We love dogs because of how affectionate they are. They truly are Man’s Best Friend (woman’s too!). But sometimes they can feel like a smothering high school girlfriend or boyfriend… that’s when you know you have a Velcro Dog!
When you get a dog, you image snuggling on the sofa or taking a walk together in the woods. What you don’t image is not being able to go to the bathroom without them following you! Or tripping over them when you are cooking in the kitchen because they always have to be within 6 inches of you.
If you are getting fed up with having a 24/7 shadow, then these 7 tips for coping with a velcro dog will help!
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What is a Velcro Dog
So what exactly is a velcro dog? It basically means a dog who is always glued to your side! The uber-clingy dog!
A velcro dog will constantly follow you around. If you go to the bathroom… they go with you! If you get up to get a drink… they follow you to the kitchen. At night they sleep as close to you as possible!
Normally people joke about it (like this funny 15 Things Only People with Velcro Dogs will Understand) – seeing a paw try to sneak under the bathroom door, after all, is very funny! But after a while it’s just not funny anymore!
Is it bad to have a velcro dog?
We all love spending time with our dogs (hey, that’s why we got them!), but sometimes you need space on your own. Maybe you need to have a serious conversation with your spouse (or just want some “adult time”!). Or you’ve had a stressful day at work and just want to be alone for a while. And I believe we all deserve the right to poop on our own without a doggy spectator!
It can also be dangerous for you and your dog if they follow you everywhere. If you are cooking and turn around with a hot pan, the last thing you need is a dog at your heels. If you are carrying something heavy or walking up and down stairs, there’s a real risk of tripping over a velcro dog.
So what’s the answer? You don’t want to shut your baby in a different room or crate but you also don’t want them dogging your heels where ever you go (pun intended!).
Why is my dog a Velcro Dog?
You might wonder how your dog became this clingy monster? Well, it is probably a combination of nature and nurture.
There are many reasons why your dog might be clingy and sometimes we can’t even figure out why they behave like that.
Some of the more common reasons are:
Some breeds of dog have been developed to be more clingy than others. Lapdogs, for instance, have been bred to have a close bond with their own. After all their original purpose was to help keep their owner warm – so we bred dogs who naturally sit close to their owners.
Some working breeds can also be velcro dogs. They have been bred to be very intuned with their owner and watch them closely for commands. A good shepherd dog will instinctively watch its handler to anticipate the next command. This is a very desirable trait in a working dog, but not so necessary at home.
As dogs get older they become more reliant on their owners. Maybe their eyesight or hearing is getting worse? Or they are more fearful of their environment?
The older a dog gets, the more clingy it can get and really, who can argue with that?!
If your dog suddenly becomes very clingy, then you might want to get them checked out by a vet. We know what it’s like when we’re not feeling well – we want the attention and company of those we love. Dogs are just the same.
My little dog, Boomer, recently had an upset stomach and all she wanted to do was sit on my lap… not easy when I’m trying to work at the computer. However, with some dog diarrhea home remedies, she was feeling better in no time and I was able to get back to working like normal!
Sometimes a change in routine, environment or even just new people in the house, can trigger the velcro response in dogs!
If you’ve recently moved house, changed your routine or have guests staying, then it’s not unusual for your dog to be more clingy than normal. They are just feeling unsure and need your reassurance.
Velcro dogs can also be created by OUR actions! When we first get a puppy or new dog, it’s very tempting to carry it around everywhere and always keep it by our side. However, that’s not always the healthiest thing to do.
We can unwittingly teach our dogs bad habits, by fussing on them too often. If we stop and pet our dog every time we walk past, then they will except that every time. If we don’t set firm boundaries when they are young, they will not know how to behave as they grow older.
Velcro Dog vs. Separation Anxiety
Separation Anxiety and being a velcro dog sometimes get mixed up. On the surface, they appear to be the same, but there are a few major differences.
Separation anxiety (as the name suggests) means your dog becomes extremely anxious when you leave (even just leaving the room) and will display anxiety behaviors that can be damaging to themselves or your home, such as chewing on things or howling.
A velcro dog on the other hand just wants to be with you when you are home. But when you are out, they are content to be by themselves.
It has been suggested that velcro dog type behaviors can be a predictor of a dog developing separation anxiety in the future. If left unchecked, the mild clingy behavior could escalate and become much more serious. That’s another reason why it’s important to address your dog’s clingy behavior early on.
Velcro Dog Characteristics
To compare the difference between a clingy dog and full-blown separation anxiety, let’s have a look at the characteristics of the two of them.
A velcro dog will exhibit all or some of the following behaviors:
- Following you around a room, or between rooms
- Always watching you and what you are doing
- Sitting/sleeping as close to you as the possibly can
- Highly attentive to your moods
- Tries to anticipate your movements
As you can see, none of these behaviors is particularly worrying, but they can get frustrating over time.
Separation Anxiety Characteristics
A dog with separation anxiety may not exhibit any of the velcro dog behaviors (but they often do). Their main behavior patterns are:
- Displays anxious behavior when you are about to leave, e.g. pacing, barking, panting etc.
- Barks, howls or whines when you leave them alone
- Chews, claws or scratches at things (doors or windows) after you have left
- Pees or poops (even when in a crate) if left alone
- Pants, drools or shows other signs of stress (like excessive shedding) when you leave
It is easy to see how these sorts of behaviors can be damaging to your pup’s health and mental wellbeing. In fact, separation anxiety is one of the top reasons why people contact dog trainers and behaviorists.
If you are experiencing separation anxiety with your dog, then I strongly recommend you check out the book, Don’t Leave Me! Step-by-Step Help for Your Dog’s Separation Anxiety by Nicole Wilde. It will give you a lot of useful and actionable tips for dealing with your dog’s separation anxiety.
How Do Your Deal With A Clingy Dog
As I’ve mentioned above, having a velcro dog might not seem to be that bad, but it can lead to more serious problems, so it’s important to deal with the problem sooner rather than later.
The 7 tips below should help wean your clingy dog off of you and help you both be a little more independent!
#1 – A Tired Dog is a Good Dog
A lot of dog behavior issues come down to one fact – dogs need to have exercise to burn off their excess energy.
If your dog excitedly follows you from room to room and is always eager to see exactly what you are doing, then it could be because they are restless. They are bored of sitting around all day and want to see if you are doing anything interesting.
If you give your dog at least one opportunity every day to burn off the extra energy, then they are likely to not be as interested in what you are doing. After all… A Tired Dog, is a Good Dog!
You can take them for a walk, a run, play fetch (this is also good for velcro dogs for another reason… see below), do agility or even a regular training session. Anything that is different and uses their mental and physical energy.
#2 – Boredom Busters
Bored dogs are more likely to be glued to your side too. When children are little and get bored they will often follow their parent around saying “I’m bored”!
When your dog is being clingy, it’s his way of saying the same thing! “I’m bored. Give me attention”!
Finding ways to amuse your dog (without your direct interaction) will help them stay busy and less likely to obsess over every little thing you are doing.
As most dogs are food motivated, a fun food game will keep you pooch amused for a lot of time. Try filling a Kong toy with their favorite treat or even their regular food (soak their kibble in water and then spoon into the Kong) or get an interactive treat ball.
There are dozens and dozens of interactive dog toys, so it’s worth looking around on Amazon and finding one that you think will appeal to your dog.
#3 – Stay Training
If you want to go to the bathroom but your dog insists on following you, then it might be helpful to teach your dog the ‘Stay’ or ‘Wait’ command.
Once you have taught your dog the stay command you can use it multiple times a day. As your dog starts to follow you, all you need to do is turn around and say “stay”. Over time, your dog will learn that he doesn’t need to follow you every time you go somewhere.
Just the process of teaching your dog to stay will also help with their clinginess. They will learn that even when you walk away, you will always be back (and normally with a yummy treat!).
I love Zak George’s positive training methods. He has a few videos about teaching dogs to stay. I like this one because he makes it easy!
#4 – Place Training
Place training is one of the key tools that I recommend to all dog owners. There are many times when you want your dog to stay in a particular spot.
The main difference between “Place” (or “Spot”, “Bed”) and “Stay”, is that when a dog is in “stay”, they will stay alert and normally in the sit position. With “place”, it is OK for your dog to relax (and even fall asleep!) as it is intended for a longer period of time.
I use my dogs’ beds as their ‘place’, but it can be anywhere. It is so helpful to be able to tell my dogs “place” and know they will go to their beds and stay there until I’m ready for them to move around again.
For example, if someone drops a glass and you don’t want your dog walking through broken glass. If you can send them to their ‘place’ it will keep them safe while you can quickly deal with the problem.
The advantage for velcro dogs is that you can get your dog to go to their ‘place’ while you are cooking, cleaning or moving around and you don’t want the tripping risk of having them under your feet.
#5 – Desensitize Your Dog
Desensitizing your dog might take a little longer, but it is a good permanent solution to your clingy dog.
You want to start slowly and show your dog that it’s OK for them to stay where they are and that they don’t have to follow you every time you move.
Practice moving a small amount and when your dog doesn’t move you can return to them and praise them. Over time increase the distance that you are moving until you can go across the room without your dog following.
It does take time and you need to use very small intervals and not go too far at once.
#6 – Play Fetch
Playing a game with your dog that teaches them that it’s OK (or even fun!) to be further away from you will help with their clingy behavior.
An excellent example of this is playing fetch. Start off by throwing the ball just a small distance and over time gradually increase the distance. Eventually, your dog will happily run to the other side of the yard without worrying about where you are!
If your dog isn’t interested in fetch, then it is actually relatively easy to teach. Some dogs pick it up quicker than others though.
A good game of fetch is also a great way to burn off your dog’s energy, so they are less likely to follow you out of boredom.
#7 – Share Responsibility
Some breeds of dogs (particular German Shepherds and other working breeds) sometimes bond very closely to just one member of the family. This isn’t a problem on its own, but sometimes that person wants a break from their dog’s constant attention!
It’s also healthier for your dog to bond with all members of the family. That way they will respect all members of the family as being part of the “pack”.
Dogs generally bond closest to the person that does the most for them. If Mom is the person that always feeds and walks Fido, then it’s no surprise that he will stick like glue to her! To help the dog accept the whole family it’s important that everyone takes a turn at dog care activities.
In my house, we take turns feeding the dogs, that way they don’t bug just one person when it’s dinner time (they bug everyone instead!).
If your dog is evenly bonded to all members of the family, then they are less likely to exhibit velcro dog behavior.
Live with it!
Hopefully, these tips will help you lessen your dog’s clingy tendencies. If you have tried all of these tips and your dog is still stuck on you, then you might have to admit that it’s just your dog’s personality!
After all, is it really so bad to be the center of someone’s world?