Whether you’re lying on the couch, heading to the backyard, or even in the bathroom, have you noticed your pug following you around the house as if it were your shadow? Are they always giving you their undivided attention and looking at you intently like you’re the most important thing in the world? If so, you probably have a clingy dog on your hands. But why is this the case for so many pug owners?
Pugs were bred to be companion dogs, so giving you their constant attention and being a lapdog is their main priority in life. While they were specifically bred to be more dependent, sometimes it can lead to a more detrimental behavioral problem known as separation anxiety.
A clingy pug versus another that’s suffering from separation anxiety has its differences. Let’s take a more in-depth look into what they are, why it may be happening, and how you can manage it.
A Clingy Pug Versus a Pug with Separation Anxiety
The Chinese royals bred pugs to be affectionate, playful, and most importantly, loyal. Many people decide to own pugs for their companionship, but they will need more attention than the average dog, as you can imagine. It is within their DNA to be more clingy, and some even refer to them as “velcro dogs”. This means that they’re stuck to you and continuously follow you around like they’re your shadow. If this is what you’re after and have the capacity for it, then a pug is the right breed for you.
While we can agree that pugs are generally more clingy and will command more of your attention, it doesn’t mean that it has separation anxiety. The apparent difference is that a clingy pug will prefer to be by their owner’s side but will be quite independent when alone. In contrast, a pug suffering from separation anxiety will panic when you’re not there. The table below breaks these behaviors down will help differentiate between the two:
|Regularly follows you around the house.||Attempts to escape the house or yard.|
|Finds every opportunity to lie next to or on top of you.||Destructive chewing.|
|Tries to grab your attention by pawing, whining, and jumping on you.||Excessive drooling, panting, and barking/howling.|
|Lies on the floor dejectedly if you’re not paying attention to it.||Pacing around in circles.|
|Intently keeping their eyes on you at all times.||Urinating and defecating more regularly or in unusual places.|
|Always wanting to be where there is most action.||Trembling.|
|Waking you up by anticipating your patterns, rather than the one being woken up.||Excessive digging.|
How To Manage Their Clinginess
As shown, pugs have a natural propensity to be more clingy than some other breeds, but you don’t want this to develop into separation anxiety. You can implement some techniques and strategies before it gets to that destructive state.
- Physical and mental stimulation – Daily activities that exert energy will help calm your pug for the rest of the day. This can be achieved through walks, jogs, fetch, and playing tug with your pup. Not only is this good for controlling their hyperactivity and maintaining their weight, but it is also great for their mental stimulation as they’ll likely be exposed to new environments. They’ll get tired more quickly and probably prefer to sleep and relax for the rest of their day. I recommend 20-30 minutes of exercise per day.
- Desensitizing your dog to specific actions and movements – certain actions and movements of their owner may trigger a dog’s anxiety. Your pug will associate specific actions negatively, and to them, it will mean that you’re about to leave them alone. For example, putting on socks and shoes or grabbing your keys usually means that you’re about to leave the house. A great way to desensitize your dog is by performing these everyday actions purposely but without leaving them alone. Eventually, they’ll see it enough times and get tired of responding to these triggers.
- Give your pug the attention that it needs – it can be as simple as giving it the right amount of attention that’s needed so that it won’t feel neglected. Sometimes, it’s not enough to go on a 30-minute walk. The quality of your interactions makes a big difference too. Take the time to play with your dog and give them a much-deserved belly rub!
- Setting boundaries – When your dog is exhibiting clingy behaviors like whining, whimpering, pawing at you, or jumping on you, it is advised to ignore them as giving any attention to them will enable that behavior. They’ll repeatedly do this as they’ll know it’ll catch your attention, and a response will be given to them. Additionally, teaching them to “wait”, “stay”, or “stop” when they tend to follow you is a great way to set boundaries. If they follow your command, make sure to reward them with praise and treats to reinforce this desired behavior.
- Create a safe space for them – give your pug an alternative special place to go when you’re looking for some privacy. Rather than deterring them from following you into the bathroom, create a safe and comforting space for them where they can feel at ease. Perhaps it’s their bed or playpen, and you can decorate the area with your dog’s favorite toys, blankets, and long-lasting treats. This would be a great spot to keep them in when you need to leave the house.
Dealing with Separation Anxiety
If it gets to the point where your pug shows signs of separation anxiety and you have tried all of the techniques mentioned above to no avail, perhaps it is worth seeking professional help. A veterinary behaviorist may be able to help relieve some anxiety for your pup through behavioral modification training.
In terms of where this diagnosis stems from, case-control studies have shown that it is most probably due to a dog’s hyper-attachment to its owner rather than being separated early from the dam (Flannigan & Dodman, 2001). While some have argued that the best form of treatment for hyper-attachment may be to ignore the anxious dog for long periods, The Animal Behavior Associates, Inc. believes that this will make the problem worse and the dog even more anxious. Instead, they advise treating this with a combination of medications coupled with behavior modification gradually and over several weeks or longer (Estep & Hetts, 2008). Again, I recommend consulting with your veterinarian for professional advice.
Other factors to consider
It is important to note if there has been a sudden shift in their behavior, whereby their level of clinginess has dramatically increased in a short span of time. This rapid personality change could be due to things that induce stress like:
- Unfamiliar people – new visitors or roommates could be stealing some much-needed attention from your pug.
- Living environment – if you’ve moved houses recently, unfamiliar settings may induce a pug’s anxiety, thus causing them to cling to their owners.
- Health issues – this is more relevant if your dog is getting up there in age, but changes to their hearing abilities and eyesight may cause clinginess as they may be scared and confused about what is happening.
Alternatively, if you find the clinginess to be endearing, then it’s entirely up to you how you’d like to train the way your pug behaves. If you don’t mind them following you from room to room but prefer to have some boundaries set, then work on giving your pup the right cues, so they get affirmation on what’s acceptable. Ultimately, you should try to remember that your dog is clingy because it loves you.
Do pugs get attached to just one person? Pugs are sociable and very friendly in general; however, they will usually have a favorite. This may or may not be their primary owner or caretaker. From my experience, pugs tend to steer towards those who are not only familiar but also to those that spoil them the most. This could be through treats, attention, or any other form of positive reinforcement.
In my household, while Finn spends the most time with me, he has a clear favorite. My partner Michelle is that person, and it comes down to a combination of me being the disciplinary figure in the household and her spoiling him rotten as the ‘treat lady’!
Do pugs get their feelings hurt? Other dog owners have told me that pugs can be quite sensitive and refuse to interact with you if their feelings get hurt. In my experience, while they can be stubborn at times, their overall temperament is positive and playful, so I’ve never really had a sulky pug on my lap. I will caveat that with the fact that they do get sad when not shown enough attention, love or when not part of the action.
Do pugs like to be held? All dogs are different, so while it does induce anxiety for some dogs when picked up and held, pugs generally love it. Their cuddling nature is a big differentiator, and they would rather snuggle up with you than to be left alone.