Your German Shepherd follows you like a second shadow.
And you start to wonder what that’s all about…
In this article, you’ll find out…
- When to turn for help to a professional.
- The difference between separation anxiety and clinginess.
- How to make your German Shepherd more confident and independent.
- 7 tips to stop your Germans Shepherd from following you everywhere (#4 is essential).
- And even more…
Why does my German Shepherd follow me everywhere?
Your German Shepherd follows you everywhere either because they are clingy or suffer from separation anxiety or both. Other reasons include being bored or asking for more attention and food.
13 reasons why your German Shepherd follows you everywhere
#1: They want more attention
Do you have an attention-hungry German Shepherd?
They couldn’t get enough of your time. The rough houses, the play times, the training… Those are simply not enough for them.
And so they follow you from room to room, hoping to get your attention. They would get any chance to be petted or snuggled.
Note: Do not give them what they want. Otherwise, they’ll get used to it and continue asking for more.
#2: They want food
Dogs wouldn’t say no to any food you can give them.
And they’d follow you around, hoping to get more food from you.
Dogs usually do this as a learned behavior. It could be that you give them yummy table scraps when you’re eating.
Or you give them a treat every time they’re at your side.
Note: If you have done any of these, then you have unwittingly reinforced the behavior.
#3: They are simply clingy and needy
If you have a dog that follows you all the time, even in the bathroom, you have a clingy dog.
They are clingy for a lot of reasons (some of which I will also discuss here).
For instance, they had experienced something awful in the past. And it made them want to be near their owners all the time.
Their clinginess could also be caused by hearing and vision loss. They want to be near their owners to feel comfortable and secure.
#4: They have separation anxiety
A German Shepherd with separation anxiety will follow you everywhere. This unhealthy attachment is worsened by panic episodes when you leave them.
And that’s what differentiates separation anxiety from clinginess. A clingy dog does not panic or become anxious when their owners leave.
But dogs with separation anxiety display unwanted behaviors when their owners are gone.
These behaviors include:
- Escape attempts.
- Destruction of things.
- Excessive barking and whining.
- Peeping and pooping in inappropriate places.
And when their owners return, German Shepherds display over-excitement.
#5: They were bred that way
German Shepherds belong to a herding group of dogs. They were bred to help farmers herd sheep and animals.
These dogs are also famous for being protective of their owners.
These are the reasons why German Shepherds always look to you for guidance. They follow you around, ready to do your bidding.
So don’t be surprised to have them on your heels wherever you go. After all, how can they protect you if you’re not together all the time?
#6: They’re herding the family
As I have mentioned, German Shepherds were bred as herding dogs.
From the fields to the households, this innate need to herd remains in their genes.
Only now they don’t have sheep or livestock to herd. As a result, they see you and your family as the ‘herd.’
They follow you around because they want to herd the family in one place – say, the living room.
#7: They follow you due to emotional reasons
You’re tickled pink knowing that your dog follows you around because they miss you. Or they just want to hang around with you.
This is not the case all the time. Sometimes, feelings of insecurity push them into being your shadow.
This is especially true among adopted German Shepherds.
Insecurity stems from bad experiences in the past. They might bring this emotional baggage into their new home.
It’s not going to be easy to make them feel secure right away. Until then, following you is the best thing to do for them.
#8: They have nothing to do
German Shepherds seem to have an endless supply of energy. And to deplete this energy, they need as much energy-busting activities.
The sky’s the limit when it comes to activities that you can give your dog. Go hiking, walking, or swimming.
Any activities appropriate for their age and health condition will keep them happy, tired, and calm.
…if your dog doesn’t get to do physical and mental activities, they can get into a rut.
Without anything else to do, they find a lot of time on their hands. Or paws.
And then boredom creeps in.
To pass the time, they may find it entertaining to follow you around. Probably waiting for you to give them commands.
Anything to keep them out of boredom.
This research has surprising claims regarding boredom in dogs. Lack of mental stimulation results in neurons dying. This, in turn, damages the brain.
Can you imagine the implications for your German Shepherd?
They’re the 3rd most intelligent dog breed in the world. They’re just behind Border Collies and Poodles.
What a big waste if owners don’t take advantage of it. To train their dogs and teach them useful tricks and commands.
#9: They love companionship
German Shepherds are pack animals in nature. They love to be in the company of humans.
Not only that. They need a person to serve and please.
And that means following you around. Because you are their pack.
Where you go, they go.
#10: They study you
Have you ever wondered why your German Shepherd seems to know your moods?
Specifically, they know when you’re sad or happy. Or stressed and angry.
You have read about all these researches that studied dogs. Perhaps one thing that humans forget is, dogs study humans, too.
They see your facial expressions and your body language. They also hear the changes in the tone of your voice.
Not only that. They know what those cues mean and respond accordingly.
For example, they cower when you raise your voice. Or they wag their tails vigorously when they hear your happy voice.
Yet you did not teach your dog to respond that way.
#11: They have no concept of personal space
Personal space? That’s not in their vocabulary.
They would follow you around, right on your heels.
This giant named Shadow is proof of that. He wouldn’t leave his owner alone so that she could work out:
Note: If you let them do this all the time, they would think this is okay.
#12: They imprinted on you
Imprinting was discovered by ethologist Konrad Lorenz. He experimented on baby geese and found out they imprinted on him.
In other words, the geese recognized him as their parent or person of trust.
This was because he was the first moving object that the geese saw when they hatched.
Apparently, imprinting happens in other animals, too, such as dogs. A puppy imprints between 3 and 12 weeks old.
Note: When they imprint on you, they will form an attachment for you. Thus, they will follow you everywhere.
#13: They are bonded to you
German Shepherds follow the person they choose to latch onto.
However, it doesn’t mean that they don’t love the rest of the family. It’s just that they gravitate to the person who is ‘leader material.’
This person is usually the one who feeds them, plays with them and spends the most time with them.
In turn, German Shepherds focus on this person. Kind of like their shepherd.
Are you the shepherd to your dog?
Then you’ve just become their favorite human. They like you so much that they follow you everywhere.
This is exactly the case of this one dog owner. She had shared her own experience on a forum.
She said that her dog sleeps on her own bed on the floor. But only if she could see her human.
And if she couldn’t see her human’s face, she would scoot closer to the bed.
She also waits for her outside the bathroom door. And if the owner disappears from her sight, she would immediately look for her.
Note: This is proof that domesticated dogs became ‘bonded’ with their humans. This is similar to the bond between a human parent and their child.
7 tips when your German Shepherd follows you everywhere
#1: Ignore the behavior
If they follow you to get more attention, ignore them.
This is to make them understand that they can’t have everything they want.
If they resort to other bad behavior, such as barking or whining, ignore it as well. Let them know that you will give them attention on your terms.
However, do not ignore your German Shepherd if they do something good. That’s the time to give them attention and a reward.
You can also call your dog and pet them. When the interaction is done, say something like ‘that’s enough.’ And then withdraw your hands.
This way, you let them know the right way to get your attention.
Note: Only give them attention when they behave in a way that you want them to.
#2: Give them a job
Break boredom by giving your German Shepherd a job.
This is perfect because German Shepherds love to please their owners.
When they have a job, it will keep them busy. And it will make them happy, knowing they’re doing a very important job in the house.
Good thing German Shepherds are highly trainable. They easily learn commands, tasks, and tricks.
You can teach them to pick up their toys and put them in a basket. Or have them put the toilet seat down or flush the toilet.
Your German Shepherd can do all those things and more. Baron is proof of that:
Note: Having something productive to do will redirect their behavior.
#3: Teach them to sit and stay
Having your German Shepherds on your heels can end in accidents.
If you didn’t see them behind you, you could trip on them. You could lose balance and hurt yourself.
Or they could be hurt when you accidentally step on their paws.
Before any of these happens, curb the behavior early on. The commands sit and stay come very handy in these situations.
#4: Don’t punish them
I get it that it could be frustrating to have your dog follow you like a shadow.
You can’t even get 5 minutes of quiet time in the bathroom before they come ready to knock down the door.
Caution: Punishing your dog is not a solution.
This could worsen the problem instead of solving it. That’s because punishing could lead to stress, anxiety and lack of trust in you.
As a result, they would listen less to you in the future.
#5: Use desensitization and counterconditioning
Certain things trigger your dog’s separation anxiety.
For example, putting on your shoes and grabbing your bag means you’re about to leave.
You can use this to slowly desensitize your dog to these actions. The goal is to make these actions irrelevant.
Here’s a suggestion:
Put on your shoes, grab your bag, then go sit on the couch. Do this a few times.
Counterconditioning, on the other hand, also works wonders. It’s showing your dog that positive things happen when you do the actions.
Try putting on your shoes, then give your dog a tasty treat. Immediately leave for a few seconds.
Repeat a few times. Then lengthen the time that you’re gone.
#6: Be patient
Patience is truly a virtue.
Teaching your German Shepherd to stop following you around takes time. Even desensitization and counterconditioning take a while before they work.
But being patient is the most important element when teaching your dog to be independent and confident.
That, and consistency, will give you the results you’re looking for.
#7: Get professional help
You have done your part and yet your dog still follows you.
Consider consulting a vet or a behavior expert. They can diagnose why your dog behaves that way.
They are knowledgeable in this area. Thus, they know the behavior modification that is appropriate for your dog.