Do You Have A Velcro Dog?
Dogs are pack animals, and you are their leader. It is natural for your dog to want to follow you everywhere. While some dogs follow their owners everywhere they go out of sheer love, sometimes the reason why dogs stick to their owners like velcro is because of anxiety. Is your dog afraid to let you out of their sight? Here is how to tell if your dog is following you out of anxiety and if so, what you should do to help your dog feel less anxious and give you some space.
Some Dogs Are Bred To Be Velcro Dogs
Many dog breeds, especially smaller “lap dogs,” are particularly fond of following their person everywhere. These smaller dogs were bred specifically to be companion dogs, which means they are more dependent on you. A few breeds that fall under this category include Italian Greyhounds, Chihuahuas, Pugs, and French Bulldogs. Many herding dogs, such as German Shepherds and Australian Cattle Dogs, often become one person dogs, as they were historically bred to follow the commands of one person. Bigger dogs, such as Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers, have also been bred to be the best companion they can, so they will likely follow you anywhere you go (yes, including the bathroom).
Your Dog Follows You Due To Reinforcement
Your dog loves you, plain and simple. Your dog most likely associates you with pleasant or positive experiences, such as getting treats, belly rubs, and attention. Once your doggo knows that you are a provider of all things great, it is natural for them to follow you everywhere in hopes of receiving some of this positive reinforcement.
There Are Benefits To Your Dog Following You
While your dog may trip you up once in a while getting under your feet, there are clear benefits to having a velcro pup. Studies have shown time and time again that having a dog around greatly reduces human stress and helps stave off depression. There are health benefits for your dog, too; by being around someone who loves them as much as you do, their stress levels are lowered. Being around you all the time also helps your dog get to know you better – this means that they will be able to better interpret your actions and inflections, leading to a stronger relationship.
When Following Becomes A Problem
Having your dog follow you everywhere can be a great and rewarding experience, but there are times when it can become troublesome. If your dog follows you and only you and refuses to interact with other humans, this is a sign of high anxiety in your dog. They may cry or pace anxiously if you – their one human – is not in their sight. To help an overly anxious dog learn to not be with you 24/7, you can set up a few parameters:
Socialize Your Dog With Other Humans
Showing your dog that other humans have as much value as you will help them slowly detach from your feet. Let your dog bond with other people in your home by having the other person feed, play with, train, or walk your dog. Live by yourself? Have friends come over and shower your pup with affection.
Hyper-attached pets want to keep an eye on you everywhere you go. Show your dog that the sky won’t fall when you are out of their eyesight by setting up boundaries. For example, putting up a baby gate up between rooms will show your dog that just because they can’t be within a six inch radius of you, they are still safe and you will come back. Shut the door when you use the restroom or enter another room, and then return again in a short period of time. Slowly but surely, your dog will learn that just because they cannot see you doesn’t mean you are gone forever.
Do Not Reward Whining Or Other Destructive Behaviors
Anxious dogs will do anything from whine to eliminate in the house to seek out your attention. If you leave the room and your dog starts crying, do not run back to them to console them. This is simply teaching your dog that if he whines/scratches/uses another negative attention seeking behavior, they will get what they want. Do not reward the behavior.
Desensitize Your Pup To Your Departure
If you have an anxious velcro dog, they probably associate the jingle of your keys with your absence. Getting rid of these associations will help desensitize your dog to your departures, making every morning you leave for work a lot less stressful. Work on making your leaving rituals – such as grabbing keys, putting on your coat, or turning off the lights – a nonchalant event in your dog’s mind by performing these tasks every few minutes and then not leaving. Your dog will learn to not associate these tasks strictly with your leaving.
Don’t Shower Your Dog With Attention All The Time When You Are Home
If you are playing with, sitting next to, or talking to your dog all the time you are with them, there will be a stark difference once you are gone. Make the difference between your presence and absence less of a big deal by encouraging self-rewarding activities, such as chew on a safe toy or play with a doggy puzzle, so your dog learns how to entertain themselves.
If All Else Fails, Consult A Behaviorist
If you have done everything in your power for your pup who is terrified of having you out of their sight, it might be time to call in a behaviorist. Behaviorists are trained on helping dogs with separation anxiety, and given your dog’s individual case, they will be able to offer behavior modifications to help your dog be more at ease.