Loyalty is one of the most desirable traits in any dog, but the level of loyalty demonstrated by different breeds and individuals varies greatly.
Some dogs clearly bond tightly with a single person and remain suspicious of strangers, while others will start waggin’ when any two-footer who gives them some scritches. Neither type of dog is inherently better than the other — there’s room in the world for all kinds of pooches.
But today, we’re going to focus on some of the most loyal breeds, who form deep attachments with their owners, and will never think of leaving their side!
How Do You Define Loyalty in a Dog?
Merriam-Webster defines the word loyal as “unswerving in allegiance.”
But with respect to dogs, loyalty is probably best thought of as being gravitationally attracted to their pack.
Sometimes this can apply more strongly to one member of the pack than others, but other pooches love the entire family more-or-less equally.
Loyalty shouldn’t be confused with separation anxiety, although the two can occur alongside each other.
A loyal dog may tolerate her owner’s absence, but she’ll always be ready to join his side, no matter what else is happening.
Other “loyal dogs,” however, may tear apart their home if their owner goes to the corner market – this kind of behavior is suggestive of separation anxiety, which isn’t healthy for your pooch.
While loyal dogs are often hyper-focused on their person, many are also quite friendly with everyone they meet.
But their owner or family will always be at the forefront of their minds, and they’ll quickly demonstrate such through eye contact, body language, and behavior.
The Most Loyal Dog Breeds in the World: Four-Footers Who’ll Never Leave Your Side
Virtually any dog can demonstrate profound loyalty, but the following breeds represent the cream of the loyalty crop!
1. German Shepherd
German shepherds are famous for their intelligence and dedication to their handlers, and they are easily among the most loyal breeds in the world. This is why they make excellent military dogs as well as police K9 officers.
They are gentle with and protective of their families, and they can make great pets in the right situations. However, GSDs require consistent, firm training and high amounts of exercise to avoid developing behavioral problems. You can see their inherent loyalty anytime you watch a skilled handler working with his or her shepherd.
Called “bright, fun-loving and upbeat,” by the AKC, the Brittany is a gentle, high-energy breed who is always ready to tag along with her favorite person.
A pointing dog, the Brittany is notable for working more closely with her owners than most other gun dogs. These traits translate very well to family life, and as long as you provide your Brittany with consistent training and plenty of exercise.
3. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
Cavalier King Charles spaniels were designed to be companions, and clearly, breeders were successful in achieving this goal.
Cavalier spaniels are essentially living shadows, who follow their people around wherever they go, and they’re constantly looking for the appearance of their favorite thing in the world: your lap. Despite being a small, gentle, and low-key breed, they still need a fair bit of exercise – a throwback to their sporting ancestry.
What other breed would run all the way home to tell your parents that you fell down a well?
Jokes aside, collies are one of the world’s most loyal breeds, who desire nothing more than to walk alongside their human (while hopefully getting plenty of love and the occasional treat along the way). Collies are also smart dogs, who pick up training lessons quickly. They are a pretty good choice for anyone looking for a long-haired and loyal breed.
Akitas often exhibit a stark dichotomy in their attitude toward their family and strangers. Relaxed and loving when in the company of their pack, Akitas are suspicious of strangers, including unfamiliar children and other dogs.
Akitas were initially bred to guard nobles and other VIPs during the feudal period of Japan (roughly 1185 to 1868), and their fierce loyalty was an important trait of the breed. If you need further convincing of the loyalty of Akitas, simply consider the story of Hachiko – the loyal pup that traveled to the train station every day to meet his returning master, even nine years after his owner had died and never returned.
It should be noted that Akitas are quite stubborn and can be difficult to train, so it takes an experienced dog owner to properly train an Akita or an Akita mix. However, once your bond is developed, you’ll have a loyal friend by your side.
6. Labrador Retriever
Initially designed to work alongside their owners, while helping to catch fish and haul nets, Labs love to hang out with their people, particularly if there is a job to do.
Labs are supremely friendly dogs, who make wonderful family pets, but they are a bit rambunctious when young, so you’ll need to keep them well-exercised and begin training them at an early age.
7. Golden Retriever
Most goldens are happy to receive love and affection from anyone inclined to offer it, but they always have a strong bond with their owners. In fact, the combination of their loyalty and gentle, friendly nature leads many to use golden retrievers in therapy contexts, whether that means alleviating anxiety or assisting soldiers who have returned home with PTSD.
Golden retrievers are one of the best all-around breeds in the world, and they make great pets for families that can provide the space and exercise they need. Plus, many seem to have a perpetual grin on their face, making it hard to be sad when hanging out with one!
8. Great Pyrenees
Bred to live alongside and protect flocks of sheep (their physical appearance even mimics sheep, to further facilitate the bonding process), great Pyrenees are intensely loyal to their families, whether those families consists of two-footers or four-footers.
Great Pyrenees are not only loyal and gentle, they’re fiercely protective of their pack. This protective nature, combined with their gigantic size means that they can make quite an impression.
9. Shetland Sheepdogs
Like many other loyal breeds, shelties are sensitive and intelligent. They have worked alongside humans in a variety of contexts, including shepherding and guarding crops from thieves.
Most Sheltie owners become lifelong devotees to the breed in only a short time, and love their intelligence and loving nature. However, Shelties do present a few challenges, especially as it relates to their long coat, which sheds heavily.
Obviously, I’m completely biased when it comes to this breed, so I’ll just quote the AKC’s by saying that the typical Rottie is a “loyal, loving, confident guardian.”
Given their intelligence, sensitivity, and sometimes-territorial nature, it should be no surprise that Rottweilers are a particularly loyal breed. They’re loyalty, strength, and at times intimidating demeanor also means they are frequently employed as guard dogs.
Despite these amazing traits, Rotties are headstrong dogs, who will challenge the leadership of their people. Accordingly, they are not very well-suited for first-time dog owners.
The Chihuahua is a legendary lapdog who loves nothing more than his people.
Chihuahuas develop deep bonds with their families, sometimes selecting one person above all to shower with love. While this love fest is endearing to those receiving the kisses and cuddles, it can become a problem if the pooch develops possessive or fearful tendencies. To prevent this negative behavior, opt for early socialization and training with positive reinforcement.
The Chihuahua is relatively healthy and long-lived, but keep up on his toothbrushing, as he is prone to dental disease.
12. Belgian Malinois
This confident canine will happily perform an impressive amount of commands and skills for his master, as he’s happiest by his family’s side.
The Malinois has become a top choice in police and military settings, as he’s a tireless worker devoted to his handler. With this strong working drive comes boundless energy, requiring rigorous daily physical and mental exercise. Due to his workaholic nature, he’s not an ideal breed for beginners.
Grooming a Malinois isn’t too labor-intensive, with only weekly brushing sessions needed to strip away hair. He sheds seasonally, though, so expect to increase these to daily beauty appointments as needed.
13. Yorkshire Terrier
Yorkies are spirited lapdogs with endless spunk and sweetness.
Pint-sized and precocious, the Yorkie is the perfect travel companion and can sometimes be seen accompanying truckers on the road. Yorkies are sometimes seen as a large dog in a tiny dog’s body, as they excel at traditionally “big dog” sports, like rally. They can be iffy with strangers, though, so make sure he meets lots of friendly faces early on to prevent aggression.
14. Doberman Pinscher
One of the most beautiful dog breeds around, the Doberman was first developed as a protector, and the breed is still hard at work today, putting life and limb on the line for loved ones if duty calls. A fearless friend who adores his family, the Doberman should always be kept in the home where he’s happiest.
Because of the breed’s intelligence and energy, Dobermans are best suited for homes where they’ll receive daily exercise and plenty of stimulation. Also, be sure to note that Dobies are very sensitive pups, who need firm, but gentle leadership to feel their best.
15. Staffordshire Bull Terrier
Clownish canines with lowrider profiles, Staffordshire bull terriers live to love their favorite people. They’re protective of house and home and deeply loyal to those they bond closest with, and they often shadow you from room to room. They do have a pretty strong prey drive, as well as a natural aloofness to strange people and dogs, so opt for early training and never trust him off-leash in unsecured areas.
While built low to the ground, Staffies are exceptionally strong and muscular, making them pretty impressive four-legged athletes. Daily exercise is recommended through walking and backyard play.
The Beauceron is a French farm dog breed who absolutely adores family and flock alike. Also used in police and military work today, the breed is relatively unknown stateside but beloved in breed circles for its work ethic and loyalty.
Beaucerons make strong, energetic fur friends, so prepare for daily physical and mental workouts. Their natural athleticism helps them to excel in canine sports, including Schutzhund, agility, and competitive herding.
The Beauceron isn’t recommended for newbie dog owners, as they’re known to be overly excitable. Accordingly, ongoing positive training is recommended as well as obedience work to curb nuisance behaviors.
Why Are Some Dogs More Loyal Than Others?
As with any trait, loyalty varies from individual dog to individual dog.
Some breeds have been shaped to form tight bonds with handlers, while other breeds — like the Kuvasz, Maremma sheepdog and other working breeds — have been molded to form attachments to the livestock they protect. This is done over generations to weed out undesirable traits and behaviors, crafting the temperament most often seen today.
Remember that dogs don’t read articles telling them how loyal they are! They all have individual personalities, and many will buck common trends.
You may find that your chow is the most loyal dog you’ve ever had while your Doberman would rather do his own thing and that’s perfectly fine too. All that matters is that you match with the dog who works best for you.
Encouraging Loyalty in any Breed
Just about any dog can display profound loyalty, including every breed or combination thereof. So, let’s discuss some of the things you can do to help foster loyalty in any dog.
A few of the most important tactics and strategies include:
Provide Your Pup with Plenty of Praise
This is not only important during training sessions, but also during the course of day-to-day life. Some spontaneous love and affection can go a long way toward deepening the bond you share with your pet and eliciting the loyalty lurking inside most dogs.
Positive reinforcement training, which focuses on rewarding good behavior rather than punishing bad behavior, is a great training strategy to build loyalty and trust between dog and owner. When your dog associates you with good things, rather than bad scary things, your pup is bound to bond strongly with you.
Spend Lots of Time Bonding with Your Pet
The more time and attention you give most dogs, the more loyal they will tend to be. Be sure to establish proper boundaries, and give your pup some alone time whenever she needs it, but try to incorporate her in as much of your life as possible.
Some cities are much more dog friendly than others. For example, in Austin Texas, you can take your dog just about anywhere – from lunch at a café to the bar. San Francisco, Denver, and San Diego are also pretty pooch-friendly, but there are scads of others.
Try to identify the dog-friendly establishments in your town and frequent them regularly so that your dog can spend quality time with you.
Ensure That Your Dog Gets Lots of Exercise
There’s nothing specific about exercise that will make your pup more loyal, but exercise and mental stimulation go a long way toward bringing out the best in most dogs. However, you’ll need to keep your dog’s safety and health in mind when doing so.
For example, familiarize yourself with the appropriate amount of exercise for your dog. This varies by breed, as you don’t want to force short-faced breeds to exercise strenuously, for example. Also, take it easy on young, old, or physically challenged pups.
Getting involved in team challenges, like canicross or bikejoring, is another great way to get exercise while bonding with your dog. Regular training is also a powerful way to strengthen the canine-human bond, so you may want to consider trying agility training or truffle hunting.
Unique training opportunities also give your dog the chance to harness some of the skills connected to your dog’s breed (for example, encouraging retrievers to fetch or herding dogs to, well, herd).
Many dogs are much happier when tasked with a “job,” so think about your dog’s skill set and how you might be able to build on those natural talents. You might even consider shooting for the Canine Good Citizen certification. This kind of training will keep your dog’s mind sharp, it’ll help alleviate boredom, and it will build loyalty between you and your canine.
Hand Feed Your Dog
Some trainers encourage owners to hand-feeding their dog to nurture a close relationship and strengthen the dog-canine bond. This kind of eating intimacy can go a long way to developing trust and loyalty.
Hand-feeding can certainly take a bit of time and it’s not right for all situations, but many owners have found that the connection it fosters is well worth the effort.
Some of the Common Traits of Really Loyal Breeds
Perhaps not surprisingly, many of the most loyal dog breeds feature a similar set of traits and histories. Some of the most noteworthy include:
- Intelligence – Dogs do not need to be intelligent to be loyal, but many of the most intelligent breeds are also among the most loyal and vice versa.
- Protective Instincts – Many loyal breeds have a well-developed protective streak. This may manifest as protective barking at strangers or even placing themselves between you and a perceived threat.
- Sensitivity – Sensitive breeds are often among the most loving and loyal. However, this sensitivity requires that you treat these dogs delicately while still being firm during training. This can be a tricky tight-rope to walk with some of the most sensitive breeds.
- Historically Designed to Work Alongside Humans – Breeders often sought to enhance the loyalty of breeds that were designed to work closely with people, while this trait was not as important for those designed to work on their own. Traditionally, these breeds would include herders, hunting dogs, mushing dogs, and others. This even applies to toy breeds and other lap dogs, for whom “work” consists of sitting on your lap, being cute.
Are you the proud mama or papa of a particularly loyal pup? Tell us all about her in the comments below. Also, be sure to make the case for the loyal breeds that didn’t make our top ten list. This is a discussion without any definitive answers, so maybe you’ll cause us to change our minds.