My Dog Follows Me Everywhere I Go
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If we have adopted a dog for the first time, there are many behaviors which can seem surprising to us. Although we expect to develop a strong bond with our animal, some discover their dog will follow them everywhere they go. This can happen either inside the home, outside when walking or both. For some guardians, such a need for attention can make them a little uncomfortable. As with all canine behaviors, we need to interpret them in context to understand what they are trying to communicate to us.
At AnimalWised, we look at the reasons why my dog follows me everywhere I go. We understand what this says about canine behavior, interpret what they are trying to communicate to us, reveal what it says about our bond and provide instances when it may highlight a problem.
The dog as a social animal
Dogs are characterized by being very sociable animals. We can see this in their wild counterparts and the fact they share a common ancestor with wolves. Moreover, the domestication process and selective breeding have encouraged this sociability with their human guardians. Although traits such as hunting capability and scent tracking would have been originally favored, general companionability has also been encouraged strongly.
For this reason, it should be no surprise dogs want to seek out our attention and affection. As the providers of their basic needs, dogs see us as their point of reference. Since they know we look after them, they know we provide them security. Being by our side is a place of comfort for them and they want to please us, something they can do more easily when they are close.
As a pack animal, they know staying close keeps them safe. By following us everywhere we go, we share our lives and provide adventures, as well as best ensure their security.
They want to stay safe
Although our dog wants to be near us for general safety, there are also times when they feel particularly insecure. Being outside for a walk or exercise is a time when they are often acutely insecure. Traffic, loud noises, other animals and any stimuli they don't know can threaten their security, so it is understandable they follow us closely to stay safe.
Staying close is common among younger dogs as they are yet to experience much of the outside world. For this reason, we will need to socialize them by exposing them to other environments and stimuli. We also need to train and educate them. Doing so helps with their safety and we can call them to us when they move somewhere potentially dangerous.
It is important to point out the difference between a dog staying close for safety and a dog being scared to be outside. A healthy dog will want to go out and walk, but a dog which is scared, in pain or suffering from a certain condition may not.
They are hungry
One of the reasons we are walking inside the home is to go to the kitchen and prepare some food. If a dog knows we are going somewhere food is kept, they will know immediately due to their acute olfactory ability. We don't have to be making a meal. Simply eating a snack is often enough to grab their attention and make them follow us.
Dogs can be naturally gluttonous, something about which we need to be careful. Dogs can be prone to obesity, so it is best we do not feed them our food when we eat. Not only will it encourage being overweight, but they will learn the behavior that every time we are eating, they might get a treat. In turn, this makes training difficult as we cannot implement a reward system with food in the same way.
They love us
One of the most important reasons a dog follows us everywhere, whether inside or outside, is because they love us. When we build up a relationship with our dog, they will want to give us affection. While not all dogs are the same, a happy and healthy dog will want to show love to those they consider family. Some dogs may be more effusive with their displays of affection, some may be content to follow us around the home and be by our side.
Remember the context of why they follow you is important. Take a look at our related article to see specifically why a dog keeps following you to the bathroom.
They like routine
Canines are creatures of habit. They crave routine and structure, although to what extent can vary according to the individual. Dogs can't tell the time in the same way we can, but they are well attuned to their circadian rhythms. When we establish a set time for them to eat, they will expect their food at a certain point during the day. This is why dogs will often wake us if we sleep in and they haven't been fed. The same applies for walks and other routine activities.
This can be helpful as it will keep us on our toes with their routine. However, we need to ensure we are meeting their needs. We cannot feed them when we feel like it as it will cause the dog insecurity. If they can't establish a feeding routine, it can lead them to fear they won't eat at all. In this case, they may feel anxious and follow us around the home to ensure they don't miss any potential food coming their way.
They are bored
When a dog follows you around all day, we need to be sure they are not bored. Dogs will need plenty of physical and mental stimulation. We provide such stimulation when we interact with them or take them for walks, but they need it when we are not around also.
Dogs will need to have toys, intelligence games and other elements of environmental enrichment to keep them entertained. Again, this is something which will vary according to the individual, but it will happen in all dogs to some degree. If they are following us around the home, it may be because they want something to do.
Regardless whether we love our dog following us everywhere, we need to ensure it comes from a healthy place. As you can see from above, there are some reasons a dog follows us around the home that are not positive. If they are bored, their routine is upset or even if they are hungry, it means there is something missing from their care.
Another important reason dogs will follow us wherever they go is when they are suffering separation anxiety. This occurs when our dog feels so insecure when we are not around it affects their well-being. If left untreated, separation anxiety creates an insecure, distrustful, and fearful personality in your dog, which can lead to other behavioral problems.
If you think your dog's behavior is exaggerated and they may suffer from a behavioral problem, we recommend you review some of the symptoms of separation anxiety in dogs:
- When you are away from home the dog becomes destructive with objects.
- They bark continuously, especially if they see something or someone they don't recognize.
- They urinate or defecate in the home.
- They greet you in an exaggerated way when you return and become depressed when you leave.
- They display insecure, skittish, and dependent behaviors.
- They are unable to be alone or they manage their loneliness improperly.
When we see the dog exhibits these symptoms, it is important to understand why. We may notice the dog is following us everywhere we go, but there are reasons behind this behavior. They include:
- Spending lots of time away from home: this is the main cause of separation anxiety. The dog often feels abandoned, alone and sad. Some dogs are more independent than others, but all are social animals and will need sufficient stimulation and companionship.
- Improper or inconsistent education: if you do not provide the right level of training and education for your dog, they may develop separation anxiety. If you don't establish proper boundaries and give them the tools to cope with your absence, it will lead to behavioral problems. It is important we are consistent with these guidelines. For example, you can't let them sleep on the bed one day and then scold them for the same behavior the next.
- Change in routine or the home: as stated above, dogs require a certain level of routine. If we do not stick to this routine, it can have a negative effect. Big changes in the home can also cause them insecurity leading to separation anxiety. For example, if we bring a new pet or any family member, the dog may have difficulty adjusting. If we change our home altogether, this can also lead to anxiety.
- Other reasons: your dog may also develop separation anxiety due to a lack of exercise, suffering trauma, when a family member leaves or when they suffer any kind of acute stress. Dogs which have been through the shelter system or have experienced abandonment are prone to separation anxiety due to trauma.
Separation anxiety is a serious behavioral problem that affects many dogs. It is important to go to a professional to correctly diagnose this problem and give us the appropriate guidelines to resolve it. For this you can consult a trainer, a canine educator or a veterinarian specialized in ethology. Some breeds are more prone to this problem than others, as you can see in our list of dog breeds with the worst separation anxiety.
What to do if your dog follows you everywhere
If you have decided to adopt a puppy or an adult dog from an animal shelter, it is very common to see your dog follow you to an exaggerated extent. This doesn't necessarily mean it is a problem, but it may be a practical nuisance. For example, the dog may get under your feet when walking. Importantly, if their need to follow is related to a behavioral problem, then it will need to be addressed.
Whether you want to establish boundaries or you want to help the dog with a behavioral issue, the following will help stop a dog following you everywhere you go:
- Basic commands: your dog will need to learn basic commands, starting with sit and stay. Learning all kinds of basic commands for dogs is essential for them to understand what you expect of them. When they respond well to orders, it means they trust you and feel secure you have their best interests.
- Always use positive reinforcement: in the training of these commands, you must have patience and perseverance. Remember that a mentally stimulated dog will be a healthy and happy dog. For this reason, in addition to teaching basic commands essential for their daily routine, you will generate more confidence. Little by little you will observe a decrease in their dependent attitude. Reward them whenever they deserve it and have done a good job.
- Accept their company: remember that a dog is a social animal. You can set boundaries, but don't avoid interacting with them altogether. Teach commands and tricks and praise them if they play well with other pets. It is very important they feel socialized and happy.
- Adopting another dog: if your dog is lonely and you can only give them so much attention, it is possible another dog may help. They will have another member of the pack with whom they can spend time and stay enriched. However, another dog is yet more responsibility, so only do so if you are able to provide the right level of care.
Always remember the natural attitude of the dog is geared toward the pack dynamic. Although some dogs are more independent and others are more attached, they all need to interact and enjoy the company of others. If you have decided that adopting another dog is a good idea, make sure you see how to introduce them properly.
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