It's very cute having your dog follow you around the house, sit on your lap and cuddle up to you. However, the constant attention-seeking behaviour can become bothersome.
Are all dogs attention-seeking?
To an extent, all dogs crave and love attention from their companion. We provide love, food, safety and entertainment for them. Dogs are very sociable and require as much social interaction as humans.
What are the main causes of dog-clinginess?
The definition of seperation anxiety is "distress caused by the absence of an attachment figure"1
Separation anxiety is triggered when a dog becomes upset due to separation from their family. This anxiety can cause the dog to bark, cry, break objects inside the house, pace inside the house, hyperventilate, and inside toileting 2. This anxiety upsets owners, pets, and neighbors. Studies have found that male dogs are more likely to exhibit problems than female dogs3, a lack of socialisation outside the home between 5-10months 4, and dogs are adopted at an older age are more likely to experience anixety related issues 5.
If your dog is feeling unwell or aging they will naturally want to be closer to you.
What can you do to prevent clinginess and anxiety?
The best strategy for reducing anxiety is desensitisation and conditioning. Behavioral techniques used to treat dogs with anxiety was developed for use in the 1960' and 1970s 7.
- Provide your puppy with a wide-range of positive experiences between the age of 5-10months.
- When you introduce your puppy to your house leave them at home for short periods of time, and gradually increase the time spent away from them during the day. Start doing this over very short periods 20-30minutes. Reward your puppy with treats when you get home. We also leave the tv on or calming music playing on the stereo.
- Ensure that your dog is getting enough exercise. We recommend taking your dog out for a walk/play before you leave for work for the day.
- Leave toys out for them to play with during the day.
- Dogs prefer stability in their daily routines. Sudden changes in routine can make anxiety issues worse.
- Avoid punishments for anxiety related issues. Studies have shown punishment increases anxiety in nervous dogs.
- Discourage attachment issues by not allowing your dog to follow you from room to room.
- Calming supplements for dogs. There are now a number of calming supplements available to purchase for your dog.
Dogs suffering from severe anxiety need to be treated in baby steps. They will show anxiety at any sign you are leaving. Studies have shown that dogs display vocal issues within 3minutes of the owner leaving and 7.13 minutes for destructive behavior6. Owners should then gradually desentize the dog by walking out of the house for a few seconds and then return after and rewaerd and praise the dog. The goal is to gradually increase this time (7).
It is very important that your dog receives enough exercise and mental training to keep them from destructive behaviour.
Mentally stimulating ideas to try with your dog.
- Obedience training
- Provide bones to chew on
- Stimulating game. There are a number of games produced now that are designed to stimulate your dog while they hunt for treats.
- Hide and treat. Hide treats under an object and have your dog sniff to find out which one has the treat.
- Hide a treat or a favourite toy in one of your hands and have them guess which hand the reward is in.
Seperation anxiety causes a number of problems for dogs and there owners. Studies have shown that some conditions predispose dogs to anxiety issues. However, if your dog does suffer from seperation anxiety, conditioning your dog over time has been proven to be highly succesful in reducing anxiety in your dogs life and without medication.
If you would like to learn more about adding fruit into your dogs diet you can view our article here.
1) 14. Herron ME, Lord LK, Husseini SE. Effects of preadoption counselling on the prevention of separation anxiety in newly adopted shelter dogs. J Vet Behav. 2014;9(1):13–21.
2) Kim YM, Lee JK, Abd el-aty AM, Hwang SH, Lee JH, Lee SM. Efficacy of dog-appeasing pheromone (DAP) for ameliorating separation-related behavioral signs in hospitalized dogs. Can Vet J. 2010 Apr;51(4):380-4. PMID: 20592826; PMCID: PMC2839826.
3) Flannigan G, Dodman NH. Risk factors and behaviors associated with separation anxiety in dogs. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2001;219(4): 460–466.
4) Bradshaw JW, McPherson JA, Casey RA, Larter S. Aetiology of separation-related behaviour in domestic dogs. Vet Rec. 2002 Jul 13;151(2):43-6. doi: 10.1136/vr.151.2.43. PMID: 12148601.
5) Takeuchi Y, Ogata N, Houpt KA, Scarlett JM. Differences in background and outcome of three behaviour problems of dogs. Appl Anim Behav Sci. 2001;70(4):297–308.
6) Tuber DS, Hothersall D, Voith VL. Animal clinical psychology: A modest proposal. Am Psychol. 1974;29(10):762–766.
7) Palestrini C, Minero M, Cannas S, Rossi E, Frank D. Video analysis of dogs with separation-related behaviors. Appl Anim Behav Sci. 2010;124(1–2):61–67.