The bathroom is usually a very private place...unless you have a dog. When dog owners head to the loo, we often think we're headed for some alone time just to see puppy dog eyes staring back at us. Whether your dog is lying on the bathmat while you shower, watching you while you brush your teeth or sitting with you while you're on the toilet...we've all been there. So why do dogs follow us into the bathroom?
1. Socialization & Companionship
The obvious answer is that dogs love being around their people and follow them wherever they go - even the bathroom. In particular, if you got your dog as a puppy, he or she may be imprinted on you. This means that they recognize you as their parent or most trusted figure in life. And that means they'll want to stay close to you as often as possible, including bathroom time.
Remember, dogs are naturally pack animals that historically lived and traveled in close-knit groups. And years of domestication have caused dogs to become increasingly bonded with their humans. These two factors together mean that dogs are wired to seek our companionship (because we are their pack now) and follow us where we go, like into the bathroom. It's a form of socialization for them.
Because we are our dogs' companions and part of their pack, they find comfort and happiness in our company. On the other hand, this also means that they feel anxious, stressed or upset when separated from us. This anxiety is another reason they follow us to the bathroom - to avoid being apart.
Pro Tip: While it's healthy for you and your dog to be so bonded that you're around each other most of the time, make sure they don't have separation anxiety. Signs include crying, yelping or destructive behavior when you're not with them. If this is the case, speak to a vet or trainer for solutions.
3. Inadvertent Reinforcement
Sometimes your dog follows you to the bathroom because you've inadvertently reinforced the behavior in the past. Do you know what you've done historically when he or she follows you there? If you pet them, praise them or give them love, you're likely reinforcing the behavior. Even if you direct them to another room, it can reinforce the behavior by the sheer attention they received. If you don't want your dog to follow you into the bathroom, you can train him or her to do something else. For example, practice some tricks outside the door with your dog and reward him or her when the tricks have been completed. Over time, you'll be reinforcing a different behavior and break the habit of following you into the bathroom.
Another reason why your dog may be following you to the bathroom is a simple one: curiosity. Dogs are naturally curious animals, often wondering what you're doing or where you're going when you leave the room or walk around the house. When you get up to go to the bathroom, your dog may follow you in there just to see where you're going and what you're up to.
5. Certain Breeds
Some breeds are more inherently inclined to follow their humans. For example, herding dogs (like Australian Shepherds, Border Collies and Cattle Dogs) naturally want to keep the pack together and when you walk away to the bathroom, you're breaking with the group. Another example includes working breeds who have an inherent loyalty trait (such as Dobermans, Boxers and Akitas). These dogs may follow you to the bathroom to stay close by and protect you. One more example includes affectionate sporting dogs (like Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Weimaraners and Pointers) who just want to be around their people as much as possible.