On the subject of high-maintenance dogs, the German Shepherd might not be among the first breeds…
Having a dog that loves your company is one of the best parts of pet ownership. It’s sweet when they prefer to stay by your side and seek out affection. But some dogs—especially German Shepherds and similar herding breeds—can become excessively clingy and follow you around like a shadow you can’t escape.
Why Does My German Shepherd Follow Me Everywhere?
German Shepherds are generally known to be clingy and are notorious for following their humans wherever possible. This could be due to instincts bred into them as working dogs or it could be learned behavior. It could also be a mere personality trait or in some cases a condition that needs addressing.
Reasons Why German Shepherds Follow You Everywhere
It’s essential to understand the reasons why your GSD has developed this behavior in order to determine the best ways to address it.
Here are some of the most common reasons why your German Shepherd might be following you everywhere:
Despite their modern role as household companions, German Shepherds are still categorized as a herding breed. It is in their nature to gather herds of animals and control their movement.
Given their nature, it’s possible that they follow you around because of their herding instincts. They might actually see you and members of your family as their herd.
Although they might seem like they’re just clingy, they’re actually just trying to keep everyone together and protect you as you stray from the rest of the herd.
Among the prized traits bred into herders is their ability and drive to defend their flock. This instinct is the reason why German Shepherds are protective dogs.
Being protective by nature, it shouldn’t be surprising that your dog wants to follow you around everywhere. They always want to be present and vigilant of potential threats so they can defend you if the need arises.
It might not always be apparent with companion animals, but even household dogs have pack instincts. Often, they will see their family as their pack and look to one person for leadership.
When your dog follows you around, it’s possible that it’s because they feel like they’re part of your pack and you are their leader. They are eager not just to protect you but also to please you. So, they stay by your side awaiting commands and possibly praises.
Dogs will keep doing anything that gets them what they want. German Shepherds, in particular, are so smart that they pick up on patterns right away.
You might not have done it on purpose, but it’s possible that your dog’s clinginess is actually a behavior you have taught and reinforced.
Your dog might follow you everywhere because they know it’s how they get all the positive attention. That’s how they get all the pets, scratches, and snuggles. They might also get the occasional dog treat (or fallen table scraps) if they cling to your side.
Some dogs don’t just prefer to be close to their humans but actually experience severe stress when they’re alone. They are overly attached to their owner and need to be close to them all the time.
Any dog can suffer from separation anxiety, although rescue dogs that have experienced trauma tend to be more susceptible to it. This is a condition that needs to be addressed not just because it could lead to more severe outcomes but also because an anxious dog is not a happy dog.
Dogs lacking socialization and those that have had a traumatic past might cling to you out of insecurity. They don’t quite know how to navigate the world and interact with their environment without your presence and guidance.
Insecure dogs don’t know what to do with themselves and might even fear being alone. They don’t have the confidence to explore the world around them and need the constant presence of their human so they know what to do and how to behave.
German Shepherds are working dogs that have plenty of energy. They also have a superior intellect that needs to be directed. Otherwise, they could come up with their own activities that might be unproductive or even destructive.
When they follow you around all the time, it could be because they are bored and they look to you for something to do. They might associate you with playing games and learning new tricks. Or, they could be waiting around for a command to follow.
If clinginess is new behavior for your dog, it’s possible that they’ve experienced something that makes them more needful of your care and attention. For example, aging dogs might begin suffering from vision or hearing problems that leave them fearful and insecure.
Try to think back to when it started and also observe them closely for signs of illness or trauma. In these cases, you should also consider taking your dog in for a vet consultation.
Ways To Reduce Excessive Following
As with any other behavior, your dog will think it’s okay to follow you around all the time if you keep letting them do so. If it’s not a behavior you appreciate, it will be up to you to correct it.
Here are some of the most important things you can do to keep your German Shepherd from following you everywhere, all the time:
Set your boundaries
Determine what you’re alright with and what you think is undesirable behavior.
For example, you can encourage your GSD to snuggle with you on the couch but not paw at the bathroom door while you’re in the shower. Set your rules and stick by them.
Don’t reinforce the behavior
Be mindful of your actions in areas or situations where you don’t want your dog to cling to you. Make sure you aren’t doing anything to encourage them from staying at your side.
Instead, ignore them or redirect them and get them to do something else you find more desirable.
Foster handler neutrality
If there are other adults in your household, encourage them to play a more active role in the dog’s care. Take turns feeding the dog, taking them out for walks, and playing games.
This might help the dog develop a stronger bond with other members of the family and keep from staying at the heels of just one person.
Give your dog a job
German Shepherds are working dogs that thrive when they are productive.
You can keep them from following you around by giving them jobs to do at home. When you put them to work, you keep them busy, mentally stimulated, and well-behaved.
With proper crate training, a crate can be a place where your dog feels safe, secure, and unbothered by other goings-on at home. It could be their private space where they can switch off and understand that they don’t need to follow you around for orders.
Address separation anxiety
Separation anxiety can be extremely stressful for your dog and should be addressed properly. Use positive reinforcement to teach your dog to be alone and away from you. Leaving them with toys will also help them cope more easily.
Do mental exercises
Play enrichment games, engage in training and give your dog plenty of opportunities to sharpen their mental abilities. This will help them become more well-behaved and help build their confidence so they don’t constantly require your presence to feel safe.
Increase physical exercise
Tiring your dog out can be a good way to help them release their anxieties and switch off at home. When given lots of opportunities to exercise, your German Shepherd is more likely to sleep off the afternoon rather than follow you around.
Encourage independent play
Allowing them to roam your house or yard on their own can help build your dog’s confidence and teach them how to be independent. Giving them beneficial dog toys they can play with on their own should be helpful.
Get professional help
If you’re really concerned about your dog’s clinginess and you’re not quite sure how to address the problem, it might be time to engage the services of an experienced dog behaviorist.
They should be able to help identify the root cause of the behavior and address it effectively.
Should I Be Worried About My German Shepherd Being Clingy?
For some German Shepherds, clinginess can be a symptom of an underlying problem. This might include poor socialization, overprotectiveness, and separation anxiety.
These are issues that need addressing. Otherwise, they could lead to more serious behavioral problems.
However, in many cases, following you around could merely be a sign of affection. If this is the case with your dog, ask yourself if it is a behavior that bothers you or if it is one that you appreciate.
Then, you’ll be able to decide on whether you want to discourage the behavior or at least make sure it isn’t excessive.
If you’ve been your dog’s whole world, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that they want to follow you everywhere. Apart from correcting the behavior of excessive following, perhaps your dog will benefit from more exposure to the rest of the world.
Learn the best ways to socialize your German Shepherd to expand their horizons and teach them how to entertain themselves independently. Socialization will also be key to helping them build their confidence so they can feel comfortable on their own.