How do I get my dog to stop being clingy? The Ultimate Guide

Understand Your Dog’s Possible Fear Or Pain

If clinginess is a new behavior, it might be your dog’s way of trying to find relief from fear or pain.

Have neighbors been using fireworks lately? Is your child entering the “poke and grab” stage?

Sometimes, senior dogs experiencing dementia, or hearing or vision loss, stick close to their owners for guidance.

Patricia McConnell says it’s okay to pet your dog when they’re afraid; there’s no risk of making your dog more fearful by comforting them.

When it comes to thunderstorms, fireworks and new housing situations, your dog can become less fearful and more independent if they’re gradually conditioned to have more positive feelings about the things that scare them. In the meantime, your dog should have a safe space to go when they’re afraid, so they’ll depend on you less for comfort.

Crate training is a great way to keep our dog out of trouble, while giving them a place to retreat for rest and relaxation.

That’s why it’s so important that your dog always has positive experiences in their crate. Leave the crate door open for your dog to enter and leave at their own will. Place food, treats or toys inside to make it more inviting. You might want to keep it where you’ll be in your dog’s sight, at least until they become accustomed to it.

A Confident Dog, Not a Velcro Dog

Having a clingy dog is not necessarily a bad thing. Many people wouldn’t have it any other way. I personally love having my dog by my side, but I can’t help but question just how mentally healthy it is for him to be so clingy. I see a lot of dogs come to Holiday Barn Pet Resorts for the first time with confidence and assuredness, able to calmly separate from their Mom or Dad in the lobby and happily seize the new adventure. Then there are those who whine and whimper, fearing having to face a new experience on their own. I WANT my dog to be the strong, secure, independent one, and I’m sure you do too.

Rex is a rescue. From the moment he came into my life, I wanted to prove to him that he was loved. I wanted him to feel secure so that he wouldn’t fear being given-up to a shelter again. I wanted him to know this truly is his “forever home”. I coddled him, I let him sleep with me from day-one, I praised him constantly and never passed him without showing him some type of affection. Unfortunately, that is exactly the kind of conduct that can cause Velcro tendencies. If he had some abandonment issues to begin with, I just added fuel to the fire. Did I create an unhealthy dependency on me? Can I fix it?

History of Separation Anxiety

Often, clingy behaviors are seen in dogs suffering from separation anxiety or in the pre-development stage. These dogs develop a dysfunctional attachment to their owners, which leads to extremely clingy behaviors and signs of anxiety even when the owner leaves the room with the dog behind.

I have a Clingy Dog

Clinginess is a sign of separation anxiety. If you allow or inadvertently encourage your dog to be clingy, you could end up with a “Velcro dog.” This is a dog who is so reliant on your company that he can’t cope alone. Fix this by making periods of isolation rewarding.

Monitor your dog’s behavior and note down when he is at his most clingy. It may be that the problem is worse just before you leave for work, just after you get home or only in the presence of other dogs.

Expose your dog to separation anxiety triggers. For example, if he is clingiest before you leave the house, put on your coat and grab your keys, but don’t leave. This behavior shows the dog that those triggers aren’t necessarily a precursor to periods of separation.

Ignore the dog when he is being clingy. Make being at your side boring and non-stimulating. If you’ve previously responded to needy, attention-seeking behavior with attention or fuss, you may have accidentally trained your dog to be clingy. By ignoring the dog, you show him that his clinginess doesn’t get a positive outcome.

Reward the dog for voluntarily separating himself. Leave distractions such as toys and treats around the house and wait for your dog to spot them. This tells the dog that his environment is most stimulating when he leaves your side.

Leave the crate door open and place a treat and some toys inside. Allow him to investigate at his own pace and make the crate a place where he wants to be.

Praise the dog verbally once inside the crate. Leave the door open and allow him to exit the crate when he wishes.

Repeat exposure to the crate. Once your dog is comfortable in the crate or in the basket and has built a positive association with it, close the door for five minutes, but don’t leave.

Shut the dog in the crate or room for five minutes every day for a week. Each time you shut him in, move further away from the crate, but remain in sight.

Shut the dog in the crate and leave the area. Return after five minutes and allow your dog out, but don’t be overly fussy. This demonstrates that periods of isolation are normal and they always end up with him being reconnected with you.

Simon Foden has been a freelance writer and editor since 1999. He began his writing career after graduating with a Bachelors of Arts degree in music from Salford University. He has contributed to and written for various magazines including “K9 Magazine” and “Pet Friendly Magazine.” He has also written for