When I was growing up, we had a female dog who suddenly turned extra clingy; it was like an overnight change. What follows are my recollections of the change in behavior, and additional research I’ve done into why dogs can become so attached all of a sudden.
It includes the reasons for the attachment and super clingy behavior, and then steps you can take to help your dog through this period.
Why is my dog so clingy all of a sudden?
Our dog was an interesting character. He could be so aloof at times, but still affectionate. Not super cuddly like some dogs – he wasn’t one to come sit on your lap.
However, this started to change as he got older. It was almost an overnight change once he hit 12 years of age. Around this time in his life, he suddenly turned into the most clingy and needy dog you can imagine – he would not leave my side, would cry outside the bathroom door, and insisted on sleeping in my room with me.
Of course, the natural reaction at the time was to worry and wonder why my dog is so attached to me all of a sudden.
Why my dog was suddenly clingy was due to his old age and a further diagnosis of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome, which is very similar to how humans will experience dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. The confusion made my dog extra cling and attached.
However, that might not be the reason why your dog is being extra clingy and attached to you all of a sudden. It could be due to other factors such as anxiety (including separation issues), health issues, boredom, or for female dogs being in heat.
Before I get started in detail though, please understand that I am not a vet. All of this advice about your clingy dog is based on personal experiences, my own research, and talking with vets.
If your dog suddenly becomes more attached to you, and the behavior chance is accompanied by other symptoms (e.g., sickness) please talk with your vet.
Why is my dog so attached to me all of a sudden?
The reasons can be varied, and this isn’t a comprehensive list of reasons why your dog is suddenly clingy, but some of the more common ones.
1. Clingy due to separation anxiety
Dogs will often develop separation anxiety when left at home as your work or perhaps if left in kennels when you go away. The effect of separation anxiety can manifest itself in lots of ways, one of which will be your dog being clingy all of a sudden.
You can understand too; if you have left them and they are worried, they might then want to be attached to your side at all times to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
However, separation anxiety and clingy behavior aren’t always the same as explained on the PetMD.com website.
“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)
Having said that, a dog that is suddenly clingy to you, could be exhibiting separation anxiety as it is a symptom.
How you know it’s separation anxiety
Some of the more obvious signs that the clingy behavior is related to separation anxiety will include, but are not limited to:
- Urinating and defecating in the house.
- Barking and howling.
- Pacing, heavy panting, and drooling.
- Chewing, digging, and destructive behavior.
- Escape attempts.
- Being extra cling and suddenly attached to you.
What to do about separation anxiety
There are many things you can do about separation anxiety if this is what is leading to the attachment and extra clingy behavior. I’ve written at length about it before, so here are just some very concise tips to help.
- Leave them something with your scent on when you leave the house.
- Don’t make a big fuss of your dog when you return home to reduce any over-excitement – practice a calm routine at all times.
- Similarly, don’t make a big deal about leaving the house – perhaps just try short absences at first.
- Speak with a vet as there could be calming medication they can offer in extreme cases.
- Burn off any excess energy the dog has before you leave the home, meaning regular exercise and play.
- Consider dog sitters and walkers when you go away rather than kennels or being left home alone.
- Buy something like a Furbo dog camera so you can see and talk to them when you are out – we bought ours on Amazon.
- Leave a stimulating game to keep them mentally active whilst you are out (here’s one on Amazon – shown below).
2. Clingy due to a change in their environment
Many dogs hate change, whether that’s to their routine or environment. When change happens, it can mess with your dog’s emotions, meaning they might suddenly become clingy to you for protection.
Changes can include aspects such as you getting a new dog or pet, perhaps a baby was born and comes into the home, or you have undergone a house move.
The way you can help to make things like this smoother is to try and make any significant life changes slowly, and involve your dog each step of the way.
3. Clingy due to a stranger danger
Some dogs will get attached to you all of a sudden, the moment a strange person comes into your house, or meeting an unfamiliar person when on a walk.
Your dog will become nervous and clingy, possibly even hiding behind your legs as you talk to the stranger and perceived threat.
4. Clingy due to boredom
Bored dogs will want your company more. It stands to reason too, if they are not stimulated by their environment, they will be looking for you to constantly provide it.
For example, my dog I mentioned at the beginning of this article, would come and cuddle into me when he was bored.
You might want to look for toys that can stimulate, like the Amazon dog puzzle game I mentioned – consider having a Furbo like below too for when you are out
The bottom line is you need to get them stimulated to stop the sudden clingy behavior due to boredom. You could take their mind of things with a brisk walk outdoors or a ball game.
Boredom is one of the easier problems on this list to fix when it comes to a dog’s sudden clinginess. Here are some more ideas you can try to keep boredom at bay.
- Providing enticing chew toys to keep them happily engaged for hours.
- Using snuffle mats and puzzles to stimulate the mind.
- Arranging play dates and meetups with other dogs.
- Going on active daily walks that make your dog tired out.
5. Clingy due to dementia
And now to the main reason again why my own dog was being extra clingy all of a sudden; Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CCDS). It’s common with senior dogs and has been compared to how humans get dementia.
In fact, our dog suddenly getting clingy was the first suspicion we had that he might have a problem, similar to dementia – and we were right after going to the vet.
Our vet told us that CCDS makes your dog get confused. When a dog is confused, it will naturally become anxious, and in turn will become more attached to you for security. It can all happen so quickly.
How to help your clingy dog with their dementia
I am not a vet but do remember what we had to do with our dog when this happened. The points below helped him to cope better and actually reduced some of the clingy behavior.
- We didn’t make any changes in our home, for example, moving chairs around. This helped our dog to keep the familiar feelings around the home.
- We tried to keep our dog stimulated mentally which I think helped to keep his mind off confusion.
- We let our dog sleep in my room so that he felt safe. I didn’t honestly mind him wanting to be extra cling and attached to me all of a sudden as he got progressively worse.
6. Clingy due to illness
Remember as a kid when you felt sick? Nothing was better than getting a cuddle from your mom or dad, and dogs are just the same.
When dogs are ill, some can get extra clingy and want to be attached to your side suddenly. Others will want to be by themselves, so it all boils down the dog’s individual character.
With this in mind, if your dog is attached to you all of a sudden, it could be worth having a vet’s check-up to see if there are any underlying illnesses that aren’t obvious to the eye.
7. Clingy due to heat
This reason for a suddenly extra clingy dog is for the females only and happens when they start to go into heat – their time of the month / leading up to the menstruation period.
Female dogs will often want to be close to their owners for comfort during the stages of heat. If your dog is suddenly attached to your side, check for the signs of heat include the following:
- Flirting with male dogs.
- 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.
8. Clingy when just about to give birth
Another one that can afflict female dogs getting so clingy all of a sudden is just before they give birth. Pregnant dogs nearing this time want to nest and get comfortable.
If it’s their first pregnancy, it could be an anxious and unusual time for them too, hence seeking the comfort and wanting to be as close to you as they can.
9. Clingy due to human pregnancy
Following on from that, sometimes owners report clingy dogs when they are pregnant themselves. It’s said that dogs can detect hormonal changes in their owners, and can become more protective and clingier.
Strange, but appears to be true.
There can be many reasons why your dog so clingy all of a sudden, so I hope I’ve given you some ideas on what could behind your dog’s attachment issue.
I’ve also put together some additional guides which are somewhat related to the issue of sudden attachment, which offer more insight – see below.