A dog that always wants to be held or carried is known as a “velcro dog” because they seem to be constantly stuck to their owner. You may be wondering why your dog does this, and if it’s something you should be concerned about. Perhaps most important, you want to know how to remove the velcro.
Why does my dog always want me to hold or carry him?
Having a dog that wants to be held all the time is similar to having a newborn baby. You get them settled and put them down. You get up, and within minutes they are whining or pawing at your leg. As adorable as the desire for affection is, it can be maddening as well. Why are some dogs so clingy?
Your behavior may play a part in your dog’s clinginess. Dogs respond well to positive reinforcement. This is why giving them treats when training them to do something is effective. However, you can give positive enforcement for undesirable behavior without realizing it.
If you frequently pick your dog up or hold it, it will expect that. This positive attention will create a desire to continue the behavior, particularly if you pick up your dog every time it whines or paws at you looking for attention.
Some breeds are more likely to be clingy. Small dogs are often known as lap dogs. Most small breeds, like Chihuahuas, were bred for companionship. Over time, the more social dogs were bred, which strengthened the personality trait. Working dogs like hounds and Shepards also needed to have a strong relationship with their owners, so they were bred for sociability as well.
While some breeds are more likely to be Velcro dogs, each dog has its own individual personality. Some will require a higher level of companionship than others of the same breed.
Your dog may crave constant attention because it is bored. Boredom can cause all sorts of unwanted dog behaviors, including licking and chewing on off-limit items. Essentially, a dog will find some sort of entertainment. If you don’t provide the right type of entertainment, your dog will develop bad habits.
Dogs will also become clingy as a result of physical ailments. As a dog ages, hearing and vision can decline. This can be scary for your dog, and they will naturally want to remain closer to you because you make them feel safe. Arthritis and other conditions can cause pain, which can also cause a dog to be clingy.
If you aren’t feeling well, you likely want your loved ones close by for comfort. It’s no surprise your dog has the same desire.
Some dogs experience separation anxiety. If your dog has separation anxiety, they will have anxiety whenever you aren’t nearby. It varies in severity. Some dogs may show mild signs of anxiety when you leave the house. On the severe end are dogs that get highly upset when their owner leaves their sight.
Destruction is one of the most common signs of separation anxiety. Your dog may chew or claw items, creating quite a mess. Peeing or pooping in the house is also common. They may escape, or attempt to escape the home or leash to find you, and even injure themselves in the attempt. They commonly bark or howl when left alone. They may not eat when they are alone. When you return, you may notice that they are visibly upset or extremely excited.
You should keep in mind that punishing a dog with separation anxiety can actually make the anxiety worse. They aren’t acting out due to spite. They are simply unable to cope with their anxiety.
Difference Between Velcro Dog and Separation Anxiety
A Velcro dog will be “stuck to you” when you are home. They will frequently seek your attention or simply want to be near you at all times. When you are gone, the dog seems fine. It’s able to cope with your absence without significant distress. A dog with separation anxiety will have anxiety when they aren’t with you.
Change in Environment or Routine
Dogs are creatures of habit. They prefer a stable environment or routine. Some dogs handle change better than others. Moving to a new home, getting a new pet or a new person in the household, or even a change to your work schedule can temporarily turn their world upside down. Just like a child that clings to its parent in a new situation, dogs can cling to their owners when change occurs.
If your dog wants to be held or carried frequently and there’s been a change in the household or their routine, this is likely the cause.
Dogs can’t communicate with words, so it’s up to us to determine what they are trying to say. It’s possible that your dog doesn’t want to be held all the time, and that it’s simply you projecting that onto your dog’s behavior. What does your dog do that tells you they want to be held? Is it possible that they are asking for something else instead?
They Are Still In the Puppy Phase
Young puppies have it rough. They go from their mother and littermates to a new home with new people. Ideally, you’ve had some visits with the puppy before you bring them home, but this isn’t always possible. Imagine if you were a child and were whisked away from your family to a new place. You would want to be held and comforted all the time, at least for a little while.
What should I do about my dog always wanting me to hold him?
No matter how adorable your dog is, its need to be held constantly can be a lot to handle. Eventually, you realize something has to give. You can’t hold them all the time. So how do you fix the issue?
Set Reasonable Expectations for You and Your Dog
This should be the first step, regardless of why your dog wants to be held all the time. You’ll need to determine how much attention your dog actually needs. Use your common sense and your dog’s behavior to determine how much time they need.
Next, you’ll need to set standards for yourself. How much time do you have? How much time can you spend with them and still maintain other important aspects of your life? Ideally, the needs of your dog and your available time should match up fairly well. If its not, you’ll need to make some tough decisions. You may need to hire someone to walk them or pet sit while you work long hours, or set up a pet cam so you can video chat with them.
When setting expectations, keep their age in mind. Puppies and senior dogs may require more attention than an adult dog.
Don’t Pick Them Up When They Whine
This is the hardest thing to do. You love your dog. When they whine, it pulls at your heart. Your instinct screams at you to pick them up and give them comfort. However, this can cause them to whine more often, because it gets them attention. Keep in mind that it should be expected for your dog to entertain themselves part of the time.
Reinforce Good Behavior
When your dog is quiet, that’s the time to reward them. If you have the time, pet them or play with them. If you don’t give them a treat and a bit of praise. The combination of rewarding them when they aren’t constantly demanding your attention and ignoring them when they are will work together to change their behavior.
Meet Their Needs
Be sure that your dog is getting its needs met. You’ve set reasonable expectations. Now it’s time to put them into play. You’ll also need to ensure that they get enough exercise and mental stimulation. This will keep them from being bored and help ease the clinginess.
Set a Schedule
Because dogs are creatures of habit, they benefit from a routine. If they know they will get held at a certain time each day, they may find it easier to wait patiently for it. A basic routine like dinner, a walk, and then cuddles in the evening can go a long way towards lessening the clinginess.
Get a Check-Up
If your dog is normally independent but has recently become a Velcro dog, it’s a good idea to get a check-up with the vet. Physical ailments can cause clinginess. An exam allows you to either get the physical problems treated or rule them out. If the cause is behavioral, your vet can give you advice and write a prescription for anxiety meds if needed.
Do dogs like it when you hold them?
Some dogs love being held, while others don’t care for it. Still, others are in the middle. They want to be held, but are hesitant. Recognizing your dog’s preferences is important. If your dog doesn’t like being held, you can work with them to help them enjoy it.
Some dogs seem to love being held. They may be like a baby, content to be held and walked with until they fall asleep in your arms. Dogs that like to be held will often “ask” you to pick them up. They may do this by whining, barking, or pawing. Some dogs are more subtle. They may lean against you or simply come close and make eye contact.
When you hold them, they are relaxed and still. They may wag their tail or lay their head on you. They may even lay on their back and look up at you.
From your dog’s perspective, being picked up and held can be a scary process. Imagine something several times bigger than you are lifting you up off the ground. Then they hold you close, restricting your movement. Dogs are conditioned to prefer their feet on the ground, and being picked up can cause some anxiety. If your dog has been picked up in the wrong ways, this can cause them to have a negative association with being held as well.
A dog that doesn’t like to be picked up may move away from you when you reach to pick them up. They may turn their head away, cower, or snarl. Watching their body language, it’s clear that they don’t want to be held.
Some dogs can’t seem to make up their mind. They may whine to be picked up, but struggle out of your arms a few moments or minutes later. They may ask to be picked up, but then back away or cower when you start to pick them up.
When this occurs, it’s likely because your dog has some negative associations with being held. It can be anything from being hurt because they were picked up roughly to having their nails trimmed. The conflict occurs because they also have positive associations with being picked up. They enjoy being held, but the negative association creates fear that conflicts with the desire to be held.
Try to avoid negative situations when you pick up your dog if this is an issue. If something must be done while they are held, like grooming or a shot, you may want to have someone else hold them. This can prevent them from associating it with you picking them up. Make holding them a positive experience by picking them up gently and carefully. You may want to give them a treat when holding them, to create a more positive association.
How to Adapt Dog to Being Held
If you have a dog who doesn’t like to be held, you can help them learn to enjoy it. Split the process of picking them up into steps. This may include bending down and putting your hands in front of them, holding them with your hands, the action of picking them up, and holding them. Work on each step , repeating it until the dog gets comfortable with it. Give them a treat each time you perform the action. To avoid overfeeding treats, choose bite size treats or break a treat into small pieces.