It’s a picture that we all know: you stand up and so does your dog. You head to the bathroom and so does your dog. You move toward the door and there is your dog, right with you every step. Does your dog watch you constantly and follow you everywhere you go? Have you ever wondered why?
Born to live in groups
You probably already know that dogs are very social animals. They are made to live in groups. Descended from other wild canines that live in cooperative family groups, it is natural for your dog to fit easily into your own family. Your family is your dog’s pack. She feels most at ease when she is with her pack. When you are present and calm, it makes her feel that there is nothing to be afraid of. By the same token, she might feel vulnerable in your absence, like she has no support. Your presence causes her brain to release “feel good” chemicals. ¹ If she is with you wherever you go, she continues to feel peaceful and safe.
Curiosity killed the cat — err — dog?
Dogs are naturally inquisitive. When you move away, you attract his attention and then he wonders what you are doing. He is an opportunist. Your wandering might reveal an opportunity that he does not want to miss. You might be searching for food like you would in the wild, or more appropriately in this day and age, you might be headed to the kitchen for a snack you will share. He cannot miss an opportunity to see and do whatever you do.
Doing A Job
When you move about your home, your dog might feel that you are patrolling the area and feel obligated to be a part of it.
Dogs naturally place value on resources in order to survive. High-value resources are ones that are a priority and these are things like food, water, and territory. They must keep an eye on their resources to defend them from competition. Think about how your dog reacts when you pet your cat or when someone rings the doorbell! Patrolling and defending your home is a part of the job that your dog instinctively does.
It is flattering to be the object of your dog’s rapt attention. Although there are biological reasons that she might follow you everywhere, there is also scientific support that your dog loves you and feels happiest when she is with you. ²
Don’t question her devotion, just enjoy it.
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- Oxytocin and the neural mechanisms regulating social cognition and affiliative behavior. Front. Neuroendocrinology, 30 (4), 535-547. Ross, H.E., and Young, L.J. (2009)
- The Neurobiology of social attachment: a comparative approach to behavioral, neuroanatomical, and neurochemical studies. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part C, Toxicology and Pharmacology, 148 (4), 401-410, Young, K.A., Liu, Y.,and Wang, Z. (2008)