Do you have a “shadow dog”? That’s a term I just invented. It refers to dogs who follow you everywhere you go like a shadow. Like my little brother used to follow my mom around and she called him her “tail”. If you have such a dog then you must have felt irritated at times. It’s one thing to be clingy, it’s another to never giving you a break. Or you might also find it cute, having your dog by your side at all times. But why are “shadow dogs” like that? Why do they never want to leave you be?
Science has provided an answer. Or answers, to be clearer. There are multiple reasons that cause this behavior in dogs.
Dogs are social animals and they always require attention. When you leave the house, your dog might develop symptoms of separation anxiety. Look out for excessive salivation, scratching, barking, whining, and tearing up the furniture. Cesar Milan explained what causes separation anxiety in dogs and how you can be sure your dog has it too.
According to this “dog whisperer”, you promote anxiety in a dog in its formative years if you answer its every whimper and cry. Teach your dog to self-soothe. Leaving the room without announcing, getting them used to the safety of a crate, and ensuring enough exercise can help your dog.
As a kid, I used to watch cartoons. I remember they showed ducklings who had just hatched imprinting on the first thing they would see, thinking that it’s their “mama”. Little did I know that this could happen with puppies too. PetHelful.com explains rightly, “Imprinting describes the way in which [animals] identify the first being they encounter after hatching as their mother.”
Mary Burch, Ph.D., Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist, told PetMD, “Puppies can imprint on people. The imprinting period for puppies is between three- and 12-weeks-old.”
So if your fur baby has imprinted on you, there’s nothing you can do to change it. They look up to you for security and companionship. You become your dog’s favorite person.
This is like stating the obvious but I’m still going to state it. You are your dog’s companion. Just like human brains, dog brains release oxytocin, the hormone that makes them happy. You are a part of your dog’s pack. Some people get two dogs so that they feel more at ease. Taking your dog to dog parks also helps it to socialize with other dogs. You can share the responsibility of being in your dog’s pack by introducing more dogs in the circle.
Dogs are very curious. Just seeing you getting up the couch and going somewhere can turn them into detectives. Are there more treats where you’re going? Are you going to play a very exciting game? Are you going for a walk, but without them?! A wonderful world of possibilities awaits them if they follow you. At least that’s what they think.
Unless your dog has separation anxiety, you probably have nothing to worry about. Give them enough attention and enjoy living a life where you always have someone you can trust and love unconditionally. Because they do the same.