What to do about our very clingy dog

We have a lovely Spaniel. He was 14 months old when we got him, he is nearly 6 now. I dont think he had the best start in life. He wasn't neglected but was kept in a very confined area within his home and I think the lady who had him simply had not realised how boisterous he was going to be and could not handle him. I think she was also a bit frightened of him although he has no aggressive tendencies at all. When we first got him it took a good while for him to calm down, he would run round the house like a bull in a china shop. We would put him in the kitchen at night when we went to bed and he would whine all night and likewise if we went out he would get into a state before we went and cry when left.
Gradually he overcame the issue and we realised that the more space he had the happier and better behaved he was so we would leave all the internal doors open so he could wander freely and when the weather is ok we have the back door open so he can go out whenever he likes as the garden in secure. He overcame the fear of being left and would settle down in his bed if we had to go shopping. At night he sleeps in his bed in the living room and all has been well for the last 4 years or so. He is never left for long periods as my hubby is disabled, Im retired and our son lives at home so he is never short of company. He gets loads of exercise  having a couple of daily shorter walks with me and a long walk each day with my son, plus 2 or 3 times a week he goes on long countryside walks and also swims a lot. He is very affectionate and a lovely family pet.
The issue is though that just lately he has become exceptionally clingy. When we go on the long countryside walks and he is off lead he never wanders far from us but lately he will get perhaps run on and get 20 foot from us then he stops to wait till we catch up. He seems to be very insecure and not as 'adventurous' as he was. At home he has changed more noticeably, he follows us from room to room and doesn't like to be alone in a room. He has always been a friendly, curious dog but its now extreme, he has to sit beside you whatever you are doing, when washing up he leans against my leg, when cooking or doing any other job he has to be actually touching you as you are working (cute but not always practical).  If he sits on his cushion which he has on the couch he will maneuver so that he is leaning on your body. he seems to crave physical contact. I should add that he get lots of attention and interaction, he is not ignored but its got extreme. For instance he will sit by my husband while watching tv but now he has to be pressed up close and will 'paw' at hubbys hand till he puts his arm round him.  He follows me around when I'm doing housework and if I stand still he will lean on my leg, the number of times Ive nearly fallen over him!
He has never been a problem when we go to bed and will get in his basket till morning.  But lately as soon as one of us makes a move to turn off the tv, close the curtains or any other signal that it is bedtime he starts this low moaning growling sound and does it constantly whilst we are locking up etc. He also starts to dash from room to room at the same time as if he is getting in a panic at being left. He has started to whine/cry when we have gone to bed. This has gone on for weeks so we started to leave the door open so he could get upstairs if he wanted and for a while that did the job, he would come up sometimes in the middle of the night and go to sleep on the landing outside the bedroom door or sometimes just have a quick check then go back downstairs. However, the last few of weeks he has got worse and started to paw at the bedroom door so we started to leave that open so he could come in and out as I don't want the paint taking off!  Now we are at the stage where he is  coming up every night and actually 'pawing' us to wake us up several times a night.
Its like having a small child, we take him back downstairs each time and then go back to bed without giving him any interaction other than seeing if he needs to go out. We have tried closing the downstairs door before we go back up but he barks and barks and we cant have that happening in fairness to our neighbour. We have tried having his bed in our bedroom which I don't like but he still insists on waking us.
Its as if he cant manage without having a physical contact, he behaves as if we may not come back when we go to bed and is just generally insecure. I have no idea why this behavior started, there is no trigger point I can think of, it just suddenly crept up but I need to find a way to stop it as its becoming a real issue. During the day Ive tried putting him in the garden and closing the door a couple of times to establish a bit of distance but when I try this he barks constantly to come in. He will go out in the garden but if he cant see us through the french doors he comes back in every few minutes as if to check we are still in the house.
Any ideas please?


  • MovingForwards
    MovingForwards Posts: 16,905 Forumite
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    Can you get an appointment at the vet to make sure there is nothing medically wrong? Changes of behaviour can be a sign of ill health and need to be ruled out before working on behaviour issues.
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  • sheramber
    sheramber Posts: 19,028 Forumite
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     Any change in behaviour should be checked by a vet.
    Something has made him feel insecure.
    He may  be in  pain, his hearing or his eyesight may be deteriorating.
    Once you rule out any physical cause you can look at behaviour therapy.
  • swingaloo
    swingaloo Posts: 2,714 Forumite
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    Thanks for the reply, we have had a visit to the vet but there  are no issues. He does not seem to be in any pain at all, still eating properly and no problems at the other end. during his walks he is happy to run, swim, chase sticks and seems just as active as ever. He just wont have any distance between us and him. He will run down the banking into the stream and then look up to us to throw a stick which he will then collect and bound back up the banking with it and he will repeat this as often as we are prepared to keep throwing. 
    He can hear the letter box on the front door from the back garden when the postman comes so his hearing is still sharp and the vet does not think there is an eyesight problem. There doesnt seem to be a trigger moment that started this, it just seems to have built up over time. He  is a happy, friendly dog, not wary of other people or other dogs. the only thing he seems afraid of are ladders, be it someone walking past carrying them or a van driving past with ladders on top. We have a really good window cleaner who sends us a text about 15 mins before he gets to us so we take the dog out of the way.
    He is happy, healthy and active, just very insecure. If he had been like this since we got him or if he was left alone for long periods I could understand it but thats not the case.

  • Katiehound
    Katiehound Posts: 7,536 Forumite
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    Dogs have very sensitive hearing and I'm just wondering if there is some noise that is disturbing him, particularly at night... a noise that you may not be able to hear. At night perhaps try leaving a radio on very low or a loud ticking clock? I would change your pattern of behaviour at night- dogs quickly learn the signs. Clearly he is stressed about something

    You might look at Tellington Touch methods to see if there are any 'moves' that would decrease his sensitivity .

    I don't know if any suggestions here might help. For example a delicious toy, like a stuffed kong- whilst you sneakily move away?

    By the way please do not throw real sticks for him- very dangerous as they can splinter in the throat. Toy'sticks' are available

    Being polite and pleasant doesn't cost anything!
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  • You said that he gets a lot of attention, has this increased during lockdown while you've been at home more? 

    Its not actually ideal for dogs to get too much human attention, its actually good for them to be ignored as we just go about our day doing ordinary things around the house and we should sit on our sofas etc. with them there but not being fussed/stroked/talked to constantly.  

    Maybe your dog has just got used to a lot of your time and attention and needs to get used to not having it quite so much so that he can settle without being so attached?
  • swingaloo
    swingaloo Posts: 2,714 Forumite
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    Thank you for the replies, will have a look at the suggestions. Hubby is disabled and I'm retired but do some charity work so his attention quota hasn't changed with lockdown.
    A good point about the sticks but  too be honest the moment he arrives anywhere for his walk in the countryside he forages for sticks and selects one which he then carries and places somewhere behind a tree or a semi hidden location then sets about finding another and places that one elsewhere.
    It seems to be something ingrained in him, he has done this since we got him and he ignores a ball or ring if we we throw them.
  • Artytarty
    Artytarty Posts: 2,642 Forumite
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    The leaning on your leg and sitting on your foot are typical of the breed. 
    Ours is a spaniel crossbreed, she does It and my friends a pure cocker and he does it too!
    To be honest, i doubt there is anything wrong with your dog, its just his personality, he is deeply bonded with you and may have jn fact benefited from more time alone!
     I wouldnt worry too much at all.

    Norn Iron Club member 473
  • I agree with a fact he just has a personality that is very particular. From your story, I can say you have a very strong bond. Maybe he feels some stress or anxiety from your side and he reflects it. I had the same issue with my dog when I lost my job I was very stressed and home a lot and he seemed to feel everything i was feeling.
  • swingaloo
    swingaloo Posts: 2,714 Forumite
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    Actually I hadn't thought about him picking up stress from me as I always joke that I 'Don't do stress'. However we are waiting to complete on a property and are due to move shortly so there is an awful lot of disruption, packing etc in the house. Maybe thats having more of an effect than I thought.
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