6 min read


Is Your Dog Co-Dependent?



6 min read


Is Your Dog Co-Dependent?


Dogs are cool creatures that light up our lives, making each day a little brighter than the last. Their intuitive souls reflect our need for companionship, making them a magical friend or family member. They seem happy enough until it’s time to go to your new job and then you see the worry in their eyes. You’ve also observed how clingy they’ve become never letting you out of their sight. 

Can dogs feel dependency; are they attached at the hip to their owners? Let’s get inside the minds of a super-dependent dog and find out what’s going on!


Signs Your Dog is Feeling Overly Dependent

You probably think it’s supremely cute when your Maltese follows you around the home, from one room to another and back again. She sleeps with you, listens to your heartfelt thoughts and trots behind when you go the bathroom. Friends jokingly refer to Gigi as your shadow pup, as she monitors your every move. You think, "aww she loves me" and that’s so nice - but if this was a person, would it get on your nerves?

We all need space - and so does Gigi. She might not quite grasp the concept, but her dependency could be making her a nervous wreck. Your manic Maltese may be co-dependent and afraid when you are not there.

A dog's day at home is often highlighted by You-Tube videos, as we see them tearing up the house with the stuffing from your new throw pillows strewn all over the floor. Dogs who feel the stress of their owners going out may whine, pace up and down, pee on the floor, or engage in other destructive behaviors as they fill in time waiting for their owners. If they are home alone for a long period of time, a shadow pup could cause a ton of damage.

As soon as that front door re-opens, your Maltese is all smiles. Her tail is wagging frantically as she play-bows with a toy in her mouth. Gigi is ecstatic her owner has returned and goes into action, turning on the charm. Her wolfy howl melts your heart, as does the dainty dance she performs, bobbing up and down on her back legs. It’s hard to scold such a petite princess, so you clean up the mess and settle in for the night. You sit on the sofa and Gigi is right there beside you.

Have we created a nation of co-dependent dogs? A counselor will insist a relationship where one partner is too dependent on the other is not healthy - but what about our dogs? Shouldn’t they be enjoying time away from the humans?

The truth is, Gigi is co-dependent, making it difficult for this shadow pup to be her own dog. She also suffers separation anxiety, the reason why she goes berserk when her guardian leaves. This clingy Maltese has lost the ability to socialize with other dogs and it might not be long before she nips someone who tries to get close to her owner. Gigi is in a cocoon of dependency and needs her owner's help.

Body Language

Here are signs your dog is feeling too dependent:<br/>

  • Barking
  • Jumping Up
  • Howling
  • Wag Tail
  • Head Bobbing
  • Pupils Dilated
  • Play Bowing

Other Signs

Here are more signs your pooch could be co-dependent:<br/>

  • Peeing On The Floor
  • Destroying Things In The Home
  • Being Anti-Social With Other Pups
  • Nipping A Person Who Gets Close To Their Person

History of How Dogs Became Dependent on Humans


The pack mentality of wolves may have planted the seeds of a clingy attachment between dog and owner, as the pet guardian becomes the alpha mom or dad. Where some wolves rise to leadership status in their clan, our dogs remain under the guidance of their human pack leader. This can be a healthy relationship or one that sees the family dog anxious and constantly seeking affection.

Dogs don’t have to hunt for food in the wild, as it's on tap from their owners - plus there are no real threats from predators, unlike their ancestral wolves that faced predatory challenges in a savage environment. Many of their primal instincts have been deleted since the grand domestication took place some 10,000 – 30,000 years ago.

The freedom-seeking wolf has evolved into a suburban, family pet that is entirely dependent on its owner. Chasing the neighbor’s cat is the nearest thing to hunting down a buffalo in the wild - while sniffing another dog’s rear end, is the closest they'll come to ensuring the continuance of their species. 

The “Daily Mail,” reported that dogs have no need to think for themselves, as a study testing the intelligence and problem-solving skills of wolves and dogs found our muttley-mates received an "F for fail." Years of making them our furry-roomies has killed off the wild wolfy within!   

It seems dogs do more than feel dependency. They enact on it by keeping a close watch on their owners whenever they can. Their grand-daddy wolves were wild, intuitive creatures, but they are now insecure pups that rely 100% on their guardians. Inside all of us is a will to endure and that’s why you see street dogs taking on the skills of their wolf fore-fathers, in a bid to survive.

Scientists Prove Dogs Feel Dependency


Science has a similar take on the dependency of dogs, after a study by psychologists involving dogs and wolves that were at the Wolf Center in Austria. The result was interesting, as the wolves were communicative with each other and shared food equally, while the dogs bowed down to a top woofer who was unwilling to share with other dogs.

The wolves appeared courteous and patient with the pack but the dogs were literally waiting for orders to be given by the top dog. It is thought when mankind evolved canines, they created a subservient species that answers only to their master.

Our pups have lost their wild, wolfy mojo to a legion of doggy-divas!  We’ve made them our friends, confidantes, children (pet-kids) and partner substitutes. We are a world obsessed with our dogs, but are we doing them any favors by making them so dependent?

In every human relationship, the matter of space can be a deal-breaker. If one partner feels suffocated by the other, it can be the end of a marriage. It’s funny, but we don’t really feel that way about our dogs. They can be with us all day long and we never seem to tire of their company. The way we have incorporated them into our lives means they are totally dependent, so when you go out for while, your dog may feel abandoned and helpless.

It’s not just our furry-pups that feel dependency. Humans can be in a totally dysfunctional relationship with their dog. Who runs your home? Does your woofer have you right under their paw - barking for attention and graciously allowing you to live in their kennel?

Training Tips For Clingy Dogs


Welcome to Pet-Kids Anonymous, a self-help group for dog owners with co-dependent pups. Whether they’ve worn you out from catering to their every whim or have the guilts when you have to go out, this group will break the addiction and get pup and owner dependency-free!

First, let’s tackle separation anxiety, an age-old problem specific to dogs that are highly stressed by their owner leaving them alone. Once you shut the door and leave, your Foxy might feel abandoned and start acting out. If you set up a camera in the home, you'll see a totally stressed out dog who can't handle being on their own. They might spend the time pacing up and down, barking, or scratching at the floor.

This may shock you, as the shadow pup on the video is having a complete meltdown. You realize its time to change your Foxy’s way of thinking and make leaving times less traumatic. The most effective way to do this is by recognizing the triggers that put your pup in this state. Is it the car keys rattling or putting on your coat? The effect on your pup might be subtle, but there’s a storm of nerves brewing as they watch you getting ready for work.

Start with this process, but don’t leave the house. Sit around in your work gear while your pup tries to suss you out. This is a great way to down-grade the stress. Keep doing this till your Foxy seems cool and calm. The next step is to open the door and go out. Wait a few seconds then come back in. Make the periods of time you stay out longer as you work to decrease their anxiety. Repetition is the key to making your pup feel relaxed, so you can eventually shut the door and go to work. Give them plenty of things to do while you are away, with hidden treats to sniff out and plenty of toys to play with. If a friend has a dog they have to leave alone, consider letting them stay with your pup for company.

This is only part of the story as we still have a clingy dog. If you’ve showered your pup with love and affection, you might have to turn the other cheek and actually ignore them or send them to their bed. It’s essential they have a place to call their own and this can be a corner in the bedroom or a crate with the door open - complete with all the comforts of a doggy home.

A cut off time at night when your pet-kids go to bed is great for routine and gives you time for some no-doggy space. They may whimper to get your attention, but in time they’ll get used to bedtime at eight!

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Written by a Japanese Chin lover Linda Cole

Veterinary reviewed by:

Published: 02/28/2018, edited: 04/06/2020

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