Why Does My Dog Follow Me Everywhere?

Updated: May 15, 2024

Does your dog follow you from room to room? Every wonder why they're so clingy? Let's explore the reasons your canine companion follows you around.

Dogs love being with their human family. Some want to be with their owners so much they follow them all around the house, from the kitchen to the bedroom and even into the bathroom. It can be impossible to get a moment’s privacy. In more than 13 years as a certified professional dog trainer (CPDT-KSA), I’ve had countless clients ask me, “Why does my dog follow me everywhere?” I assure you, it’s not because you smell like bacon. The reasons your dog follows you around range from something as simple as needing a potty break to something as complicated and concerning as separation anxiety or feeling neglected.

Dog behavior can be a tough puzzle to crack. We don’t speak the same language or have the same culture as our canine companions, so it’s easy to misunderstand their intentions. For example, do dogs like kisses? Why dogs howl? Why do dogs lick us? why do dogs lick their paws?  Do some dogs also like cats? And why do they run around in circles when they get the dog zoomies? Following their owners everywhere can be just as hard to fathom.

Once you’ve figured out your dog’s motivations, do you want them to follow you everywhere? If their behavior indicates anxiety or a similar concern, you need to build your dog’s confidence and encourage independence. If it’s simply because they love you, it can still be beneficial to teach your dog to enjoy quality alone time. You might let your dog sleep in your bed but make the bathroom off limits. Or perhaps you want to eat in peace. Whatever the case, let’s explore the reasons for this common dog behavior and what you can do about it.

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About the experts

  • Sagi Denenberg, DVM, is a veterinary behaviorist at North Toronto Veterinary Behaviour Specialty Clinic. He is the author of numerous articles and book chapters, including the behavior chapters in the Merck Veterinary Manual.
  • Rachel Lane, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA, MSc, is a certified behavior consultant, dog trainer and the owner of the dog training company Leash & Learn in New York City.

What does it mean if my dog follows me everywhere?

If you have a Velcro dog, no doubt you’ve asked yourself, Why is my dog clingy? Consider that dogs share a common ancestor with grey wolves, and wolves live in family groups. You can’t be a pack animal without a degree of sociability, so no wonder your dog wants to roam with you from room to room—it’s in their genes. Let’s look at the other answers to the question, Why does my dog follow me everywhere?

1. Dogs are social animals

Our pet dogs may no longer roam in packs, but they are still social. Only now their focus is on us rather than fellow dogs. Veterinary psychiatrist Sagi Denenberg, DVM, Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Behavior, says that thanks to 15,000 years of domestication, dogs’ attachment has shifted from other dogs to humans. That need for social contact can drive a dog’s desire to follow their owner wherever they go.

2. They’re attached to you

A study in the journal Scientific Reports found that when dogs were shown photos of their caregivers, it activated parts of their brains that are the same as those associated with emotion and attachment in humans. Another study in the journal Integrative and Comparative Biology looked at dog-owner attachment and found it to be similar to a human infant-caregiver relationship and an important part of a dog’s success and resilience.

In other words, dogs become attached to the people they live with. Rachel Lane, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA, MSc, is a certified behavior consultant, dog trainer and the owner of the dog training company Leash & Learn. She says, “As social animals, dogs often form strong bonds with their guardians, and this sometimes manifests as a dog frequently following their owner around.”

If dogs and humans have an infant-caretaker relationship, you might be wondering if your dog imprinted on you? Well, imprinting is time-sensitive and happens with the first creature a puppy sees. With most dogs, unless they’re hand-reared, that’s their mother. So your dog isn’t imprinting on you. Instead, Dr. Denenberg explains, following can happen at any time in a dog’s life rather than just as a newborn pup.

3. You’re the source of good things

Shot of a young woman relaxing with her dog at homePeopleImages/Getty Images

If your dog associates you with rewards like meals, treats and cuddles, it makes being with you even more appealing. After all, your dog can’t open the treat cupboard without your help. Plus, most dog owners fail to provide their dog with alone-time training and instead make the training mistake of only rewarding their dog when they’re together. Treats are offered during training sessions, new smells are only available on walks, food is fed from the dining table and so on. If your dog is never rewarded for being alone, it’s no wonder they prefer your company. Plus, Lane adds, owners can accidentally teach their dog to follow them around. “If an owner consistently goes into another room and calls their dog in with them, the dog over time learns that they should follow their owner from room to room, and it becomes a habit.”

4. They need something

Dogs rely on us to meet their social, physical and health needs. But your dog can’t say “Hey, I need a potty break” or “I’m hungry right now.” Instead, they speak with their body language, and that might include following you around to get your attention. I know many dogs that find their owners then lead them to the food bowl or back door. If you aren’t paying attention to your dog’s basic needs, they could be following you to make sure you finally catch on.

5. They’re bored

Dog waiting patiently for his owner to finish workAleksandarNakic/Getty Images

If your dog has nothing to do, they might follow you for entertainment. From your dog’s perspective, you might offer some attention or throw a toy, so it’s worth keeping you in sight. In my experience, boredom is easily relieved by giving the dog a job to do, whether that’s getting food out of a chew toy or playing a training game. A dog that receives plenty of mental stimulation won’t feel the same need to follow you for fun.

6. They’re anxious about being alone

Many people enjoy when their dog follows them everywhere because they see it as proof of their dog’s affection, but sometimes it’s a sign your dog is struggling with an emotional issue like anxiety. In fact, Dr. Denenberg believes anxiety and the need to feel supported by their owner is the No. 1 reason dogs follow their humans. Your dog may be staying close to you as a coping mechanism to ease their nerves.

When is your dog following you a sign of separation anxiety or other behavioral concern?

Bergamasco sheepdog looking through open window Rosmarie Wirz/Getty Images

Whether your own dog’s following behavior is cause for concern comes down to a simple distinction. Does your dog prefer to be with you or are they unable to be without you? Dr. Denenberg suggests looking at how intensely they follow you and the purpose. If your dog is only following you because they think they will get something like food from the fridge, then you have nothing to worry about. However, he says, “If a dog follows the owners constantly and does not get enough sleep or misses out on meals or other biological needs, then this following is problematic. Some dogs become distressed even more when they cannot follow the owner (e.g. when the owner walks into the washroom and closes the door). In many cases, following the owner does not alleviate or answer the need, so the dog may become more frustrated and distressed.”

Lane agrees, saying there is likely no need for concern when a dog follows their human because they enjoy being together, especially if the dog can be left in another room or home alone without panicking. However, if your dog’s main reason for following you is to avoid being alone, it’s important to dig deeper. If your dog struggles to function without your presence and/or panics during alone time, they are likely suffering from separation anxiety.

Lane advises looking for other behavioral and physiological indicators of stress. “Changes in behavior that may be seen in tandem include jumping, barking, chewing/destruction, pacing, the inability to settle, hiding, whining or holding the ears back and/or raising the front leg. Dogs who are unable to be without their owner may also show physiological changes such as salivating, urinating or defecating, panting, trembling, dilated pupils and/or anorexia or food refusal.”

How to stop your dog from following you everywhere

If you want to encourage your dog’s independence, the following strategies will give you some alone time. Experiment to find what works for your dog’s personality and try multiple techniques to increase your chance of success.

1. Identify the cause

Rule out medical problems that might be causing your dog to follow you around. Until you address any underlying conditions, you likely won’t make much progress with the techniques below. The same is true for emotional concerns like separation anxiety. You need to know if your dog is following you as a result of a more serious issue.

2. Meet your dog’s needs

All dogs need the basics for survival: food, water and a place to sleep. But they need mental and physical exercise too, which includes time spent performing natural dog behaviors like sniffing, running and playing. The specifics will vary depending on your dog’s breed and personality, for example a beagle will want to search for odors all day long, but it’s up to you to understand what your dog requires for a healthy and happy life. Dr. Denenberg suggests a daily routine that answers all your dog’s needs including feeding toys, training, exercise and time for sleep in a location removed from noise and the hustle and bustle of the family.

3. Give your dog something to do

Corgi dog play with educational toyИрина Мещерякова/Getty Images

Bored dogs look for their own fun, which can lead to all kinds of behavior problems including following you everywhere. But if you give your dog activities to do on their own, it will not only keep them busy but also reward them for solitary play, making it more likely to occur in the future. Try providing food-stuffed toys or puzzle toys so your dog has to work to access the good stuff. Just be sure your dog plays safely with the toy before you leave them alone with it. Or let your dog do some scent work by tossing kibble in the grass or filling a snuffle mat with treats.

4. Provide a dog-safe space

To foster independence, provide your dog with a comfortable place to call their own and encourage them to spend time there. Try a comfortable dog bed or provide a cozy area inside an exercise pen or crate. But don’t just put your dog there and walk away. Provide toys or chews for entertainment and teach them how to be alone. Lane advises, “At first, you might need to sit with them while they learn to relax on their bed and play with their toys, but you can gradually start letting them be there independently as they get used to it. It can also help to build alone time into your dog’s daily routine. For example, after you come inside from a walk, you give them a puzzle toy in their bed while you get ready for work in another room.”

5. Train your dog

ack Russell Terrier shaking hand with woman Westend61/Getty Images

Along with the alone-time training mentioned above, obedience training can help reduce following. It’s a great way to increase your dog’s confidence, and it also allows you to build a strong “stay” cue. Lane suggests, once your dog has mastered the basics, you can ask them to stay while you quickly run into another room. Come right back with a great treat and reward your dog for a successful stay. Eventually, your dog will realize that they don’t need to follow you everywhere for good things to happen.

6. Encourage bonding with other family members

If you create opportunities for other family members to bond with your dog, your dog might become less fixated on you. Take the whole family to training classes. Or assign feeding time or walks to somebody else. Lane says another person can do the same fun activities with your dog as you do, or they can try to discover something new and special, exclusive to them. Either way, it will encourage your dog to want to be with the other person just as much as they want to be with you.


Why does my dog follow me and not my spouse (or vice versa)?

Dogs follow one person over another because that person either predicts access to resources or is the dog’s attachment figure. I’ve seen many households where the majority of the dog’s care fell to only one person. In that case, it’s not surprising when the dog follows that person around the most, as they are more relevant to the dog’s survival and well-being. As Lane describes it, dogs know the hand that feeds them. “It is unlikely they are picking a favorite person. Your dog is just a strategic opportunist and knows who is most likely to provide food, treats, toys and affection.”

But what about households where dogs have many caregivers? Dogs can still follow one person around more than another. Or more frustratingly, what if you provide all the care and your dog still seems to follow your spouse rather than you? Dr. Denenberg explains that dogs decide who they feel most bonded to. “We determine who is the caregiver. However, dogs also have an attachment figure (mostly only one), and this is the individual they want to be with and follow. The dog chooses the attachment figure, not us.”

And you may not always be aware of how much your dog is attending to you. A dog that accompanies you to the bathroom is obviously following, but others pay attention in their own way. Dr. Denenberg says, “Many owners miss the fact that dogs may follow with their eyes and ears, not always their feet. If you have an open-concept dwelling, the dog may supervise you from a distance but does not move. Owners miss this and feel that their dog does not follow them.”

What dog breeds are most likely to follow their owners around?

According to Dr. Denenberg, breed differences in following are negligible, although he says lapdogs are probably more likely to do it. As a CPDT-KSA, I personally think that could be due to their heritage. There are certain dog breeds known for being independent, others bred to work alongside humans, and some, like lapdogs, developed strictly to serve as companions.

Lane cautions, “It’s most important to think of each dog as an individual. A dog’s behavior is influenced by their genetics, but it is also influenced by their learning history, environment, past experiences and their wonderfully unique personality.”

Why is my dog suddenly following me everywhere?

Sudden changes in a dog’s behavior are often an indicator that something is wrong with the dog’s physical or mental health. If your dog is following you when they never did before, Lane suggests your first step should be a visit to the veterinarian to rule out any medical condition causing the change. For example, older dogs can experience Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome, a condition similar to human Alzheimer’s, which can cause them to become clingy. Or a dog losing vision or hearing might stick closer to their owner for guidance and comfort.

In addition, Dr. Denenberg advises, the change in behavior could be due to emotional trauma the dog has suffered. Explore both physical and mental options carefully to determine the underlying issue ( Also, discover what your dog’s tail is trying to tell you). Addressing that may reduce the newly developed behavior. If needed, seek out a qualified professional such as a veterinary behaviorist or certified behavior consultant to guide you through ways you can assist your dog or teach them to be more independent.

Why trust us

At Reader’s Digest, we’re committed to producing high-quality content by writers with expertise and experience in their field in consultation with relevant, qualified experts. For this piece, Stephanie Gibeault, MSc, CPDT-KSA, tapped her experience as a certified professional dog trainer and journalist, and then Wailani Sung, DVM, a vet who owns Bay Area Vet Behavior, gave it a rigorous review to ensure that all information is accurate and offers the best possible advice to readers. We verify all facts and data, back them with credible sourcing and revisit them over time to ensure they remain accurate and up to date. Read more about our team, our contributors and our editorial policies.


  • Sagi Denenberg, DVM, veterinary behaviorist at North Toronto Veterinary Behaviour Specialty Clinic; email interview, Jan. 27, 2024
  • Rachel Lane, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA, MSc, owner of dog training company Leash & Learn; email interview, Feb. 1, 2024
  • Integrative and Comparative Biology: “Intraspecific and Interspecific Attachment Between Cohabitant Dogs and Human Caregivers”
  • Scientific Reports: “Exploring the dog-human relationship by combining fMRI, eye-tracking and behavioural measures”

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