The 20 Most Loyal Dog Breeds

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Humans first domesticated dogs more than 10,000 years ago. Some breeds, such as hunting and herding dogs, have been specially bred for obedience, responsiveness to cues, and other traits strongly associated with loyalty.

Here are 20 different breeds of dogs known for their loyalty. (Keep in mind that nurture plays an important role in a dog's personality, and mixed-breed dogs raised in a loving home are also incredibly loyal and affectionate pets.)

Why Are Dogs So Loyal?

Dogs – like their closest undomesticated genetic relatives, wolves – are pack animals. They tend to trust and cooperate with other members of the pack. Animal researchers believe humans selected specific dogs for increased submissive inclinations in order to minimize conflicts over resources and to ensure safe cohabitation and coworking — so that humans lead and dogs follow.

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Staffordshire Bull Terrier

Mother and daughter in the park
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Also known as the nanny dog, Staffordshire bull terriers, or staffies, are a small in stature, short-haired, British breed. A descendant of terriers and bulldogs, this dog was developed primarily for dog fighting but has also consistently had a reputation as a loyal family pet, being particularly loyal to children. It is important that these dogs receive early socialization with other pets, as their history as fighters gives them a tendency to not back down when challenged.

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Shiba Inu

Pet Lover. Girl Plays With The Shiba Inu. Teaching And Training Dogs To Greet By Shake Hands.
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Shiba Inus, commonly called Shibas, are an ancient breed of dog in Japan, hunting across rugged mountains thousands of years ago. They arrived in the United States along with a Japanese military family in the 1950s, after nearly going extinct during WWII. The story of one particularly loyal Shiba, named Mari, was made into a movie following an earthquake in Japan in 2004. Mari moved her three puppies to safety after their owner's house collapsed and successfully woke the elderly owner up, allowing him to be rescued. A helicopter airlifted the owner, and when he was able to return two weeks later, Mari and her puppies were waiting for him.

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Portrait Of Beagle Carrying Tennis Ball On Mouth On Grassy Field Against Sky
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Beagles are the most popular hounds among American pet owners, known for their merry temperament and loyalty. The modern breed was developed in 19th century England as a scent hound, intelligent and with superior tracking instincts. These chipper dogs historically worked with human hunters as a team, and as a result are thought to bond closely with their owner.

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Saint Bernard

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Saint Bernards, commonly referred to as gentle giants, are notoriously patient, kind, and watchful around children. Hundreds of years ago, monks used this powerful and loyal breed to locate and rescue travelers buried in avalanches in the Swiss Alps. The dogs traversed snow drifts dozens of feet deep, found stranded people, and returned to monasteries to guide monks to the location of those missing.

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Great Pyrenees

Pyrenean mountain dog lying down by free range golden comet and black star hens on organic farm
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These large, working mountain dogs were historically bred to deter wolves and other predators from harming livestock. As a result, they are known for being somewhat territorial as well as protective of their families, although socialization with other dogs helps ensure a Great Pyrenees remains friendly with other dogs. These dogs have a double coat consisting of an outer, waterproof layer as well as softer, shorter, inner layer, which will shed significantly each spring.

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Border Collie

Close-Up Portrait Of Border Collie Carrying Stick In Mouth On Field Against Sky
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Dog breeders developed border collies around 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 ample exercise and stimulating play to be content, running miles a day when at work herding sheep or other livestock. Working dogs are known for having an inherent desire to please their owner, and border collies are no exception, typically making them loyal companions.

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Bernese Mountain Dog

A Regal Bernese Mountain Dog Sits in the Sun
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Also known as berners, this large Swiss working breed is characterized as affectionate and eager to please, often lavishing the bulk of its attention on one special person, according to the American Kennel Club. These intelligent dogs are typically easy to train and do not respond well to harsh training methods. They do not have a particularly long life expectancy, living between 7 and 10 years on average.

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Australian Cattle Dog

Guard Dog
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Dog breeders developed Australian cattle dogs to herd cattle across long distances of rough terrain. Also called red or blue heelers depending on their coat color, these dogs are related to Australian wild dogs called dingos. As they herd by biting, early training is important to make sure this breed doesn't nip. Cattle dogs need a high level of physical activity and are considered particularly loyal to their owners.

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Hunting and brittany pup
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Developed in the Brittany province of France between the 17th and 19th centuries, Brittany dogs historically worked with hunters as gun dogs retrieving primarily birds. Obedient, agile, and excitable, these dogs are best for people with active, outdoor, lifestyles as well as people looking for a loyal hunting partner. Some breeders differentiate between American and French Brittanys, with the former being larger in size.

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Boxer dog
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Used as a hunting dog for wild boar, bear, and deer for centuries, boxers originated in Germany and have large, powerful jaws, and a smooth, tight-fitting coat. Patient and protective, boxers are also highly playful and energetic, and should not be allowed to run free in public spaces, given their history hunting wild game. Boxers have often ranked in the top ten list of most popular dogs in the United States, and are usually easy to train with consistent positive reinforcement.

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German Shepherd

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German shepherds are the second most popular breed of dog in the United States according to the American Kennel Club, known for their intelligence, bravery, loyalty, and confidence. Amongst breeders, this dog is considered somewhat aloof, taking a while to form friendships with new people. Their intelligence, coupled with their strength, makes them a common choice for search and rescue as well as guard dogs.

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Young Black Woman Walking Dogs with Smartphone
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Also known as wiener, badger, and sausage dogs, German breeders combined elements of English, French, and German hounds and terriers to develop Dachshunds, primarily to hunt game like badgers, and, in packs, even larger animals like wild boar. These short-legged and long-bodied dogs are curious and vigilant, and known for being good watch dogs, though often stubborn, as they were bred to be independent hunters of dangerous prey.

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Irish Wolfhound

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Irish wolfhounds are sight hounds, meaning they hunt via sight and speed — as opposed to scent hounds like beagles that hunt using scent and endurance. Originally developed in Ireland, these large, dignified dogs are considered fine guard dogs, as their imposing presence alone is often enough to deter most unfamiliar people. These dogs are loyal and calm, but also take a significant amount of work, as they are galloping hounds.

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Yorkshire Terrier

Woman with a puppy
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Yorkies are compact, toy-sized terriers with floor-length silky coats, developed in Britain in the 19th century. Brave and protective, these terriers are intelligent and typically easy to train, though they're also known as stubborn and full of personality. These small dogs are low allergen, with a coat closer to human hair than typical dog fur, making them a favorite for dog lovers living in small spaces or with allergies.

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Golden Retriever

Golden retriever standing with leash in mouth looking at woman lying on sofa
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Golden retrievers are famous for their thick, golden coats and are muscular, medium-sized dogs that breeders in Scotland developed to retrieve ducks and game birds during hunting expeditions. These dogs have a large, feathery tail and are outgoing, trusting, and easy-to-please family pets. Golden retrievers are popular around the world and enjoy ample play and exercise.

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Beautiful girl with a beautiful dog
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Originating from the mountains of Northern Japan, Akitas are muscular, double-coated dogs famous for their protection of families and loyalty to their owners. Probably the most famous Akita is Hachikō, who was so loyal to his owner, a Japanese agricultural scientist, he returned to wait for him at the same place every day for nine years after his owner's sudden death, until Hachikō also passed away.

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Side View Portrait Of Newfoundland Dog In Sea Against Sky
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Also known as newfies, Newfoundland dogs are one of the largest breeds of dogs in the world, with males reaching up to 150 pounds. A striking and powerful working dog, newfies also have a reputation as being patient, loyal, and great with children, having a gentle and easily trainable temperament. One famous Newfoundland, Gander, traveled to Hong Kong with a battalion of Canadian troops and saved many of them in a grenade attack, sacrificing himself by picking up a grenade and carrying it away from the soldiers.

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American Bulldog

best friends
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A descendent of the English bulldog, American bulldogs developed from working dogs brought with immigrants to guard farms and sometimes hunt and kill wild game, including feral pigs. Considered loyal and self-confident, bulldogs should be socialized early to make sure they aren't overly protective around strangers or unfamiliar dogs.

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Great Dane

B&W Great Dane dog laying on man's lap and sofa
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Also known as German mastiffs, Great Danes descend from hunting dogs used in the Middle Ages. One of the largest breeds in the world, these dogs are friendly, patient, dependable, and considered good watch dogs given their size alone, with males weighing up to 180 pounds. Despite their imposing size, these dogs are good-natured and easy to train, enjoying time with other pets and people.

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Traveling Companion
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Also referred to as the butterfly dog because of the shape formed by the long hair extending from the edges of its large, wing-shaped ears, the papillon is a toy spaniel known for being alert and friendly, as well as hardier than its slight appearance might suggest. These dogs love to play, and become quite attached to their owners.

Millions of pets (including many purebreds) are available to be adopted from shelters. We always recommend adoption as a first choice. If you've decided to buy a pet from a breeder, be sure to choose a responsible breeder, and always avoid puppy mills.

View Article Sources
  1. Range, Friederike et al. "Wolves Lead and Dogs Follow, but They Both Cooperate With Humans." Scientific Reports, vol. 9, no. 1, 2019, doi:10.1038/s41598-019-40468-y