Is your normally independent dog suddenly following you from room to room?
Perhaps your furry friend is whining when you shut your door at night to go to sleep, and you don’t know why.
A change in your dog’s behavior should raise some red flags, especially when there’s no apparent reason.
And as a pet owner, it’s your responsibility to figure out the reason.
So what might be causing your dog’s sudden clinginess?
This behavior can occur for many reasons, ranging from minor issues to more serious ones.
Let’s take a look at some common reasons your dog is clingy.
1. Your Dog Is Bored
Dogs get bored just like humans do, which is one of the most typical reasons for bad behavior.
Dogs need mental stimulation, play, and exercise, and when they don’t get it, they seek entertainment in other places.
Sometimes they amuse themselves with destructive behavior, like digging holes in your yard or destroying furniture.
But other times, they employ a different tactic:
they latch onto you.
Clinginess is an easy way for your dog to communicate that they need attention.
So if your otherwise easy-going dog suddenly won’t leave your side, they may simply be bored.
Luckily, boredom is an easy issue to fix.
Start by addressing your pup’s physical needs by ensuring they’re getting enough exercise (talk to your vet or breeder about what those are if you’re unsure).
Take your pup out for daily walks, and let them sniff and explore as much as they like to stimulate their minds.
Then address her mental needs.
Buy an interactive game or two for mental stimulation, and encourage a brain workout with activities like tug-o-war or hide and seek.
Training is another way to keep your dog occupied, so teach them new commands or tricks to perform for fun.
2. Your Dog Has Separation Anxiety
Clingy dogs, sometimes referred to as velcro dogs, prefer to be close to their owner at home.
But sometimes velcro dogs develop hyper attachment to their own owners, so it’s critical to distinguish between a clingy dog and one that has separation anxiety.
Sudden clinginess may point to a more serious issue, so pay attention to how your dog reacts when you leave.
If they experience anxiety or panic when they see it’s impossible to follow you around, they likely have separation anxiety.
So how do you tell the difference?
Pups with separation anxiety may exhibit many of the follow behaviors:
- Visible anxiety as you get ready to leave
- Barking or crying when you’re away
- Destructive behaviors (chewing on household objects that they normally wouldn’t)
- Doing their business inside the house when you’re gone
Addressing separation anxiety could be the subject of a whole other blog, but here are some ideas to help soothe anxious dogs.
- Place old clothing of yours in your dog’s bed; your smell can be comforting to them while you’re away.
- Giving your dog extra attention when they’re clingy can encourage this behavior. Try to use positive reinforcement to encourage healthier habits instead.
- Offer your dog a puzzle or a treat-dispensing toy to keep them busy.
- Don’t pay attention to your dog upon arriving home. Ignoring them for a few minutes takes away the excitement they feel when you open the door.
- Talk to your vet. Overly anxious dogs may require medication.
3. Your Dog Is Sick
When dogs are sick, they may seek extra care and attention, which makes perfect sense.
Humans also need more TLC when we don’t feel well.
For an animal, being sick can be even more confusing.
Keeping close to the person they trust the most helps them feel more secure.
There are also studies that show that epileptic dogs exhibit more clingy behavior right before an episode.
So if your normally independent canine suddenly won’t leave your side, pay attention.
They may be suffering from an illness and need veterinary attention.
If you suspect your pet is sick, make an appointment to see your vet as soon as possible.
4. Your Dog Is Getting Older
Dogs experience many of the same issues humans do as they get older, like loss of vision or hearing.
They slowly lose the ability to get around the way they used to, and this process is probably just as scary for them as it is for us.
Some dogs respond to these age-related issues by becoming clingy.
They are frightened and merely need more support navigating their environment.
As dogs get older, their care needs change.
Speak with your vet about how best to support your dog in their older years.
The vet can determine if something more serious is going on, and they will also help you manage your dog’s needs.
Keep in mind that at this stage, it may be difficult to reduce clinginess.
Instead, you want to focus on making your dog more comfortable.
5. Your Dog’s Routine Has Changed
Dogs love routine, which makes it easy for them to know what to expect.
For example, feeding your dog at the same time every day and taking them for regular walks creates a feeling of security.
Any changes to their routine, as minor as they may seem to you, can make your dog feel insecure–and lead to clingy behavior.
Even something as simple as coming home from work an hour later can be a catalyst.
And of course, big changes–such as having a new partner or baby in the house, moving, or getting a new animal–can be quite disruptive.
So if you can’t seem to get your dog off your heels, consider whether their routine has been upended.
They may be feeling insecure about the disruption and acting out because of it.
If you discover changes in your dog’s routine, the fix is easy–stick to the new one and allow your dog some time to get used to it.
It shouldn’t take them long to adapt.
6. Your Dog Is in Heat
If your female dog is more affectionate and needy than usual, she may be in heat.
Like her human counterparts, female dogs experience hormonal changes that affect their behavior.
These hormonal changes are often accompanied by physical pains that cause dogs to seek comfort.
Here are some ways to tell if your dog is in heat:
- Frequent urination
- Tension or aggression
- Higher than usual interest in male dogs
If breeding is not part of your plan, the best way to avoid this behavior is to have your dog spayed.
Otherwise, understand that these changes in behavior are a normal part of a dog’s cycle.
7. Your Dog Is Going to Give Birth
It’s not uncommon for dogs to become clingy right before they are going to give birth.
Giving birth is stressful and exhausting, and being close to her favorite person helps calm your dog.
So instead of seeing this behavior as a negative, try to see clinginess as a sign of how much they trust you.
Dogs need support while giving birth just like humans do.
Try to spend as much time as possible with her until the puppies are born.
If you can’t be at home during this time, enlist the help of a friend or family member, or even your vet.
8. Your Dog Has Abandonment Issues
Our life experiences shape our personality and outlook on life, and the same is true for dogs.
If you’ve had a dog since it was a puppy, you are familiar with their history.
But in the case of shelter dogs, it’s often impossible to know where–or with whom–they’ve been.
And many dogs that end up in shelters have experienced trauma.
There are many reasons for the trauma shelter dogs suffer from.
They may have been left to fend for themselves, or they may have been through several homes before living with you.
Far too many experience abuse.
All of these reasons can cause some pets to be extra clingy when they reach their forever home.
Many are scared to be abandoned or mistreated again.
Because there is often no way to know where shelter dogs have been, patience is critical.
Aside from love and affection, adopted pets often need time to adjust to their new surroundings.
Establish a routine with set meal-times and walk times, and begin training using positive reinforcement.
Over time, this love and affection will help your dog see that they can trust you.
Though sudden clingy behavior can be annoying, in most cases, it’s easy to remedy.
Ensuring your dog gets enough exercise, mental stimulation, and socialization will keep most pups happy.
However, clinginess can sometimes be a sign of something more serious, so when in doubt, consult your vet.
And remember–dogs can’t use their words to tell you how they’re feeling, so they use their behavior.
Pay close attention, and be the advocate your pup needs you to be.