Dogs truly are man's best friend and beloved members of the family. Examining canine psychology, and the personalities of dogs overall, it's not hard to tell they feel the same way about humans. That's why, more than likely, your dog is always eager to spend as much time with you as possible. However, there may be instances when you wonder why your dog follows you everywhere. Simply put, it's in his genes. Dogs are genetically hard-wired to rely on their human counterparts, just as humans have depended on canines for centuries. Other factors that may contribute to a dog's follow behavior are boredom, hunger, and anxiety.
Breed and Genetics Play a Role
Not all dogs follow their owner everywhere, but quite a few breeds are genetically predisposed to being codependent on their pet parent. These breeds were domesticated by humans and have evolved, alongside their human counterparts, into who they are today. You'll often hear them referred to as 'velcro dogs,' because well, they stick to you like velcro. Even a solo escape to the bathroom can sometimes be difficult.
Because terrier breeds are known for their independence, the chances of them being 'velcro dogs' are slimmer than others, but not non-existent. Every dog is different, and it's vital to take that into account when questioning why your dog follows you everywhere you go.
Toy breeds, like chihuahuas, are genetically wired to be companions for humans. They will often bond to one person and follow that particular person closely. Herding dogs, like Border Collies, act similarly when it comes to following their best friend around. These breeds were bred to perform specific jobs, and they understand their pet parent fully.
All breeds have the potential to imprint on their human parent if brought home prior to 12 weeks of age. Puppies taken from their mother at a young age are more likely to view you as their 'parental' figure, and follow you closely throughout their life.
Dogs will frequently follow their owners around because they are rewarded with attention or positive interaction. Dogs will recall and repeat the behavior if following their pet parent around results in goodies, playtime, or some extra love.
Fear and Protection
Many dogs are terrified of loud noises, such as fireworks or thunderstorms, and may attach themselves to their pet parents during fearful times. Pet parents are a dog's safe place, and many see their family as a source of protection and safety.
Separation anxiety could be a contributing factor to your dog's shadow behavior. Dogs with separation anxiety tend to follow their pet parents around the house wherever they may roam. They panic when left alone or are unable to locate their human companion.
Observing your dog's body language might help you figure out whether their shadowing habit is caused by anxiety or simply a desire to be close to you.
Symptoms of general anxiety in dogs may include the following:
- Wide eyes
- Heavy panting
- Heightened levels of tension
- Loss of interest in food, toys, or other once-loved items
Reducing Shadow Behavior
The majority of the time, shadow behavior isn't a cause for concern. There are methods you can take to minimize your dog's clinginess if the behavior becomes overpowering or too extreme for you.
First and foremost, exercise is essential for your dog, as it provides both physical and mental stimulation. The expression "a tired dog is a happy dog" is completely accurate. If your dog's tendency to shadow you becomes stressful, you can supply your dog with anxiety management tools including puzzle toys and healthy treats to keep their mind occupied.
When to Visit the Veterinarian
Make an appointment with your veterinarian if your dog is normally quite independent but suddenly becomes overly attached. A change in demeanor could be related to a behavioral issue, but it's also possible that your dog is following you closely due to an underlying medical condition.
A veterinarian would likely conduct a thorough physical examination and obtain a blood panel to rule out any medical concerns. If medical explanations have been ruled out, your veterinarian may recommend that you seek the help of a canine behaviorist to guide you in managing your dog's newly found behavior.
Don't Be Afraid of Your Dog's Shadow
There's usually no need to be concerned if your dog has always followed your every move. Some dog breeds are more reliant on humans for their safety and happiness than others. Don't panic if your dog suddenly starts following you; however, this could be a cause for concern and should be addressed by your veterinarian. In most circumstances, unexpected shadow behavior is only a phase that will pass once your dog feels more at ease.