Why is my dog so clingy? How can I get him to leave my side and be more independent? I can’t take a shower, or sit on the couch with a loved one without my pooch demanding attention and following my every move.
– Ritika Chopra, Noida
You may have what’s called a “Velcro dog.” Let’s find out what this means and whether you should be worried about your dog’s clingy behaviour. Although clingy dog behaviour can be endearing, it can also be frustrating, especially when your dog just won’t leave you alone—even for a minute! There are some strategies that you can try to help your dog detach from you and build self-confidence. Showing your dog that other humans are just as nice as you will help them detach from you. Let your dog bond with other people in your home by having another person feed, play with, train, or walk your dog. If you live alone, you can still have friends come over and interact with your dog. Velcro dogs want to keep an eye on you everywhere you go, so it’s important to show your dog that the world won’t end if you’re out of their sight. You can do this by setting boundaries. For example, shutting the door when you use the bathroom or go to another room, and then come back within a few minutes. This training may take a while, but your dog will learn that just because they can’t see you doesn’t mean you’ve abandoned them. Anxious dogs will do anything from whining, to inappropriate elimination in the house to get your attention. A way to correct this is to not reward your dog for needy behaviors. For example, if you leave a room, and your dog starts to cry, don’t reward the behavior by consoling him. Rewarding negative behaviors will only enforce attention-seeking behaviors. It’s OK if you don’t talk to your dog all the time, or constantly give him attention and cuddling. You can teach your dog to occupy himself while you’re at home by encouraging independent activities like offering chew toys or doggy puzzles. This way, your dog can learn to entertain himself with these same activities while you’re gone. If you have a “Velcro dog,” they may know what getting your briefcase, or jingling your car keys means, and this can cause anxiety. Helping to desensitise your dog to these actions can make leaving your home less stressful for both you and your dog. You can help relieve your dog’s anxiety by not making leaving a big deal, and to practice those rituals often without leaving. For example, grab your car keys, put on your coat and grab your bag several times each day without leaving. Soon your dog will eventually learn to stop associating these tasks with you leaving. If you have done everything under the sun to try to get your dog from following you everywhere, and experiencing anxiety if you leave the home, call a behaviorist. Veterinarians specializing in animal behavior can give you tools and counseling to help you and your “Velcro dog.”