Why Does My Dog Follow Me Everywhere?
Ever get the feeling you're being followed? Odds are, you've got a dog. Here's why your canine companion follows you everywhere you go.
Let’s say you’ve spent the past three hours binge-watching a true-crime documentary, as one does, and have finally paused for a popcorn refill and bathroom break. As soon as your feet hit the floor, your dog is up too. It joins you in the kitchen and trails behind you as you hit the restroom. And look, it’s great to have a canine companion after hours of grisly murder investigations, but a lack of bathroom privacy probably has you wondering, “Why does my dog follow me everywhere?”
As you return to the living room with your four-legged, waggy-tailed buddy by your side, you might eye it with another question on the tip of your tongue: Is it normal for your dog to follow you everywhere? To that, dog experts say you’re most definitely not alone. In fact, these questions are as ubiquitous among dog owners as “Why does my dog stare at me?” and “What does my dog’s facial expression mean?” These are all fundamental aspects of dog behavior, just like how dogs circle before they lie down, get the zoomies, or chase their tails for no apparent reason.
In other words, it’s not just your dog that follows you everywhere. Everyone else’s dogs play a canine version of follow-the-leader too. So let’s unpack this doggy behavior and dive into the reasons why your pup may be following you at any given time.
Why do dogs follow people everywhere?
Domesticated dogs descended from wild canines (aka wolves) that lived in cooperative family groups, according to Tennessee veterinarian Kathryn Primm, DVM. As such, before dogs even began evolving into man’s best friend more than 10,000 years ago, they were already predisposed to pack living, which by its very nature demands a certain level of social interaction.
Over many millennia, the dogs that survived in domestication tended to be those best able to interact with humans in ways that benefited both themselves and their humans. Since dogs are naturally predisposed to protect their resources, Dr. Primm explains, early dogs likely followed their human companions around as they guarded their shelters against other humans and other animals.
The food and companionship dogs received in return would have motivated them to keep doing what they’d been doing (following their humans around) and to do it more often and in a greater variety of circumstances. Dogs who fit into this rubric became accustomed to good things happening when they followed their humans, which motivated them to continue following their humans around.
And that brings us to what we would wager to be the biggest reason you find yourself asking, “Why does my dog follow me everywhere?” That is, someone trained it to.
1. For a reward
When you ask the question, “Why does my dog follow me everywhere?” it might be best to do so while looking in a mirror. As much as it’s in your dog’s nature to follow you around, it’s also very much on you—not that there’s really anything wrong with that, as we’ll get to in a bit.
Through a continuous stream of positive reinforcement, you’ve trained your dog to follow you everywhere. It’s a dog-training mistake you may have even made unintentionally. Just like ancient dogs, modern dogs recognize that when they follow humans around, good things happen. You toss your pup a treat, give it a tummy rub, or take it on a walk around the neighborhood.
Your dog’s no dummy. And one of its many talents is learning from experience. That’s reinforcement. So if your dog keeps getting good things from following you around, then of course it’s going to keep following you around.
2. For food
Your dog may have a specific reason for following you around at any given time. In fact, that’s pretty much a given, though the reason will depend as much upon context as it does upon science.
For example, does the question, “Why does my dog follow me everywhere?” always seem to arise at dinnertime? If so, your dog could be following you because it’s hungry and it’s time to pour a bowl of dog food.
3. Out of boredom
“My dogs follow me everywhere in the house” is a common refrain among pet owners who are up to their elbows in housework. If that sounds like you, you may be dealing with a bored dog, says Claudine Sievert, DVM, a Kansas-based veterinarian with dog training and boarding company Stayyy.
Do your pup (and yourself) a favor by giving your dog a puzzle toy that’ll keep it engaged.
3. For a potty break
Sure, your furry pal could be dealing with boredom, but there’s another reason your dog may be staring at you and following you everywhere: Your potty-trained pup needs to go outside for a bathroom break. Consider what’s going on at that moment to determine whether your dog needs some mental stimulation or outdoor time.
4. Out of anxiety
The question of whether it’s normal for your dog to follow you everywhere will depend upon the context in which you’re asking it. For example, if your dog tends to follow you everywhere after you’ve been gone all day at work but not so much on nonwork days, your dog may be experiencing some level of separation anxiety, according to the Alliance of Therapy Dogs.
That also could be the case if your dog has been your shadow since you returned to the workplace after a long span of working from home during the pandemic.
What if your dog follows you—and only you—around?
“Why is my dog so attached to me?” can feel like such an ungrateful thing to utter. After all, one of the things dog lovers love most about dogs is their affectionate nature. But sometimes a dog gets extra attached to one member of its family.
It’s not uncommon for a dog to choose a seemingly favorite person, according to Jamie Freyer, DVM, a veterinary technical support manager for dog DNA test company Wisdom Panel. Sometimes it’s for the simple reason that the “favorite” person spends the most time with the dog. But dogs might also gravitate toward people who tend to be the most generous with snacks.
In some cases, it’s not about what the “favorite” person is doing so much as what Dr. Freyer refers to as personality alignment. “Just like for human relationships, the more you have in common with a dog, the more likely you are to become close friends,” she explains.
Hard as it may be to reckon with, dogs sometimes pick a favorite person and follow them everywhere for no discernible reason. “Dogs, just like people, can get favorites without any real rhyme or reason to it,” according to PetCoach veterinary tech Jessica Desrosiers. And despite the fact that dogs are highly motivated by food, their “favorite person” may not necessarily be the one who puts dinner in the bowl every night.
Likewise, their favorite person to follow into the kitchen may not necessarily be their favorite person to sleep with. “Most dogs will sleep with the same person each night if given a choice,” says veterinary surgeon Linda Simon. “In some households, this is whoever will let them in their bed. In others, it may be children because they feel a duty and a biological need to protect and guard them.”
According to Dr. Sievert, dogs may even choose their sleeping partner based on smell and who they perceive to be the “pack leader.”
When should you worry about your dog following you everywhere?
Since it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion, from a genetic standpoint, that your dog will spend some chunk of their waking hours following you around, it’s not generally something to worry about—unless, of course, it makes you uncomfortable. Not everyone appreciates having a furry friend underfoot at all times.
Whether your dog following you around is truly problematic may hinge on other behaviors that you may be witnessing, according to the Alliance of Therapy Dogs. These include biting and other forms of aggression, destructive behavior, and signs of depression, like a lack of energy, a change in appetite, and withdrawal from social interactions.
If you’re seeing other worrisome behaviors, it may be time to take action. That means consulting with your veterinarian to rule out any medical issues. It also means making sure your dog is getting enough exercise. A tired dog is less likely to follow in any situation.
Finally, it can be helpful to look at what you might be doing to reinforce your dog’s behavior. Next, find out the answer to this interesting question: do dogs watch TV?
- Kathryn Primm, DVM, veterinarian in Tennessee
- Claudine Sievert, DVM, Kansas-based veterinarian with Stayyy
- Linda Simon, veterinary surgeon and a consultant with Five Barks
- Jessica Desrosiers , veterinary technician with PetCoach
- Wisdom Panel: “Why dogs have favorite people (and how to make sure your pup picks you)”
- Alliance of Therapy Dogs: “Is Anxiety Why My Dog Follows Me Around The House?”