I have 4 kids, so I’m used to being needed all the time and followed everywhere, but it wasn’t until we got our little Maltese mix named Bear that I really never truly felt alone, especially now that all my kids are in school.
He follows me to the bathroom, he follows me to bed, he follows me to my office. If he knows when I’m staying he lays on the floor with his head on his paws and looks up at me as if to say “I’ll never let you out of my sight.”
I wanted to see if this is the general experience other Maltese owners have and if so why. Here is what I found out.
Maltese will often follow their owners everywhere because they receive attention, love, playtime, treats, cuddles, or another form of reinforcement for this behavior. Maltese (sometimes referred to as Velcro dogs) remember this and perform the behavior more frequently.
Maltese are often referred to as Velcro dogs because they are always attached to your side. This is because of your strong bond with them and their general interest in you and what you are doing.
It may seem however as if they need to follow you and feel lost when they can’t. This could also be a sign of underlying anxiety in your dog or a lack of confidence which we will explore in more depth below.
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Reasons Why your Maltese Follows You Everywhere!
Our Posh little Maltese are thought to have come from the Malta Islands. (Check out this article I wrote to learn more about your Maltese heritage!) They were bred to be lap dogs and companion dogs for the upper class and wealthy. For several centuries haveing a Maltese dog was a symbol of wealth and status.
Knowing about the history of your Maltese can give you greater insight into their behavior and patterns.
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Through hundreds of years of breeding and dog evolution, Maltese have always had a natural instinct to look to a leader or alpha of their pack for cues of what’s happening next as well as protection 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.
Does your Maltese constantly Stare at you as well!? Find out the 6 reasons why your Maltese stares at you.
Puppies are very impressionable. In their early weeks of life, they look to their mothers for protection and care. Maltese puppies should never leave their mothers before 8 weeks old and it’s often much better if they stay with them even longer, but if you brought home your dog before the age of about 12 weeks, he 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.
Maltese can make great service and therapy dogs check out this article to learn more!
When you train your puppy to look at you, sit, stay, lay down, and all the other commands that you want your Maltese to learn it reinforces that bond even more. Partly because you are giving them treats and praise 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.
If you spend a lot of time holding them and cuddling them when they are little, this can also teach them to want to be with you and reinforce their following behavior. If you are curious about how many Maltese owners said their Maltese LOVE to cuddle with them check out this article I wrote!
Sleeping in your Bed
If you let your Maltese sleep in bed with you, you may have noticed how it’s created an even deeper bond between you both.
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 Maltese. A Maltese sleeping area or their ‘den’ is 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.
This is a contributing factor in why they follow you.
Are you curious to know more about Maltese sleep patterns? Read our latest article How Much Do Maltese Sleep? (Inside Info From Owners)
They Want Attention and Companionship
Our dogs are pack animals. In reality, they are not meant to be alone. They thrive on and desire companionship, whether that be from you or another dog they will follow you to get it. If you are thinking about getting another dog as a companion for your Maltese to keep them company then this article I wrote can help you consider all the pros and cons before you take that big step.
If you have a sneaking suspicion that your Maltese might be following you because he’s bored you’re probably correct.
I mean… if you really think about it, what else does a dog have to do?
They eat, they sleep, they play (sometimes by themselves, but most the time with us), they sleep some more, and they follow us around.
After all their main purpose in life is to be our companions and best friends, and that’s what they are great at!
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!
They are Nervous or Afraid
Some Maltese have small dog complex where they think they are really bigger than they are, but some are also very timid and afraid. 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 Maltese is a rescue and comes from a background of abuse or neglect once they are able to form a bond and attach to you it may be an even stronger bond than a Maltese that has been raised by the same owners as a small puppy.
This is because they have come to expect that the world around them is a scary place and they don’t know if something bad is about to happen to them, because in their experience it has. They will follow you because they trust you to protect them.
Depending on your pup’s personality they could also just naturally be more shy and timid and follow you for reassurance and protection.
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 Maltese 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.
Trying to Tell You Something / Unmet Needs
If your Maltese is following you around and whining at you or staring at you intently (links to articles about Maltese on Paws and Learn) then they may be following you because they are trying to tell you 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 Maltese Following Me Everywhere?
Most owners tend to find it quite endearing when their little Maltese follow them around all day. They like to know that they have a little shadow and companion at their side. For people who live alone, or have depression or anxiety having a small dog as a companion can truly be comforting and can even help to improve their health conditions.
Having your Maltese 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.
Sometimes Maltese can attach to one person in the household and might be only following that 1 person around. If this has happened to you and your Maltese goes as far as even growling at others when they come close to you, it could be that your Maltese is showing signs of jealousy.
Separation anxiety can also be a concern when your Maltese is following you around relentlessly. If when you leave your Maltese 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.
Help Your Maltese Overcome Separation Anxiety
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 is fairly simple, but may require you to rethink your process and change things up a little bit.
Setting up a small area for your dog to be alone and consistently following a schedule may be a bit more difficult at first, but can become easier as well as provide great benefits to a dog who suffers from separation anxiety. (more about this a few paragraphs down)
Sit and Stay
Helping an anxious or frightened Maltese become more confident will help them feel better about asserting some independence. Working towards training your Maltese 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 Maltese 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.
We put our pups bed in his crate and leave the door to the crate (affiliate link) open so he can go there when told or when he wants a nice place to relax. In the wintertime, he loves when we put his crate and bed near a window or door that’s letting a lot of sunlight in. (Just be careful and never do this with the door to the crate shut, your dog could overheat and it could be dangerous)
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 Maltese is in the habit of getting up every time you do then you can make the action no longer meaning full to your Maltese 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 Maltese 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 Maltese get the idea of what you expect.
Now I know that some of you would say, “but my Maltese 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, 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
For the alone time, we were just discussed you will need to find a space in your home that you can create for your dog to enjoy while alone.
Baby gates (affiliate link) work great for a small Maltese. 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.
Install baby gates. If you’re looking for ways to reduce the Velcro dog syndrome, a baby gate will prevent your dog from following you all the time.
This can 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.
Maltese should get at least 20-30 minutes of exercise each day. Depending on the personality and energy level of your dog it may even be more than that.
The good thing is because they are so little it doesn’t take much to wear them out, and more than 20-30 minutes of exercise at a time should for the most part be avoided.
Maltese are super smart and love to be challenged. Try making an easy dog agility course in your backyard or in your home. It only takes some small sticks or PVC pipe. If your Maltese loves to follow you this may be easier than you think and you may be surprised at all the things your Maltese can learn to do.
You can also teach your Maltese 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.
For all the things that you do to help your Maltese feel better about being alone don’t undermine your efforts by doing some of these things that may unintentionally encourage your Maltese to follow you everywhere.
Don’t Do These Things
Don’t let your Maltese sleep with you. This is a hard habit to break if you have already been doing this, but if you teach your Maltese 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 Maltese have access to the entire house. This will help your Maltese 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 own a Maltese chances are he’s been fascinated about following you to the bathroom.
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 Maltese would love to chew. Teaching your Maltese that bathrooms are off-limits is a great idea for so many reasons!
Don’t Let your Maltese 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 Maltese sleep on my lap, as do most owners, but if your Maltese has anxiety or jealousy issues then this behavior might need to be tabled for the time being.
Teaching your Maltese 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 Maltese will become the independent and confident little pup that you want him to be!