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Not wanting to be alone and learning to calmly play/walk with a stick in her mouth

Afternoon, fellow setter lovers! 

Our 16 month old Irish setter girl Harley has started this thing lately where she is in desperate need of being around us at all time. She will play and go about her own things throughout the day, but it is always by our side. If we leave her in the front room to go make a drink or food in the kitchen, or upstairs to put something away etc she will leave whatever it is she's doing and one find us. We have gotten into this nice routine where we go for our long walk in the morning, about an hour more or less, come home and she wants to play which we do or she plays with her toys around me while I get some housework done etc etc but every time I try to leave the room she is in she will either come straight after me or if she's occupied she'll come find me when she realises I'm not there any more. If the weather is nice we usually have the kitchen door open for her so she can run and and out from the garden as she pleases.  She will go out and do her business but once she's done she'll come back in wanting me or my partner to come out there with her or she'll just stay inside where she knows we are. We have a baby gate in front of our kitchen door, the kitchen functions as her crate. Thats where she is if she's left during the day and where she sleeps etc. If I go in the kitchen and close the gate she will just paw on it and lay down in front of it until I am done doing whatever it is I am  doing in the kitchen and come back out. She's always been clingy and have enjoyed playing with us rather then alone ever since we got her, but the last few weeks its been even more so then normal. She's recently had a check ip with the vets so theres no reason to believe theres any medical issues. Could she be going into heat soon and be clingy because of that ? Anyone had any similar experiences with setters doing that? I'm assuming its just because she feels safe around us and likes to know where we are at all times, which is cute, obviously I'd rather have her that way then a dog that doesn't want anything to do with us, but if anyone has any ideas or tips on how to maybe try and get her to "play by herself" or something similar  I'd appreciate it. Oh and just to throw that in, if she is left alone during the day she is totally fine. That has never been a problem, we've gradually thought her to be alone during the day while we go out, which she sometimes have to be, she never cries or howls or anything like that. We have a monitor on her so we can see/hear her while we're gone and it goes off if she makes a noise, so I don't think its separation anxiety before someone jumps to that conclusion!

Another thing she has started doing in the last weeks is sometimes on walks (on the lead) she finds sticks she wants to play with, when she was younger she would chew them up and swallow big chunks we had to get out of her mouth so we tried to keep her away from sticks and took them off her obviously to keep her from choking etc. She's grown out of that now and is generally good at "leaving things alone" when out walking and told to do so, but now that we allow her to pick up a stick she has started this thing where she will go crazy with it in her mouth because she assumes we're gonna take it away from her. Jumping, trying to run away etc Does anyone have any tips on how to teach her that she is allowed to play with a stick and dont have to try and run away with it on the lead? It might sound silly, and she might just have to get used to the idea of the stick actually being a thing she is allowed but I thought I'd throw it out there to see if anyone has any tips. We're still learning everything as she is our first setter, and its great to have forum like this with people who have the same dogs and have been in the game for a lot longer then us can share their advice, thank you! :) 

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Hi Ellie, our Joy is usually, where one of us is during the day - and at night. She's 'single dog' and enjoys our company and so do we. So there are vet beds and places for her all over the house. I can not remember, that she was more clingy before her heat, but she definitely was during the two months following her heat. To hinder her from constantly running up and down the stairs (following me, doing the housework in a house full of stairs), I used the 'wait' signal and told her, I'm coming back just now. Sometimes, I brought a treat back, to encourage her to wait. I like you new user photo! Harley looks like a beautiful young girl! 

One of my dogs brings sticks and gumnuts and stuff into her bed either to build a nest, or else she pretends they are her babies. She is sterilized, now, but still does it to a lesser extent. So maybe she doesn't want to play with the stick, it just might be a substitute puppy or nest-thing.




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