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If your dog follows you everywhere then you’ll know what it’s like to be tailed by a familiar four-legged shadow around your house, whether you’re moving from room to room, cooking in the kitchen or even using the bathroom. Having a constant companion can be comforting, endearing or sometimes downright annoying, but why does your dog follow you everywhere and is it normal?
Why does my dog follow me everywhere?
If your dog follows you everywhere then it’s a sign that they trust and love you and that you make them feel safe. Following you very closely can be a sign that they’re bored, they want something, they're feeling scared or are just being nosy. It is also part of their natural social behaviour, to watch and follow what you are doing to help maintain a good relationship with you. Wanting to be close to you is a normal behaviour for dogs, but some dogs may be too clingy or even become anxious when their owner leaves. There are a number of ways you can help your dog feel more confident, but you should always consult your vet or a behaviourist if you’re concerned about them.
Your dog loves you
If your dog follows you everywhere then it's most likely a sign that they love and adore you. When dogs interact with someone they like, the hormone oxytocin is released. Oxytocin is often referred to as the ‘love hormone' and makes you feel that warm glow when you're around someone you like. Dogs are incredibly social animals and love to spend time with their owners. You are your dog’s whole world and being with you is a big part of their life. You make them feel happy, secure and safe and they enjoy spending time with their best friend. Whilst they may not always know the meaning of ‘personal space’, the fact that they want to be around you is really quite a compliment.
They get rewards when they follow you
When your dog follows you around, how do you react? Do you tend to ignore them, or do you give them a pat, a cuddle or maybe even a nibble of food? It’s possible that your dog has learnt that if they follow you around then they get good things. Giving them reassurance, attention and treats every time they follow you encourages them to keep doing it.
Your dog might follow you around because they’re looking for something to do. It may be a lot more interesting to see what you are up to, especially if there’s a possibility of a stroke or a treat. Ask yourself if you think your dog is getting enough mental and physical stimulation, and if not, then you may need to find other ways to make life more interesting for them, such as longer or more regular walks, giving them chew toys or food puzzles to play with.
They want to know what’s going on
Dogs are naturally inquisitive and love to know what’s going on. They follow you around because, to them, you’re the person in the know and the gateway to all things exciting. Your dog’s nosy nature, combined with a serious case of FOMO (fear of missing out) means that they’re often under your feet and sticking their nose into everything, literally.
They’re waiting for you
Dogs are great at learning their daily routines. If it’s nearly time to go for a walk or be fed, your dog probably knows it and may follow you around the house hurrying you along. Dogs are also very good at reading our body language and picking up on clues about what we’re thinking of doing next. If you’re planning on doing something they think is exciting, then they’ll follow you around hoping you’ll do it soon.
They’re trying to tell you something
If your dog is barking, whining or pacing back and forth, try following them and see where they take you. It’s possible they may need more water, want more food or need to go outside to go to the bathroom. If your dog suddenly starts following you, and is more clingy than usual, it could mean that they’re feeling unwell and may need some extra reassurance and love. If you’re concerned about their health, then you should consult your vet.
It’s a natural behaviour
Following you everywhere is a part of your dog’s natural social behaviour, to watch and follow what you are doing to help maintain a good relationship with you. This is called allelomimetic behaviour and serves a number of purposes. It is a way of creating and sustaining social bonds. It is a self-preservation behaviour – being with someone you trust is a good place to be and copying their behaviour is part of learning too.
Your dog sees you as their guardian and protector, helping to keep them safe and secure. Certain noises, such as thunderstorms and fireworks are terrifying to some dogs and they may follow you around to seek reassurance from you. If your dog is scared then they may pin back their ears, their eyes may go wide and they may be panting more than usual. If they are scared they may just want to be close to you and may not want to eat, drink or play. There are a number of ways you can help your dog feel comfortable and safe during fireworks and thunderstorms.
Does my dog have separation anxiety?
There’s a big difference between a dog that really enjoys being with you and a dog that is anxious when you’re not around. Dogs with separation anxiety tend to go to pieces when they are away from their owners and it will affect them both mentally and physically.
Separation anxiety is a common problem in dogs and is likely to become more common due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Dogs with separation anxiety tend to follow their owners around the house and become more anxious just before their owner leaves and especially once they’ve left, often showing the following signs:
Having accidents in the house
Chewing furniture, shoes or being generally destructive, especially close to windows or the front door
Some dogs may eventually settle down, while others may be like this until you get back
Regularly being stressed can lead to long-term physical and mental health issues, so if you think your dog may have separation anxiety then it’s important that you speak to your vet or an animal behaviourist as soon as possible.
How to help your dog stop following you everywhere
The bond between you and your dog is strong and they deserve plenty of positive attention from you, but it’s important that this goes hand in hand with building their confidence and helping them cope when you’re not around. Below are some hints and tips on how to help your dog feel happier in their own company and give you the space you sometimes may feel you need.
Keep your dog busy. If they have little to do, try distracting them by giving them a toy, chew toy or food filled puzzle to play with. If your dog has a number of toys, try having a toy rotation system. You could put some away and get them out another time to help them stay interesting and exciting
Try putting up baby gates. These may help your dog get used to their own company whilst also being able to see through the gates. If they seem anxious, try giving them a toy to play with, or a food puzzle to distract them, or start off near the gate and gradually move away and out of their sight
Give them lots of attention. When they stop following you around and settle down or start doing something else, give them plenty of encouragement and let them know they’re doing what you want them to
Think about your behaviour. Are you giving your dog attention when they follow you around? If so, you may be unknowingly encouraging them to do so. Try giving them less attention or encourage them when they settle down or start doing something else
Never punish your dog for following you around. If they’re following you because they’re anxious then this could make them feel more stressed and make the situation worse
Give your dog plenty of daily exercise. Think about how much exercise your dog gets and how much you think they need. Try taking your dog for more or longer walks. Throwing a ball or playing a game can help them to feel more enriched
Avoid silence. When going out, leave the TV or radio on for your dog so that the house is less quiet and feels more welcoming
Teach them to ‘stay’. Try to encourage your dog to stay where they are and then slowly build up the distance between you. Start with being just one step away and gradually build up to being in a different room. Give them plenty of encouragement and take your time
Don’t make a fuss. Try not to give your dog too much attention when either leaving the house or coming back home – easier said than done when you’re greeted by a dog that’s very happy to see you!
Help them socialise. Give your dog plenty of opportunities to bond with other dogs and people to help build up their confidence
Teach your dog to go to their bed. This can give them a place to go to when you need some space. If they need more motivation to stay there, leave toys and treats close to their bed to encourage them
Ask others for help. If your dog is particularly clingy with you try getting other adult members of the household to take the dog for a walk
Help build up your dog’s confidence. Take part in a dog activity, such as agility, rally, obedience or flyball
Play games inside the house. Games, such as hide and seek or scent work can encourage your dog to enjoy being away from you
Desensitise them to you leaving the room. If your dog gets up when you do, keep standing up and sitting down until they stay settled. Then try getting up and walking out of the room. If they start to follow you, walk around the room until they stop following you and get bored. Then try leaving the room. If they follow you, keep going in and out of the room until they give up following you. Don’t turn it into a game, but just ignore them until they get bored
Training your dog to be happy in their own company can require a lot of time and work, but it will help your dog feel more confident in themselves. If you’ve tried a number of these techniques and feel like you’re not making any progress, then always contact a behaviourist for further advice.
My dog follows me everywhere, so when should I get help?
You are worried that their behaviour is getting worse
Your dog’s behaviour is bothering you - it’s ok to want your own space
Which breeds are more likely to follow you around?
Humans have been breeding dogs for thousands of years, resulting in the diverse range of breeds that we see today. Each breed was created for a specific purpose, with breeders selecting dogs that had traits that best fit their function. Over time, these traits have become hard-wired into their characteristics and may be reflected in many of their daily behaviours. Some breeds may be more likely to follow you around the house, simply because it’s part of their nature to do so.
Some dogs have been bred to spend lots of time with their master, working side-by-side with them and watching their every move for the next instruction, so may be keen to stay by your side. These might include:
Some Toy breeds have been bred to be lap dogs and may be most comfortable being close to you and might follow you around waiting for a snuggle. These might include:
Cavalier King Charles Spaniels
Breeds that were bred to guard may also prefer to stick close to their owners, include:
Why is my dog suddenly following me?
If your dog has suddenly started following you around the house it might be a sign that something is wrong. It’s possible that they are not feeling well, or may have a problem with their senses, such as issues with their vision or hearing. Your dog could be feeling anxious, may have become scared of their environment or may have been recently traumatised by an upsetting experience. If this behaviour continues then you should get a check-up at the vet.
Why does my puppy follow me everywhere?
During important early developmental phases, to improve their chance of survival, young animals learn who their caregivers are. If you’ve been caring for your puppy since they were very small, it’s possible that they may have imprinted on to you and see you as their parent. Following you around may make them feel safe and secure because they know you’ll look after them.
Why does my dog follow me and no one else - do dogs pick a favourite person?
If your dog only follows you around the house then it’s likely that you’re the one in your household that provides them with what they need the most. That could be food, affection, care or fun. It’s as simple as you’re the one in your household who looks after your dog the best. Take it as a compliment!
Why does my elderly dog follow me?
As dogs get older they may need some additional reassurance to let them know that you’ll look after them. Pain from arthritis and a reduced ability to see, smell and hear may leave them more dependent on you than before. Some older dogs may also experience a form of dog dementia, which can impact their need for reassurance. If you’re concerned about your dog’s health then always speak to your vet.
Why does my rescue dog follow me everywhere?
If your rescue dog follows you around a lot, it’s possible that they need reassurance that everything is going to be alright. It’s difficult to know what your dog went through before they came to you, but they may have had a difficult time in their previous home. If you’re worried about your dog and would like to help them feel more confident then always speak to your local qualified dog training instructor or behaviourist.
Why does my dog follow me to the bathroom?
Your dog may join you for a bathroom break because they’re curious about what you’re about to do. Dogs experience the world in a different way to us. To them, with their heightened sense of smell, a bathroom is filled with fascinating odours that are packed full of interesting information. Although having a bathroom companion may not be your idea of a stimulating experience, for many dogs it’s a treat for the senses.
Why does my puppy follow my older dog?
Your puppy may follow your older dog because copying them comes naturally and is an important part of acting as part of a group and plays an important role in social bonding. Also, by following an older dog around they learn how to best fit in to your household and pick up on all the tricks of the trade and all the best spots to have a comfy nap.
If you're worried about your dog's health, always contact your vet immediately!
We are not a veterinary organisation and so we can't give veterinary advice, but if you're worried about any of the issues raised in this article, please contact your local vet practice for further information
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If you're looking for a vet practice near you, why not visit the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons' Find a vet page.