“My dog follows me everywhere” is a complaint we often hear from dog owners. The loyal dog eyes remain focused on you and disappear from sight? Then you immediately hear tripping legs behind you. Boss, where are you going?
But why do some dogs follow their owners everywhere? And can you unlearn this behavior? And how can you prevent this Velcro effect?
Contents of this article
Why does a dog follow his owner everywhere?
When a dog follows his owner everywhere, people often think of a sweet gesture. What a strong friendship you will think. Still, this behavior can be an important signal about the dog’s mental health.
Most four-legged friends occasionally show that they are happy to see their owner. Cuddle and play or an enthusiastic greeting when you come home from work in the evening. Cozy!
But there are dogs who have taken their desire of proximity to a new level.
Everyone knows one, such a four-legged friend who really wants to be with everything. Whether you are visiting, hanging the laundry or wanting to do a big message: the dog wants to sit there with its nose. Not always practical, of course.
The Velcro effect
Jokingly, these types are also called “Velcro dogs”. These are dogs that are attached to their owner as Velcro (English for “Velcro”). Often, they have a strong preference for one person.
Where does this urge to follow come from?
The importance of the gang
In order to answer the essence of this question, we have to go back to the basics of the behavior of our dogs. His ancestor, the Eurasian wolf, lived in troops. Such a flock gave the individual animal protection and a greater chance of food and survival.
In our modern dog, you still see this flock formation. Rarely do dogs live solitary, often they have a member of the same family with them or a friend.
When a dog comes to live in our house, all those present can become part of his “pack”. This can be people, but also other dogs and pets.
Causes of tracking behavior in your dog
So it pays to have others around you. But why does the dog only follow its owner, and not the other pets?
Imprint: the owner as a mommy
Many dogs live in our house from puppy on. There is a legal minimum of 7 weeks for this. But whether your puppy is 7 or 12 weeks old, at this age he is still very small.
Away from his mom, brothers and sisters, your puppy can start looking for something to hold on to. They find this support most easily with the person who takes over most of the care.
For example, an owner can become a mother figure, offering protection and security. So we shouldn’t lose sight of that, the puppy thinks!
Whether your new dog is a puppy, adult or senior, there is always one person in the house who arranges the most for him. When this person repeatedly ensures that the dog can empty his bladder, is fed and cuddled, your four-legged friend builds many positive associations with him. Thus, a connection is made between pleasant experiences and this particular person.
To be sure of these benefits, the dog concludes that he should stay as close to the caretaker as possible.
Eternal Following the boss, we see regularly occur in dogs that are selected from their breed characteristics for herding and intensive cooperation. They are very focused on the owner and would like to get their approval. Think of Border Collies, but also German Shepherds or Rottweilers.
And how about socializing?
For thousands of years the dog has lived side by side with humans. They found mutual benefits in their collaboration and learned to understand each other better. Both dogs and humans are group animals, and thus allow the other more easily than a solitary living animal.
We humans have later selected specific traits in the dog that score high on wanting to be with humans. Think of many of the Toy dog breeds, such as the Chihuahua, Shih Tzu and the Dwarfkeeshondje.
Expertise about the owner
No matter how much we learned from each other during the domestication process of the dog, we are not the same species. This regularly causes confusion in communication.
This means that we have to put a lot of energy in clear signals to each other.
But for the dog this is much more important than for his owner. After all, he is dependent on this person for his personal well-being.
So that sweet look that you regularly observe can indicate that he is trying to recognize patterns and recognizable signals in your behavior. This is how your dog becomes a real expert about his owner!
Does an affectionate dog have separation anxiety?
A dog can show sticky behavior to one person, to ensure protection and care. This can make it seem like the dog just thinks this person is really cool. Yet this is often the one that the dog gets the most from.
Do problems always arise when this person is not around the dog? And does a sticky dog always have separation anxiety?
Fortunately, this is not necessarily the case.
A dog may find it pleasant or beneficial to stay in your area, but the tracking behavior only becomes problematic when the dog is not here can stop. Whether it tries to avoid contact with other people or animals completely.
Yet it is important in all cases to start working with this behavior immediately. Do you do nothing or even encourage (perhaps unconsciously) the behavior? Then the dog can feel so insecure without direct proximity to the owner, that this can cause separation anxiety.
How can you stop following your dog?
When your dog can no longer live without you or no social contact initiates more with others, the tracking behavior has taken a problematic turn. That is why it is important to address this in the training. Preferably even before it really becomes a problem.
We can tackle this through three core themes: distraction, exercise and socialization.
The reinforced focus that your dog has developed towards his owner makes this problem in training more difficult and easier.
Easier, because the dog fully focuses on you. More difficult, because this attention can hardly be stripped from the owner. For this reason, this is exactly the starting point of training.
Make sure your dog builds positive associations in focusing on things other than the owner. Think of a delicious stuffed Kong, a crazy toy or interaction with another animal.
Stay in the same place, so that you are in sight for your dog. Is he well absorbed in his other occupation? Then you can start practicing with your own movement. This can be walking, but also just moving your foot.
The most important principle here is that your dog is rewarded by ignoring your activities.
Is your dog immediately standing up to follow you? Then calmly point out his irresistible activity and return to your place. Once your dog is distracted, try again.
Exercise makes perfect, where it is especially important to keep calm and clarity in the process. If the diversion exercise goes well, you can repeat it in other places. Let the interaction with others bring something positive, like a caress, a treat or a fun game.
These good experiences with interaction give your dog a basic socialization course. After all, practicing does not mean that every experience has to be positive for him by definition. Sometimes another dog does not feel like playing or people just walk on when your dog tries to make contact.
This is also an important lesson in the learning process of your dog.
This makes him part of the whole, but learns that he doesn’t always get the confirmation he asks for. Taking your dog to many different places over time and exercising will help him get a better picture of the large group that forms his environment.
And that is a lesson that will support him all his life !
Prevention of a sticky dog
In extreme compliance, prevention is of course better than cure. But how do you tackle this complicated concept from the ground up?
Be aware of the individual necessities that give your dog a comfortable environment for his natural behavior. Learn about his breed-specific features and try to discover his likes and dislikes. This is most easily made visible by observing your dog in many different situations, which is also an important part of his socialization.
Peace and regularity
More important than training and socialization, is peace and regularity. The busy human life is full of contradictions for your dog’s natural principles. Be his guide in the maze of events and rules so that he can find a clear red line in what is expected of him.
In order for your dog to have space to learn, he needs a calm, safe place where he can relax several times a day. In addition, a predictable pattern of important events, such as feeding time and walking, gives grip on the daily schedule.
Understanding is the basis for one of the most important properties of a healthy dog in balance: self-confidence.
Self-confidence gives gives your dog a chance to learn and helps prevent problems like anxiety and aggression. That is why it is important that you start building this from day one. Give your dog predictability, but challenge him to broaden his horizons and discover new things.
This will make you the best equal buddies!