The answer to “Why does my dog follow me everywhere, is it her age?” Is yes, it could very well be her age, especially if she is getting on in years. There are different reasons for your cuddly canine companion to follow you around wherever you go, but if it’s not her normal behavior and she gradually becomes more clingy, often it’s directly related to getting older.
You may find it sweet and endearing at first, but when she tries to get into the bathroom with you or you almost trip over or step on her a few times, it can begin to get worrisome. Why does she do this and what can you do about it?
It’s Partly Instinctive
Your dog already sees you as the alpha ‘pack’ leader. The domesticated dog is directly related to the wolf and in a wolf pack, the alpha pack leaders are just that – Leaders. They decide when the pack moves, hunts, and rests. The other pack members know their place and are always watching the alpha’s movements so they know what their next move is.
You are the Alpha. Your dog is already instinctively programmed to watch your every move and to follow when necessary, and this is just what her ancestry has instilled in her. There is no way to undo that; but today’s domesticated canine is of course much more tame, trained, and let’s face it, spoiled.
The instinct is still there however, and this coupled with the fact that you are her chief means of food, water, love, and overall security only serves to reinforce it. So the tendency to follow you around is already innate in her and today’s powerful human-animal bond strengthens it even more.
Some dog breeds have been specifically bred for hundreds of years to work side by side with humans. This also contributes to their inclination to ‘shadow’ their masters. Some such breeds include Labrador and Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, Italian Greyhounds, French Bulldogs, Shelties, Pugs, Great Danes, and of course, all mixtures thereof!
As Your Dog Gets Older, She May Become More Anxious
Even if your precious pet has always been a confidently happy and fun-loving companion, it’s not uncommon for her to start showing signs of anxious behavior in her senior years. Her brain is aging, her eyesight and hearing may become diminished, and she may be experiencing pain due to arthritis.
All of this is confusing and disorienting for her, so it’s not hard to imagine why she wants to stick close to the person she trusts most. Senior dogs also experience separation anxiety much more acutely than younger dogs and she may be afraid to let you out of her sight for fear she’ll lose you.
Some dogs as they reach their golden years, also experience an Alzheimer’s-like condition called cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS). This disorder typically develops gradually, and although the beginning symptoms can be mild, they usually worsen over time. They include confusion and some memory loss which can also cause your precious pet to stick to you like Velcro.
What Can You Do To Discourage Your ‘Shadow’ Dog
If your Old Girl is following you around because she’s anxious and afraid of losing sight of you, there are a few things you can do to remedy the situation or at least lessen her adhesive tendencies.
- Reassurance The definition of reassurance is “The action of removing someone’s doubts or fears.” You may become exasperated with your needy pet and her constant clinging, but reacting in a negative manner will only upset her further and worsen the situation. Never underestimate the power of your own gentle touch and your own soothing voice and her hungry response to it. How you treat your faithful friend at this stage in life can go a long way in alleviating her fears.
- Make Her a “Place” If she doesn’t already have one, make her a ‘home base’ where she can retreat to if she’s feeling disoriented or anxious. Include her favorite toys, crate or bed, a ‘security blanket’ (such as an old sweater or shoe with your scent on it), all within easy access to plenty of fresh water of course. Call it Her Place; “Baby’s Place” or “Toni’s Place” and encourage her to go there with her favorite treats or with lavish praise and petting when she does settle down there. When she is finally down, leave her gradually, praising her with every step away that you take, as long as she stays there. If she goes to get up, respond with a firm, “stay in Toni’s place!” She will soon see this as a game and comply with your wishes.
- Baby Gates Installing a baby gate or baby gates around the house can be a way to prevent your precious pet from following you everywhere. Since your dog can still see and hear you through the baby gate, you can use these temporarily until she gains more confidence and realizes that she’s not losing you if she can’t be right next to you.
- Desensitize the Behavior When you get up from a sitting or lounging position and your dog immediately follows suit, sit back down again. Repeat this action until your dog stops responding to it. Likewise, if you put your coffee cup down at the kitchen table and start yawning and stretching, and she becomes alert to your movements and readies herself to rise with you, just keep yawning and stretching and putting your coffee cup down until her senses tire and these actions lose their meaning for her. If she’s already walking along close beside you, walk in circles for a little while.
- Exercise Make sure your Old Baby gets plenty of exercise. A tired dog is a content and sleepy dog; And that makes for a good dog!
- All Natural Calming Treats All of the above are logistical strategies that you can use in everyday situations but sometimes other things occur, like a thunderstorm, a vet visit, or fireworks. An older, anxious dog can work herself up into such a state of agitation that an all natural calming treat may be the best way to go. I’ve always gotten excellent results with Zesty Paws Stress & Anxiety Calming Bites.
Happiness Is Freedom
Freeing both you and your dog from Velco Dog Syndrome is a Win-Win situation. You are free from worrying about tripping and falling over her, as well as worrying about her constant anxiety. She gets to realize that you are not going to disappear forever if she’s not underfoot or glued to your side.
You may think some of these methods silly or far fetched (and indeed feel silly doing some of them while your dog looks at you like you’ve gone round the bend), but they will work if practiced consistently. When you consider that your geriatric ‘best girlfriend’ has likely been with you a good while now (not to mention through thick and thin), it’s a small price to pay to ease her anxiety and reassure her of your much deserved love.
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