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Any sudden change in your dog’s behavior can be a scary thing and should be a cause for concern for responsible pet parents, even if the sudden change is a seemingly innocuous one.
A common, sudden change that many pet parents may notice but not think much of is if their dog suddenly, without an obvious reason, starts clinging to you like glue.
Some dogs are “velcro” dogs that just want to stick to their owners, but if your dog has suddenly started following you around and refusing to leave your side, there may be something wrong that’s worth investigating.
Why is my dog suddenly following me all around?
The most common reasons that your dog will suddenly not leave your side are that it’s a fear response, you have something that they want, or they are beginning to develop separation anxiety, though there are other possibilities like they are sick, bored, aging, or reacting to a lifestyle change.
By carefully reading your dog’s body language, paying attention to what happened when they suddenly started being so clingy, and understanding the possibilities of what you’re dealing with, you should be able to figure out why your dog is suddenly clinging to you.
It’s important to figure out why your dog is suddenly clinging to you so that you can help to solve whatever problem they are having that is making them do this new behavior all of a sudden.
Dogs are creatures of habit, so a sudden change means they are responding to some sort of new stimulus or are responding to an old stimulus in a different way than they previously did.
There are dozens if not more possible factors that could make your dog suddenly start clinging to you, and figuring out why your dog is acting the way that they are acting can be challenging for even the most seasoned, experienced, educated, and well-meaning of pet-parents.
To help, I’ve outlined 12 of the most common reasons that a dog would all of a sudden start clinging to their owner.
After that, I’ll go over some helpful tips and offer some recommendations on how you can help curb your dog’s clinginess, whatever their reasons for it may be.
Read on for all the answers about why your dog will not leave your side all of a sudden!
Reasons Your Dog Will Not Leave Your Side All Of A Sudden
Reason #1 – Fear
While it’s true that dogs are complex, nuanced creatures capable of developing and maintaining meaningful, long-lasting relationships with other creatures, they simply do not have the same capacity for understanding that people do.
Most modern scientists and behaviorists agree that dogs are capable of 10 distinct, basic “feelings,” and fear is one of them.
While fear often gets a bad rap as one of the “negative” emotions, fear is an extremely useful feeling that is universally experienced by both dogs and humans. Fear helps keep us safe by driving us to avoid dangerous situations. Still, fear can lead to a lot of weird or strange behavior in dogs.
This is why a loud bang makes everyone in the room, dogs and people alike, jump to get out of the way, even if it’s just a car back-firing outside or some other non-dangerous sound.
We are programmed to respond to situations that we perceive to be dangerous with fear in order to prevent ourselves from getting hurt.
Your dog, who lives in a complex, human world and who doesn’t have the ability to fully comprehend everything around them, may be incorrectly responding with fear to something in their environment.
A dog will end up clinging to their owners for protection from something that they are afraid of, even if you don’t immediately recognize the thing that’s wrong.
Your dog may hear something outside that’s startling to them. Maybe someone dropped a frying pan earlier and now they’re worried that they’re going to get bonked. Or maybe they just saw something that reminded them of something bad that happened before…who knows?
The point is that your dog’s fear response could be triggered by almost anything, so don’t discount the possibility that your dog is reacting fearfully even if you didn’t see anything happen yourself.
Of course, it’s also possible that their fearfulness isn’t a misfire but is in fact a real fear of a real threat that is present in the environment.
It’s very important that you check with everyone else in the house and check your dog all over for signs of harm or abuse that could be causing their fearfulness and resulting clinginess.
Reason #2 – Separation Anxiety
Your dog, who loves you, may be suddenly clinging to you and not leaving your side as a result of the early stages of separation anxiety.
Separation anxiety doesn’t happen overnight, so if your dog is suddenly acting very clingy, they have probably been dealing with separation anxiety for a while now and their symptoms are just now starting to show. It can start subtly with things like your dog trying to sleep as close to you as possible (even on your face) or simply following you around constantly.
Separation anxiety can happen with almost any dog at any stage in their life, though, so keep an open mind to the possibility that your once happy-go-lucky dog may be developing separation anxiety.
This is especially true if you notice your dog being especially clingy with you immediately before you leave them in the house or right when you get home from being gone for a long time.
They’ll feel inclined not to leave your side just in case you try to get away again!
Other early signs that your dog may be dealing with separation anxiety include:
- Peeing or pooping in the house (when they know better and have had opportunities to relieve themselves outside)
- Excessive barking, howling, or other vocalizations
- Chewing or other destructive behaviors
- Pacing, licking, or other repetitive behaviors
- Licking or chewing on their feet
Separation anxiety in dogs is very serious if left untreated, so it’s vitally important that you recognize when your dog is just being lovey and affectionate and when that crosses the line to separation anxiety.
Reason #3 – You Have Something They Want
You don’t happen to have a slice of bacon in your pocket, do you?
While it’s true that your dog may have developed an anxiety or phobia that’s causing them to follow you around, let’s not forget that your dog gets pretty much everything they receive in life from you.
If you lived with a big, friendly, giant who gave you all of your food, water, love and opened all the doors in your home for you, you’d probably keep them pretty close by too! Especially if you liked treats as much as dogs do!
Your dog may want something that you have now, like food or candy in your pocket. But keep in mind that they have an excellent sense of smell and may be sniffing something you encountered while you were out.
Besides just food and interesting smells, your dog may be asking for you to let them out for a bathroom break (after all they can only hold their pee so long) or to refill their water bowl.
Or they simply may just want to curl up with you and fall asleep on the couch.
If they are maintaining eye contact and staring up at your face or hands while they are following you around, they are most likely looking to get something from you. You just need to figure out what that is!
Reason #4 – They Are Worried About You
Dogs have pretty incredible senses. Not just the obvious ones like hearing and smell but also emotional sensitivity.
Couple that with the fact that they are social animals who care very much about your well-being, and it’s entirely possible that your dog is following you around because they are worried about you, not unlike a doting mother.
It’s been widely reported that dogs can smell and detect many different illnesses in humans, so your dog may be worried or even trying to warn you about a cancerous growth that they can detect inside you.
Are you pregnant? Are you sure? Because your dog may be the first one to know if you are.
Or maybe you just had a stressful day at work or perhaps even a fight with a loved one. Your dog doesn’t need to be present to witness the event to know when something is wrong with you.
Your stress, your anxiety, your illnesses, all of these things are physical things that your dog can smell (yes, your stress is a combination of chemicals that your dog can smell).
It may be time to take a day off to relax or maybe even get yourself into the doctor if your dog is persistently following you around.
Reason #5 – You’re Reinforcing The Behavior
You may have convinced your dog that you want them to follow you around!
Have you been working on teaching them to heal? If so, they may just be thinking “hey, they like this! I’m gonna do it all the time!”
While that scenario is pretty obvious, it’s also possible that you have inadvertently trained your dog to think that they should follow you around.
Say, one day, they did follow you into the kitchen when they normally wouldn’t. What did you do? Did you give them a treat? Because, whether you realize it or not, that’s how you train a dog to do something.
Or maybe you looked at them all worried, scratched their head, bent down, and gave them lots of attention, maybe even let them sleep in bed with you that night.
Again, that’s how you train a dog to do something again.
When it comes to dogs, they are constantly trying to understand us more and figure out how to get what they want from us. They don’t constrain their learning just to training time, which is why it’s very important that you’re always aware of what it is that you are doing that your dog is responding to.
I highly recommend The Other End Of The Leash by Dr. Patricia Mcconnell. While it’s great to know what’s going on with your dog, it’s arguably more important what’s going on at the other end of the leash (you).
Reason #6 – Bored
Ever had a boring afternoon where you find yourself wandering around the house looking for something to do?
Well, at least you have a house full of your own stuff to entertain you. Your bored dog only has you!
A dog who gets excessively bored may suddenly begin following their pet parent around the house simply to entertain themselves.
Maybe you’re doing something interesting, maybe not. Nothing else going on so, hey, might as well stare at you for hours on end!
This is particularly the case if you notice that your dog follows you around on some days but not on others.
You’ll likely be able to recognize a pattern where they only follow you around on days where they don’t get out for a walk or otherwise miss out on extra stimulation.
Reason #7 – Issues With Other Pets In The House
Dogs are social animals who are going to seek out interaction with who and whatever they can. Still, some dogs just don’t like other dogs.
It’s possible that your dog has had a run-in with one of the other animals in the house and they are clinging to you for help support.
Maybe your cat finally decided that THEY wanted that cozy bed under the window and pushed your dog out.
Your dog, knowing that he’s not allowed to chase the cat, may come to you and follow you around because they don’t know what to do and need you to come help, not unlike dealing with squabbling children.
If you have an exotic pet, you should be extra scrutinizing of their relationship with your dog. While your Bassett Hound and your Tegu may seem like fast friends when you’re in the room, they may have a whole different relationship when you aren’t around.
Reason #8 – Bad Weather
Most pet parents are at least aware of the fact that many dogs are highly sensitive to bad weather, particularly thunderstorms with a lot of electricity in them.
While many pet parents chalk their dog’s sensitivity up to just sensitivity or a misunderstanding of the bad weather, it’s important to know that your dog may actually be physically experiencing that thunderstorm in a way that you can’t even fathom.
We now know that dogs can sense the barometric pressure changes that come with changing weather patterns. They can also sense the static electricity in the air that accompanies thunderstorms.
You’ll often find dogs hanging out in the bathroom during thunderstorms because porcelain diffuses electricity in the environment. They are seeking out a room in the house that has less static electricity going on in it.
And their senses of smell, which are about 40 times better than ours, means that they can smell the rain and the water splattering outside. If you can smell the rain, think how strong that must be to your dog?
All of this combines to be a really weird experience for your dog, so it should come as no surprise that they’d follow you around if the weather is bad outside.
Reason #9 – Sick
Every time my dog gets sick, she looks at me with this sad little face that just screams “dad, fix it!”
She’s convinced that I can somehow make it better. After all, when she’s hungry, I fix that. When she needs to go potty, I help her with that. Thirsty, bored, excited, I do it all!
Your dog may be suddenly following you around because they have a physical ailment. They may be aware that they are sick and are actively asking for help, or they may just feel bad and are following you around looking for relief.
Your dog will likely have some other obvious signs of illness, but not necessarily.
While your dog is probably following you around because of some emotional or behavioral reason, it is entirely possible that they are very seriously ill. Do not take any sudden change in your dog’s behavior lightly.
Reason #10 – Aging
It can be hard for many pet parents to admit or recognize when their life-long buddies are starting to get old. It can seem so unfair that they get old so much faster than we do, but such is the nature of our relationship with dogs.
It depends a lot on the individual dog, particularly the breed and the size, but most dogs are considered “senior” once they reach 8 years old.
While following you around may seem like a strange thing for an old dog to do, it’s actually a very common sign of dementia in both humans and dogs.
Developing and living with dementia can cause deep feelings of insecurity, especially for a poor dog who doesn’t have the capacity to understand why they are disoriented or why they do not remember where they are.
Because of this, both humans and dogs who develop dementia are prone to trailing, following, and checking with others in the house who they recognize.
If your dog is over 8 years old and has suddenly started following you around and refusing to leave your side, they may be developing dementia or another age-related ailment.
Reason #11 – Life Change
Like I mentioned, dogs are creatures of habit. Left to their own devices, dogs set a remarkably reliable schedule.
The flip side of this is that they are highly sensitive to changes in their routine, especially changes to some of the pillars of their schedule.
Some changes in your home that may have caused your dog to suddenly start following you around that you may not have noticed include:
- New roommate or old one leaves
- New pet or the loss of an old pet
- New baby
- Changes to the schedule of service workers (maids, gardeners, nannies, etc.)
- New neighbors
- Remodeled room or a move to a new house
- A change in their mobility
Reason #12 – Heat Cycling
Finally (and this one probably doesn’t apply to most of you readers but I’ve got to cover all the bases), an unspayed female dog in heat is more likely to be clingy and refuse to let you leave their side.
You surely know if your adult female dog is unfixed but many puppy-owners are surprised by their dogs’ first heat cycle.
A female dog will have their first heat cycle at roughly 6 months old and will continue to have them twice a year for the rest of their life.
During this time, their hormones go absolutely nuts. Along with many other side effects, they may end up becoming more clingy and emotionally attached to their owners during this time.
What To Do When Your Dog Will Not Leave Your Side All Of A Sudden
I’ve said it before but it’s worth repeating: any sudden change in your dog’s behavior is cause for concern.
It may be something benign and worth forgetting about or it may be an early sign of a serious problem. By paying attention early, you can get ahead of something serious and potentially save your dog’s life.
A dog suddenly following their owner around is more likely behavioral than it is physical, but it could be a health problem that only your vet can help you with.
And even if it’s behavior, it may get worse over time. And frankly, it’s just plain annoying.
Once you’ve read through the 12 main reasons your dog may be suddenly following you around I’ve listed above, read the below to help develop a game plan on how to curb this behavior.
Step #1 – Veterinarian
This is my first advice whenever a dog suddenly does something different. Whether they’re giving you more attention (as in this case) or less attention than usual, sudden behavior changes can be concerning.
You absolutely do not want to start implementing new training demands on your dog unless you are 100% sure that they are healthy.
After all, you can’t train a dog not to have dementia, so asking them not to follow you around is just going to be stressful for everyone.
Your veterinarian can rule out or identify any major or minor health issues like dementia, heat cycles, or other internal diseases or injuries that may be making your dog suddenly follow you around.
Step #2 – Read Body Language
This is Dogs 101 – one single behavior observed in a vacuum is not enough to come to an understanding of the root problem.
The simple fact that your dog is following you around is not enough to draw conclusions about when taken on its own.
If your dog won’t leave your side and is also whining, they likely need something from you.
If they’re following you around and anxiously glancing at the cat, they probably have beef with your kitty.
Keep an open mind and try really hard to objectively observe your dog’s behavior so you can identify more clues to help you create a more specific, tailor-made game plan.
Step #3 – Exercise
Dogs who are bored or even who have a lot of anxiety will benefit from getting more exercise.
And it’s good for you too, so if you’re stressed out or need a break, taking your dog for an extra walk at the end of the day is a great way to burn off excess energy and stress.
A dog who is well exercised has less energy to be paranoid, anxious, or than a dog who has all their energy to spend following you around the house.
Step #4 – Socialize
Socialization helps both with boredom as well as separation anxiety.
Socialize them with other people so that they become less dependent on you. Try leaving them alone with a trusted friend or family member so that the dog becomes more comfortable being without you.
The goal when trying to undo a dog’s separation anxiety is to get them more comfortable being alone, so work slowly in that direction by first getting them comfortable without you.
Socializing them with other dogs does double duty by getting your dog exercised as well as having some fun time with another being who isn’t you.
But not just people and dogs. If you have exotics, it’s important to get your dog used to them in a safe way without stressing anyone too much.
Try taking your dog to the pet store and showing him all the little critters for sale there to help desensitize him to those weird, other animals at home.
Step #5 – Monitor Their Interactions
A scared dog who is following you around because your child is overly harsh in their corrections isn’t going to stop following you until your child stops scaring them.
It can be easy to assume that everyone has the same standards of dog care that you do, but it’s time to closely monitor all of your dog’s interactions with all of the people and other animals in the house to make sure that everyone is being treated fairly and respectfully.
Once you identify a friction point, be that with a person or another animal, then you can work on smoothing out that relationship.
Step #6 – Examine Your Own Behavior
This relationship you have with your dog goes both ways, so while you’re evaluating their behavior and trying to figure out why they’re doing what they are doing, stop and do some self-reflection.
You may be reinforcing the behavior in some way that you don’t even recognize.
Step #7 – Regulate Food
A dog who is following you around constantly asking for food may legitimately be very hungry.
Most vets recommend feeding your dog at least twice a day if not more frequently to help with their digestion.
Set up a feeding schedule of at least 2 feedings (more is better) that occur at the same time every day, and do not feed them at any other time.
You can get away with treats and snacks eventually, but right ow you need to train your dog that no matter how much they ask, they get fed only their food and only at breakfast and dinner time.
By doing so, you’ll teach them that following you around asking for food has no effect, so why bother doing it?
And when you do feed them, consider making mealtime more fun with a food distributing toy like this one by Outward Hound. They’ll eat more slowly, which is better for their digestion, and it will stimulate their minds like a toy would.
Step #8 – Redirect
Speaking of toys, make sure that you have plenty of toys around that your dog can use to entertain themselves with instead of following you around.
When some people get this advice, they go out and blow a bunch of money on a bunch of toys for their dog and immediately give them all to their dog.
Don’t overwhelm them!
Get a toy box filled with a few different types of toys that stimulate your dog differently.
- A Kong toy is a must for any dog who likes to chew
- A crinkly, stuffing-free toy like this can let your dog get their thrashes and chews out without leaving fluff all over your floor
- A toy pack like this one should help you round out your doggie toy box so you always have something new for them to play with
When you have an arsenal of at least 8 different types of toys, give your dog only 2 or 3 of them at a time.
They’ll ignore 7 of them if you give them all 8 and then tomorrow they’ll be bored with the whole lot. By cycling out your dog’s toys, you’ll keep them interested in the same toys for longer without them getting bored and going back to following you around.
Step #9 – Set Boundaries
It is OK to tell your dog “No” when you need some space, just make sure they know what “No” means.
However, even better than telling them “No,” give them something else to do instead.
Train them to go to their dog bed and lie there on command to get them away from you and give them some space.
This is a super helpful video that teaches you just how to do that:
You’re the responsible person in the relationship, so you should take responsibility for setting up boundaries and defining the rules of the relationship.
Don’t let your dog push you around!
Step #10 – Ask A Trainer
Many people (myself included) usually brush off the idea of consulting with a trainer. It’s either too expensive, too much work, or you can figure it out yourself.
However, trainers offer an expert, outside perspective that you simply will not be able to recreate without professional help.
If you’ve tried all of the above steps to get your dog to stop following you around, it might be about time to stop dallying about and enlist professional help.