Why Does My Dog Follow Me Everywhere?

man in work boots and German Shepherd dog walk into barn together

Treehugger / Dan Amos

Dogs have been following their humans ever since the first wolf turned into a domesticated pet. Back then it meant survival, safety, and community, and not much has changed from the dog's point of view. Your dog wants to go wherever you're going because dogs are pack animals and you're his pack. He loves and trusts you. Most of the time, this behavior is welcomed and endearing, but there are a few instances when it may be a sign of trouble with your family pet.

If you find your dog doing this excessively, or if it's accompanied by other troubling behavior, there could be underlying issues. This could be especially true if your dog is new to the family, has a history of abuse or neglect, or is scared of something in its environment. If this action persists and gets in the way of how your dog eats, goes outside, or interacts with other family members, it may be time to seek help.

Usually, some training, calming techniques, or behavioral therapy can help ease your dog in a short period of time. Once they know they're in a safe and reliable environment and won't be left behind permanently, most dogs will relax and give up the need to follow your every move.

Why Dogs Follow Their Humans

little dog follows woman owner outside to lawn swing in yard

Treehugger / Dan Amos

There are many reasons why dogs follow their humans and most are very common and benign. A lot of the time, it’s simply out of loyalty and the familial bond that’s created with its human, because he or she is the one that provides care and comfort and keeps him safe.

Sometimes, the reasons can be more on the negative side, like boredom, physical or emotional needs, anxiety, or fear. Also, certain breeds, especially those that herd or are bred for a specific purpose, may be doing it out of instinct and genetic coding. For instance, a Border Collie bred to herd animals and serve a working purpose may do this out of instinct. They need to have an outlet for their energy and service, and if those needs are not being met, the dog can become restless. If there is no flock to manage they'll replace it with something else to fixate on. This is one reason that it’s very important to make sure you choose a dog that's right for your lifestyle.

It's important that you and the dog are a good fit when it comes to how and where you live and what environment the dog will be exposed to. An active puppy with lots of boundless energy might not be the best fit for someone who doesn’t do much in the way of physical activity.

Why Pets Matter to Treehugger

At Treehugger, we are advocates of animal welfare, including our pets and other domestic animals. The better we understand our dogs, the better we can support and protect their wellbeing. We hope our readers will adopt rescue pets instead of shopping from breeders or pet stores, and will also consider supporting local animal shelters.

Dealing With Dog Anxiety

anxious brown lab dog cuddles in owner's lap on brown leather couch

Treehugger / Dan Amos

Dogs are emotional animals that walk through the world with all of their senses on high alert. So, it's no wonder that the modern world, with all of its sights and sounds, can be full of stressors. For dogs that have been neglected or abused, like a shelter dog with little or no known history, this can be a behavior rooted in anxiety and the fear of being left or dropped off at a shelter again. Dogs who have been re-homed or abandoned by a trusted family member may do this out of worry that they'll be left again.

Veterinary professionals are still researching and discovering what exactly causes separation anxiety in dogs and the impact it has on them. Sometimes the anxiety may be situational and may only happen if the dog is subjected to a particular trigger like a thunderstorm, fireworks, or being around small children. This is why it's a good idea to refer to a behavioral therapist or veterinarian first to find out exactly what is causing the distress. Especially if it's interfering with your dog's health, diet, or harmony within the household. Once that's been established, then the right training or calming measures can be recommended.

It may take a lot of time and training to help your dog work through what’s causing the problem, so be sure to do your research. Keep in mind that the behavior didn't develop overnight and it won't be "cured" or fixed overnight either. You'll have to work with your dog consistently or hire a professional trainer to ensure the techniques are being done correctly.

How to Stop Your Dog From Following You

small mixed breed dog stands on recliner and stares intently out window

Treehugger / Dan Amos

While having your dog follow you is normal and natural, there are times when the behavior can become problematic. On one hand, it could be a minor nuisance if you work from home or have other chores you’re trying to do and your dog keeps getting in the way. On the other hand, it could be detrimental to the dog because it’s a sign of stress or anxiety that could lead to long-term issues.

If the dog is a young puppy, this could likely be resolved through training and positive reinforcement. If the dog is more mature, it could take a long time, if ever, to help the dog through it.

The dog could be ill, bored, nervous, or stressed. If the dog is also whining, whimpering, or exhibiting nervous mannerisms, it could be time to consult a vet or dog trainer.

blonde woman and small dog perform tricks while playing outside on green lawn

Treehugger / Dan Amos

One way to address the behavior might be putting your dog in a secure and gated area inside the house or outdoors. Another trick might be to make sure the dog socializes enough. If your dog spends all of its time with you and you alone, it may develop an aversion to being away from you or interacting with other humans or dogs.

Reinforcing good behavior with treats will also ensure that your dog understands it shouldn't, and doesn't need to, follow you around all the time. Once dogs learn that they're not in any danger, that they can still be part of the pack even if you're not around, the dog will learn to relax.

View Article Sources
  1. Arvelius, Per et al. "Measuring Herding Behavior In Border Collie—Effect Of Protocol Structure On Usefulness For Selection." Journal Of Veterinary Behavior, vol. 8, no. 1, 2013, pp. 9-18., doi:10.1016/j.jveb.2012.04.007

  2. Herron, Meghan E. et al. "Effects Of Preadoption Counseling On The Prevention Of Separation Anxiety In Newly Adopted Shelter Dogs." Journal Of Veterinary Behavior, vol. 9, no. 1, 2014, pp. 13-21., doi:10.1016/j.jveb.2013.09.003

  3. de Assis, Luciana S. et al. "Developing Diagnostic Frameworks In Veterinary Behavioral Medicine: Disambiguating Separation Related Problems In Dogs." Frontiers In Veterinary Science, vol. 6, 2020, doi:10.3389/fvets.2019.00499

  4. Sargisson, Rebecca. "Canine Separation Anxiety: Strategies For Treatment And Management." Veterinary Medicine: Research And Reports, 2014, p. 143., doi:10.2147/vmrr.s60424