Do you ever get the feeling that you’re being followed? Well, if you are a dog owner then you probably are being followed…often. It’s almost like you’re living the Police song “Every Breath You Take,” your dog is always at your feet watching you. Leaving you to wonder, “why does he follow me everywhere?” Thankfully there are a few scientific answers we found, plus ways to help if it’s getting out of hand.
If you’ve had your dog since he was a puppy then they have more than likely imprinted you as a parent or person of safety and trust. This means they feel safe around you and because of that they have a strong desire to be anywhere and everywhere you are.
By nature dogs are inclined to live in and follow a pack. Some breeds, such as those trained to work with people, are even more likely to have this genetic trait than others. You can often find them glued to your side.
Reinforcement can also be a big factor. They figure out that if they follow you around enough, a lot of times they get some type of reward. They realize that good things happen around you like being rewarded with attention, pets, treats or some fun activity. This means they will follow you to avoid missing out on future goodies.
A lot of times it is just because your dog doesn’t want to be alone. They may also suffer from a bit of separation anxiety. Dogs often get attached to their owners and feel nervous and scared when they are left alone. Also, due to domestication dogs continuously seek out human companionship. As Laurie Santos, PhD from the Canine Cognition Center at Yale University states, “domesticated dogs are now ‘bonded’ with humans in some of the same ways human children. In this sense, our bond with dogs is one that has evolved over the course of domestications.” Basically our dogs just want to be our constant companion.
How to discourage the behavior if it has become a problem.
At first it can be kind of cute and endearing to have a dog velcroed to your side at all times. But sometimes it can become an unhealthy and undesired behavior. Here are some ways to help combat the behavior so that you can find a moment of alone time.
- Give them at least 30 minutes of exercise a day
- Leave them with a treat distraction like a Kong or treat puzzle
- Work on training commands like sit, stay and come
- Desensitize your absence by leaving for short amounts and slowly increase the amount of time you are gone
- Ignore their behavior, do NOT reward it with attention, treats or pets.
We love our dogs and we love being around them, but we don’t always like being followed every second that we are home. If you think your dog has a problem with separation anxiety and nothing seems to help, make sure to talk to your vet. However, it is sweet to know that usually it’s because they just can’t get enough of us!