Oh No, My Puppy Is... Clingy!
Updated: Mar 5, 2022
Have you worried about this? Is this something you've heard, that you must be careful not to 'make' your puppy 'clingy'? I have earth shattering news for you my friend. Puppies should be clingy. It is normal for them. Puppies are split from their litter mates and Mum long before their wild or feral counterparts would be. They still need a primary care giver close at hand til around 9 months of age (adolescence basically) and even then... as this photo of my dog Baggins shows, some of them will still want and need, comfort from you. You cannot make a puppy clingy or needy or anxious or hyper-attached to you, by giving them the comfort and security they need, in a way they want, when they ask for it. In fact the reverse is true - if you deny them what they need, you will absolutely damage their security, shatter their confidence and create an anxious, insecure, worried animal, who does not know who to turn to for help.
Puppies are vulnerable, easily squishable, easily predated upon by bigger carnivores (they are not aware that there are no bigger carnivores in your home!) - they need lots of food, sleep and comfort from you.
So why is this such a big deal - and it does seem to be. Why are people so keen, so urgently looking for ways to have their puppy be by him or herself, alone, independent, not needing them? Isn't that going to be a problem down the line when you want your puppy to listen to you, to come when you call them, to respond when you give a cue? Don't you think there will be some major issues if your puppy is scared, but doesn't think you are the safe place to turn to and instead, bolts, or bites to try and keep themselves safe?
Look at all these ideas for making a puppy feel secure - I collected these from the internet and books in just a couple of days.
Stinky tshirt in their bed
Ticking clock wrapped in a towel
Cover their crate to make it dark and cosy
Pet safe hot water bottle or heat cushion
All these things are designed to replace YOU. Why? Why get a puppy, and then buy a piece of plastic and fluff to replace the comfort YOU should provide?
Most of the people I talk to tell me that they've actually ignored their instincts, and found it very hard to do this, because someone else has told them that they must. They've heard that cuddling their puppy, letting their puppy sleep on their lap, up on the sofa beside them, next to them in their bed - will cause problems in later life.
This is bollocks people. Bollocks. Big, sweaty, hairy, bollocks. I can't put it any plainer than that.
Your puppy needs you - be there for your puppy. It is that simple, if they want a cuddle, give them a cuddle. If they want to sleep squidged into your arms, or beside you on the sofa, or in your bed - fine, do that. They may want it this week and not next, they may want it for months and months. They may grow out of it and then years later, seek that comfort again. It's all fine.
But but but... what if...
I know, what if I don't want a dog in my bed, what if I don't have time* to cuddle my puppy, what if I don't want the dog to leap on the sofa and knock my brew out of my hand... We can train for all that - when your puppy is secure, confident and happy. We can teach your puppy to ask and wait a bit before coming up on the sofa. We can gradually move the bed sleeping puppy to the floor by your bed, we can teach our juvenile and adult dogs many things IF they're confident, happy, well adjusted dogs. *You note I didn't mention the time thing though. We can't invent extra time. If you haven't got time to cuddle your puppy when he or she needs a cuddle... if you don't have the time to habituate, build confidence and train them to be ok about being left alone (9 months min. quite probably more)... then you haven't got the time to meet your puppy's basic needs. Read that again. You haven't got the time to meet your puppy's basic needs. And that means, you haven't got the time to have a puppy.
Now some people will have several adults in the home who between them, have the time. And some people will mostly have the time and can hire a dog sitter or daycare service for those short periods where they don't. But... some people haven't got the time to have a puppy. So please don't. Get an adult dog who needs a bit less time (but they still need time, and there will still be things that need to be trained that will take an unspecified amount of time to fix), or wait until you DO have time, or change your life around so that you DO have time. Yes, this is horribly unfair if you want a puppy and you can't have one. Tough. I want a farm on Fiji where I can have a sheep and a cow and breed horses but I can't. Life isn't fair.