German Shepherds are affectionate dogs that love human company. However, there are times when they can become too needy.
So, why is your German Shepherd so clingy?
Let’s look at the reasons why your Australian Cattle Dog or German Shepherd is so clingy and what you can do to reduce your German Shepherd’s clinginess.
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Why Is My German Shepherd So Clingy?
German Shepherds become clingy or needy due to separation anxiety, underlying illness, a female’s behavior during her heat cycle, old age, stress and trauma, insufficient enrichment, attention-seeking, their clingy personality trait and learned behavior.
Are German Shepherds Clingy?
Yes, German Shepherds are naturally clingy dogs. A German Shepherd is a velcro dog breed which means they are a dog breed with a clingy personality, with the desire to be near their owners and follow them around constantly.
This breed loves attention and needs to feel like they are part of the family. They often bond strongly with their families and can be very clingy. This is what many people want, a breed that is affectionate and will stick by your side, but this is not for everyone and can drive some owners mad!
Clingy behavior is not to be confused with separation anxiety, although some dogs can have both. Velcro dogs have extra clingy personalities.
Apart from this personality trait, other factors such as illness, and old age can make a German Shepherd clingy.
Signs of Clinginess in German Shepherds
It can be sometimes difficult to differentiate between typical affectionate German Shepherd behavior and clinginess. The common signs of an overly clingy German Shepherd include:
- Following you everywhere
- Crying or whining constantly to get attention
- Wanting to constantly sit with you
- Refusing to eat when you’re not around
- Destructive behavior when you are away
- Overexcitement when you return home
- Demanding affection when you are doing something
Reasons why your German Shepherd is so clingy
A German Shepherd with separation anxiety becomes clingy or attached to its owner by remaining close to them.
They become very anxious when they sense a separation or departure from their owners and are usually overly excited when the owner returns home.
German Shepherds are very susceptible to separation anxiety because they are people-oriented dogs that thrive on human companionship. This means that they love being close to their human owners and family.
When separated from their owners, they tend to suffer from separation anxiety by feeling insecure.
This is accompanied by other behaviors that include pacing, whining, and destructive behavior such as digging, or defecation in the house.
Illness can cause a German Shepherd to become clingy by becoming close to you to seek safety, comfort, and help. In some cases, a German Shepherd can be aggressive due to the discomfort and pain felt by avoiding being touched.
If your German Shepherd is clingy due to illness, you may also notice other signs of sickness such as loss of appetite, weakness, or pain.
Look out for these symptoms and more unusual behavior changes which can be indicative that your German Shepherd is unwell.
Clingy behavior during a female’s heat cycle
A female German Shepherd in heat displays clingy behavior due to the increase in hormones. This is a stage of her reproductive cycle where she can get pregnant.
This behavior is often seen during the first half of the heat cycle and can last for up to two weeks. She will follow you around more than usual, seek out physical contact, and become agitated when left alone.
This clinginess is normal and is not indicative of any health problems. The behavior is also temporary and she returns to her normal self after her heat cycle ends.
However, if the behavior persists after the heat cycle has ended, it is worth consulting a veterinarian to rule out any underlying medical conditions.
Old age affects the cognitive ability of a German Shepherd, which means they slowly lose mental processes such as attention, perception, memory, and other functions.
An old German Shepherd will become clingy because of this cognitive dysfunction. They become attached to you for guidance due to the loss of these functions as they age.
Stress and trauma
A stressed dog will try to find comfort in you by being unusually attached to you. Stress can come from environmental triggers such as loud noises, changes in their routine, or home environment.
You can identify stress as the cause of the attachment by taking note of when the clinginess occurs, that is, if it is triggered by events or situations in the home or your dog’s environment.
Trauma experienced by a German Shepherd can also cause them to become clingy. Trauma can cause stress which can stem from mistreatment from previous owners or early separation from their littermates.
German Shepherds require mental and physical stimulation to be healthy and well-rounded. If they do not have these, they get bored and have nothing to do and instead will tend to get attached to their owner.
Boredom also encourages a German Shepherd to engage in destructive behavior such as digging, chewing, or garbage raiding.
A German Shepherd can be so clingy when seeking attention from you. Dogs try to get our attention when they need something from us or our undivided attention.
An attention-seeking German Shepherd will cry, bark, paw, or follow you everywhere to get your attention so that you might focus on them.
Clinginess can also be due to learned behavior whereby a German Shepherd got used to being quite close to you all the time.
This means that there is a chance you inadvertently encouraged their behavior by having them be with you all the time and did not train them on being separated or having alone time.
This also includes constant kissing, cuddling, praising, and having no boundaries for when they can be with you such as on your bed or in every room in your home.
Therefore your dog got used to being clingy and attached.
Do German Shepherds get attached to one person?
While German Shepherds can form strong bonds with all members of their family, they may be particularly attached to one person. The contributing factors include socialization, attention, positive association, and a person’s personality. These solidify the bond between the dog and a family member, which makes them become more attached to one person.
While they may have a special bond with one person, German Shepherds are still social creatures who need plenty of interaction with their family.
Male vs female German Shepherd clingy behavior
Male and female German Shepherds have different behaviors. Male German Shepherds are more likely to be clingy with their owners with the need to be close to them all the time.
Female German Shepherds are more independent and not as clingy as their male counterparts. However, both genders of German Shepherds are very loyal and devoted to their owners.
How to deal with a clingy German Shepherd
Identify the cause
Assess your German Shepherd’s current situation and environment to identify why they might be very clingy, for example, if it stems from separation anxiety, old age, or stress.
You can do this by assessing when the behavior started if they have not been so clingy and also when and where the behavior starts, to be able to pinpoint the possible causes of the clinginess.
By knowing the possible cause behind your German Shepherd’s clinginess you can implement the corrective action.
Don’t worry if you can not identify the cause on your own, the next step is to talk with your veterinarian to help in the determination of the underlying cause.
Consult with your veterinarian
Talk to your veterinarian about the surrounding circumstances making your German Shepherd clingy and the need for attachment.
The veterinarian will determine if the problem is due to an underlying illness or if it is a behavioral issue that needs to be corrected by an animal behaviorist.
From this assessment, the veterinarian will either recommend treatment or a certified animal behaviorist to help train your German Shepherd.
Behavioral training is essential in teaching a German Shepherd the desired behaviors to stop clinginess. This includes training for the management of separation anxiety, or trauma.
Care for your clingy female in heat
When your female German Shepherd comes into heat, her behavior may change dramatically. She may become more clingy and needy, wanting to be near you all the time.
While this can be sweet, it can also be frustrating if you’re trying to get things done. Here are ways for dealing with a clingy German Shepherd in heat:
- Give her extra attention. During this time, your dog will crave attention and affection more than usual. Make sure to give her plenty of both. Spend extra time petting her, playing with her, and just being near her.
- Set aside time for cuddles. If you can’t give her constant attention, set aside specific times for cuddles and affection. Let her know when it’s time for cuddles so she doesn’t get frustrated waiting for attention.
- Take her on a daily walk. Walks help relieve stress and also give your dog a chance to focus on something other than you. Plan one or two walks for the day when she’s likely to be at her clingiest.
- Be patient. She’s just trying to get your attention. Don’t yell at her or punish her for being clingy. Instead, try to redirect her attention on to something else she can chew on, like a toy.
Avoid encouraging the behavior
German Shepherd clinginess may also come from learned behavior where you inadvertently contributed to the behavior by encouraging them to be very attached to you.
You can stop encouraging this behavior by teaching them the command words such as “ stay” to discourage them from following you everywhere in your home and also your dog learning how to be separated from you.
Consistent training on the desired behaviors with positive reinforcement helps to stop clinginess.
Spend time with them
Clinginess can be a simple need for your dog to spend time with you. This is normal because German Shepherds are naturally people-oriented and love people’s company.
So if they sense that they need attention from you, your German Shepherd might cry, or become clingy to get your attention.
Schedule time to spend with your German Shepherd and also if clinginess is due to a need such as needing your help to get out of the house, or time for walks, offer the help needed.
Exercise and activities
A bored German Shepherd tends to be clingy, therefore provide exercises and activities to mentally and physically engage your dog.
This includes the provision of puzzle toys, chew toys, daily walks, and exercises appropriate for your German Shepherd’s age.
Research has shown that early life experiences and daily exercises have an impact on your dog’s welfare, which also reduces their stress.