They are beautiful loyal creatures. They seem to know what we are thinking or feeling sometimes even before we do. We love our dogs but we can sometimes wonder why they feel the need to follow our every move.
It’s not uncommon for Golden Retrievers to follow their owners everywhere, and when I say everywhere I mean EVERYWHERE….. to the bathroom, to the shower, to the kitchen, and to the front door to mourn the lack of your presence when you have to leave. If you have ever wondered why, and if you should be concerned then you are in the right place.
Golden Retrievers who have a strong bond with their owners will often follow them because of the attention and love they receive. Playing, cuddling, giving treats or other forms of affection reinforce this following behavior. Extreme following behavior may be a sign of separation anxiety.
For the most part, it’s quite endearing to have your loyal friend following you around everywhere, but there are times that it can go too far and turn into a problem such as separation anxiety.
If it seems that your Golden Retriever needs to follow you everywhere this can be a sign of underlying anxiety or a lack of confidence. Let’s explore more about the reasons why your dog is following you everywhere.
Reasons Why your Golden Retriever Follows You Everywhere!
1. Reinforced Bond
Puppies are very impressionable they are learning and growing from the moment they take their first breath. In their early weeks of life, they look to their mothers for protection and care.
It’s important that Golden Retriever puppies don’t leave their mothers before 8 weeks old and it’s often much better if they stay with them even longer. It’s likely that you brought your puppy home before 12 weeks old. If this is the case she most likely imprinted on you, seeing you as a mother figure.
Puppies who imprint on you will follow you everywhere in order to learn and grow from you and because you offer protection and guidance in new situations.
This reinforces that bond even more. Partly because you are giving them praise and rewards which they like a lot, and partly because you are helping to teach them and instill confidence in them that they can learn new things and understand and communicate with you.
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2. They Want Attention and Companionship
Golden Retrievers are bred to be companion dogs and boy are they good at it! Not only are dogs instinctively pack animals, but their genes and characteristics have also been bred to be the great companions they are today! They thrive on and desire companionship, whether that be from you or another dog they will follow you to get it.
If your Golden Retriever is constantly staring at you Read This!
Speaking of breeding and evolution, through hundreds of years of history dogs have always had the instinct to follow a pack leader. This natural instinct helps them seek protection and safety from large predators.
Now that they are domesticated. You and your family are their pack and so it is often instinctual for them to want to follow you everywhere.
4. Sleeping in your Bed
If you have room in your bed for your Golden Retriever and they do indeed sleep with you there then you may have an even deeper and more reinforced bond than most.
There are scientific studies, and research that show when you spend time snuggling and cuddling with your dog you receive a whole list of benefits most notable is the release of the love hormone Oxytocin (link goes to medical news article). This contributes to a lowering of stress hormones, lower blood pressure, and a feeling of happiness.
It’s also very effective in helping create a trusting bond between you and your Golden Retriever. Your Golden Retriever sleeps in a ‘den’ a place where they feel the safest and most relaxed. If they’ve made that den next to you in your bed, then they are going to thrive and maybe even crave those feelings of closeness and safety throughout the day.
How much sleep should your Golden Retriever be getting? Read this article to find out. Golden Retriever Sleep Guide (When Will My Puppy Sleep Through the Night?)
What else is a dog to do?
Being bored can be a big contributing factor in why your Golden Retriever follows you. Honestly though what else do they have to do all day?
After all their main purpose in life is to be our companions and best friends, and that’s what they are great at!
Boredom can also lead to other unwanted behaviors such as eating strange things like grass, poop, sticks, or dirt.
If their attention isn’t directed towards anything else, then they will follow you around, and if you are like a lot of owners you wouldn’t have it any other way!
5. They are Nervous or Afraid
Golden Retrievers are generally friendly and confident, but some can also be very timid and shy. It really depends on your dog’s history and personality. Those first few months and years of life can have a huge impact on their behavior and the development of their personality.
If your Golden Retriever is a rescue and comes from a background of abuse or neglect it may have an even stronger attachment to you than most. Their trust may be hard to gain, but once you do they are yours forever.
They may still be very sure of the world around them and follow you for guidance and protection.
Depending on your pup’s personality they could also just naturally be more shy and timid and follow you for reassurance and safety.
Some dogs who are nervous will lick a lot. Licking releases endorphins that help to calm them. Golden Retriever Obsessive Licking (Quick Solutions Guide)
6. Daily Routine
When you bring a new puppy into your life one of the best things you can do is create a routine. This helps with house training, feeding schedules, behavior training, and so much more.
Puppies require a lot of time and attention and often can’t be left alone for very long periods of time. After getting into a set routine your dog will expect more of the same. If you haven’t slowly worked in some time for your Golden Retriever to play, sleep, or rest on their own then they will not be used to that. They will want to stick to the routine of being with you all the time.
7. Trying to Tell You Something / Unmet Needs
Is your Golden Retriever following you around while also giving you the puppy dog eyes perhaps with a whimper or two? If that is the case then they are trying to communicate with you or tell you that they need or want something.
They may need to go out for a bathroom break. Maybe they want to play or are asking you to feed them.
Sometimes it just takes figuring out what they are trying to tell you, so you can fulfill their needs, and then they will calm down and rest without bothering you any further.
Should I Be Worried About My Golden Retriever Following Me Everywhere?
Most owners tend to find it quite endearing when their dog follows them around all day. It can bring us great comfort and peace knowing that we have the unconditional love of this beautiful animal.
For people who live alone, have depression or anxiety, having a Golden Retriever as a companion can truly be comforting and can even help to improve their health conditions.
Having your Golden Retriever follow you around all day only becomes a problem when it interferes with you, or your dog’s quality of life.
If your dog cries excessively, barks, shakes, paces, or destroys things whenever they are not with you, or if you are feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or anxious about your dog following your every move then you should work towards lessening the behavior.
It’s not uncommon for dogs to attach to one person in the household and might be only following that 1 person around. If this has happened to you and your Golden Retriever goes as far as even growling at others when they come close to you, it could be that your Golden Retriever is showing signs of jealousy.
Separation anxiety can also be a concern when your Golden Retriever is following you around relentlessly.
If when you leave your Golden Retriever is physically distraught and showing signs like howling, barking, panting, pacing, urinating, defecating, or excessive chewing and destroying things and takes more than 5-10 minutes to calm down then your dog probably does have separation anxiety.
If this is the case, you can try the steps below, but may also need professional assistance.
Do Golden Retrievers Have Separation Anxiety? What to Do.
Golden Retrievers are generally friendly and confident dogs, however, separation anxiety can be an issue if they become overly attached to their owner. If while you are away your Golden Retriever paces, whines, barks, is destructive, defecates or urinates, and generally seems very wound up and tense for long periods of time they may have separation anxiety!
There can be a concern of your dog developing this if your Golden Retriever is following you around relentlessly.
There are some simple and not so simple solutions for you to try if you want your dog to feel more confident about being alone and independent. Working on commands and playing with your dog can be a simple fix, but may require you to rethink your process and change things up a little bit.
Here are some tactics you can try if you would like to help your Golden Retriever be more independent and overcome their separation anxiety.
Start by working on basic commands and then level it up.
Sit and Stay
Sit may seem like a very basic command, but if you can master the stay it will help your Golden Retriever gain more confidence and independence. Working towards training your Golden Retriever the sit and stay command will also help them learn a pattern of being left alone.
Start with teaching them to sit and stay on the floor just a very small distance away from you, maybe just 1 foot. Gradually increase the distance and time. Make sure to reward them with a high-value treat like this one (Amazon Affiliate link) and reward liberally.
My dog Bear really likes boiled chicken, salmon, or carrots.
Slowly work to increase the distance and time throughout a few weeks. Make it fun and rewarding for your dog and give them lots of praise.
Eventually, if you are consistent with this process you will be able to start spending small amounts of time in another room alone. Be patient as it could take several weeks to several months of consistent practice.
Go to Bed Command
Getting a soft bed like this one on Amazon (affiliate link) and teaching your Golden Retriever to go to their bed is another way to teach them to stay in a place where they can relax instead of being with you or in your lap all the time.
The process for teaching them this is very similar to sit and stay, except that you will add in showing them where to go when you say the word bed. You can do this by luring them with a treat to their bed and rewarding them when they go and lay down in it.
Desensitize your Dog
If your Golden Retriever is in the habit of getting up every time you do then you can make the action no longer meaning full to your Golden Retriever by getting up, sit back down, get up, sit back down, over and over again.
This works to tire your dog out and teaches them that you getting up doesn’t mean anything, and they might as well stay put. This is much more effective if you try this tactic after your dog has had a good play session with plenty of exercise.
It’s a lot easier and quicker to wear them out that way, otherwise, if they have pent-up energy they may think that you are trying to play a game with them.
I know that some people with high-energy dogs will say that this process will wear themselves out before they ever wear their dogs out, but even then, if you repeatedly do this every day many many times a day then eventually it will start to work.
Once he stops getting up when you get up, then try walking away. If he starts to follow you, you can walk aimlessly around or go in circles or go back to your original spot until your dog gets tired of it and gives up.
Set a Schedule
If you are able to create a consistent schedule or routine that your Golden Retriever can follow, in which you include plenty of playtime and snuggles, but also set aside a few times a day when he practices being alone. This can help your dog learn what to expect.
Dogs are creatures of habit and once taught to do something either good or bad it can be hard to change or break that habit. This is both great news and not so great.
It’s great to know that once you get them in the routine that you want you’ll be ‘golden’ and won’t have to deal with it again, but it’s bad because when they do form a not-so-loveable habit, it can be a long process to break it.
Starting with 5 minutes of alone time reinforced by lots of distractions rewards and praise for any amount of time that is quiet can help your Golden Retriever get the idea of what you expect.
Now I know that some of you would say, “but my Golden Retriever will never be quite.” That’s ok. start with two 5 minute sessions a day, if he cries the whole time when the 5 minutes is up go and get him, let him get back to following you, but completely ignore him, don’t talk to him, don’t reassure him that he’s ok. You are a stone-cold wall!! You don’t want to reward him with any attention whatsoever for his crying behavior.
When he starts acting less stressed, more calm and quiet, then reward him and praise him. If you do this consistently then he will start to get the idea that you want him to be quiet during that 5-minute practice session. Once he’s done that consistently for a week start adding 1 minute every day or so until you work up the desired amount of time.
Restrict Their Access
This can be very difficult to do especially if your sweet Golden Retriever is used to having the run of the house, but it can be very important in setting up boundaries and helping them to see you as the leader in their pack.
Baby gates (affiliate link) work great for smaller Golden Retrievers. It can help them have some space, but also keep them from following you. Keeping a bed in their space for them as well as a kong or other toys (Amazon affiliate links) that can help to distract them and keep them entertained for the 5-minute practice sessions that you will start with. It also can help to make the experience a rewarding one.
Larger gates can work well for bigger dogs who need a bit more of a barrier between them. You can check the price on a great gate here.
This can always be used as a temporary solution while your dog gains more confidence with other training.
To prevent him from getting into distress, every time you must leave the room, toss a stuffed Kong or some treats right after closing the gate behind you. You want your dog to learn that great things happen when you leave.
Quality Playtime, Exercise, and Mental Stimulation
My favorite thing to tell my students is (check out my classes for kids!) “A Tired Dog is a Good Dog!”
All of the steps we have discussed work so much better if you are able to set aside some good quality time with your pooch to play, teach, and exercise with your dog.
Golden Retriever are very active dogs and require a bit more mental stimulation and exercise than most. Your aim should be at least 1-2 hours a day, of course, that doesn’t have to be all at once. You can have several play/exercise sessions a day.
Golden Retriever are very intelligent and love to be challenged. Trying out a fun training program together like this widely popular program Brain Training for Dogs can help unlock your dog’s hidden potential and help them learn how to avoid problem behaviors.
Another easy thing you can do is make an agility course in your backyard or in your home. It only takes some small sticks or PVC pipes. If your dog loves to follow you this may be easier than you think and you may be surprised at all the things your Golden Retriever can learn to do.
You can also teach your Golden Retriever to play games that require a bit more distance from you than normal. This can make learning to trust that you will still be there, more fun and exciting. Hide and Seek is a fun game that we taught our kids to play with our dog Bear. It didn’t take long for them to learn how to do it.
Just remember to start out slow by hiding in simple places first such as behind the sofa or door, in a different room in plain sight, or just behind the other side of a wall or chair.
Working towards helping your Golden Retriever become more confident and independent is great, but be mindful to not do the things that are going to encourage them to follow you everywhere. These things can also help your dog to overcome their separation anxiety.
Don’t Do These Things
Don’t let your Golden Retriever sleep with you. This is a hard habit to break if you have already been doing this, but if you teach your dog to go to his special spot when he’s alone having him sleep there at night will also help to encourage his independence.
Don’t let your Golden Retriever have access to the entire house. This will help your dog learn boundaries and he will realize that when you go to his off-limit areas that means it’s time to stop following. This may be the best solution for bathroom privacy because let’s face it if you have probably had your dog follow you to the bathroom more than once!
Bathrooms have all sorts of exciting noises and smells, as well as textures such as tissue and other things in the trash can that your Golden Retriever would love to chew. Teaching your dog that bathrooms are off-limits is a great idea for so many reasons!
Don’t Let your Golden Retriever Sleep at your Feet or on your lap. Now to some of us (me included), this sounds like cruel and unusual punishment!
I LOVE to have my little dog sleep on my lap or near me, as do most owners, but if your Golden Retriever has anxiety or jealousy issues then this behavior might need to be tabled for the time being.
Teaching your Golden Retriever about their own space can be hard, and sometimes unpleasant. For now, you should try not to overdo it on the cuddles all day. Hopefully, after you get their separation anxiety under control you can start to allow this more often.
With patience and consistency, your Golden Retriever will become the independent and confident dogs that you want him to be!
Check out these other must-read articles about your Golden Retriever.
While we strive to give the most accurate and helpful information about your pet’s health that we can, this article is meant to be informational only and not medical advice. Never disregard, avoid or delay in obtaining medical advice from your veterinarian or other qualified veterinary health care provider regardless of what you have read on this site or elsewhere.