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Why Is My Dog So Clingy?

Does your dog always follow you around, never leaving your side? Is their attention always focused on you? 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 behavior.

What Are Velcro Dogs?

If you answered “yes” to any of the previous questions, it's likely that you have a clingy dog. Some refer to clingy dogs as “Velcro dogs” because it’s as if your dog is attached to you, just like the VELCRO® brand fasteners. Although clingy dog behavior can be endearing, it can also be frustrating, especially when your dog just won't leave you alone—even for a minute!

Why Is My Dog So Clingy?

There are several reasons why your dog may be clingy. It may just be a learned behavior, or it may be a sign of an issue. The best option is to make an appointment with your veterinarian so you can work together to determine the cause for your dog’s clinginess. Here are some common reasons why dogs can be clingy:

Learned Behavior

Clinginess in dogs is often a learned behavior. Dogs learn this behavior from humans by the way we interact with them. If you always give your dog food when they follow you into the kitchen, or you pet them every time they lie next to you, you're teaching them that following you leads to some type of reward. If you give puppies constant attention when they're developing, they can become fearful of being alone and subsequently never want to leave your side.

Illness or Aging

Older dogs with vision or hearing loss, or those experiencing cognitive decline, can suddenly become clingy because their world is becoming unfamiliar to them. Dogs who are ill or bored can also become clingy. Talk to your vet to understand what might be causing the sudden clingy behavior.

Anxiety and Stress

Dogs who have anxiety issues often develop clingy behaviors. Interestingly, dogs can also become clingy if they sense our stress or anxiety. Changes in the daily routine or home environment can cause dogs stress, leading them to seek comfort by staying close to their owners.

Clingy Dog Breeds

As if all of these reasons weren't enough, some dog breeds are prone to clinginess. For example, lapdogs like Shih Tzus tend to be needy. Working dogs, who are trained to be dependent on their handlers, can also become clingy.

Separation Anxiety

Clinginess in dogs can also signal a bigger behavioral problem: separation anxiety. It’s important to know how to differentiate between a clingy dog and a dog with separation anxiety so you know how to best manage the behavior. Clinginess and separation anxiety are similar but not exactly the same. Generally, what separates them is how a dog reacts to being away from their person or people. Clingy dogs want to be around you when you're at home, but they don't panic when you're not there. A dog with separation anxiety panics when you're not around. Separation anxiety causes dogs to engage in destructive, anxious behavior when left alone, such as incessant whining, pacing, destructive chewing, and urinating or defecating in the home. Clinginess becomes a problem when it progresses to separation anxiety. If a clingy dog starts becoming anxious or panicky when left alone, it's time to suspect separation anxiety and seek professional behavioral help. A veterinary behaviorist can help you implement behavioral modifications to reduce the anxiety. Fortunately, not all clingy dogs develop separation anxiety.

How to Help Your Dog Be Less Clingy

If you have a clingy dog without separation anxiety, there are ways you can teach them to become more independent. Here are several strategies that can help reduce a dog's clinginess:

Increase Exercise

A good bout of physical activity will tire your dog enough to where they have little interest in following you around. Make sure the exercise is appropriate for your dog’s age and health history. Consult your veterinarian for appropriate exercises for your dog.

Stimulate Their Mind

A bored dog may become clingy because they don't have anything better to do. Interactive toys keep dogs mentally stimulated and encourage independent play.

Create a Special Space

Set up a space with your dog's bed and favorite toys where your dog can go instead of following you around. Train your dog to go to this area with a cue like, "Go to your special space," and immediately reward them with a treat when they go there.

Desensitize Your Dog to Your Movements

Your dog has probably associated certain movements (e.g., going to the kitchen, grabbing your keys) with you rewarding or leaving them. To "normalize" these movements, practice doing them without actually going through with the normal activity that goes with them. For example, go to the kitchen and start sweeping instead of getting food out, or grab your keys and turn on the TV instead of leaving the house. Eventually, your dog will learn that your movements don't warrant much or any attention.

How to Help Clingy Senior Dogs

Aging dogs with vision loss can sometimes benefit from adding night-lights in dark areas. Also, keep the general setup of your home and furniture the same. Dogs with sight loss tend to learn their way around their environment through their other senses but can get confused when even a chair is in a different place. Certain foods and supplements have been shown to help with cognitive function in dogs, such as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Finally, puzzle toys and other methods of mental stimulation have been proven to stimulate neurons in the brain, supporting cognitive function. If these strategies do not reduce your dog's clinginess, consult either your veterinarian or a veterinary behaviorist for further guidance.

Clinginess and Its Connection to Your Dog’s Behavior and Well-Being

Understanding the root cause of your dog's clinginess is crucial for addressing the behavior appropriately. Clinginess can be a sign of various underlying issues, from simple habit formation to more serious health or psychological problems. Identifying and addressing the cause can improve both your dog's well-being and your own peace of mind.

Clinginess Due to Health Problems

In some cases, clinginess can be a sign of underlying health problems. Dogs who are feeling unwell may seek comfort and reassurance from their owners. It's important to monitor your dog's overall health and behavior and consult your veterinarian if you notice any changes. Common health issues that can cause clinginess include:

  • Pain or Discomfort: Dogs in pain may become more clingy as they seek comfort from their owners.

  • Infections: Certain infections, such as urinary tract infections, can cause changes in behavior, including increased clinginess.

  • Neurological Issues: Conditions affecting the nervous system can lead to changes in behavior and increased dependence on their owners.

  • Endocrine Disorders: Disorders such as hypothyroidism can cause behavioral changes, including clinginess.

Behavioral Training and Desensitization

Behavioral training and desensitization can be effective tools for reducing clinginess and promoting independence in your dog. By gradually exposing your dog to situations where they need to be alone and rewarding them for calm behavior, you can help them build confidence and reduce their dependence on you.

Gradual Desensitization

Gradual desensitization involves slowly increasing the amount of time your dog spends alone. Start with short periods and gradually increase the duration as your dog becomes more comfortable. Always reward your dog for remaining calm during these periods.

Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is a key component of behavioral training. Reward your dog for independent behavior with treats, praise, or play. This encourages them to engage in activities on their own and reduces their reliance on you for constant attention.

The Role of Routine and Structure

Establishing a consistent routine and structure can help reduce clinginess in dogs. Dogs thrive on routine and knowing what to expect can help them feel more secure and less anxious.

Consistent Feeding and Exercise Schedule

Maintaining a consistent feeding and exercise schedule helps your dog know when to expect certain activities, reducing anxiety and promoting a sense of stability.

Regular Alone Time

Incorporate regular periods of alone time into your dog's routine. This can help them become more comfortable being alone and reduce their clinginess.

Environmental Enrichment

Providing environmental enrichment can keep your dog mentally and physically stimulated, reducing boredom and the need for constant attention. Here are some ways to enrich your dog's environment:

Interactive Toys

Interactive toys, such as puzzle feeders and treat-dispensing toys, can keep your dog engaged and entertained. These toys challenge your dog's problem-solving skills and encourage independent play.

Sensory Enrichment

Providing sensory enrichment, such as different textures, sounds, and scents, can keep your dog engaged and reduce boredom. Rotate toys and introduce new scents and textures to keep your dog's environment interesting.

Social Interaction

Social interaction with other dogs and people can reduce your dog's reliance on you for companionship. Arrange playdates with other dogs or take your dog to a dog park to provide opportunities for socialization.

Managing Separation Anxiety

If your dog's clinginess is due to separation anxiety, it's important to address the underlying anxiety. Here are some strategies for managing separation anxiety:

Create a Safe Space

Create a safe and comfortable space for your dog to stay while you're away. This can be a crate, a specific room, or a designated area with their bed and favorite toys.

Gradual Departures

Practice gradual departures by leaving for short periods and gradually increasing the time you're away. Always return before your dog becomes anxious and reward them for staying calm.

Calming Aids

Calming aids, such as pheromone diffusers, calming collars, or supplements, can help reduce anxiety in dogs. Consult your veterinarian for recommendations on appropriate calming aids for your dog.

Professional Help

If your dog's separation anxiety is severe, seek help from a veterinary behaviorist or a professional dog trainer. They can provide guidance and develop a customized behavior modification plan for your dog.

Building Confidence in Your Dog

Building your dog's confidence can help reduce clinginess and promote independence. Here are some ways to build confidence in your dog:

Training and Obedience

Training and obedience exercises can build your dog's confidence and improve their behavior. Teaching basic commands and engaging in regular training sessions can provide mental stimulation and strengthen your bond with your dog.

Agility and Sports

Agility and dog sports can boost your dog's confidence and provide physical and mental exercise. Participating in activities such as agility, flyball, or nose work can help your dog develop new skills and build self-assurance.


Proper socialization with other dogs, people, and environments can increase your dog's confidence and reduce anxiety. Expose your dog to different situations and environments in a controlled and positive manner to build their confidence.


Understanding the reasons behind your dog's clinginess is essential for addressing the behavior effectively. Whether it's due to learned behavior, health issues, anxiety, or breed tendencies, identifying the cause can help you implement appropriate strategies to reduce clinginess and promote independence. By providing proper training, enrichment, routine, and professional guidance, you can help your dog become more confident and less reliant on you for constant attention. Remember, every dog is unique, and finding the right approach may take time and patience. Working closely with your veterinarian and considering your dog's individual needs will ensure the best outcomes for both you and your furry companion.

Why Is My Dog So Clingy?
Why Is My Dog So Clingy?


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