Close this search box.

5 Reasons Why Your German Shepherd Is Clingy

Last Updated: February 4, 2024

Rising from the couch, you’re immediately followed by the familiar pitter-patter of your German Shepherd’s paws. A quick escape to the bathroom is met with their anxious whimpers outside the door.

Your loyal companion’s presence is constant, a shadow in every step you take. This leads to a pressing question: Why is my German Shepherd so clingy?

German Shepherds are known for their clinginess due to their pack mentality and strong bond with their owners. Their intelligence and sensitivity heighten their awareness of their owner’s presence. Their perceived clinginess is a sign of their loyalty and desire for interaction with their human companions.

In this post, we’re going to delve into the reasons why your German Shepherd might be exhibiting such clingy behavior.

Could it be a manifestation of their innate loyalty, or are there deeper issues at play, such as separation anxiety or a need for more mental and physical stimulation?

Join us as we explore the various factors that contribute to this behavior and offer tips on how to foster a healthy, independent, yet affectionate relationship with your beloved German Shepherd.

Cute German Shepherd puppy

Are German Shepherds Clingy?

German Shepherds are well known for being clingy. They are often called “velcro dogs,” meaning they stick by you when you’re around and want to always be by your side.

This clinginess stems from their breeding purpose as sheep herders, as they were constantly with the shepherds.

Why Is My German Shepherd So Clingy?

Whether you love or hate it, your German Shepherd absolutely adores you, but sometimes he takes this to the extreme. Honestly, why else would he be obsessed with remaining at your side for every minute of the day?

We’ll explore the prevalence of separation anxiety in German Shepherds, and guide you on how to discern if your dog is experiencing this anxiety or simply enjoys your company.

Additionally, we’ll delve into the intriguing possibility that your German Shepherd may be highly sensitive to your own stress and anxiety levels.

Let’s dive deeper into the intriguing aspects of your German Shepherd’s clingy behavior, uncovering the fascinating reasons behind it.

Two White German Shepherd Dogs

1. Understanding Separation Anxiety

So, you’ve had your German Shepherd since he was only a few months old. You spend every single day with him. You’ve trained him, fed him, taken him for walks, and played with him.

Over the months and years, your German Shepherd started to build an unhealthy attachment to you.

Since he’s entirely dependent on you and doesn’t spend all that much time away from you, he gets incredibly nervous when you leave, which usually occurs within the first 30 minutes.

This is known as separation anxiety and can result from real stress in your dog. Unfortunately, the German Shepherd is known as the breed most likely to suffer from this condition.

So, what’s the difference between a clingy GSD and one suffering from separation anxiety?

Although these are very similar, clingy dogs want to be around you when you’re home, whereas a German Shepherd with separation anxiety really panics when you’re not around.

Not much is known about why dogs develop separation anxiety. However, here are some of the reasons believed to cause it:

  • A significant change in the dog’s routine, e.g., moving house
  • He may have been abandoned in the past or mistreated
  • He suffers from his own stress and anxiety
  • He really just doesn’t like to be away from you

Your German Shepherd might be so clingy because he’s afraid you’ll leave him and never return!

You will know if your German Shepherd suffers from separation anxiety as he will start to become anxious when he realizes you are about to leave. He may follow you even more closely around the house, show excessive pacing or drooling, and start to bark or whine.

Once alone, he may display disruptive behavior, such as chewing on your wooden furniture. These are all signs that your dog is suffering from stress.

Your German Shepherd’s clinginess only becomes a serious problem when it progresses to separation anxiety.

Don’t worry, though, as here’s an article on how to stop separation anxiety where you can find many helpful step-by-step tips to learn.

GSD Puppy in a Crate

2. Your Dog Likes To Be Around You and Wants Attention

You might find your German Shepherd’s clinginess to be a bit annoying. But how would you feel if we told you that your German Shepherd won’t leave you alone purely because he loves you and craves your attention?

After all, a German Shepherd can’t have two masters, and he has chosen you!

Well, why wouldn’t he? You’re the one that feeds him, pets him, cuddles him, takes him for long walks, gets him his favorite toys, and spends hours a week playing with him! 

When German Shepherds feel they’re not getting enough attention, they tend to do whatever it takes to get that attention from you, as found in a recent study.

During this study of three dog breeds, researchers found German Shepherds to be one of the breeds to have become needier during a feeding experiment.

They displayed high levels of “human-gazing,” defined as a dog looking to its owner for encouragement, comfort, and support, connected with dependency and clinginess.

You might find it a little extreme that your German Shepherd won’t even give you a few minutes alone, but he’s not necessarily doing it to be annoying. He just wants to spend more time with you, as that’s just his nature.

Pro Tip! Never let your German Shepherd sleep on your bed with you, as this may encourage even more clingy behavior!

3. Your German Shepherd is Feeding Off Your Nervous Energy

If you come home from work stressed out, or if you suffer from occasional anxiety, your German Shepherd may have sensed your behavior and emotional state.

You don’t even need to speak, as your body language alone can show your dog that you are stressed.

German Shepherds are very skilled at reading your nervous energy. So, your dog can tell when you’re stressed, anxious, angry, or upset.

In fact, YOU might be giving your German Shepherd his own stress and anxiety, causing him to be more clingy!

Without even noticing you’re doing it, you might make your dog nervous and anxious, so he clings to your side like a lost puppy.

He doesn’t know what’s going on or why you’re worried, but he knows he can go to you for love and support, and he also likes to comfort you in his own little way.

German Shepherd In Car

4. It’s In Your German Shepherd’s Genes

German Shepherds are known for being brave, loyal, and protective. They make an ideal first dog, as long as you have the time to devote to them.

They’re also extremely intelligent, easy to train, and often used as family pets and working dogs!

Since being a working dog is in their genes, they’re used to developing a strong attachment to one person. Remember, German Shepherds were initially bred to herd sheep and other livestock and to work alongside one person.

“If you have wondered why your GSD nudges your ankles or the back of your leg with his nose, he is “herding you,” usually because he wants you to continue playing!” – World of Dogz

It’s, therefore, in your German Shepherd’s genes to be highly loyal to one person they depend on, and that person may also rely on them to do their job – primarily if they are a working dog.

Even though your German Shepherd may be a family pet, he’s still prone to developing this relationship and loves to please his owner immensely.

German Shepherds are so clingy because it’s a characteristic of their breed – he is not independent by nature.

You only have to consider how loyal and protective German Shepherds can be. Your German Shepherd considers you family, so he wants to be around you all the time.

German Shepherd Working Dog with a police official
German Shepherd Working Dog

5. Learned Dog Behaviors

You may have inadvertently made your German Shepherd more clingy by some learned behaviors.

For example, many dog owners will require a new puppy to always be in the same room as them so that he either doesn’t come to any harm or cause any trouble with his inquisitive puppy nature.

The puppy will soon learn that he has to follow his owner, whether that be to the kitchen or even the bathroom!

We have already learned that it’s in the German Shepherd’s genes to know where you are constantly, but making them follow you all the time reinforces this behavior.

Some owners are often to blame for the German Shepherd’s clingy behavior, especially if they constantly pet, kiss, cuddle, and praise their German Shepherd. This has the detrimental effect of making them even more clingy!

What To Do About Your German Shepherd’s Clinginess

I’m sure you love your German Shepherd, but if you get easily annoyed by his clingy behavior, don’t worry just yet! There are quite a few things that you can do right now to reduce your German Shepherd’s clinginess.

We’ll quickly review a few things you can do without changing your schedule too much! These are the most straightforward solutions and might do the trick for you and your German Shepherd:

Switch Your Routine

Every morning, you make coffee, feed your German Shepherd, take him for a walk, and then grab your keys before heading to work. Like clockwork, your German Shepherd follows along with you every step of the way.

As soon as you start the coffee machine, he waits by his bowl for you to pour his food in, right? Well, that’s because you’ve developed a routine, and he’s learned to recognize your behavior, so he knows exactly what comes next!

Removing the routine is one of the best ways to break your German Shepherd’s clinginess habit, especially when he knows you’ll be leaving the house for several hours at a time.

Here’s how you can do that:

  • Mix up the order of the routine. This one’s going to throw your German Shepherd for quite the loop! If you took your German Shepherd for a walk, fed him, and then made your coffee, he wouldn’t know what was coming next. By doing this, he wouldn’t be so anxious whenever you grab your keys.
  • Don’t always connect one action with leaving the house. So, your German Shepherd comes running over to you when you grab your keys. That’s because he knows your keys mean you are about to leave him alone. Get him accustomed to you holding your keys, but then stay in the house. This is known as desensitizing your German Shepherd to your movements. 
  • Reduce the amount of petting and fussing before leaving and returning home. You don’t want to encourage overly clingy behavior, so just play it cool when you leave or return. By all means, greet your dog, but don’t go over the top and keep it calm.

Remember, the goal here is to reduce your German Shepherd’s anxiety and thus reduce his clinginess.

German Shepherd Agility Training in the field

Increase Exercise and Play

Exercise is a great way to relieve your German Shepherd’s stress and help them to become less clingy.

Recent research has even pointed to a lack of daily exercise as a possible cause, and this study highlighted the importance of early life experiences and daily exercise.

It’s also essential to provide your dog with lots of playtime and mental stimulation, as a bored dog may become clingy.

Teaching your dog “fetch” and using interactive dog toys are great ways to stimulate your German Shepherd. They provide endless fun as they encourage positive play and prevent boredom.

Other ways to tire your dog out include obedience training, learning new tricks, playing tug or hide-and-seek, and agility. With a bit of creativity, you could even make an obstacle course!

Watch How To Keep Your Dog Stimulated In This Video…

Create a Special Place

If your German Shepherd is so clingy that he follows you around the house constantly, you can use his bed, a mat, or a crate as his special place.

You do this by training him to go there for a while using positive reinforcement. Ensure you add either a special treat or his favorite toy as an incentive to make him stay there.

Stuffed KONG toys are ideal as they will provide your GSD with many healthy mental and physical stimulation to keep him busy for ages.

You can stuff them with kibble, treats, or even peanut butter (make sure it’s organic and doesn’t contain xylitol, as this sweetener is toxic to dogs).

Teach the “STAY” Command

This command is quite difficult for dogs to master. However, you can teach it in several stages, with lots of praise and positive reinforcement.

Whilst training, I prefer to use high-quality treats or small pieces of meat or cheese.

The “STAY” command will teach your German Shepherd that it’s okay to be left alone for a short while and will help him become less clingy.

You start with short distances, such as just a step away, then gradually build up the distance until you can leave your German Shepherd in one room while you’re in another.


Is clinginess common in German Shepherds?

Clinginess is quite common in German Shepherds due to their loyal nature and history as working dogs. Many GSDs feel they must stay close to their owners at all times.

Are there any health issues that can contribute to a German Shepherd’s clinginess?

Certain health problems like arthritis, hip dysplasia, or poor vision can make a German Shepherd feel less secure on their own. This may increase clingy behaviors as they rely more on their owner to feel safe.

Does socialization play a role in a German Shepherd’s clinginess?

Socialization from a young age helps German Shepherds feel confident in new situations without their owner. Well-socialized dogs tend to be less clingy as adults since they’re comfortable when separated.

Final Thoughts

Understanding the clingy behavior of your German Shepherd is key to ensuring their happiness.

Whether it’s a case of separation anxiety or a deep-seated need for companionship, recognizing and addressing these issues can significantly enhance the quality of life for both you and your loyal companion.

Sharon Waddington
Sharon Waddington is the founder of World of Dogz. With over 30 years of experience working with dogs, this former Police Officer has seen it all. But it’s her trusty German Shepherd, Willow, who steals the show as the inspiration behind this website. As Sharon’s constant companion Willow has played a pivotal role in shaping her passion for dogs. Recently, Sharon has become deeply passionate about the plight of rescue dogs and is an active advocate for dog rescue, striving to make a difference in the lives of dogs in need.

Leave a Comment

Image for Newsletter Signup

Rehabilitate. Repeat.

Get the best in dog rescue news, care, and health tips, and be a part of the rescue dog revolution.