I had a Yorkie when I was a kid. She was my dog I got to pick her out of her litter and I got to take care of her and train her (with the help of my mother of course). I loved my sweet Katie and she loved me. She and I had a bond and she would cling to me whenever I was home.
It’s not uncommon for Yorkshire Terriers to cling to their owners. They often follow them 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.
Yorkies who have a strong bond with their owners will often cling to them because of the attention and love they receive. Playing, cuddling, giving treats or other forms of affection reinforce this following behavior. Extreme clingy 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, as a kid I loved it, but there are times that it can go too far and turn into a problem such as separation anxiety.
If it seems that your Yorkshire Terrier 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 so clingy.
Reasons Why your Yorkshire Terrier Clings to you and 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 Yorkshire Terrier puppies don’t leave their mothers before 8 weeks old and it’s often much better if they stay with them even longer. Bringing them home around 12 weeks is ideal.
This way it has time to learn everything it needs to from its mother and siblings.
It’s likely that if you brought your puppy home before 12 weeks old she most likely imprinted on you, seeing you as a mother figure.
Puppies who imprint on you will cling to you in order to learn and grow from you and because you offer protection and guidance in new situations.
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You most likely trained your puppy to look at you, sit, stay, lay down, and all the other commands that you want your dog to learn. 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.
2. They Want Attention and Companionship
Yorkshire Terriers are bred to be lap 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.
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 cling to you.
4. Sleeping in your Bed
If you have made it a habit to let your Yorkie sleep in your bed with you there then you may have an even deeper and more reinforced bond than most.
To be honest who can resist cuddling at night and in the morning with our adorable little pups. Most Yorkie owners I talk to openly admit that their pooch sleeps with them.
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 to create a trusting bond between you and your Yorkshire Terrier.
Your Yorkie has an instinctual desire to sleep 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 may crave those feelings of closeness and safety throughout the day.
This can be a huge contributing factor in why they follow you everywhere.
What else is a dog to do?
Being bored can be a big contributing factor in why your Yorkshire Terrier clings to 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.
Or other interesting behaviors like hiding and burying their food or treats.
If their attention isn’t directed towards anything else, then they may follow you around, and if you are like a lot of owners you wouldn’t have it any other way!
Some owners may think that getting another Yorkie or another dog as a companion for their dog could be a good solution to this problem. I agree that for some it could work great, but be sure to know all the pros and cons of this decision first.
5. They are Nervous or Afraid
Yorkshire Terriers can often be a bit feisty and domineering, 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.
Genes and characteristics passed down from their parents can also have an impact on your dog’s personality.
Depending on your pup’s personality they could also just naturally be more shy and timid and cling to you for reassurance and safety.
My little Yorkie did tend to be a bit skittish at times, but now looking back I don’t think we socialized her as well as we could have.
If your Yorkshire Terrier 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 cling to you for guidance and protection.
Some dogs who are nervous will lick a lot. Licking releases endorphins that help to calm them.
My Katie was a huge licker. She was always licking something even if it was just the air.
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 Yorkie 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 Yorkshire Terrier 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.
They may be begging you to share your food or snack with 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 Yorkshire Terrier Being so Clingy?
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 Yorkshire Terrier as a companion can truly be comforting and can even help to improve their health conditions.
Having your Yorkshire Terrier cling to your 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 clinging to 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 clinging to that 1 person. If this has happened to you and your Yorkshire Terrier goes as far as even growling at others when they come close to you, it could be that your Yorkshire Terrier is showing signs of jealousy.
Separation anxiety can also be a concern when your Yorkshire Terrier clings to you relentlessly. If when you leave your Yorkie 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 Yorkshire Terrier Have Separation Anxiety? What to Do.
Yorkshire Terriers are very loyal and energetic they tend to attach to 1 person. Because of this, separation anxiety can be an issue. If while you are away your Yorkshire Terrier 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 anxiety if your Yorkie is clinging to you 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 Yorkshire Terriers 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 Yorkshire Terrier gain more confidence and independence. Working towards training your Yorkie 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.
- Keep working on it 3 times a day for 5 minutes at a time.
- Help your Yorkie get so good at staying that you can leave their sight just for a few seconds and they hold the sit.
- Continue working on it until you can go in another room and they still stay in their spot.
- Transfer this skill to the go to bed command.
My dog Bear really likes boiled chicken, salmon, or carrots for a motivational training treat.
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 Yorkshire Terrier to go to their bed is another way to teach them to stay in a place that they can relax in 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 Yorkie is in the habit of getting up every time you do then you can make the action no longer meaningful to your dog by getting up, sit back down, get up, sit back down, over and over again.
This process will 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 Yorkshire Terrier 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 Yorkshire Terrier get the idea of what you expect.
Now I know that some of you would say, “but my Yorkie 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 clinging to 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, calmer, 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 Yorkie 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 Yorkies. 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.
Yorkshire Terriers can be high energy, and although they don’t need as much exercise as some dog breeds they should be getting at least two 20 minute play or exercise sessions a day.
Yorkies love to chase and hunt. They were bred to chase down small rodents and can show a lot of initiative for this. They will 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.
Yorkies in particular love seek and find toys like this one.
You can also teach your Yorkshire Terrier 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 Yorkie become more confident and independent is great, but be mindful to not do the things that are going to encourage them to cling to you. These things can also help your dog to overcome their separation anxiety.
Don’t Do These Things
Don’t let your Yorkie 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 Yorkshire Terrier 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 Yorkshire Terrier would love to chew. Teaching your dog that bathrooms are off-limits is a great idea for so many reasons!
Don’t Let your Yorkshire Terrier 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 Yorkshire Terrier has anxiety or jealousy issues then this behavior might need to be tabled for the time being.
Teaching your Yorkshire Terrier 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 Yorkshire Terrier will become the independent and confident dogs that you want him to be!