Before launching in to 'fixing' needy behaviour it is important to try to understand why your dog is acting needy. Some dogs learn that that is the best way to get attention, some learn that it is what they are supposed to do (inadvertantly of course), and some have genuine fears of being left alone. The key to dealing with these behaviours and building independence in your dog is to teach them in a productive way that they can and should spend solo time rather than forcing them to. Simply closing the door behind your dog when they go out in the hopes that they will just get on with their day is a sure fire way to build frustration and anxiety that will ultimately lead to problem behaviours such as barking, scratching, digging, and general destructive chewing.
Instead, we want to teach them to want to spend solo time, whether in the house or out in the garden. There is always a danger that we spend too much time with our dogs, particularly when they are new puppies so that they learn that it is just the way it should be, that we are always around. Then we run into the issue of separation anxiety and we can't leave them alone at all. So we are looking to strike a happy balance for everyone. Your dog is a social creature that deserves your time and affection but you also have a life to lead (that hopefully includes your dog as much as you can).
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As Lili Chin's graphic shows, more often than not, your dog is not trying to be bold or annoying, they are more likely just interpreting a situation differently to you. Whether your dog sticks to you like glue or goes off to do something 'bold' they are doing what they believe works, be it for attention of for frustration/stress relief. The key to sorting any behaviour problem is to avoid it happening in the first place and set your dog up to get it right by doing the right thing.
In the case of a clingy dog we need to set time and space aside to gradually wean them off you and your attention. This starts with giving them personally rewarding activities to do that are low arousal (i.e. calming, so no tennis ball throwing machines for this one!) and stimulating.
Set time aside each day to do nothing which to be honest is probably good for all of us to do even without the dogs! Play with your phone, read a book, watch some television with your dog. As you move into this time/space give them a stuffed Kong or other chew toy in their bed during this quiet time. This is particularly good for puppies that tend to get a bit nippy/bitey in the evenings. They need time to realise they are tired and have a nap.
Go back to your hand feeding routine where you reward your dog for good behaviour, scatter food throughout the day to give them time to sniff for it and find it for themselves and put it in food toys that they need to work out how to empty. Mental stimulation is much better than lots of high-arousal activities such as long sessions of ball throwing or an extra long walk.
If your dog is scratching at a door or  barking when not in the same space as you we need to build up this alone time more slowly. Start at 10 seconds alone with something fun in another room/outdoors, go back before they start to get upset and gradually build up as they succeed. We always want to focus on teaching them what they should do instead of the bad behaviour rather than focusing on the bad behaviour itself.
Even something as simple as going out to the garden with your dog and just standing back while they explore and rummage around is great practice for building independence. Let them get on with it but be present (try stay off your phone), praise them for exploring and sniffing as they go. If they pick up something safe to have a chew of, let them know how great that is (calmly!).

Expanding your dog's horizons

Here in Ireland it is quite tricky for us as many social spaces do not allow dogs, the less they are allowed the fewer opportunities they have to interact with their peers, other people and new experiences, making us the centre of their world rather than merely an important part of it. For this reason we need to make a bigger effort to find healthy things to do with our dogs.  This is less about training or obedience and rather more about giving your dog a fulfilling outlet in life. They need a job or at least a hobby. If you don't provide one they will find one themselves and you won't like it!

One of the best activities to get into with your dog is Scentwork. That is teaching your dog, on cue, to find something that you have defined. It is a low-arousal activity so it keeps the heart rate low, gives them focus and is hugely rewarding for them. On top of this, it is a logical activity promoting logical thinking rather than gut reactions, thus calming things down. Scentwork can be looking for a few treats in a box or full on searching vehicles for a pre-specified odour.

In most scentwork courses your dog will learn to trust their own instincts and skills to tell you where something is rather than asking you is it right or not. This helps build their own confidence and independence in a constructive manner.

Have a look at our upcoming sessions to see if one suits you.

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Agility and Flyball are also great sports to get into with your dog that can be done at high competition levels or even just for fun in your back garden. The point is there is a huge amount of team work involved. Not to mention the mental requirements of listening to directions, making decisions and the added physical bonus of running around to get lots of energy out.

These are great skills to build up that come in use in your everyday life also. The direction involved in agility can be use out on walks or even during off leash time as it teaches your dog to listen at a distance to you (great for recall) and also for getting unwrapped around a tree with a leash. It builds strong joints and muscle to help prevent such issues down the road once done in moderation and at a suitable level for your dog and their age.