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Why Is My German Shepherd So Clingy? A Look at 5 Reasons

You get up from the couch to get a drink from the kitchen and hear the pitter-patter of your German Shepherd’s feet behind you. You sneak away to the bathroom for a few minutes and hear your German Shepherd crying outside the door. Wherever you go, he seems to be there too! So, why is my German Shepherd so clingy?

German Shepherds are so clingy because it’s in their nature to follow you around because of their loyalty and protectiveness. They can also be prone to separation anxiety. Owners can be at fault if they’re always petting, cuddling, and kissing their dog, making them even more clingy!

Right now, all you know is that your German Shepherd is very clingy! To help you figure out this mystery, we’re going to learn five major reasons why your German Shepherd never seems to leave your side. More importantly, what you can do about your German Shepherd being a velcro dog.

A German Shepherd being clingy

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To learn more about your German Shepherd’s clinginess, read on!

Are German Shepherds Clingy?

German Shepherds are well known for being clingy. They are often referred to as a “velcro dog” meaning they stick by you when you’re around and want to be by your side at all times. This clinginess stems from their breeding purpose as herders of sheep as they were constantly with the shepherds.

Let’s look in more detail at exactly why your GSD might be clingy.

Why Your German Shepherd Might Be Clingy

Whether you love it 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’re going to take a deeper look at your German Shepherd’s clingy behavior and this is where it gets interesting.

We’re going to examine just how common separation anxiety is in German Shepherds and how to distinguish whether your dog has separation anxiety or just likes to be around you. Then, we’ll touch on just how in tune your German Shepherd might be with your own stress and anxiety.

Finally, we will look at how genetics plays a part and give some examples of your dog’s learned behaviors whereby YOU may be to blame!

1. Your German Shepherd has 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, took 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 and this usually occurs within the first 30 minutes.

This is known as separation anxiety and can be the result of real stress in your dog. Unfortunately, the German Shepherd is known as one of the breeds 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 at 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 major 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 come back!

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 and show signs of excessive pacing or drooling and he may start to bark or whine.

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

Your German Shepherd’s clinginess only becomes a serious problem when it progresses to separation anxiety. Don’t worry though as here’s how to stop separation anxiety in German Shepherds where you can find a ton of helpful tips to learn step-by-step.

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2. Your German Shepherd just 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 that 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 as one of the breeds to have become needier during a feeding experiment. They displayed high levels of “human-gazing” defined as where a dog looks to its owner for encouragement, comfort, and support, which is 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.

Tip! Never let your German Shepherd sleep on your bed with you, as this may encourage even more clingy behavior! Here’s my thought-proving article on whether you should let your German Shepherd sleep with you.

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 picked up on 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 be making your dog nervous and anxious, which is why he clings to your side like a lost puppy. He doesn’t know what’s going on or why you’re nervous, but he knows he can go to you for love and support and he also likes to comfort you in his own little way.

4. It’s in your German Shepherd’s genes

German Shepherds are known for being brave, loyal, and protective and make an ideal good first dog, as long as you have the time to devote to them. They’re also extremely intelligent and easy to train, which is why they’re often used both as family pets and as working dogs!

German Shepherd Working Dog - Police Dog
German Shepherd Working Dog

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

If you have ever 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 carry on playing!

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

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

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

You also only have to think about how loyal and protective German Shepherds can be. Your German Shepherd considers you to be family, which is why he wants to be around you so much.

5. Learned dog behaviors

You may have inadvertently contributed to making 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 constantly know where you are, but making them follow you all of the time reinforces this behavior.

Some owners are often to blame for German Shepherd 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’re going to quickly go over a few things that you can do without having to change your schedule around too much! These are the easiest solutions and just 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 off 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!

One of the best ways to break your German Shepherd’s habit of being clingy, especially when he knows you’ll be leaving the house for several hours at a time, is by removing the routine.

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 instead you took your German Shepherd for a walk, then fed him, then made your coffee, he wouldn’t know what was coming next. By doing this, he won’t be so anxious every time 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 grabbing 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 and 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.

Increasing 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 important to provide your dog with lots of playtimes and mental stimulation, as a bored dog may become clingy. Teaching your dog “fetch” and using dog interactive toys are a great way to stimulate your German Shepherd, and they provide endless fun – for example, check out the Outward Hound Dog Brick Interactive Treat Puzzle on Amazon.

Watch this great video by Zak George, who explains the importance of mental stimulation (especially for high-energy dogs) and how this can fix unwanted behaviors:

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

Create a Special Place

If your German Shepherd is so clingy that he’s the type to follow you all around the house constantly, you can use your German Shepherd’s bed, a mat, or crate as his special place.

You do this by training him to go there for a while by 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 such as the KONG Classic from Amazon are ideal for this as they will provide your German Shepherd with tons of both healthy mental and physical stimulation that will 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 do it by teaching it in several stages, with lots of praise and positive reinforcement. Whilst training, I prefer to use high-quality treats such as Zuke’s Puppy Naturals Dog Training Treats from Amazon as they’re only 3.5 calories each and they keep your dog interested.

Teaching the “STAY” command will teach your German Shepherd that it’s okay to be left alone for a short while and this will help him to 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. He will only move when you command him to do so. For more in-depth info on how to train a German Shepherd, this article has it covered.

Final Thoughts

It’s pretty normal that your German Shepherd is so clingy, but you might be wondering why he won’t seem to leave you alone. Remember, he just might not be able to help it! Here is a recap of the most common reasons your German Shepherd sticks by your side so closely:

  • Your dog is really attached to you and doesn’t want to be away from you (separation anxiety).
  • Your dog loves you and craves your attention, simply put.
  • Your dog knows that you’re stressed and anxious. He senses this, and it’s making him feel the same way.
  • Your dog is loyal and protective by nature, so he doesn’t want to be apart from you. It’s just in his genes!
  • You have accidentally contributed to making him more clingy by some learned behaviors.

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