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Why is my dog so needy?

Ellie, German Shepherd

Dog neediness is a real conundrum. On one hand, we love it that our dogs' love us, but on the other hand, dogs need to be independent and not constantly vying for our attention. This blog deals with clingy dogs, but not dogs with separation anxiety.

My parents' dog, Ellie, is super needy. She has to be near you or touching you at all times. We call her the "Velcro" dog. Ellie is a German shepherd. Most of the shepherds that I have seen are in fact, "Velcro" dogs. My dad likes to joke that when he takes her on a hike, he kicks her in the face because she has to be so close to him. The last time I took her on a hike, the back of my legs were covered in Ellie drool.

Before making drastic changes and retraining, consider a couple factors first:

  • Medical: If your dog is acting clingy all of a sudden, they may be feeling pain or discomfort. An underlying health issue can easily explain sudden change in behavior. Consult your veterinarian to see if a health condition is the reason.

  • Breed: Your dog may instinctually be clingy. The top 5 in my honest opinion are: Vizla, Border Collie, German Shepherd, Pug, Italian Greyhound and Australian shepherds.

If you've ruled out the above factors, here are some tips to help.

  • Treat your dog whenever they are calm. You want to establish a positive interaction with your dog being calm.

  • Desensitize your dog to your movements. When our dogs are attuned to certain motions. (picking up our keys, putting on our shoes) they know something is going to happen whether its a reward or leaving them. Try to normalize your behavior. Practice those behaviors without actually going through with the normal activity that goes with them. (ie. Grab your keys and start cleaning the kitchen)

  • Create a special space just for your dog. Put their bed and favorite toys in that space. This needs to be a space where they can go instead of following you around. Train your dog to go to this area with a cue like, "Go to your special space," and immediately reward them with a treat when they go there. My dad trained Ellie by using the Cue, "Bed." (ie. Ellie go to your bed.) Now she goes and pouts in her bed, but she's not in my dad's face when he tries to do something.

  • Provide plenty of physical and mental exercise. Quite often, clingy dogs just need more physical and mental stimulation. Start by taking a walk or playing ball for at least 45 minutes. Consider investing in some puzzles or interactive toys to help your dog with mental exercise and stimulation. (We call it enrichment at daycare.)

  • Establish a routine. Dogs, just like children thrive on consistency. Try to schedule meal times, walks, and play times consistently throughout your week. For example, our dog Molly, knows the exact time she should be eating and when my husband takes her on a trail run.

If none of these tips work for you, don't lose hope! There are behavioral trainers and veterinary behaviorists that are more than willing to work with you and personalize a training plan.


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