In most cases, this behavior is so endearing and cute since it somehow tells you just how much your dog loves you. But there will always be a point when this shadowing behavior of dogs can be so annoying that it gets in your nerves. It would seem you cannot even get that much-needed privacy as you head to the bathroom. Well, in this article we’ll shed some light on why many dogs follow their human owners everywhere, literally.
The Mindset of a Pack Animal
Everyone knows that, compared to cats, dogs are very social. They have been the subject of many clinical studies that focus on animal behavior in an effort to understand how these animals communicate, process things, and even react to certain conditions. The point we would like to make is that the dog’s brain (and behavior) is innately wired to its being a member of a pack where there is hierarchy and order.
In their natural environment, dogs rely on each other for almost everything. They work towards a certain goal. And while some may be tasked with guarding the young while others will be out hunting for food, the essential point here is that each dog has its role to play.
When you bring a dog into your home, it will usually take some time before it can ‘fit’ in. This is because it doesn’t know the structure of your human pack yet. As the days progress, the dog slowly learns a few things about your own pack. It begins to understand who gives it food, who takes it for a walk, and who plays with it, among other things.
For the dog, this person is what it can consider as its new pack leader. Why? Well, a pack leader is one who makes sure that there is order in the group. He makes sure that everyone gets fed, given work, and allowed to play. It looks up to you and feels a lot more comfortable, safe, secure, and calm whenever you are around. For the dog, you are its pack leader.
Now imagine if you’re not around. All this feeling of safety, comfort, security, and ease will be replaced with anxiety and uncertainty. It is for this reason that some dogs develop a severe form of separation anxiety. They are like young children who feel very vulnerable every time their parents leave them to go to work.
That being said, a dog following you is simply a dog that may feel unsafe, insecure, and uncomfortable whenever you’re not around. Following you preserves its feeling of safety and comfort.
Satisfying a Natural Curiosity
Our canine friends have a natural curiosity that they love to sniff around every time you take them for a walk. Even the simplest things in this world can attract their attention and arouse their curiosity. When their favorite person in the world – you – moves away, they are naturally curious as to where you are going so they will follow you.
In their canine minds, they are thinking of the different opportunities that may be present if they follow you. Who knows they might discover a new thing or two? You might go to the kitchen to prepare a snack and that is something that they surely don’t want to miss. They’re thinking maybe you could share even a small piece of your snack.
The point is that dogs can learn that their owners will typically have something new to offer so they will follow their masters wherever it goes. Whether or not their owners will be presenting them with something tasty, the mere fact that they are already given the opportunity to explore is something that can make dogs feel good about themselves.
It’s All a Part of the Job
Even if your dog is not a guard dog or a watchdog, it can interpret your moving around the house as patrolling your area. For the dog, it knows that it has to do its part, too, to make sure that your house is fully secure. After all, your dog is a member of your pack now.
Dogs are known to be resource-protective. They put exceptional value on their resources, but most especially food, water, and their own space. As such, they will be on the lookout for intruders that may potentially take away some or all of their resources. That’s why you can see them highly protective of their food and water.
It is also for this same reason that they will bark at any stranger who visits your home. For dogs, a stranger is unwelcome in its territory. Only when it sees its owner accepting and being very cordial with the stranger will the dog let its guard down since it interprets this as a sign that the stranger is someone who is not going to take away its resources.
When you move, the dog feels obligated to follow you and join you in your patrol. For your dog it is part of its role as a member of the pack.
A Result of Reinforcement
We always believed in the power of positive reinforcement when training dogs. Unfortunately, there is one minor side effect. You are also teaching your dog that everything about you is a pleasant experience. Whenever your dog performs a particular action, you always give it a yummy treat, give it a big and tight hug, or even plant little kisses on its fur. The point is that your dog has learned that you are the principal source of anything and everything that is pleasurable.
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You know what this means? Well, your dog will follow you to the ends of the earth because it knows that you will always have something really pleasant for it in the end. We’re not saying that you should stop training your dog using this principle. What we’re saying is that positive reinforcement can also teach your dog to follow you wherever you go.
The Velcro Dog
They are called Velcro dogs because of their unmistakable clinginess. You can never separate them from their owners. Wherever their owner goes, the dog goes. Chihuahuas, Malteses, Bichon Frises, and Labrador Retrievers are just some of the really clingy dogs on this planet. Even dogs that belong to breeds that are not clingy can become so attached to their human masters that they behave like Velcro dogs, too.
A Bad Case of Separation Anxiety
Certain dogs are predisposed to canine separation anxiety. They find it unbearable whenever their owners leave them alone in the house. For these dogs, it’s like being left by your best friend. Unfortunately, pet parents of such dogs often make the case a lot worse by making a really big fuss whenever they come home. This only worsens the dog’s anxiety even more.
When this happens, your dog will never want you to be out of its sight. It wants to make sure that you’re not going to leave it again. As such, the dog will tend to follow its owner wherever he or she will go. For this kind of dog, following its owner is the only thing that can keep it sane.
Why Does My Dog Follow Me to the Bathroom?
As we have already mentioned, your dog is a member of your pack and thus will often look up to you for security and safety. If you enter the bathroom and you close the door, they feel vulnerable as the person they trust is nowhere in sight. They feel unsafe. Naturally, your dog will follow you right inside the bathroom.
Additionally, they will be very curious to find out what is inside this little room that you still have to close the door behind you. After all, when they are the ones pooping, they don’t mind staring at you while they are doing their business. So why are you closing your bathroom door? Even before you can shut the door behind you, your dog will already be at the foot of the toilet.
There is another side to this. Your dog is a member of your pack. As such, it considers every single room in your house to be part of its territory, too. It needs to patrol this part of its territory to make sure that there are no intruders. Naturally, you can expect your dog to follow you to the bathroom.
Lastly, your dog has a very strong sense of community. It’s a pack animal and every member of the pack shares and cooperates. When you go to the bathroom, your dog expects you to share this space with it. Dogs don’t necessarily understand what ‘privacy’ means. However, they do understand and appreciate communal living.
Dogs follow their owners for different reasons. Generally, it all boils down to the bond that exists between the dog and its owner. The stronger the bond that exists between owner and dog, the greater is the tendency that the dog will shadow its owner. The good news is that you can always train your dog to modify its behavior if its shadowing is already making you uncomfortable.
- Cheryl Lock, 4 Reasons Your Dog Follows You Everywhere, PetMD