Usually, our dogs are probably thinking the same thing about us…”Jeez, there they go again speaking to me in that irritating human baby voice”, or “this is your third cuddle of the morning, Deborah. Wind your neck in, and take me for a walk”.
But sometimes, out of the blue, a fiercely independent pooch can become very dependent on your pats, leaving you wondering if someone’s pup-napped your fluffy friend and replaced it with a clingy doppelgänger.
It’s quite nice at first, but being followed to the bathroom all day gets old really fast. It’s not that we don’t love our wolfy children; it’s just not a sustainable relationship dynamic, so what’s really going on here?
That’s exactly what we set out to discover, and after consulting the work of many a dog behavioral expert and the experiences of dog owners around the globe, we’ve cracked the case!
Here are seven reasons your woofer isn’t respecting your personal space and what you can do about it.
Clingy Dogs at a Glance
You can glean a lot about the clinginess of a dog by thinking about human behavior.
We’ve all known someone in our life that at certain times that hangs so close to us, they could be mistaken for our shadow.
It can be a little suffocating, but the reason people behave like this is usually down to some sort of insecurity. The same is true of dogs, so in this article, we’re going to put the most common reasons for sudden canine clinginess under the microscope.
Do bear in mind; however, that we’re not veterinarians, so although we hope to answer as many of your pup-related questions as possible, you should always seek professional advice before taking any action.
Contacting a vet is especially pertinent if you notice any physical symptoms alongside your dog’s sudden all-consuming love for all things you.
7 Paw-tential Reasons for a Clingy Canine
That’s enough of a preamble from us. Let’s get right to business with our first reason your dog won’t let you have a pee in peace.
Separation anxiety in a dog can manifest in a myriad of ways, but low and behold, one of the most common symptoms is a clingy woofer.
The question then becomes, how do you know if this particular bout of clingy behavior is due to separation anxiety? Well, it’s actually pretty easy to diagnose.
Normally, when a dog becomes clingy, they’re incredibly stoked to be near you at all times, but when you’re gone, it’s not the end of the world.
They’ll behave more or less like they always did, having a scratch behind the ear here, a wag of the tail there – doggy business as usual.
If, on the other hand, your poor fluffy pal becomes stressed – inconsolable even – in your absence, there’s a good chance that they’re suffering from separation anxiety.
A good way to test if this is the case is to leave the room without your dog while someone observes. If your dog behaves in an erratic and panicked manner, it’s likely due to separation anxiety.
Another tell-tale sign of canine separation anxiety is if your dog always howls or whines when you return home after a long day out.
How to Combat Canine Separation Anxiety
We won’t inundate you with every little thing you can do to help your dog feel comfortable in your absence, but there are a few super simple measures you can take to ease their strife.
- Treat them to that ratty Springsteen shirt you sleep in – We know it’s hard to part with your treasured tees, but placing one saturated with your scent into their doggy bed can work wonders on their anxiety.
- Cut out the super emotional goodbyes and hellos – Waiting a second to acknowledge your needy fluff ball when you walk in the door can instill patience. The same is true when you leave. Try not to make it a titanic event.
- Come up with a codeword – This sounds silly, but we’re 100% serious. If you can establish that a certain word means that you’re leaving, but you’ll be back, it can alleviate your dog’s anxiety.
- Keep them busy with poochy puzzles – Focusing on a puzzle will take their mind off the prospect of being alone.
- Medication – If nothing else is working, consult your veterinarian about calming meds.
- Keep in Contact – Why not invest in this Petcube that allows you to see, talk, and even treat your dogs while you’re on the go.
Having been through rolling lockdowns for the better part of the year, we can truly understand the impact of being cooped up and bored in the house day in day out.
Whereas we wiled the days away on epic Netflix binges, dogs don’t really understand television. In its place, a bored pooch will turn to use for entertainment.
You’ll notice this happens if extreme weather has put walkies on hold, or perhaps if you’ve been busier than usual. Dogs need stimulation, but they also appreciate it as part of a routine. When that routine breaks, it may cause confusion.
How to Combat Canine Boredom
Thankfully, this is an easy solve, but it’s all on you. If your dog has become a bored-er collie, you need to try and work in some more excitement into their life. If you’re drawing a blank, here are some suggestions.
- Long walks in new environments – Walking should be pleasurable for both of you, and switching up your route or extending your current one will help to keep things fresh. It’s true what they say: variety is the spice of life.
- Awesome new toys – Why not treat your fluffy friend to an enticing new chew toy? It’s a fantastic affordable way to keep your dog entertained for days. This Benebone Wishbone infused with real bacon should do the trick.
- Poochy puzzles – Making their second appearance on our combat lists, a good puzzle is a great way to keep that fury brain ticking over.
- Doggy rendezvous – Dogs may be man’s best friend, but they also need to kick it with their poochie pals from time to time too. We highly recommend organizing some puppy play dates in the park. It will remind them who they are, nurture self-esteem, and give them an immense sense of wellbeing.
- Play Games with them – Dogs are similar to toddlers. They always want to play games. You don’t even have to dogify many of them. Dogs love to play hide-and-seek and tug of war. You can even make an exciting scent trail by hiding treats around the house or yard – a sure way to obliterate the boredom blues.
No one wants to think about the implications of their best friend aging, but unfortunately, it’s a fact of life, one that we have to come to terms with at some point. Dementia in dogs is known as canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CCDS).
This awful impairment works pretty much the same way it does in humans. The sudden loss of memory leads to a great deal of confusion, which in turn causes a lot of stress. The anxiety drives them to you for protection and soothing.
We really hope this isn’t the case, friends, but clinginess could well be one of the first noticeable signs of CCDS.
Still, it’s no good to jump to conclusions as canine behaviorists point out that dogs tend to get more vocal and dependent on their owner as they grow old.
If your dog’s sudden attachment to you seems to have come on over a period of time rather than all at once, the likelihood is that your pooch is just living their best golden years.
Helping Dogs with CCDS
It saddens us to say, but unfortunately, there is no miracle cure for CCDS, but there are plenty of things you can do to minimize the effects of this debilitating conduction.
We’re going to run through a couple of great tips now, but as dementia is a complex impairment, we highly recommend doing some further reading into possible treatments.
- Don’t rearrange furniture – This is a specific example, but the real piece of advice here is never do anything that may cause any more confusion than is necessary. Any familiarity you can create for your dog will help them to feel at ease.
- More doggy puzzles – We’re back on the puzzles again, peeps. A focused task will help keep your dog’s mind sharp for as long as possible. This has also been suggested as a way to stave off dementia in humans, but findings in recent studies contradict its efficacy. The general consensus at the minute seems to be that puzzles might help, but they might not. We say it’s worth trying absolutely everything to give your best friend a comfortable life. This TRIXIE Dog Activity Flip Board is a particular favorite of ours.
- Make some room in bed – Being able to feel your presence in the small hours will mean the world to your dog and will reduce a significant amount of anxiety.
- Beds and bowls a-plenty – Ensure your dog always knows and has access to their bed and bowls. If you catch this condition early on, it may even be worth bringing a few extra beds and bowls into other highly frequented rooms in the house. Do bear in mind though, that bringing more doggy items into your home at a later date may cause more confusion.
- Patience – I’m sure we don’t have to tell you to be patient with your dog, but CCDS can be trying at times, for you and your best friend.
- Medication – Some anti-anxiety meds from your vet will also help to keep your dog calm and comfortable.
A dog won’t always crave proximity when they’re ill. In fact, depending on the illness and dog’s personality, they’re just as likely to do the opposite and stray away from human interaction.
However, a sudden desire for your constant attention may well mean your dog is coming down with an illness of some kind.
What to Do if You Think Your Dog Might be Getting Sick
If your dog is being unusually clingy, I think it’s important that your first port of call is to book an appointment with your vet. Sure, it may just be that they’re bored, but it could also be something far more insidious like illness or dementia. As such, our only advice here is to…
- Take your dog to see a vet – The sooner, the better.
- Be patient, loving, and understanding – We all need a little extra TLC during an illness, and dogs are the same. Offer them the support and love they need. It’ll make their situation far more bearable. Once they’re fighting fit, you’ll notice the phasing out of this clingy stint.
Major Lifestyle Changes
We’re all creatures of habit to a certain extent, and big upheavals in our lifestyle may well be exciting, but the flip side of that coin is stress and anxiety. Remember the last time you started a new job? Terrifying, right?
Just try to remember when something big impacts you, as part of your life, it impacts your dog in a big way too.
These lifestyle changes could include a loss or addition to the family (human or pet), moving house, even a different diet or new decor.
Too much change will seem alien and confusing to your dog, and they will seek comfort from their loving owner.
How to Ease Your Dog into Lifestyle Changes
The key word here is gently. If you’re making some big chucka-changes in your life – a distant move or something – try to introduce your dog to the reality of the situation incrementally. It’s also a good idea to keep up the current stability of their life for as long as possible before making the final change.
- Scent introduction – Whether you’re bringing a new pup to the family or moving house, allowing your dog to learn the new smells will work wonders on their anxiety over the changes.
- Supervised meetings with baby – Allow your dog to acclimatize to the presence of an infant, but always monitor the situation, and don’t let them come into contact with your child.
If your female dog is yet to be spayed, a sudden burst of clinginess could simply mean she’s ovulating. During this phase, it’s common for dogs to seek more attention than usual from their owners.
Dogs in Heat
Obviously, in this situation, their clingy disposition will pass. You’ll know if your dog’s in heat if they…
- Are paying extra attention to male dogs on walks.
- Pee frequently.
- Lick their special area more than usual.
- Are especially nervous.
- Are agitated, bordering on aggressive.
- Hold their tail unusually.
- Have swollen vulva.
- Discharge blood.
Baby On Board
Our final key to the clingy mystery is human or doggy pregnancy. Studies have shown that dogs can sense subtle changes in human bodies, and may get closer to you to offer protection.
Pregnancy in dogs can go either way. They might get clingy, or they might isolate themselves.
We don’t have any fixes for you on this count, folks. It is what it is. Just be flattered that you’re their trusted companion.
Paws for Thought
We hope you found the reason for your dog’s sudden behavioral changes. As long as you’re patient, and take your fluffy child to the vet as soon as possible, everything will be just fine.