Many of you, since your first pup to your newest canine companion have seen dogs be instantly amicable toward humans without having to earn their love or respect in most cases.
However, I’m sure you’ve also stopped to wonder at some point as to why are dogs so loyal from the get go?
Well, the main reason tends to be tied to genetics.
It was a behavior ingrained into domesticated wolves which has since been passed down from one generation to another, constantly being hammered down until it simply became the norm.
They were trained to see us as friends and will always have a high opinion of us.
In essence, we’re considered part of their pack, but not in the same sense as their ancestors would see it.
We’re more their friends who are in a symbiotic relationship with one another. The first wolf was tamed through the use of food after all, and some dogs stay loyal precisely for that, so genetics aren’t the only reason.
But what else affects this level of loyalty and what exactly does loyalty mean? Well, let’s find out, shall we?
The Foundation Of A Dog’s Loyalty
As stated above, genetics are really the one main reason why our puppers are so loyal to us humans in the first place.
This hereditary, genetics based loyalty was present well over 10000 years ago and has only evolved and improved over time to the form that we see it in today.
To prove just how potent a dog’s loyalty is at a base level, the researchers at Kyoto University put it to the test through their Companion Animal Mind Project, or CAMP.
They tested to see how the dog would react to different strangers based on said stranger’s interaction with their owner, a negative, a neutral, and a positive one.
It was discovered that dogs do indeed possess a base level of protective instinct toward their owners when put to interact with the strangers in question.
All of them would react more aggressively toward the stranger who was negative to their pet parent.
Meanwhile, they acted friendlier toward the ones who were positive or didn’t interact with the owner at all.
This, in turn, proved the idea of the existence of base loyalty between a man and his furry best friend.
Can Dogs Become More Loyal?
While the study above did prove that dogs are loyal at a base level, there are a few other ways in which you can get your dog to become more loyal to you.
Thankfully, they’re part of the common things one already does as a dog owner.
Using Food To Raise Loyalty Up
Food, throughout history, has always been the best way of making friends, forging alliances and, most importantly, maintaining loyalty, for dogs and people alike.
Food was the triggering factor for domesticating wolves and getting us to this point, and will continue to do so in the future.
Its role has remained about the same, but has modernized a little.
The main reason why food keeps a dog loyal to you is because you’ve become the provider of it.
Dogs don’t exactly hunt in large packs now to scour for sustenance nowadays, you and your family are now your dog’s pack, and you are the “alpha” who provides said food.
As long as that’s the case, you’ll have an incredibly loyal pooch in your hands.
Its other use is as a training tool, treats in particular, to make a dog more obedient, and loyal, through positive reinforcement.
A word of caution, though, food can also be used by strangers on your dog to gain his loyalty and risk him not alerting you of potential trespassers.
To counter that, I advise consulting with a dog trainer on learning how to teach your dog to reject food from strangers. It can be a literal lifesaver.
A Warm Home Is Key To A Warm Heart
The second reason behind a dog’s loyalty is the access to shelter.
A dog will stay loyal to the person who provides him with a place where he can get out of the rain and feel warm, safe, and welcomed.
This is what you already provide to him by default, but to your furry friend, it’s seen as one of the biggest acts of kindness which is why he grows so fond of you so quickly when you get him.
Loyalty From Love
The final way in which your canine companion grows more loyal to you is through acts of love and affection.
Again, it may not seem like much to us when we pet our dogs every time we come back home from work, take them out for a walk or cuddle up with them when they’re looking stressed or anxious, but these small interactions mean the world to them.
And it’s these very actions that keep man’s best friend loyal to us and make the dog more attached to us, not as their owner, but as their friend.
Is There Such A Thing As Too Much Loyalty?
Of course there is, dogs can indeed be too loyal and it’s never for your or their benefit in the long run.
It can get to the point where they lose their independence and can barely function when you or another person they’re attached to isn’t around for a certain amount of time.
This is what is known as separation anxiety and can manifest itself in varying severity, but almost always it’ll cause your dog to panic and may make him feel neglected.
While this may drop his loyalty to a degree, the real issue here is that the more severe cases will start tearing into anything that you spend a lot of time around.
This usually boils down to it being your shoes, slippers or the furniture, depending on what they can get their paws on.
You’ll need to teach him a little bit of independence and self-sufficiency which can be done during the initial behavior training, but can be done later on too if the problem arises regardless.
Just make sure to phone up a professional trainer to help you learn the necessary steps to facilitate said independence.
Another thing that may spawn from too much loyalty is possessiveness, also known as your dog acting a bit too overprotective toward you.
This normally healthy behavior can grow to the point where he starts growling at your friends and family members which is where it hits the unhealthy threshold.
Another form of behavior that you don’t want to set in too hard as it may be difficult to root out, though it too is fixable through training.
What Loyalty Means For Dogs And Dog Owners
The opinion on what loyalty is can be a little bit divisive as people attribute it to different traits, none of which are particularly wrong, at least not fully.
“Loyalty Is About Being Protective”
One group of people will think loyalty is measured in how protective your dog is of you around strangers and how ready he is to act if there’s any danger present.
“Loyalty Is About Being There For Your Owner”
Another believes love is the true measure of loyalty and it’s shown by how much your dog loves cuddling up to you and being in your presence.
“Loyalty Is About Being Obedient”
Finally, the third one believes that your dog’s general obedience and the willingness to follow up on commands is an exceptional measure of loyalty.
Loyalty Is All 3 Of The Aspects Together
All of these can measure loyalty to a degree, but a true sense of loyalty is built on a symbiotic relationship, otherwise you’re just expecting a robot rather than a living being.
The three mentioned above do provide a symbiotic link that people often fail to focus on as there are expectations there of you as well.
You Need To Give Back Too
If your dog is going to love you, you’re going to need to love him back.
If he’s going to protect you, you need to be there to take care of him when a health issue pops up and provide for him.
And, if he’s going to listen to your commands and rules, then you’ll need to ensure that they’re consistent.
However, you’ll also need to follow through with the rules you’ve set, no matter how good or bad your day is at the time.
Are There Any Dog Breeds In Particular Who Are More Loyal Than Others?
There are some exceptionally loyal dogs out there like the classic Labrador Retriever, the St. Bernard, the French Bulldog and the like.
However, that’s a matter of little significance as it only really alters the loyalty’s starting point.
Some other breeds may be a bit more stubborn and unruly at the start, but if you treat them well, they’ll treat you well back in every possible aspect.
It’s all they can give you, after all.
So, why are dogs so loyal to us humans? The answer isn’t really all that simple as many people have different opinions on what constitutes as loyalty.
However, it can be boiled down to the amount of mutual care, love, and respect humans and dogs have for one another.
As Psychologist Clive Wynne put it in his book Dog Is Love: Why and How Your Dog Loves You,
“I know that sometimes Xephos just wants dinner. But I’m pretty convinced that that’s not the whole picture. She really does feel a bond, a connection toward me that’s as real as any other connection that any other individual in my life might feel toward me.”
It’s not just about the food, it’s about the bond shared between two living beings that’s as strong as one formed between humans.
The key part to remember is that it’s not meant to be a one-sided thing.
It’s meant to be a symbiosis where we give something to one another and get something back in return, something positive that both we as pet parents need as well as our dogs.
Believe me when I say that it’s not hard to keep it up as you already provide him with all of it by default.
Just make sure to not mistreat him as loyalty lost can be tough to earn back, though, I trust that you’re not that kind of person.
Until next time, pet parents.
- German Shepherd Alaskan Malamute Mix — Loyalty And Devotion
- A Loyal Dog Checks Up On Her Little Human Every Night
- 16 Vizsla Mixes: Meet Loyal And Sporting Mixed Dog Breeds
- Corgi Lab Mix – The Most Loyal Crossbreed, Or A Bad Choice?
•  Hitomi C., Hika K., Yusuke H., James R. A., Kazuo F. (2015), Dogs avoid people who behave negatively to their owner, DOI
•  Clive D. L. W. (2019), Dog Is Love: Why and How Your Dog Loves You.