Quick — which breed of dog do you think is the most loyal? I asked the Internet this question, via Google, and the number one choice was… the German shepherd.
And it was the rough collie. And Great Pyrenees, Sheltie, and Akita. Maybe if I searched a little wider, I’d find the actual answer, so I asked for the top 10 most loyal dog breeds. I found six lists with 22 different breeds of dogs total, with only the German shepherd, Brittany, and Kuvasz mentioned on almost every list. The German shepherd was the only breed to make every list, but the breed wasn’t always in the top five, so how could it be the most loyal?
Even though the Internet couldn’t decide, I know my answer for the most loyal dog breed of all. Do you have your answer yet? Good. Here’s mine…
The most loyal breed of dog? It’s a trick question.
The myth of the loyal breed
Loyalty is not a trait of the breed, it’s the trait of a dog, or one of the traits, that has made all dogs the one animal with the closest bond to human beings. And it’s a trait that only comes out when the humans earn it.
If you earn your dog’s trust, then it doesn’t matter what breed your dog is, or how old it is, or anything else. That particular dog will be the most loyal dog, to you, its Pack Leader. Likewise, if you don’t earn a dog’s trust by being its leader, then it doesn’t matter whether the breed normally shows up in the top ten most loyal breeds lists. That dog will not be loyal to you.
My fulfillment formula is Exercise, Discipline, Affection, but there’s a deeper level to it. By exercising a dog via the walk, we teach it to trust us. By disciplining a dog through giving rules, boundaries, and limitations, we teach it to respect us. It is only when we have trust and respect that giving affection to a dog will gain its loyalty. Without the first two elements, we cannot earn the third.
Trust comes first
If you don’t believe me, consider experiences when you’ve tried to show affection to a strange dog by petting it. If the dog doesn’t trust you, it may growl or run away. If it doesn’t respect you, it may jump on you. In any case, there’s no reason that the strange dog is going to show you instant loyalty.
I’ve heard the story many times from people who’ve rescued a dog only to have the dog want to have nothing to do with them at first, to the point that the people began to reconsider their decision. They try to win the dog over with affection, offering treats, trying to pet it, and nothing seems to work.
But dogs are smart in this way: they do not trust affection that they know they haven’t earned. They may take that cookie from your hand, but it’s only because, hey, free cookie. But the instant you try to get something more from them, they’re gone.
It’s self-protection, and if you want to see it in its purest form, try feeding peanuts to a squirrel. That squirrel will keep coming back and taking your peanuts, but if you try to pet the squirrel… well, let’s just say: Don’t try to pet a squirrel, especially if you haven’t had your rabies shots!
Loyalty is earned
You haven’t earned any animal’s loyalty — especially not a dog’s — until they will give you affection without expectation of a reward. And, as I mentioned above, in the case of a dog, you have get them to trust and respect you first. By proving yourself as the Pack Leader, you provide protection and direction. The former creates trust: “I am safe with you”. The latter creates respect: “You know what to do.”
When you bring a new dog into the pack, you cannot buy their loyalty. Loyalty can only be earned, and you can only earn it by quickly teaching that dog their place in the pack by giving them rules, boundaries, and limitations. Once you’ve done that, you’ll find yourself with the most loyal dog in the world, regardless of breed.