The following advice was written by a friend of mine who has experienced a dog suddenly getting super clingy. It’s based on her real-life experience of this behavior, with additional input from me on what I’ve learned from animal behaviorists.
My oldest dog was always a friendly, affectionate soul but generally very independent. She came and went, coming for cuddles when needed, but only ever on her terms. She was a strong dog who didn’t seem to need human!!
But then, as she got older, she all of a sudden was the neediest and clingiest dog of our family pack. She would follow me to the bathroom. She would whine when I went to sleep. She would try to sleep on top of me at night. She would pat my legs for attention at every opportune moment.
All of which, made me wonder…
Why is my dog clingy all of a sudden?
Well, in the end, the root cause for her suddenly being clingy was down to her old age and doggy dementia (also known as Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome).
For your dog though, they could be super clingy all of a sudden for reasons including separation anxiety, boredom, illness, anxiety over life changes, or even that they are in heat!
In this guide, I will dissect all of the reasons why a dog can suddenly become clingy towards you. It also includes some tips on how to work through them with your pup.
Of course, I am not a vet, so this is all written from personal experience. If there is a drastic behavior change accompanied by other weird physical symptoms like diarrhea and vomiting, contact your veterinarian for expert advice.
1. Clingy due to separation anxiety
Separation anxiety manifests in many different ways depending on your dog’s personality. This is the most common answer to the question of sudden canine clinginess. It stands to reason that a dog that wants to be near you is afraid of leaving your side. But there is an important distinction to be made between clinginess and separation anxiety.
Joanna Pendergrass DVM from PetMD writes:
“Clinginess and separation anxiety are similar but not exactly the same. Generally, what separates them is how a dog reacts to being away from their owner. Clingy dogs want to be around you when you’re at home, but they don’t panic when you’re not there. A dog with separation anxiety panics when you’re not around.” (view source)
That said, they too are linked in this simple way: sudden clinginess can be a symptom of separation anxiety.
If your dog is panicky and anxious whenever you leave the house or leave the room, they may be stuck to your side consistently when you are around – the pug breed is renowned for this.
How to help your dog with their separation anxiety
I have written about separation anxiety in more detail elsewhere on the website so I won’t go into lots of detail here. Here are a few of the most important tips to help solve separation anxiety with your pup – which could in turn, help the sudden clingy behavior.
- Leave your old t-shirts in your dog’s resting place to have the comfort of your smell around.
- Ignore your dog for the first couple of minutes of coming home to lessen the huge burst of excitement when you arrive.
- Consult your vet to potentially prescribe calming supplements if your dog is particularly anxious.
- Give them stimulating dog puzzles to keep busy.
Handy Hint: A classic sign of separation anxiety will be when your dog always howls or whines when you get home from work.
2. Clingy due to boredom
A dull life can make your dog feel in want of company all of the time. When my dog is bored, she comes to me for cuddles and entertainment. It makes perfect sense in a lot of ways! I would like a cuddle every time I feel bored and turn to Netflix for comfort.
If your dog has been bored for a while or has been stuck inside for some time, this can intensify the sudden clinginess. They are begging for stimulation, a game, a walk – or justsomething.
How to help your dog with their boredom
Boredom is one of the easier problems on this list to fix when it comes to a dog’s sudden clinginess. Here are the ways I keep my dog mentally stimulated without them feeling the need to cling to me :
- Providing enticing chew toys to keep them happily engaged for hours.
- Using snuffle mats and puzzles to stimulate the mind.
- Arranging play dates with other dogs.
- Going on active daily walks that tire out your dog.
3. Clingy due to dementia
This is sad to think about, but Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome or CCDS for short is very pervasive amongst elderly dogs. My oldest dog is going through her own struggles at the moment.
I can personally attest to sudden clinginess being a key part of her illness. It was actually one of the first signs of canine dementia we spotted.
The theory is that CCDS causes a lot of confusion for your dog, just as Alzheimer’s syndrome does in humans. That confusion increases anxiety. Anxiety increases clinginess.
Your dog will then look to you for safety and security. It makes sense that they may want to be around you when the world seems unfamiliar and strange to them.
Some experts say that dogs become clingier and more vocal in general as they age, whether they have dementia or not.
How to help your dog with their dementia
Dementia in dogs is complex and progressive just as it is in humans. I can’t tell you that there is a magic cure or light at the end of the tunnel because there likely isn’t.
However, what I can do is tell you the things that make my dog’s life easier and her feel less of a need to cling to me for guidance:
- Keep the furniture layout in your home constant so that they feel familiar in their surroundings at all times.
- Use interactive dog puzzles to mentally stimulate your dog, keeping symptoms of confusion at bay.
- Consult your vet about anxiety-reducing medications and supplements to help ease their worry.
- Let your dog sleep near you so they can feel your presence nearby during the night. Here are some more ways you can take care of a dog with dementia when it comes to sleepingand bedtime.
4. Clingy due to illness
If your dog is feeling unwell, they may look to you more than usual for comfort or support. The opposite is also true – many dogs isolate themselves when they feel ill. It generally depends on the illness and your dog’s personality.
If your dog is being extremely clingy all of a sudden with no clear motive, it may be worth contacting your veterinarian just to get your dog checked out.
Any underlying health issues need to be solved and you will likely see that your dog’s clinginess then goes away.
5. Clingy due to life changes
Huge life changes mean increased stress and anxiety (can you see the pattern here?).
If you have recently moved or there is a new addition to the family – furry or otherwise – you may find that your dog is more consumed with worry about the changing tides around them.
This makes sense. Large life changes make us all a little jumpy. That extra layer of anxiety can manifest as clinginess.
Echoing what I have said before, it’s all about the comfort and security of having you near to cling to.
You are important to them as a beacon of stability whilst the world changes around them.
How to help your dog through major life changes
My advice here would be to keep things as constant as possible for your dog until the last minute. Of course, with new babies arriving your dog might not understand what’s happening. Similarly, when adopting a new pet, your dog could be confused and suddenly want to cling to you. Other things they can do is pee on things in the house, such as your clothes.
What you might want to try is letting your dog spend more time with infants (under close supervision with no licking) or even meet your new adopted pet before you bring them home. Those are both recommended.
However, this won’t accurately simulate how their world will dramatically change when there is a new creature in the house that isn’t them.
On the other hand, moving can be done more gradually. You want your dog to be the last thing to move into the new home. This could mean spending some time in a kennel whilst you uproot the last furniture, but as much as possible, keep things stable until you need to move out.
6. Clingy due to heat
No, I don’t mean temperature. I don’t even mean spiciness. By “heat” I mean your dog’s time of the month. Of course, this assumes that your female dog has not been spayed.
If you have a female dog that ovulates, she may be more clingy and needy whilst she is going through this stage.
Signs your dog is going through heat
Apart from the sudden clinginess of course, you should look out for:
- Flirting with male dogs (in a canine way I suppose).
- Swollen vulva.
- Bloody discharge from the vulva.
- Licking their genital area in an obsessive way.
- Agitation or aggression.
- Peeing often.
- Holding their tail in an unusual position.
7. Clingy due to human pregnancy
This reason for your dog being clingy all of a sudden could have slotted into the life changes category. However, it’s a common enough phenomenon to justify its own section.
According to some sources, dogs are able to notice changes in a human woman’s body and they have been known to become more protective and clingier.
Handy Hint:On a similar note, did you know that dogs can smell a female’s periodwhich can also influence how they behave?
There is a myriad of reasons for dogs getting clingy all of a sudden, so I hope you’ve managed to identify what’s up with your pet from the ones above.
Based on what your dog is going through, you might find the following articles of help.