Understanding a Clingy Dog: Causes and How to Teach Independence
Does your furry friend follow you around wherever you go? This may be a sign that your dog is a clingy one.
A clingy dog tends to stay close to his human companion at all times and when not in the same room, shows signs of distress. The canine may refuse to leave his human’s side, watching his every move and attempts to follow the person when physically separated. And while loyalty is a desirable quality in a dog, a normal and healthy canine maintains his independence and isn’t troubled by short separation.
You may not mind it if your pooch rests his head in your lap each time you watch television. However, it becomes a huge problem if your dog starts exhibiting destructive behaviors due to separation.
Let this guide from a Dubai pet food delivery service help you understand your clingy dog better and teach him independence.
Why your dog won’t leave you alone
There are some breeds that are genetically predisposed to be clingy. Lapdogs such as pugs and Chihuahuas tend to be quite attached to their humans. Even people-pleasing canines like Labrador retrievers may also become clingy.
Dog personality types vary and sometimes they become clingy because their owners allow them to be by giving too much attention. The “appropriate” amount of clinginess is up to you and if it’s becoming a problem, you’ll have to cut back on petting your pooch every time he’s near.
There are other factors that may also be the cause of why your dog seeks comfort from your companionship. These include:
1. Separation Anxiety
This involves the emotional discomfort that a dog feels when away from family members. He may even want to be next to his owner at all times once they’re together. Anxiety may lead the canine to engage in destructive behaviors which usually starts to show within 30 minutes after the owner has left.
A dog seeks protection by staying close to his owner when he’s not feeling well. Aging, although not an illness, can weaken a dog and make him more susceptible to illness. Just like senior dogs, epileptic dogs cling to their owners for support when they know they’re about to have a seizure.
A female pooch who is “in heat” or receptive to mating is in estrus. This happens twice a year, beginning when the dog is a year old and lasts from three to four weeks. When a dog is in proestrus, she may become clingy and stick close to you often.
How to inculcate independence
Teaching your dog independence is crucial in ensuring that he’ll be completely fine even if you’re not around. When you come home after work, your house shouldn’t be in a messy state just because your dog can’t take being away from you.
Below are some tips that may help ease your pet’s anxiety and encourage him to become an independent canine.
1. Give enough exercise
One of the easiest ways to decrease your dog’s stress underlying separation is to make sure he gets enough exercise. Aim for at least two hours of exercise each day. You can either go for a walk in the park or simply enjoy a game of Frisbee in your yard.
2. Set boundaries
Your dog should understand that not everything will go his way. For your dog to realize this, it’s important that you set some boundaries. For instance, you can train your pooch to go to his bed or crate every time he gets underfoot.
When you ignore excessive clingy behaviors such as pawing or whining for your attention, eventually, your dog will stop.
3. Establish a safe place
If you’re not around, your dog should have a safe place where he can retreat for rest and relaxation. This is a great way to keep your pooch out of trouble. It’s important that your canine pal has a positive experience in his crate so that he can see it as his own safe refuge.
To encourage your dog to feel good about his crate, leave the crate door open for him to enter and exit at will. Place some food, treats, and toys inside to make the crate more inviting. You may also want to place the crate where you’ll be in your canine’s sight until he becomes accustomed to it.
4. Use interactive toys
It’s not rare to find dogs ignoring their toys unless someone is there to play with them. Balls and stuffed toys may seem to have no point for your dog if you’re not around to throw it for him.
For moments when you’re not around to play with your pooch, give him interactive toys so that he can have fun even without your help.
Puzzle toys are a good example of interactive toys which not only give your dog a form of entertainment but also help his mental stimulation. Problem-solving interactive toys can help keep your pooch busy and focused on getting the treat other than your departure.
5. Enroll your pet in an obedience program
Whether your canine pal is young or a bit older, he can benefit from beginning to advanced obedience training. This way, he does not only learn to be more disciplined, but having scheduled classes will add more consistency to his activities and help instill self-confidence, as well as respect and trust in you.
6. Visit the vet
If nothing seems to work and you suspect your dog is clingy because of separation anxiety, let a veterinarian evaluate his condition. Your vet may prescribe anti-anxiety medication and some behavioral exercises to reduce his clinginess.
Understand your dog’s fear or pain
If your dog’s clinginess is a new behavior, it may be his way of trying to find relief from certain fear or pain. Are your neighbors using fireworks or is your child poking your dog lately?
Don’t simply ignore your clingy dog and find first the root cause of his behavior. Remember, it’s okay to pet your dog when he’s afraid. In the meantime, make sure your pet has a safe place he can go to when he’s afraid, so that he'll depend on you less for comfort.
Farah Al-Khojai is the Managing Partner of Pet's Delight. A passionate entrepreneur, Farah holds a Bsc in Government from the London School of Economics. She is always on the lookout for new opportunities to develop and grow the pet and equestrian retail and wholesale market in the UAE and beyond, and is proud to be at the helm of the first and the largest pet care provider in the market representing world-class brands including Orijen, Applaws, Hunter, Savic, Flamingo, Ruffwear and Rogz.