Dogs are unlike any other animal on the planet. Delighted owners witness the daily joy and excitement in their pooch whenever they return home after a long day, prepare their food or retrieve their leash for a long walk. Our canine friends can also pick up on our varying emotions and respond in turn.
Animal experts believe that dogs are naturally devoted to trusted humans and view them as companions because they evolved alongside us. A survival instinct to stay with the pack has also contributed to their love of socializing with and showing affection to humans.
While this loyalist streak is true among many dogs, it’s important to note that some breeds have a more faithful personality than others. Dogs are also more likely to exhibit loyalty when they have been trained appropriately. Let’s look at dog loyalty in more detail from the least loyal breeds to signs of doggy devotion and why dogs appear more loyal than cats.
What Makes Dogs Loyal?
You keep them alive – Domesticated dogs are acutely aware that their source of food, shelter, and comfort comes from you, so they will continue to show affection and loyalty to us in the hopes that these essentials (and occasional treats!) will continue.
They respect the ‘alpha dog’ –Ancient dogs lived in packs and depended on fellow pack members to survive. In order to survive, they knew they needed to please and win favor with the head of the pack or the top dog/wolf, which is why most pooches will learn to “sit, “stay” and perform other obedience tricks for their alpha dog (you) – it’s in their DNA.
They have strong empathy – Dogs recognize when our mood dips and will actually alter their response appropriately i.e. a loud, energetic dog will appear calmer and more gentle when they notice their owner is sad or reserved. This was found in a 2012 study into the empathic response from domestic dogs to humans.
Time breeds a friendship with you – In the same way that humans with shared interests and similar personalities can form loyal bonds over time, your dog will grow closer and show a friendship-like devotion to you, especially if an owner’s temperament meshes well with theirs i.e. extroverted and outdoorsy or preferring quiet cuddles by the fire.
What Breed of Dogs Are The Most Loyal?
Originally used as military and police dogs, Boxers are fiercely intelligent and will readily guard a family home against intruders and devote their energy in between to playing with their household.
This breed is hugely protective of their household and will typically display loyalty to their main caregiver or sole family member they deem to be head of the pack – giving this individual their full affection.
German Shepherds live to please and protect their owners and will put themselves in harm’s way before a member of their pack. They tend to extend their loyalty towards other pets in the family, but can struggle with other dogs.
These dogs are wonderfully affectionate and happy to engage in quiet cuddles or lively games of fetch as per their owner’s mood. While their friendship with you is most important to them, they can also exhibit loyalty to friends/members outside the family.
Their incredible intelligence and enthusiasm make Border Collies a breed you can rely on. They’re regularly used as mountain rescue and sniffer dogs due to their determination to please and serve their human caregivers and leaders.
This affectionate pint-sized breed loves nothing more than cozying under blankets – making them ideal for stay-at-home owners – but they also love to play and dig about in the yard. Note that they tend to become devoted to one family member only though.
Which Dogs Are The Least Loyal?
Chow Chows are very independently-minded and ‘cat-like’ in their tendency to disregard an owner’s request. They are also naturally very stubborn which can make it difficult to train loyalty in them.
According to a study into dog personalities, Swedish researcher Kenth Svartberg found Pinschers to be one of the most disloyal dogs because they scored quite low on playfulness and displayed only moderate sociability.
As loving and friendly as this breed is, they are also famously lazy and quite slow to learn new commands, which can mean they can’t always be relied upon when it comes to protection and territorial defense.
Originally bred as lap dogs for Chinese royalty, this hyperactive and independent breed tends to view its owners as their servants. While they are hugely playful and energetic, Pekingese have a stubborn, scatterbrained side, putting loyalty low on their list.
Instead of wanting to please their owner and show devotion, Afghan Hounds are driven by their need to look for prey due to their strong hunting instinct. Independent and aloof is more their style than listening to “sit” and “stay” commands.
Originally bred to follow a deer or boar’s trail, Bloodhounds are led by their nose, putting much of their energy into following their own pursuits. With early training, however, they can become more involved and affectionate dogs.
What Age Do Dogs Become Loyal?
Individual backgrounds and personalities will affect how quickly a dog begins to show loyalty. A rescue dog with a history of abuse or neglect, for instance, may take time to feel secure in your home environment before they can show affection.
Some puppies, meanwhile, can develop a strong bond very quickly and view owners as their alpha dog within days or weeks. Spending quality time with your dog, trying obedience training and practicing patience can see them become loyal anywhere between 2 weeks and 2 years of age.
How Do Dogs Show Loyalty?
Dogs exhibit loyalty to their owner in many ways including:
- Following you around – you represent their security and well-being, so they love to stay by your side in the hopes they’ll receive stimulation (or treats!)
- Licking your face – this is a gesture of intimacy and bonding between dogs that stems from their puppy-mother bond as newborns.
- Jumping up to you – dogs will do this in an attempt to reach up and lick your face, since they recognize you as their parent/caregiver.
- Make eye contact – loyal dogs will look you in the eye in a doting way that releases oxytocin (the love hormone). This suggests they are forming a strong bond and desire to share their time with you.
- Sleeping near you – a desire to sleep alongside you shows their devotion and protectiveness towards you. They snuggle near you to feel secure but also to ensure you are secure in turn.
Are Dogs Loyal To Their Mates?
No. Unlike their wild wolf ancestors who remained monogamous to their sexual partner and forged a bond to ensure the survival of their litter, today’s domestic dogs do not need to remain loyal to their mate because humans will take care of these needs.
For this reason, dogs often have multiple mating partners throughout the year. Furthermore, dogs cannot have a long-term relationship with their mate due to the fact that humans largely control their breeding patterns.
Are Dogs Loyal To Other Dogs?
Yes, they can be. As natural pack animals, dogs can instinctively form loyal bonds and close friendships with fellow dogs in their environment, but this is typically with dogs that have regular socialization with other dogs in the family home or familiar dogs they greet at the park.
Loyalty to other dogs may not come as easily in certain breeds due to their solitary nature or a jealous and territorial temperament.
Are Female Dogs More Loyal to Male Owners?
There is currently no sufficient evidence to suggest that either dog gender prefers a specific owner, and therefore shows them greater loyalty. If a female dog exhibits more loyal and affectionate behaviors toward a male owner, it may simply be because the male owner is the one to feed them or pet them in the way they prefer.
Likewise, a male dog may bark less or have a calmer demeanor around female owners due to their softer tone and other behavioral traits that male owners don’t possess.
Why Are Dogs More Loyal Than Cats?
Certain cats can be as loyal to their owners as dogs are, but a dog’s expression of loyalty is far more obvious (jumping, tail wagging, begging, etc) compared to a cat’s more nuanced display of affection and faithfulness (lifting/quivering their tail, displaying their belly, rubbing against your leg, etc).
A dog’s loyalty appears to be stronger than a cat’s because of their vastly different social instincts and history. Dogs abide by a pack and leader mentality, viewing their owner as superior, whilst cats tend to view humans as equals and their loyalty can take a little longer to earn.
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