A “Velcro dog” wants to be where you are, no matter what and no matter where. Many of these dogs follow their owners from room to room, even into the bathroom. Some breeds, like the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, just naturally desire closeness. My dogs are always in the same room as me. As I write this article, they’re all settled in my office for a nice nap. But they’re equally fine with my husband or home alone. They desire closeness, but they’re confident when alone, too.
When you leave your home, a healthy Velcro/clingy dog quietly waits for his owner to return. If he destroys the home and/or injures himself when you’re not in his sight, it’s a problem. This is called separation anxiety.
A dog with separation anxiety may engage in behavior that destroys household items and even harms himself. This dog may need behavior training and/or medication. Note: An older but often referenced study found that separation anxiety doesn’t develop just because a dog is “spoiled,” but it is more likely to occur in homes with one dog and one human.
Pain or Discomfort
If your dog changes and needs to be by your side every minute, and it is out of character for him to behave like this, then perhaps he’s not feeling well. If a dog is in pain, he may go to his owner for comfort. Bring him to the veterinarian to make sure there’s nothing wrong with him.
Another reason a dog might suddenly find the need to stick to you like Velcro is fear or an unsettling household change:
- Is there a new member of the household that the dog is uncomfortable with?
- An uncle that’s a little too rough or loud?
- A new baby that makes high pitched noises?
- Are you having workers in the house?
- A toddler who just learned to stomp and throw toys and scream?
- Or maybe the new puppy is just too much for your older dog (or vice versa).
My dogs were clingier while we were having noisy house repairs done, with strange men hammering all day. My dogs never left my side until the workers started bringing them (owner-approved!) treats. Dogs like routine. And any time that routine changes, it can cause him angst, and he will seek protection from you. Or he may think he’s protecting you.
Many rescue dogs or puppy-mill dogs, who have finally found their forever home, get anxious when they are asked to leave your side. They need to be close to you every minute because they are insecure and possibly fearful. Who knows what kind of environment they have experienced in the past?
When you leave, they are not sure if you will be back, so they don’t want to let go. Hopefully, they will learn that you return every time, and they will be able to rest while you’re gone. Often, medications from your vet will help to relieve the anxiety until they feel that you are not deserting them.
For some of these dogs, teaching them you will be back is as simple as practicing. You leave them alone for 20 seconds and return and give them a treat. You gradually increase the time away, over the course of a week or two, until they realize that, “Oh, Mom is leaving! She’ll be back and I will get a treat.”
Many dogs also relax more if they go to their spot or their cozy crate before you leave. It keeps them safe, and it reminds them that this is what they do while you’re away from home and, when you return, you’ll let them out.
Classes can Help a Velcro Dog
Several dogs enrolled in my Basic class each session cling to their handlers out of fear. They just cannot come out from behind their owners. We simply carry on with the class, have fun and play with toys, with dogs getting lots of treats for doing simple exercises. Eventually, the shy dog takes interest in the class and wants to join in. Within six weeks, we have a more confident pet who is a little less clingy.
There was one Chihuahua, however, that I remember from a few years ago, who never came out from behind his owner. The owner came to class each week, her dog hiding behind her. She learned how to teach various exercises, went home and taught Muffin. The result was a very shy, albeit very well-trained dog. And everyone was happy.
I hope that you are lucky enough to have a dog who loves you so much he wants to be by your side, is comfortable with you leaving him at home for a bit, and greets you with barking, spins, and kisses when you arrive back at home. And as the moon rises, it finds you cuddled up together in a chair under a warm blanket.