We all know that dogs are very sociable pets. They love being around their human owners, often seeking both the attention and approval for all the things that they do. However, there are dogs that are extra clingy that they seem more like shadows of their human companions. Breeds like Labrador Retrievers, French Bulldogs, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, and Doberman Pinschers are super-clingy. But the real question is why certain dogs love to follow their owners anywhere and everywhere? In this article, we will explore this peculiar Velcro behavior in dogs a bit further, including its human and pet benefit. We’ll also look at that critical point when the shadowing has already gone too far.
Why Your Dog is Following You: The Reasons
For some pet parents, having their pet follow them wherever they go is somewhat touching and endearing. It goes to show that the relationship between this person and the pet is so strong that the dog does not want to separate from its owner. However, there are also those who find it annoying. Regardless of which side of the fence you are in this debate, it pays to understand some of the reasons why your dog loves to follow you around.
If you brought home your dog as a puppy, there is a good chance that it follows you around because of a phenomenon called “imprinting”. This presupposes that puppies can look to their human owners as the special someone who takes care of their needs. This includes feeding, cuddling, playing, and many others. Puppies see the activities that you do as their pet parent as something that their mother dogs do.
Imprinting in puppies occurs anytime between three weeks and six months of age. Hence, whoever plays an important role in their lives at this stage tend to secure the Velcro behavior in the puppy when it grows.
When the dog is already an adult, it will retain this shadowing behavior. Why? It knows that you are the one who gave it food when it was still a puppy. It also knows that you are the one who took time and effort to care for it. In the eyes of the puppy, you are its mother.
- Trait of the Breed
Known as Velcro dogs, there are some breeds that are notorious for staying beside their owners or handlers. Many of these are working dogs. This is quite understandable. These dogs know that the person is the one that is giving them a sense of purpose in their lives. He is the one who trains and guides them in their tasks.
That is why Labradors, German Shepherds, Dobermans, and Golden Retrievers are exceptional shadows of their human owners. It is a trait that is strong in the breed. That being said, the attachment of these breeds of dog is ingrained in their genes.
One of the possible reasons why your dog may not want to let you out of its sight is because of positive reinforcement. Whenever you train your pet, you give it treats, affection, and other “rewarding” things. It may follow you anywhere because it already knows you are the source of all “positive” things.
This extends well into other activities that you have with your pet. When you call its name and cuddle it, you are reinforcing the notion that you are the source of pleasurable things. The same is true when you let your pet dog sleep beside you. In such a situation, you are creating a dependency. You are reinforcing your pet dog’s need to follow you wherever you are and stay close to you.
In a household where there are different members, it is possible that the dog will display such clinginess to only one particular individual. The dog becomes fixated with this one person. It knows that this person is the one who takes it out for a walk. He is the one who gives it food and spends more time playing the dog’s favorite game.
Like working and herding dogs, there are breeds that are bred as companion dogs. Examples of these include the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Shih Tzu, Lhasa Apso, Yorkshire Terrier, and the Pekingese. While any dog can be a great companion, these breeds have a knack for showing their affection to their owners. They cannot wait to get picked up by their owners, so they tend to follow them around.
The main idea here is that some dogs prefer the companionship offered by humans than that which they can get from other dogs. Domesticated canines have somehow bonded well with their human owners in a way that draws parallelism to the bond between human parents and their children.
Benefits to the Dog
A dog that shadows or follows its owner tends to have a deeper understanding of the unique characteristics of its owner. Dogs have the uncanny ability to decipher the emotions of their human owners. They know if you are sad, happy, or in the mood for some playtime with them. Whenever you do something, they learn a little bit more about you and what you like.
They are able to form a more concrete idea of who you are to them. And they will not be able to do this if they will not follow you around. For dogs, following you is their chance to understand you better. This allows them to know what can make you happy or what things can get you angry. They can anticipate our actions. For example, they know it is already time for their everyday walk the moment we take their collar and leash from the cabinet. They also know that it is time for their favorite meals whenever they see us holding their food bowl.
By observing you up close and personal, dogs are able to distinguish a happy voice from an angry tone. As such, dogs are now the undisputed experts in the animal kingdom when it comes to deciphering human behavior. They may not be able to write essays about us, but dogs already know a great deal about their human masters.
Benefits to the Owner
Dogs following their owners not only benefit dogs themselves. This can benefit the pet owner, too. For example, because they will follow their respective owners, they can be instrumental in alleviating symptoms of depression. This is true for dog breeds that work as therapy dogs. They can make their human companions feel loved and appreciated. And while these animals cannot wipe away your tears, they can somehow provide their warm bodies to cuddle you.
Individuals who would like to lead a healthier lifestyle can also benefit from a Velcro dog. Many of these hounds love to run and perform other outdoor activities. You can run or jog with them or go on a hike through a forest trail. They will accompany you on your fishing adventures and keep you company in camping.
Dogs also need to walk at least 30 minutes twice a day. This alone is enough to help you stay healthy and fit. There are also dogs that can help detect certain diseases such as cancer. These dogs can then let you know if they “smell” something wrong with you. They serve as your early warning system for some of mankind’s deadliest diseases.
For all its worth, any interaction between dog and man is enough to reduce stress and anxiety levels. It can help improve mood. These alone are enough reasons to allow dogs to follow their human companions anywhere.
When Dog-Shadowing Behavior Becomes Pathologic
One has to understand that there is a very thin line between a clingy Velcro dog and a hound suffering from separation anxiety.
It is true that clingy dogs have a much higher risk of developing separation anxiety, this issue can affect almost any dog. Canine pets that are not socialized the proper way are also at risk of separation anxiety. This is true for dogs that have grown very attached to one specific person in the family. When this person leaves, the dog can grow very anxious. It can then display destructive behavior, including chewing and nuisance barking.
There are telltale signs of separation anxiety in dogs. Aggression is one of them. A dog can bark or growl. The pet is not accustomed to the idea of not having its favorite person around. This can be dangerous for other people as well as other dogs.
Other potential signs of separation anxiety in dogs include defecating and urinating in the house. This only happens when the important person is not around, of course. Anxious dogs can also damage or destroy your property. For most dogs with separation anxiety, however, they can go into depression.
There are many reasons why dogs may follow you anywhere and everywhere. It can be a normal product of natural imprinting or as a programmed response to positive reinforcement. It can also be because it is a unique trait of the dog. Whatever the reason, one should be very careful it doesn’t turn into separation anxiety in dogs.