Having your German Shepherd follow you around like a shadow can be concerning – or annoying. There are several reasons why your pup may suddenly be exhibiting this behavior. Let’s take a look at the most probable culprits and what you can do about them:
Your German Shepherd Has Separation Anxiety
Separation anxiety is common in German Shepherds. These pups bond with their family members readily and enjoy spending as much time with their humans as possible. When you are away for long periods, your dog can develop separation anxiety.
When you leave the house, this can manifest as barking or destructive behavior. When you come back, though, your pooch will attempt to make up for lost time and follow you around everywhere. They may also not want to lose sight of you for fear that you will disappear.
This behavior is ingrained in German Shepherds. So much so that most experts recommend that you don’t adopt German Shepherds if you need to be away from your home for extended periods.
Fortunately, there are a couple of solutions to this issue.
Staving Off Separation Anxiety
If you will only be gone for a few hours, use toys as a way to keep your German Shepherd busy. Look for food puzzles or toys that require your pooch to exercise its intellect.
You can also give your dog a good workout before you leave the house. Exercising them well can give your German Shepherd a sense of satisfaction and will tire them out a bit. They will be more likely to doze until you come back.
In case you are going out for longer, you may want to hire a dog sitter or have someone check in on your dog while you are away. If your pup gets along with other dogs, a doggy daycare may also be a viable option.
Your GSD Is Looking for Attention
At times, you could be at home, but not pay enough attention to your dog. This can happen when you have a lot of work to do and don’t have as much time to spend with your German Shepherd. They will attempt to make up for this lack of attention by following you around.
Here’s how you can tackle this issue:
Spend More Quality Time With Your Dog
It’s not necessarily how much time you spend with your dog, but rather how much quality time that matters. Your dog wants you to engage with them. This includes playtime as well as cuddles and affection.
One thing you can consider is to wake up earlier in the morning and take them for a walk or play with them. You can also take short breaks during the day and play or and cuddle them. This should be enough to satisfy their craving for attention.
You Have Unconsciously Reinforced This Behavior
Those big, brown puppy dog eyes can be pretty difficult to ignore. You may have unwittingly been feeding your pup treats every time they are around. They could also have gotten hooked on the fact that you cuddle and pamper them every time they show up.
If this is something you do often, you will reinforce your dog’s tendency to follow you. They stick to you because they know they will be rewarded in some way.
The upside is that this is fairly easy to fix.
Stopping Positive Reinforcement With GSD
The best thing to do here is to stop reinforcing this behavior immediately. You don’t have to ignore your pup completely but stop with the treats. Don’t pet and pamper them all the time either. Simply pat them on the head and go back to what you were doing.
Once they are no longer rewarded for following you around, this behavior should slowly subside.
Your German Shepherd Dog is Bored
German Shepherds have been bred to be working dogs and these instincts continue to be strong in modern dogs as well. This breed is used to spending all day rounding up sheep or carrying out other tasks. If your dog is stuck in the house all day with nothing to do, they aren’t being provided with enough mental stimulation.
To overcome this problem, you will need to find ways to keep your pup occupied.
Provide Mental Stimulation for Your GSD
Agility training and dog sports are great options because they exercise your dog’s mind and body. You can enroll your dog in classes or do research on these topics and recreate obstacle courses, and so on at home. Doing this several times a week can keep them satisfied and occupied.
When you don’t have as much time to spend with them, make sure to provide them with various puzzles and toys to play with. This will allow them to tackle problems without requiring your input.
You may want to take your dog’s training up a notch as well. Don’t merely focus on new tricks or commands. Instead, teach your pup to take care of various chores around the house. This could be things like dropping dirty laundry in the basket, putting toys away, etc. They will be happy because they have something to do.
Your GSD Might Be Herding You
Some German Shepherds can have strong herding instincts and this could be one of the reasons that they follow you around.
Do you find that your pup is trying to nudge you with their head or body while they follow you? Do they try to nip your legs or ankles? Do they display this behavior with other members of the family, especially children?
If any of the scenarios are true for your pup, their herding behavior may be to blame. Here’s how to help them get over it:
Give Your GSD Appropriate Commands and Outlets
The first thing to do is to teach your dog the “Leave It!” command. Start with treats before slowly moving to other items such as toys. Remember to use positive reinforcement to encourage the right behavior.
Once your dog has learned this command, apply it to herding behavior as well. Do this enough times and your pup will understand that herding humans is off-limits.
As this is an ingrained behavior, your dog will need an outlet for its herding behavior. This is why you should teach your dog to herd large balls. Show them how to get the ball in between two points, giving them a task to complete. This will make them less likely to want to herd humans.
It’s In The GSD Nature
As mentioned, German Shepherds bond with their family quite easily and by nature can be pack animals. There is also a chance that your pup has a particularly affectionate or clingy nature. In this case, it is simply in your dog’s nature.
Under these circumstances, you may not always be able to stop your pup from following you. This is especially true if your dog has been doing this since they were a puppy.
There are a few things that you can try, however.
Keep Your German Shepherd Occupied
Giving your dog enough exercise, mental stimulation, and affection regularly could be key. Try to engage and play with them. Also, take note if there is any change in their behavior.
If there isn’t, you may want to use the Stay command more often when your German Shepherd attempts to follow you. Don’t do this all the time, however, as it can cause separation anxiety or even cause the command to lose its meaning for your pup.
There may be various reasons why your German Shepherd is following you. Fortunately, there are just as many solutions you can try out. Identify the issue and use the relevant solution – this should help you nip this behavior in the bud.