Imagine… a new home, away from your mother, siblings and everything familiar. Being a puppy is tough and brings about a lot of emotional challenges and changes in their short time on earth, it’s no wonder they’re clingy when they arrive in their new home. You may have anticipated their arrival and loved them for weeks, but for them EVERYTHING is new.
If you have a Velcro dog, who feels like they’re too attached to you, or a needy puppy, then this is a must-read for you.
In this article we’ll be looking at reasons why your puppy is so attached to you, what being a Velcro dog really means, and if you should be worried about your puppy’s clinginess. We’ll also give you some top training tips to help your dog feel more confident and independent, so they’re less clingy.
Before we get started download the Zigzag puppy training app, you’ll get access to loads of content that will help you raise a happy, healthy pup. We take you through the puppy training process step by step, and rather than focusing on simple or strict obedience, we focus on life skills, to make your dog well-mannered AND well natured. There’s also a team of professional puppy trainers waiting to talk you through the highs and the lows, and they’re around 24/7 via our in-app chat.
Why is my puppy so attached to me?
Dogs are social creatures, and it is normal that your puppy would be too. We’ve selectively bred dogs for thousands of years to be our companions, so being affectionate, and craving attention is actually quite normal. Let’s look at the reasons why your puppy is so attached to you.
Your puppy looks to you for comfort and security
Moving to a new home, as a defenseless puppy, will mean your puppy will latch on to someone who makes them feel safe, and that’s you. Being clingy at this age is really normal, and is a survival mechanism for most puppies. In the wild, they wouldn’t survive long on their own, so as a hangover from domestication, being attached to a human makes perfect sense.
You control all their resources
Think about it, we provide all of our puppy’s access to food, water, warmth, toys and fun! We are their everything, and they know that hanging out with us predicts nice things.
It’s in their genetic makeup
For some breeds of dogs, being overly attached and human centric is part of their DNA, and we’ve selectively bred certain breeds to be more attached and dependent on humans, so it figures they’ll have a tendency to do that.
If your puppy or dog isn’t feeling well, they’re in pain, or just under the weather, then they will want to be with someone who makes them feel better.
Separation related problems
Some overly clingy dogs or puppies, who vocalize or show a lot of stress related body language, like panting or shaking may be suffering from a separation-related problem, or even separation anxiety.
Read our full guides to separation anxiety in puppies, and dog separation anxiety, to learn more.
What does ‘Velcro Dog’ mean?
People will often describe their clingy puppy as a Velcro dog. They feel like the puppy is attached to them at all times, yep even when using the bathroom! Most dogs are naturally curious and follow their owners around, in case they might miss out on something.
For some dogs, this is just a natural way to be, and they’re fine when their owner leaves them at home alone, for other dogs it can indicate that they struggle when being left alone. Research shows that having a Velcro dog does not necessarily indicate separation anxiety, so it’s worth watching your dog when you’re away.
Should I be concerned about my dog’s clinginess?
If your dog is suddenly acting extra needy or anxious, it’s totally understandable to feel worried. If you have a young pup, it’s important to keep in mind what’s normal for their age and focus on helping them feel more comfortable being alone at home.
Any sudden changes in behavior should always be talked through with your Vet, to check for medical or health causes.
How to help your dog become less clingy
Here’s our top training tips to help your dog be less clingy, and become more independent.
Give them comfort when they need it
Providing a secure attachment for your dog when they need it, will help them to feel safe. We don’t subscribe to letting puppies or dogs cry it out, it tends to make them feel worse, and they can go into a state of learned helplessness as they’ve tried everything to make themselves feel better, but nothing works and now they feel powerless.
Use positive reinforcement-based training
Here at Zigzag, we are all about using the most up-to-date methods to make dogs feel good and optimistic about life. This can also help to make your dog feel less anxious and needy overall, chuck out the punishments and stick to rewards and treats.
Do confidence-building exercises
Teaching your dog through training games like in our training games library gives them confidence and a sense of achievement, which will contribute to all round improved wellness and mental health.
You can also teach them tricks with clicker training, like spin or bow, such fun!
Use food toys
Using puzzle toys and interactive games, makes confinement areas and distance from you feel more rewarding. Enrichment activities can be used to teach your dog that puppy playpens, crates and being away from you is a nice thing.
Get family and friends involved
Teaching your puppy that other people are valuable can help them be less clingy to you, and that friends and family are also worth hanging out with. If there’s more than one person in your household, share feeding times, play times and who gives treats so your pup won’t cling to one main provider.
Make other places comfortable for them
Giving your puppy a den-like crate that’s cozy with a nice soft bed and snuggly blankets they can dig and scuff up, will give them some more comfortable options to hang out in.
Be consistent and patient
Teaching a clingy puppy that wants to be like your little shadow, that they don’t need to follow you everywhere takes time and patience, just like training for anything else. Give it time, and keep going!
If you have a clingy puppy it’s important to understand why they’re so attached to you and realize that it’s often just normal puppy behavior and not a sign of separation anxiety or anything to be too concerned about. Dogs are social animals, and they often don’t understand why they can’t be with you every second of the day!
If you feel like your dog is too needy or attached to you there is training you can do, to help them feel more confident and independent, but make sure you do it with positive reinforcement, and always think about how your dog might be feeling. Never leave your dog to just cry it out, it creates more problems than it solves and generally makes your dog more clingy not less!
If you want to read more on clingy puppies you might want to check our article on why does my puppy follow me to the bathroom, or perhaps, why does my puppy follow me everywhere. Of course, you just want to teach some fun tricks to build their confidence.
For more great lessons on attachment in puppies, how to crate train, potty train, or simply teach your puppy to come back when you call then, download the Zigzag puppy training app. We have a team of professional dog trainers waiting for you to ask those burning questions too!