He used to be pretty independent, but these days, you might as well attach a side cart to your leg so your pup doesn't have to chase you down every time you stand up and walk into another room! Of course, that'd be cumbersome, so maybe it's more realistic to address your pup's sudden clinginess. Watching for other behaviors will often indicate whether you can stop his attachment by throwing his ball more often or if it'll require a bit more work.
Why Did My Dog Become Needy?
If your schedule has changed and your pup is now at home all day without his best friend to play with, snuggle next to and bark at, he's probably been sleeping all day. The moment you walk in the door, he goes from super bored to super excited. He hasn't seen you for what seems like forever to him, and he wants to play fetch, receive ear rubs, belly rubs and head pats. And he's going to make sure he gets everything he wants, so he'll follow you around, especially if you don't have the time to give him lots of attention when you walk through the door. Sit at your computer and he'll lay by your feet. Prepare dinner and he'll act as the chef's helper. He may also whine and bark to make you notice him.
Fear and Discomfort
Dogs seek out what comforts them when they're scared or uncomfortable. In many cases, that's a spot under your bed, behind the couch or something similar. But your pup might see you as his ultimate security blanket and flee to your side when he hears or sees anything that frightens him, such as a loud noise on the TV or a thunderstorm rolling through. Anything that causes discomfort, but not necessarily fear, can also result in the same sort of clinginess. Examples include an ultrasonic bark deterrent that's malfunctioning and picking up non-barking sounds such as a deep voice, malfunctioning anti-bark collars and illnesses.
If your pup is getting up there in years, his age may have something to do with his new behavior. When he was a puppy, he was probably more attached to you and stuck by your side. As an adolescent and into adulthood, that attachment likely waned, but now that his brows and whiskers are gray, he might be more dependent on you again. His change in behavior may be caused by cognitive dysfunction, which affects older dogs. Other symptoms include confusion, restlessness, excessive grooming, loss of old fears and an addition of new fears.
If you come home to a furry troublemaker who ransacked your house by getting in your trash, peeing on your floor, ripping up the carpet, tearing into the couch or acting generally destructive, separation anxiety may be playing a role. The second you come home, your little guy won't leave your side. This differs from just wanting attention because you'll also be cleaning up the mess he made while you were gone. He gets extremely anxious when you leave. He remains very worried until you come home, and then he basically attaches himself to you. He might even seem clingy if you leave to get the mail or pick up the newspaper from your porch.
If your pup sticks to your side because he's bored, the obvious fix is more exercise, such as daily walks, fetch and running free in an enclosed area at least a few times a week. In the case of fear and separation anxiety, counterconditioning him to associate something positive -- such as treats -- with what he fears will tone down his, "I have to run to mom or dad" response. Severe fears and separation anxiety may need the help of a qualified dog trainer or medication from your vet. As for discomfort, avoid leaving ultrasonic bark machines on while you're home and remove all electric collars. All too often these devices pick up outside noise as barks and cause discomfort when your pooch is quiet. If he seems in pain, sick or has symptoms associated with cognitive dysfunction syndrome, take his furry rump to your vet for a checkup.
By Chris Miksen
About the Author
Located in Pittsburgh, Chris Miksen has been writing instructional articles on a wide range of topics for online publications since 2007. He currently owns and operates a vending business. Miksen has written a variety of technical and business articles throughout his writing career. He studied journalism at the Community College of Allegheny County.