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You’ve just walked into the house after a long and stressful day, your hands are full of shopping and you just want to quickly put it all away so you can collapse on the sofa. Unfortunately, though, your canine companion can’t help but follow you around the kitchen, making the task frustrating, to say the least. You love him but he sure is on the needy side. He’s the same when you’ve got guests over. You want some peace and quiet to enjoy a romantic date night in, but he insists on following you into every room and wants to be the solo audience for your every move.
Training him to stop following you will afford you some well-deserved peace and quiet. This training will also be good for him, reducing separation anxiety and making leaving him to go on vacation easier too.
Training isn’t as challenging as you might think. You’ll need to motivate your dog to spend time on his own and reduce his need to be with you constantly. To do that, you’ll have to mix up his routine and find some ways to keep him happily distracted. If he’s a puppy then the habit will be relatively new and it may take just a week or so to train him to stop following you. If he’s older and been stuck to your side for a number of years, then you may need a couple of weeks to fully kick the habit.
Training him to stop following you will be more than worth it when you finally have some alone time to enjoy a bath and a glass of wine. You’ll also find in the long run he’ll be happier too if he’s not constantly dependant on you.
Before you set about stopping your canine stalker, you’ll need to get your hands on a few things. Break his favorite food into small pieces or stock up on treats. You’ll need a short leash and some baby gates for one of the methods.
Food puzzles and toys will also be required. Then set aside 10 minutes a day for the next couple of weeks. Try and find a time where you won’t be distracted by noisy kids (I know it’s easier said than done).
With all of those boxes ticked you can get to work!
The Routine Method
It may not seem related, but many dogs follow owners simply because they’re full of energy and want to dispel that with you. Giving him an extra, or longer, walk each day will help ensure he’s napping when he’s at home, not stuck to you like Velcro. If you can’t walk him any more, throw a toy for him to fetch while on walks, the short sprints will quickly tire him out.
You can get food puzzles online and from local pet stores. They can keep him occupied for hours as he digs and licks to get to the tasty food inside. This will help him slowly realize that he doesn’t need to be with you all the time.
Set specific times where you give him attention. Give him an hour period in the evening say, where you play with him, cuddle him and mess around with him. Then after that, give him the cold shoulder. It’s important he gets his fill of attention, but that he also realizes attention is on your terms when you say so.
No sleeping next to him
If you share a bed in the evening, then you’re feeding his need to be with you. Get him a nice comfy bed and put it in a completely separate room. Several hours every night alone will slowly teach him he can survive without you.
They’re quick and easy to fit and they’ll break his needy habit. You’ll be granted guaranteed privacy whenever the gate is shut and it will again help him learn he doesn’t have to be at your side. Use all of these steps and he’ll slowly become more independent and give you some peace.
The ‘Stay’ Method
When there’s nobody else in the house, get a pocketful of treats ready. You’re going to teach him the ‘stay’ command so you can quickly get some peace and quiet if he’s following you around.
When he’s following you, stop walking, turn around and face him, then give a ‘stay’ command in a firm voice. You can use any word or phrase you like, just try and keep it relatively short.
As you give the command, hold your hand up to his face as if you were a traffic warden. This 'stop' hand gesture coming towards him will automatically make him halt, even if it’s just for a second.
As soon as he stops, give him a tasty treat and some verbal praise. Really make sure he knows he’s done something right, even if he’s not sure what yet. Now repeat this training for 10 minutes each day, but steadily increase the length of time you leave him waiting there before you give him a treat. Continue until he waits there for at least a minute.
Lose the hand
Once he’ll wait there for a while, you can stop using the hand gesture. By now he associates the behavior with the command so the gesture is redundant. Carry on practicing, but now start walking away and leaving him waiting there. You can use this whenever he starts following you, it will be a clear signal to him that you need some space.
The Habitat Method
He follows you around everywhere you go because he knows the whole house is his territory. This needs to change. Find a section of the house and make that his territory, then use doors and baby gates to prevent him going in some parts of the house. Then you’ll always be able to head to your no-dog zone without being followed.
Don’t let him lie at your feet constantly. This constant proximity will only make him want to follow you more. Try and get some distance between you when you’re sat down. Lie on the sofa while he lies underneath it, for example.
Spend a few minutes each day training him to do something. You could train him to ‘sit’, lie ‘down’, ‘roll over’. All will use up his energy and tire him out. A tired dog is a happy dog. He’ll be retiring to his bed in the evening to sleep, not frog marching you around the house.
Every time you get up and he gets up too, sit back down. This may be time-consuming and annoying, but he’ll soon get fed up of constantly getting up. Eventually, he won’t be sure if you getting up means you’re going anywhere so he’ll stop following your lead.
Never punish him
Don’t shout at him or punish him when he does follow you. All this will do will scare him, then he’ll be even more keen to win your affection back by stalking you around the house. The quiet, cold shoulder approach is always more effective.
By James Barra
Published: 11/16/2017, edited: 01/08/2021