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Why Are Australian Shepherds So Needy: 5 Causes & What To Do

If your Australian Shepherd is redefining the word “clingy” it can become exhausting very quickly! This article will explain why your Australian Shepherd is so needy, and what you can do about it.


What Is Needy Behavior In Australian Shepherds

In most cases, needy behavior in Australian Shepherds comes from being understimulated physically and mentally. Needy behavior can usually be prevented and resolved by providing sufficient stimulation and exercise.

What counts as needy behavior?

It’s good to consider this first, as random acts of neediness might not suggest your Aussie is actually needy, but instead momentarily seeking your attention for a legitimate reason.

Just a few common examples of needy behavior:

  • When your Aussie can’t stand to be away from you for a single moment
  • When your Aussie constantly stares at you in anticipation for something?
  • When your Aussie whines or cries as soon as you aren’t there
  • When your Aussie forces herself on you when you are there

When attention-seeking becomes excessive, you know you’ve got a problem. Sporadic and infrequent neediness likely isn’t a problem, it’s when it becomes so much that it starts to negatively impact your day.

So let’s cover the reasons why this might happen in the first place.

Check out more Australian shepherd articles!

5 Reasons Why Australian Shepherd Are So Needy

There are 5 main reasons behind needy behavior seen in Australian shepherds. Let’s explain everything below.

1. Not Receiving Enough Physical & Mental Stimulation

Aussies are hard-working, energetic dogs with finely tuned minds. If an Australian Shepherd doesn’t receive adequate amounts of both physical exercise and mental stimulation, they can become very bored, very quickly.

If this happens, it won’t take long before your Aussie starts pestering you and clinging to you in the hope that you’ll respond and facilitate something to do. This is by far the most common reason among working dogs to become overly needy.

What To Do:

Aussies need around 2 hours of dedicated physical exercise per day excluding playtime. If your Aussie isn’t currently receiving this much, it’s time to reach this level.

Mental stimulation is EQUALLY important too. This can be achieved with daily command training, the use of interactive puzzle toys and perhaps the most potent form of MS is socializing with other dogs. Are Aussies Easy to Train?. Remember that both physical exercise and mental stimulation are daily requirements.

2. Accidentally Reinforcing Needy Behavior

Needy behavior can be unknowingly caused by owners themselves. It’s so easy to do, that most don’t even realize it’s happening!

The way that owners respond to their Aussie in moments of clingy behavior can either reinforce and encourage it further, or discourage it.

Dogs understand things in simple ways… If you respond to his longing puppy eyes with a big cuddle, praise, and letting him up on the couch, guess what he’s just learned. This is positive reinforcement at its finest.

It can be very subtle. And that was just one example of hundreds of potential scenarios where you may be inadvertently rewarding your Aussie’s neediness.

What To Do:

Although it can be hard, you’ll need to start responding less to your Aussie’s attention-seeking. Choosing when you give treats, praise, and affection becomes extremely important.

Make it obvious to your Aussie that she doesn’t just get what she wants by pestering you. Start actively rewarding her more often when you catch her lying quietly, rather than when she’s bugging you.

Take every chance you get to show your Aussie she receives more of your attention, by keeping herself to herself. And if you are worrying this might make her too “distant”, it won’t. All it will do is reverse the outright neediness.

3. Separation Anxiety Can Appear As Neediness

As I’m sure you already know, separation anxiety is a serious condition that’s unfortunately fairly common with Australian Shepherds. Separation anxiety can be defined as when a dog becomes hyper-attached to one single person and can’t be without them. This is easily confused with neediness.

Separation anxiety, however, goes way beyond just following you around. It’s easy to confuse dogs who are just clingy, to those that actually have fully developed separation anxiety.

It’s important to note the difference: When needy dogs can’t be with their owner, they remain to be fine. But when a dog with SA can’t be with their owner, they panic and lose control.

Additional symptoms of dogs with developed separation anxiety:

  • Excessive shaking and jitters throughout the day
  • Increased panting and drooling in general
  • Loud whining, crying, and irritation when you leave
  • Urination and defecation when alone (despite having already been)
  • Serious destructive behavior (destroying items, doors, walls)
  • Trying to escape when you are not there
  • Gets incredibly anxious when you prepare to leave the house

Neediness and separation anxiety can easily be confused, but it’s very important for you to know and identify the difference.

What To Do:

Separation anxiety is a beast to deal with, and I won’t go into the full details of overcoming it just here (otherwise this article would take a whole day to read!) I encourage you to check out this video if you think your Aussie has SA. If not, continue reading 🙂

4. Old Age

Some Aussies become needier as they age, this is fairly common across many breeds. Seniors start to feel less independent than they did when they were young and look to cling to their owners closely.

It’s important to give your elderly dog additional attention, but at the same time, try not to reward needy behavior. If your elderly Aussie is following you around, don’t reward her for that, only reward her when she lays quietly.

What To Do:

Increasing your Aussie’s feeling of independence is a good way to approach this situation.

One subtle way of reminding your Aussie of their independence is to encourage them to do things on their own. Eating their mealtimes when you aren’t around is a simple thing to ensure happens.

Additionally, encourage other members of the household to each individually show her attention, don’t let it be just one person giving all the love.

Another way to encourage independence is to increase socialization with other dogs. This takes the limelight off you and encourages your Aussie to play with another dog.

Of course, your elderly Aussie will need a calm, preferably elderly dog to play with, instead of a boisterous puppy.

5. Underlying Health Issues

Sickness and illness can cause many unusual behavioral changes. Underlying illnesses can have a range of symptoms and neediness is one of them. Depending on how you’re Aussie is feeling, being closer to you could be seen as a coping mechanism for any pain or discomfort she’s dealing with.

What To Do:

Ruling out health issues is an important first step to take. Your veterinarian is there to help, and if you suddenly realize your Aussie has become needy and clingy, it’s recommended to schedule a check-up to rule out underlying conditions.

Thankfully, in most cases, there won’t be any issues and the trip to vets would then appear “unnecessary”. But for those times when something is found, timing often makes a big difference.

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Why It’s Important To Stop Clingy Behavior

Some owners may let clingy behavior slide, and come to accept that as “the way” their Aussie is. But here’s why that isn’t such a good idea.

The issue with neediness is that it can eventually turn into full-blown separation anxiety, which is something that all owners should avoid desperately. SA is such a hard thing to overcome once developed, that preventing it in the first place is crucial. Some experts go as far as saying separation anxiety is incurable.

By letting your Aussie continuously act in a needy way, it’s reinforcing to her that she “needs” you, and her dependency on you will only increase. This will progress until the point where she becomes anxious and panicky when you aren’t there (SA).

For this reason (and the fact that it can be incredibly annoying) it’s important to be proactive about your Aussies neediness and to start reversing this behavior as soon as you can.

And just to confirm, a trip to the veterinarian is advised in the beginning for the purpose of ruling out health conditions. Additionally, your veterinarian will have tips tailored specifically to you and your Aussie for dealing with this neediness.

Recommended Read: When Do Australian Shepherds Go Into Heat?

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Before making any decisions that could affect the health and/or safety of your dog, you should always consult a trained veterinarian in your local area. Even though this content may have been written/reviewed by a trained veterinarian, our advice to you is to always consult your own local veterinarian in person. Please read our full dislcaimer if you have any questions.