Most people want companionship when they add a new dog to the family, but sometimes, you get more than you bargained for.
Some dogs seem to be gravitationally bound to their owner’s feet, making sure that they are always within petting distance.
While this type of shadowing behavior can be slightly irritating, it doesn’t necessarily represent a problem that requires correction. Besides, it’s kind of flattering!
Nevertheless, wee’ll offer some tips on how to stop this kind of behavior, dig in to some of the reasons why some dogs behave in this way, and explain which breeds are more susceptible to being “Velcro dogs.”
Reasons Your Dog Is Always Underfoot
Obviously your dog is following you because he plans on taking you out, stealing your life savings, and heading down to Mexico.
Kidding — that’s more cat-like behavior.
As with most other behaviors dogs exhibit, “shadowing” can have a number of root causes. You’ll need to decipher the reason your pup is always underfoot if you hope to stop the behavior.
- Your dog is anxious or afraid. Dogs, even large breeds, often seek comfort by staying very close to their owner. This can occur in direct response to a frightening event or as a basic part of your dog’s personality, if she is suffering from separation anxiety. In this case, you’ll want to work on building up your dog’s confidence to better improve their quality of life. An insecure dog is not a happy dog.
- Your dog is in pain. Dogs express pain in a number of different ways, including several that are not intuitive to their owners. While following behavior is not a common sign of pain, it deserves consideration in the interest of thoroughness.
- Your dog is trying to tell you something. Some dogs will follow you around to communicate. They may be hungry and trying to tell you it is dinner time, they may need to go out to the bathroom, or they may be trying to signal that Jimmy is trapped in the well! Some dogs may follow their owner around in an effort to play (aka “why do you love work more than you love me?).
- They are anticipating a delicious treat. Dogs that are frequently fed human foods become accustomed to watching your every move – particularly when food is involved! Whether you are preparing dinner or carrying some empty dishes to the kitchen, dogs used to getting human food will follow your every move.
- Your dog is just plain clingy. Some dogs just like to be right by their owner’s side; after all, they do consider you to be family. Although this type of behavior can manifest in any breed, it is more common in some breeds than others.
Similarly, dogs that sit on your feet or like to lean on you may be expressing some kind of anxiety or fear – or it could just be their way of saying “Hey, I love you!” Take note of any other behavior your pooch is displaying to decide if this action is a sign of affection or nervousness.
Strategies for Reclaiming Your Personal Space
To some extent, you’ll need to accept that your dog wants to follow your every move – remember that in an ideal world, your dog wants to be by your side 24/7! Try to take it as a compliment.
However, if you’re desperate to keep your dog at bay, you can try some of the strategies outlined below to help generate some much-needed elbow room.
- Teach your dog to wait in a designated area when instructed to do so. This could be her crate, the couch, her bed or even a designated place on the floor, but try to use a place from which she can see you at all times. If your dog likes to learn obedience commands and likes to please you, this can be an easy way to manage the situation.
- Stop feeding your dog table scraps. This can be a difficult feat to accomplish, as your spoiled pooch is sure to give you puppy eyes that are effective enough to warm Scrooge’s heart, but breaking this habit will often help alleviate some shadowing.
- Examine your dog’s need for exercise and attention. Your dog may follow you around because she is simply lonely or under stimulated. By just devoting a little more time to playtime each day, you may be able to curtail her tendency to follow you around. You can also keep your dog stimulated with puzzle toys, frozen Kongs, and other treat-dispensing toys.
- Ensure that your dog is not being frightened or intimidated by another family member or pet. In such cases, your dog is following you for the protection, rather than the companionship, you provide. You may be surprised how quickly following behaviors can disappear when these types of social factors are addressed.
Breeds Noted for Being Clingy
Some breeds tend to be more emotionally attached to their owners than others. Owners of the following breeds should probably get used to an ever-present companion, who will follow you through the house (and outside the house, if you let them).
Labs are loveable and fun companions, and they like to hang out with their owner as much as is possible. Even if you aren’t throwing their favorite toy, they’ll still want to be in your presence. However, labs are not often as snuggly as some other affectionate breeds, so while they’ll follow you everywhere, they’ll rarely try to sit in your lap.
Despite their formidable appearance, Rottweilers are quite sensitive and affectionate dogs who are happiest when in the company of their person. Additionally, because they retain some of their ancient cattle-herding instincts, Rottweilers frequently lean up against their owners while following them around the house.
Another intimidating-looking breed that is all gooey on the inside, Dobermans are essentially 80-pound lapdogs. Because of their large size, Dobermans can represent something of a trip-hazard to the owners they shadow.
A huge part of the reason golden retrievers are such popular dogs is their loving, affectionate demeanor; but they often want to share their ample reserves of love whether you want them to or not. Given their seemingly boundless energy and interest in whatever it is that you may be doing, you’ll just have to accept that your golden will follow you whenever he can.
As is common among most breeds that like to sit in your lap all day, pugs are quite the snuggle monsters, who are notorious followers. If they aren’t sitting in your lap, they’re walking alongside you, waiting for you to sit back down.
Honorable Mentions: Other Clingy Canines
Great Danes, Shetland sheepdogs, French bulldogs and German shepherds are also likely to follow you around the house and sit next to you on the couch.
Breeds That Give You Space
In contrast to the needy breeds listed above, some dogs are more comfortable wandering from your side. These breeds are better suited for owners with personal space issues or schedules that keep them out of the home for long periods of time.
Chows are infamous for their proud, distant personalities. Some owners actually compare their personalities to those of cats (presumably they don’t mean that as an insult), and your Chow will rarely follow you around underfoot like many other breeds do.
Basenjis can be affectionate and loyal to their families, but they are not a needy breed by any stretch of the imagination. They love to play and interact with their people, but they aren’t particularly interested in pleasing their masters, and they don’t mind doing their own thing.
A somewhat uncommon breed, American foxhounds are energetic and sweet members of the hound group. Fiercely independent, these dogs require plenty of socialization while young to ensure they bond strongly with their owners.
Originally developed as a fighting and guarding breed, Chinese Shar-Peis are often described as distant or aloof with people. Though they are an intelligent breed, they need an owner that exudes quiet confidence, to help keep them from developing undesirable behaviors.
While affectionate and charming in their own unique way, English bulldogs are not the type of dog to get up and follow you every time you hop off the couch to get a refill. They’re generally content to stay right where they are, and simply wait for you to come back.
Rescue and Mixed-Breed Dogs May Be Clingy or Distant
Many rescue dogs who’ve endured traumatic pasts may keep people – even beloved family members – at arm’s length. Many such dogs will eventually warm up to their owners and become more affectionate, but others never change their hyper-independent personalities.
Of course, other dogs with such pasts may exhibit the opposite tendency. These dogs may remain by your side like a nervous child hiding behind his mother’s dress. It’s easy to understand why mistreated dogs may live in a perpetual state of fear, so try to be extra patient when dealing with their clinginess.
Do you have a dog at home that follows you around like, to borrow a phrase, a lost puppy dog? Tell us all about it in the comments below. Let us know the breed and anything you’ve done to help alleviate the behavior.