From the living room to the bedroom, to the kitchen and the bathroom, our dogs follow us. We examine the reasons why your pooch always wants to tag along.

By Haylee Bergeland, CPDT-KA, RBT
October 20, 2020
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Apparently, we humans need a buddy beside us when we’re doing the laundry, changing the sheets, searching for the phone charger, and of course during bathroom breaks. At least according to our dogs. Maybe they think we need their support, even as we are reaching for the toilet paper roll they chewed on yesterday. Privacy? What’s that?

Despite what dog owners are often told (thanks Google!), this behavior has nothing to do with your dog being a pack animal or your dog trying to “steal” your space. Dogs, like people, are social animals and they enjoy the company of their loved ones. They love it so much that at times they will endure your dirty bathroom (don’t look at mine!) just to be with you.

Reasons Your Dog Might Follow You Everywhere

Human-Animal Bond

After so many years of selective breeding, dogs are truly man’s best friend. If you have a close relationship with your dog built on trust and understanding, your physical presence is crucial to maintaining that beautiful companionship. Plus, positive interactions with humans has shown to raise oxytocin levels in our dogs. So, being near their BFF actually feels good, too.

Boredom

After being alone for hours, or when there are no birds out the window to obsess over, our dogs become increasingly bored and require good enrichment. If you don’t provide it, trust me, they will find ways to entertain themselves. A bored dog may also find that if they continue to follow you around, you will finally get the hint that it is walkies time.

Credit: Yeji Kim

Anxiousness

Dogs experience nervousness, fear, and anxiety very similar to how we feel it. And just like us, when our dogs become anxious they may want to be near someone that makes them feel safe and secure. For many anxious dogs, separation from the person they are bonded with only adds to their stress. 

Reinforcement

If you and your dog have a history of positive reinforcement training together, and your dog knows that you provide access to all things fun and tasty, your presence alone is a solid indicator of good things to come. Plus, it’s not hard to figure out that when you’re making a snack in the kitchen it might equal delicious crumbs on the floor.

Breed 

Some breeds, in particular those that have been bred for centuries to work alongside a human, are hardwired to stay near their person. The herding group is a good example of this. Herding dogs have learned to pay very close attention to their owner’s cues, wait for new information, and be ready to perform a specific task  (like gather the sheep). Other breed groups, such as the working group, have been selectively bred to be on-the-job with their owners.

Unmet Needs or Medical issues

Sometimes we just don’t pick up on the not-so-subtle hints that our dogs need to go outside. Dogs that all of a sudden become “clingy” may need a potty break. As well, dogs who aren’t feeling well or have an underlying medical issue, might suddenly begin to follow you around more.

When Should You Be Concerned?

Although it can get annoying, even a tad creepy, the majority of the time your dog wants to follow you is nothing to be concerned about. However, if your dog obsessively following you is a new behavior, that may indicate they need to be seen by a veterinarian or behavior consultant.

It’s important to pay extra-close attention to canine body language and communication. If you notice your dog’s following-you-around behavior includes signs of stress, you should seek help from a certified behavior consultant or positive reinforcement trainer. A tense-looking body, vocalizations such as whining or barking, or the inability to settle down, would all suggest issues of fear or even anxiety.

If you find the behavior came on suddenly, there could be an underlying health issue. Moving slowly or groaning when lying down, sensitivity to touch, or changes in behavior like not eating or issues pottying, indicate a need to be seen by your vet right away.