8 Ways to Stop Your Puppy from Being So Needy
Alex Vicente • Updated on January 20, 2022 • [rt_reading_time postfix=”minute”] read
Puppies can become very needy if you are not careful. If you have ever walked around your house and noticed that your puppy will not leave your side, then you have a needy dog. Sometimes, they do not even like it when you go to a room with a door closed.
A needy puppy can lead to a needy adult dog. The clinginess can become an issue and, for most people, can be annoying and frustrating. Read on to discover eight ways to stop your puppy from being so needy.
Table of Contents
Know the Difference Between Needy and Anxious
It is important to understand the difference between a needy puppy and an anxious puppy. This is the most important step to ensuring your puppy stops being needy because if you do not know what is causing the behavior in your puppy, it can be very difficult to change the unwanted behavior.
While a needy puppy and an anxious puppy act very similarly, they are different. A needy puppy just wants to be around you. They will follow you everywhere you go in the house, and they will not want to leave you. However, if you were to leave the house, they would not exhibit bad behavior as a result.
An anxious puppy, however, will act in destructive ways once you have left. An anxious dog will also follow you everywhere you go, but once you leave the house it is different. Consider the behavior a puppy with separation anxiety will exhibit:
- Excessive barking and howling.
- Lots of pacing and panting.
- Your puppy gets very excited when they realize you are leaving.
- When you are away, they have accidents in the house.
This behavior is a sign that what ails your dog is anxiety. A needy dog will not exhibit this behavior, at least consistently. However, it is important to train your puppy to not be so needy. A needy puppy can progress to become an anxious puppy.
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How Does a Puppy Become Needy?
Many times, people see their needy puppy as cute, but they do not stop to wonder why they are so needy, nor do they know that this neediness can have negative ramifications later on. So, how does a puppy become needy?
It can come about for several reasons. However, the main reason a puppy can become very needy is from the behavior of the owner. This does not mean it is bad behavior toward the puppy, but the puppy learns that certain behavior is okay through habit and reward.
For example, if you let your puppy sleep in the bed with you. This is not necessarily a bad thing, and it can work for most people. However, it can lead to neediness because it is making them more dependent on you.
Further, if you pat your puppy on the head as they are being clingy, such as following you around, you are “rewarding” them for their neediness. It is easy to not realize it, but these little things add up over time and lead to neediness. Understanding this is the most important part of changing how your puppy acts.
Teach Your Puppy About Your Movements
Your puppy may exhibit certain behaviors that are similar to separation anxiety. For example, when you grab your keys and put on a coat, your puppy knows that you are probably leaving and therefore will not be around them. If they are needy, they will still see this as a trigger.
Teach your puppy that movements do not always mean the same thing. To use the above example, you can teach your puppy about these movements and to not react adversely to them in a simple way. Take your keys and put on your coat but do not leave.
While this may not have an immediate effect on your puppy, if you occasionally implement this in your routine, over time they will learn that it is okay and you will have removed the trigger.
You need to desensitize your puppy to the movement that has been associated with certain acts.
- Certain movements are associated with rewards: If you do something and reward your puppy, they will learn to keep doing it. While it may not seem important at first, this can create a situation where the puppy becomes needy.
- Certain movements are associated with you leaving them: Just like with rewards, when they associate certain movements and behaviors of yours with you leaving them, they will get needy, especially when you return. Moreover, this can lead to an anxiety problem.
- Removing triggers will help them be more independent: When puppies have these triggers, they are more likely to pay close attention to everything you do. When you remove the trigger points then they will learn to not pay much attention to these triggers and will be less needy as a result.
Train Your Puppy to “Stay”
It is one of the most classic commands a dog can know, and it is a perfect way to stop your puppy from being needy.
If you find that your puppy is following you into the bathroom, for example, teaching it the stay command is important in your puppy realizing it should not follow you.
- Tell them to “stay”: When you are going into a room you do not want your puppy to follow you into, tell them to “stay.” It may take some trial and error for them to understand, but they will understand eventually.
- Start with small distances: Start small and build up from there. For example, if you do not want them to follow you into the bathroom, tell them to stay right at the door. With time, you can move this to several feet outside the bathroom, or as far as you are comfortable with that makes the most sense.
- Be consistent: This is the key to making this command work. You must be consistent. You do not want to send mixed signals to your puppy. If one day it is not okay to follow you but the next it is, your puppy will only be confused and will not learn anything.
- Reward them for good behavior: If they follow your stay command, you need to reward them. Rewarding them will reinforce that this is the required behavior that you want them to have. Moreover, it will motivate them to continue following this rule.
The main goal is to teach your puppy that it is okay to be away from you. You do not want them to feel as if they need to follow you everywhere even when it is not necessary. The stay command will accomplish this.
The “Away” Command
Similar to the stay command is the away command. The stay command is to stop your puppy from following you, and the away command is to have them move away from you when they are too close for too long.
A needy puppy will be all over you. They will not want to leave your side. You may find that they are rubbing up against your legs or distracting you constantly from work you should be doing. How do you get them away?
Teach them the away command. When you find them too close to you, tell them: “away.” You can use hand movements to show them where you want them to be. This is just a way for them to recognize you need your space.
As with the away command, the main goal is to show them that it is okay to be on their own. This does not mean you will kick them out of the room. It only means that they will learn that they have their space and that you have yours. They will also learn that there are times when they can be all over you and times when they cannot.
Introduce More Exercise
One reason why your puppy may be very needy is that it has so much energy but does not know what to do with it. Dogs need daily exercise, and if they do not get it then they can become needy.
The best way to incorporate more exercise into their daily routines is to take them for walks each day. Moreover, going to a dog park can also help them get a lot of energy out by having them be able to run around and play with other dogs.
There are many benefits to introducing more exercise, which include the following:
- Exercise allows your puppy to explore: Puppies want to explore just like any other dog. Their sense of smell is extraordinary and they want to put it to the test. They want to see new places and analyze the new scents they discover. All this analyzing redirects their energy away from being needy.
- Exercise will keep your puppy healthy: You want to build up the healthiness of your puppy, and exercise will do that. It will allow them to build up muscle and maintain a proper body weight. Moreover, it will also let them grow properly into a healthy adult.
- Exercise helps your puppy sleep better: When your puppy has a lot of exercise in their life, they are more apt to lay down for a rest than to follow you around. They will also sleep better at night because they will not have any pent-up energy that needs to be released.
When you introduce more exercise into your puppy’s daily routine, you will divert their energy away from being needy and clingy to doing what they want to do the most: explore and be active. Additionally, because they will have exerted a fair amount of energy, they will also be tired and will be more focused on rest than being needy.
Use Games to Make Them Less Needy
Games can make your puppy less needy by reinforcing that they can be away from you and still be okay. It comes down to the types of games you play.
The main aspect to pay attention to is making sure it is a game where you will not be on top of each other. Therefore, wrestling would not be a good option here.
Some of the best games you can choose involve them to be away from you. Moreover, you may also use certain toys in creative ways to keep them occupied, which will make them less needy.
- Hide and Seek
- Using a Kong with food
- Chew Toys
These games and toys can be very beneficial to making your puppy less needy and more independent.
Hide and Seek
Hide and seek is a classic game you can play with your puppy that will also cause them to be less needy. It is also a beneficial way to reinforce the “stay” command. If you are teaching them the stay command, you can utilize it here.
You command them to stay and then you hide. You then call out to them to find you. They will then have to explore the area to find you. When they find you (and they will!) you need to reward them, not only for finding you but for obeying the commands you are teaching them.
Additionally, you can use hide and seek in creative ways. For example, instead of having them find you, you can have them try and find a treat or toy you have hidden. Give them the scent and then hide it. If they find it, reward them.
Using a Kong with Food
A Kong is a small rubber toy for dogs, and they usually have a hollowed-out center. These small rubber toys are great for teaching your puppy to be less needy.
Using food or a treat they like, such as peanut butter, you can stuff the inner opening of the Kong with the food. This will accomplish a few things.
First, the puppy will want to get the food out of the Kong, and they will spend a lot of time doing this. This will cause them to be away from you. Stuffing a Kong with the treat will refocus their attention onto something other than you.
Secondly, the puppy will be doing something mentally stimulating. It will tap into their instinct to obtain food, so not only is it keeping them occupied, but it is allowing them to be independent by getting the food on their own.
Another classic puppy game that will make them less needy. It teaches them to be independent while also having fun.
This one is very well known. Simply throw a ball or stick and have your puppy run to retrieve it. However, its simplicity is its strongest feature. Not only does this game require your puppy to run away from you, but it also introduces a lot of extra exercise into their routine.
Moreover, playing fetch will teach them certain commands and will reinforce the teaching methods you use to get them to be less needy. These commands are critical components to their changing ways.
Another way to make your puppy more independent is to get them to use chew toys. The reason this helps them be less needy is that it requires them to focus on the toy instead of you.
If you get the right chew toy, they will take it and play with it on their own for a long while. Remember, the idea is to get them to learn that they do not need you for absolutely everything all the time.
Set Boundaries for the Puppy
Setting boundaries for your puppy is crucial in having them become less needy. This means having limits to what they can and cannot do in your home. Many folks have their puppies sleep with them, for example. However, you must decide if this is the best option.
If you do not want to part with your puppy sleeping with you, that is fine. However, you still need to let your puppy know that you are the boss in your home. If they are doing the behavior you do not like you must let them know.
However, this does not mean you should use reactionary measures to try to change them, such as a quick tug on the leash or collar. Positive reinforcement is the best way to train them and to set boundaries in your home.
Here are a few moments that are perfect for showing your dog that you are in control in the home, which will then cause them to be less needy.
- When your puppy jumps on your lap: Jumping on your lap is okay, but it is only okay some of the time. You need to show them when it is okay and when it is not. Do not always reward them for jumping on your lap.
- When your puppy whines: Sometimes puppies will whine and make other noises when they want attention. It is okay to respond to this but not all the time. If you respond 100 percent of the time then they will know they can always do it. It is best to show them that this will not always be the case.
- When your puppy pushes up against you and begs: Begging is another form of neediness. They may beg for treats, or they may beg for pets. You cannot always give it to them. Teach them to sit and wait for those rewards.
Use a Kennel to Train Them
Another way to train them to know boundaries in the house is to use a kennel. The kennel is a way to show them that they too have their own space in the house.
This method works well if you do not want them to jump up onto your bed or on the couch. It acts as their unique spot in the house. If you do not want to use a kennel, you can also use a doggy pillow or bed. The main point is that they have their own comfortable space.
You can train them that this is their spot by placing a dog toy there each day. It will guide them there. Moreover, you can also use verbal commands to teach them. Either way, it is about setting boundaries so that they know they do not always need to be around you all day long.
Do Not Reward Bad Behavior
Make sure you do not reward bad behavior. While this may seem straightforward, it can become complicated. This does not mean, however, that it is difficult. The complexities of not rewarding bad behavior come from not realizing you are rewarding anything.
Something as simple as a pat on the head is a reward to a puppy. So, if they jump up on your lap and you pat them on the head because you just want to acknowledge them, even if you do not want them up there, it is rewarding them for a behavior you do not want them to do. They will continue to behave badly.
There are a few things you can do to make sure you are rewarding good behavior and not rewarding bad behavior.
- Use a notebook: Using a notebook, jot down what you do not want your puppy to do. For example, maybe you do not want your puppy to sleep in your bed, jump into your lap when you are working, and follow you into the bathroom. Make sure that whenever they do these things, you positively teach them not to do it.
- Reward the good behavior: It may seem harsh to not want to pat your puppy on the head when they jump on your lap. After all, they just want to be with you. However, you have many other opportunities to reward them, and you should take advantage of those moments, both for the puppy and for yourself.
- Be consistent: As is the case with most things, consistency is one of the most important factors in making sure your training methods are received by your puppy. Inconsistency will only confuse them and thwart any efforts you are making at making them less needy.
When your puppy is needy, they are participating in bad habits. To make good habits, you need to practice these methods every day. You want them to learn what is right and what is wrong without any confusion.
Add Mental Stimulation
One other reason why your puppy may be very needy is that they lack mental stimulation. In other words, they are bored.
Puppies need mental stimulation to stay alert and healthy. They need this stimulation to focus their attention and to allow them to be themselves. Additionally, being stimulated mentally will cause them to be less needy as their attention will be diverted elsewhere.
Mental stimulation can come from the games you play with them to the walks you take them on. Some ways you can implement mental stimulation to their routines include:
- Extended walks and hikes
- Teaching them new tricks
- Have them work to get their food
- Create an obstacle course
These are just some of the ways to increase mental stimulation in your puppy, but they are very effective.
Extended Walks and Hikes
Walks and hikes are some of the best times for your puppy to explore. Exploring means that they are stimulating their minds because they are experiencing new sights and scents.
It is important, however, to occasionally change where you take them. This will ensure that they are always exploring something new.
A walk around the neighborhood is a good start since they will be able to explore the scents of other dogs in the neighborhoods. However, taking them to a new dog park or a new nature trail can be great to elevate their exploring abilities.
Additionally, do not rush them. If they want to sniff an area, you should let them. This allows them to act on their instincts, but it will also tire them out, much like the added exercise to their routines.
Teaching Your Puppy New Tricks
Another great way to implement mental stimulation is by teaching your puppy new tricks.
These tricks can vary as much as you want. Teaching your puppy new tricks has several benefits. Not only does it focus their attention away from being needy, but it also gives them confidence. When they can learn new tricks, you reward them. The more tricks they know, the better they will feel.
Moreover, teaching your puppy a lot of tricks can strengthen your relationship with the puppy, which will make training them to give you space easier. They will trust and respect you.
Make Your Puppy Work to Get Food
As mentioned earlier, putting food into a Kong is a great way to use a game to make them less needy. However, this method is also good at increasing their mental stimulation.
Dogs have an instinct to want to forage for food, but in today’s world, their food is handed to them every day at the same time in the same manner. Therefore, their natural instinct is being stifled. When you put food into a toy for them to work at, they are satisfying their instincts.
Additionally, it is causing them to think about how to get the food out and into their mouths. Their focus will not be on following and pestering you, but it will instead rest in their food and their toy.
Create an Obstacle Course
This method may sound complex, but it can be simple when you use household objects to make the course. It can be as simple as setting up a few bins and some rakes on the ground. Have your puppy maneuver these obstacles. You may also place objects here and there throughout the course for them to go to.
You can get as elaborate or as simple as you like. The main point is for your puppy to have to think about how to get through the different obstacles, which will sharpen their minds and add a lot of mental stimulation, which will cause them to be less needy.