As I write these words, two beautiful Husky mixes are lying at my feet. I rescued Sierra and Bodhi from the shelter over 11 years ago, and to this day, they still follow me from room to room, wanting to hang out wherever I am. Maybe you too have your very own furry entourage that trails you everywhere, not wanting to let you out of their sight. On the one hand, it’s nice to be so loved! On the other, it’s nice to be able to close the bathroom door for some privacy. You might be wondering why your dog sticks by you like a shaggy Secret Service agent, and you may even be concerned that the behaviour is abnormal. Is following you everywhere really a problem? And why do dogs do this? Let’s break it down.
Dogs share an extremely high percentage of DNA with wolves. Both species are pack animals that crave the company of a family unit. When we bring dogs into our homes, we become their pack, their family. But even within that paradigm, some breeds are more socially inclined than others. Dogs who have been bred to be companions, such as Maltese and Pekingese, are more likely to follow their owners around the house than, say, a livestock guardian like an Anatolian Shepherd, who has his own business to tend to. Of course, dogs are individuals, and even within a specific breed, some beings are simply more social or even dependent than others.
It may be that your dog is more bonded with one person in the family. That’s not unusual, especially if that person feeds the dog, takes him for walks, and sees to his general needs. But sometimes, it’s the person who isn’t home during the day that the dog follows around. That makes sense as well since that person’s presence has become more valuable due to being less available. Your dog, once he’s finished performing the welcome home happy dance, might even follow that person around for the entire evening, not wanting to let them out of his sight!
"Dogs share an extremely high percentage of DNA with wolves. Both species are pack animals that crave the company of a family unit."
The problem comes when behaviour morphs from Velcro-like bonding into true distress when you are not close by. There are plenty of dogs who follow their owners from room to room but are perfectly fine when left home alone. Others, however, cannot handle being by themselves, even for a short period of time. As I explain in my book Don’t Leave Me, some dogs have an issue with being separated from a specific person, while others simply do not want to be left by themselves. In the latter case, as long as someone is around—sometimes even another dog will do—the dog can remain calm. This is called isolation distress, and it is easier to treat than a dog who is overly attached to one specific person. When a dog who habitually follows their person around whines, barks, howls, or shows other signs of distress when separated from them, a consultation with a professional trainer is in order. A protocol can be developed where your dog is left alone for short increments of time after setting him up for success with appropriate exercise before you leave, chew items, and complementary therapies.
In short, barring a separation issue, there really isn’t anything wrong with your dog following you around the house. You can create a healthy balance by periodically giving your dog some alone time with a stuffed Kong or chew bone, but whether your dog constantly trailing you is a bother is up to you. Personally, my dogs are seniors and every minute I can spend with them is precious. Bodhi and Sierra, who are still lying at my feet, completely agree.