Humans first domesticated dogs more than 10,000 years ago. Some breeds, such as hunting and herding dogs, were specifically bred for obedience, responsiveness to cues, and other traits strongly linked to loyalty.
Here are 20 different dog breeds that are known for their loyalty. (Remember, grooming is important part of a dog’s personality, and mixed breed dogs raised in loving homes are also incredibly loyal and loving pets.)
Why are dogs so loyal?
Dogs – like their closest unfattened genetic relatives, wolves – are pack animals. They tend to trust and cooperate with other pack members. Animal researchers believe that humans have chosen certain dogs because of increased submissive tendencies in order to minimize conflict over resources and ensure safe coexistence and coworking – so that humans lead and dogs follow.
Staffordshire bull terrier
Staffordshire Bull Terriers or Staffies, also known as the Nanny Dog, are a small, short-haired British breed. A descendant of terriers and bulldogs, this dog was primarily developed for dogfighting, but it also has a consistent reputation as a loyal family pet, especially loyal to children. It is important that these dogs are socialized with other pets early on, as their history as fighters means they have a tendency not to give in to challenges.
Shiba Inus, commonly called Shibas, is an ancient breed of dog in Japan that hunted over rugged mountains thousands of years ago. They came to the United States with a Japanese military family in the 1950s after they nearly died out during World War II. The story of a particularly loyal Shiba named Mari was made into a film after an earthquake in Japan in 2004. Mari brought her three pups to safety after their owner’s house collapsed and successfully woke the older owner up so he could be rescued. A helicopter took the owner in the air, and when he was able to return two weeks later, Mari and her pups were waiting for him.
Beagles are the most popular hunting dogs among American pet owners, known for their cheerful temperament and loyalty. The modern breed was developed as a scented dog in 19th century England, intelligent and with superior tracking instincts. These chipper dogs have worked as a team with human hunters in the past and are therefore intended to be closely associated with their owner.
St. Bernard dogs, commonly referred to as gentle giants, are notoriously patient, kind, and vigilant with children. Hundreds of years ago, monks used this powerful and loyal race to locate and rescue travelers buried by avalanches in the Swiss Alps. The dogs crossed snowdrifts tens of meters deep, found stranded people and returned to monasteries to lead monks to the places of the missing.
These large, working mountain dogs were bred in the past to deter wolves and other predators from harming livestock. As a result, they are known for being somewhat territorial and for protecting their families, although socializing with other dogs helps keep the Pyrenees friendly with other dogs. These dogs have a double coat made up of an outer, waterproof layer plus a softer, shorter inner layer that sheds significantly each spring.
Dog breeders developed Border Collies on the border (hence the name) between Scotland and England towards the end of the 19th century. Known as one of the most intelligent breeds, Collies need a lot of exercise and stimulating play to be satisfied. They walk for miles every day when they tend sheep or other livestock. Working dogs are known to please their owner, and border collies are no exception, usually making them loyal companions.
Bernese Mountain Dog
Also known as the Bernese, this great Swiss working breed is characterized as affectionate and eager, often devoting the majority of their attention to a special person, according to the American Kennel Club. These intelligent dogs are usually easy to train and do not respond well to harsh training methods. They do not have a particularly long life expectancy and live on average between 7 and 10 years.
Australian cattle dog
Dog breeders developed Australian cattle dogs to herd cattle over long distances in rough terrain. These dogs are also called red or blue heelers, depending on their coat color, and are related to Australian wild dogs called dingoes. As they guard by biting, early training is important to make sure this breed does not choke. Cattle dogs need a high level of physical activity and are considered particularly loyal to their owners.
The Brittany dogs were developed in the French province of Brittany between the 17th and 19th centuries, and historically they worked with hunters as hunting dogs, mainly retrieving birds. Obedient, agile, and excited, these dogs are best for those with an active, outdoor lifestyle, as well as those looking for a loyal hunting partner. Some breeders differentiate between American and French Brittany, the former being larger.
Boxers, which have been used as hunting dogs for wild boars, bears and deer for centuries, come from Germany and have large, strong jaws and a smooth, close-fitting coat. Boxers are patient and protective, are also very playful and energetic and, because of their history, shouldn’t run around in public places when hunting game. Boxers are consistently placed in the top ten list of the most popular dogs in the United States and are usually easy to train with consistent positive reinforcement.
German shepherd dog
German Shepherds are the second most popular dog breed in the United States, known for their intelligence, courage, loyalty, and self-confidence, according to the American Kennel Club. This dog is considered a bit aloof among breeders and takes a while to make friends with new people. Their intelligence, coupled with their strength, makes them a common choice for search and rescue dogs as well as guard dogs.
Also known as Viennese, badgers, and sausage dogs, German breeders combined elements of English, French, and German dogs and terriers to develop dachshunds, primarily to hunt game like badgers, and in packs even larger animals like wild boar. Inquisitive and vigilant, these short-legged and long-bodied dogs are known to be good watch dogs, albeit often stubborn, as they were bred to be independent hunters of dangerous prey.
Irish Wolfhounds are guide dogs, which means they hunt by sight and speed – as opposed to scented dogs like Beagles, who hunt with smell and perseverance. Originally developed in Ireland, these large, dignified dogs are considered fine watch dogs, as their imposing presence is often enough to scare away most of the unfamiliar people. These dogs are loyal and calm, but also require a lot of work because they are galloping dogs.
Yorkies are compact, toy-sized terriers with floor-length silky fur that were developed in the UK in the 19th century. These brave and protective terriers are intelligent and usually easy to train, although they are also known to be stubborn and full of personality. These small dogs are low in allergens, with fur that is closer to human hair than typical dog fur, which makes them a favorite for dog lovers who live in a small space or have allergies.
Famous for their thick, golden fur, golden retrievers are muscular, medium-sized dogs that breeders in Scotland developed to find ducks and wild birds during hunting expeditions. These dogs have large, feathery tails and are outgoing, trusting, and friendly family pets. Golden Retrievers are popular all over the world and enjoy lots of play and exercise.
Hailing from the mountains of Northern Japan, Akitas are muscular, double-coat dogs known for their family protection and loyalty to their owners. Probably the most famous Akita is Hachikō, who was so loyal to his owner, a Japanese agronomist, that after the sudden death of his owner, he waited in the same place every day for nine years until Hachikō also died.
Newfoundland dogs, also known as Newfies, are one of the largest breeds of dogs in the world, with males reaching up to 150 pounds. A showy and powerful working dog, newbies also have a reputation for being patient, loyal, and great with children, and having a gentle and easy-to-train temperament. A famous Newfoundland dog, Gander, traveled to Hong Kong with a battalion of Canadian troops and saved many of them from a grenade attack by sacrificing himself by picking up a grenade and carrying the soldier away.
Descended from the English bulldog, American bulldogs evolved from working dogs brought with immigrants to guard farms and sometimes to hunt and kill wildlife, including wild boar. Bulldogs are considered loyal and confident and should be socialized early to ensure they are not overly protective of strangers or unfamiliar dogs.
Great Danes, also known as Great Danes, are descended from hunting dogs that were used in the Middle Ages. As one of the largest breeds in the world, these dogs are friendly, patient, reliable, and are considered good guard dogs for their size alone, with males weighing up to 180 pounds. Despite their imposing size, these dogs are good-natured and easy to train, and enjoy spending time with other pets and people.
The Papillon is also known as the butterfly dog because of its shape that extends from the edges of its large, wing-shaped ears. He’s a toy spaniel known for being vigilant, kind, and more resilient than his light-hearted looks might suggest. These dogs love to play and feel very attached to their owners.