Why Do Dogs Follow You to the Bathroom?

By Anaëlle Laurent. December 6, 2020
Why Do Dogs Follow You to the Bathroom?

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We love our dog's company and they enjoy ours. However, there are certain moments when we wish to be alone, for example when in the bathroom. Dogs may not understand this as they see the bathroom as just another room in our home which may lead them to following us to the bathroom.

In this AnimalWised article we're going to explain the different reasons why your dog follows you to the bathroom and what you can do about it. Continue reading to learn more!

Canine behavioral characteristics

Dogs belong to a gregarious species. This means that they are evolutionarily adapted to living within a social group. In the beginning, this was an indispensable condition for the survival of the individual in question.

That's why dogs have the tendency to be close to another individual from their social group so ingrained in their brain. This is similar to the bond they have with you. You are their companion and so, they will follow you and want to be with you as much as possible. Not only for the company and reassurance, but also to protect you.

There are statistical studies of behavioural observation in dog communities that showed that a dog can spend more than half of the day within 10 meters of some other member of their social group. Something similar has also been observed in groups of wolves.

Therefore, it is easy to understand that our dog has an innate instinct to follow their companion or be at least close to us most of the time. This makes them feel safe, accompanied, and allows them to do the same for us. If your dog seems to be following you everywhere, this is probably why. This is also why many dogs suffer from separation anxiety when we leave for work or school.

Why Do Dogs Follow You to the Bathroom? - Canine behavioral characteristics

Why do dogs follow you to the bathroom?

With that being said, there are many dogs that enjoy being close to their companion or even follow them, but won't actually follow them into the bathroom. So, let's take a look at some of the reasons why your dog is following you to the bathroom:

They acquired this behaviour as a puppy

As we said, the previous explanation helps us understand the genetic basis that originates and maintains this behaviour of the animal. So, why aren't all dogs following their human companions to the bathroom?

It may be due to the fact that your dog has acquired this behaviour as a puppy. In the early stages of a dog's life, when they are a puppy, the animal is in a stage of their behavioral development. This is why it's so important to properly socialize them and begin training them through positive reinforcement. This helps them have a balanced temperament as adults, as well as be well-behaved.

Therefore, if this is a behaviour your puppy has done since they were young, it's understandable that they are now continuing as adults to follow you to the bathroom. Since their behaviour was accepted before, they may not know that you do not want them to follow you into the bathroom.

They acquired this behaviour through positive reinforcement

Dogs can also acquire this behaviour as adult dogs by being given affection or treats when they follow you. As most dogs don't interpret the bathroom as a private room, this may lead them to following you to the bathroom as they associate following you with something positive. In other words, they have acquired this behaviour through positive reinforcement.

This is why you should be careful when positive reinforcing your dog. You should only do this when they behave in a desirable way. So, if you do not want them to follow you to the bathroom, make sure you do not give them treats or affection when they do so. Instead, have them wait outside for you.

Why Do Dogs Follow You to the Bathroom? - Why do dogs follow you to the bathroom?

They don't understand that it's a private room

Your dog does not have the consciousness of knowing that the bathroom is a very private place for humans, for them it is just another space of the home. To make them understand, you must simply make them wait outside of the bathroom while you're inside. You can do this by simply closing the door before they come in.

This way, your dog will begin to understand that when you go to this room, you want to be alone, they will need to wait outside of the bathroom. Your dog will soon understand once you head for the bathroom and they will probably stay where they are or go to their resting place, knowing that you're going to the bathroom and that you will be back soon.

To protect you and accompany you

Another reason why dogs follow you around everywhere, even the bathroom, is because you are their companion and family. They want to protect you and accompany you wherever you go. But, also, if dogs realise that you are relieving yourself in the bathroom, they may want to be there to protect you.

This is the same reason why a dog may look at you as they are pooping. It is because dogs have an innate understanding that when they are defecating they are vulnerable to threats. This is why they will look at you, to make sure that you are protecting them, as they will do for you.

They are prone to separation anxiety

Lastly, some dog breeds are more prone to separation anxiety than others. These include German Shepherds, Chihuahuas, Border Collies, Bichon Frises, Cocker Spaniels or Labrador Retrievers.Therefore, if your dog is one of these breeds or they were simply brought up by being constantly accompanied, they may fear being alone and away from you. This is why they follow you to the bathroom and cry if you make them wait outside.

Watch our video below to learn more about separation anxiety and dogs and how you can help so they stop following you to the bathroom.

What you can do to change this behaviour

If your dog keeps following you to the bathroom and you do not want them to, we recommend you start closing the door before they get inside. After a couple of days, your dog should be able to understand that you go to the bathroom alone and that you will be back soon, they must simply wait for you outside.

If you have taught your dog basic commands, you can communicate with them that you want them to stay in their resting place as you go to the bathroom by telling them to “stay” as you go to the bathroom. Then, when you come out and if they stayed as asked for, you can give them a small treat so they know that they've done well by staying where they were. If you haven't taught your dog basic commands yet, you should definitely start as it is very useful and also a great way to bond with them and communicate.

If your dog suffers from separation anxiety you will have to slowly start normalizing your departure, provide them with toys for distraction and begin basic dog training. You should also ask your veterinarian for guidance, or even a canine behaviour specialist if you're having trouble after following our advice.

If you want to read similar articles to Why Do Dogs Follow You to the Bathroom?, we recommend you visit our Facts about the animal kingdom category.

  • Landsberg, Hunthausen, Ackerman. Manual of Cat and Dog Behavior Problems. Ed.: Acribia.
  • B. Beaver. Ed. Saunders. Canine Behavior: A guide for Veterinarians.

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