Kennel Club, the most distinct difference between velcro dogs and separation anxiety is that velcro dogs just want to always be with their owners. Meanwhile, dogs with separation anxiety want to be with their owners, or they will suffer from anxiety attacks and stress

Here are the signs of separation anxiety and velcro dogs to further understand their differences: 

Signs of velcro dogs: 

  • Follow your step-by-step movements, and follow you everywhere you go. 
  • Always stay in your lap or cling to your leg
  • They watch you every time and always want you to be within their line of sight

Signs of separation anxiety:

  • Mild symptoms include panting, pacing, destructive chewing, and for brief periods, clawing, barking, and whimpering.
  • For moderate symptoms, dogs choose not to eat if they are separated from their owners. 
  • Severe signs include self-mutilation like licking and biting themselves and escape attempts that sometimes result in injuries. 
  • Other symptoms can be excessive drooling and getting overly excited every time you come home. 

Remember that dogs experiencing severe signs of separation anxiety need pharmacological and veterinarian intervention to address their problem effectively. 

How to Help Your Dog Be Less Clingy

As mentioned, clingy dogs are made, not born. Therefore, pet-owners can find ways to help their dogs be less clingy, and below are some of the things pet-owners can do: 

Teach Some “Stay” Commands

If your dog follows you from room to room, teach them some “stay” commands like keeping a distance from you and staying in one place. With this, dogs can develop the habit of not following you around. Giving them praises and treats during the training is also helpful. 

Play Games That Encourages Them To Go

Playing games with your dog that incorporate keeping a distance like hide-and-seek and fetching can help in making your dog less clingy. These game activities help dogs appreciate having distance from you. Also, giving them chew toys is good since they can have something to focus on aside from following you. 

Increase Physical Exercises

Increasing your dog’s physical exercises can help them be less clingy. With exercising, your dog can have other things to do and will tire them enough to follow you around. Exercise can also improve your dog’s physical and mental health.  

Provide Mental Stimulation

Giving your dog some toys and independent activities that promote interaction and brain stimulation can help them not to feel bored and have fun on their own. This activity will also encourage them to have fun without the participation of their owners. 

Create a Safe Space

Provide a safe and entertaining space for your dog. This space will contain your dog’s favorite toys, their most comfortable bed, and some snacks. Creating a safe space for your dog is very helpful in stopping them from following you every time.

Desensitize Your Dog to Your Movements

Since your dog has already grown acquainted with your daily routine, like going to the kitchen to get food and giving treats when they go with you, desensitizing your dog to your movements can make your dogs see these activities as something normal. Thus, reducing their habit of following you every time you do those things. 

Check With Their Vet or Behaviorist

If your dog’s clinginess is due to health issues like separation anxiety and emotional trauma, it is best to have a consultation with your vet or behaviorist. Severe separation anxiety requires professional intervention for proper treatment. 

Avoid Petting Them Too Much

If you have the habit of petting your dog every time they come near you, you are helping them develop a habit of always being dependent and clingy with you. Avoiding petting your dogs too much when they come to you helps in teaching them to be less clingy

There are several reasons why dogs are clingy. Some of these are human-dog interactions, stress and anxiety, lack of physical activities, breed traits, new environment, and more. It is important to know these reasons since it will help you in addressing and understanding their behavior.

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