How to Bring Up a Loyal Dog
Dogs make excellent pets, and are typically loyal and affectionate to their owners. These qualities may be especially important to families with young children, or for anyone looking for an emotionally calm and affectionate pet. If you’re looking to train and raise an especially loyal dog, you’ll need to start by considering the breed you want to buy or adopt—some dog breeds are genetically predisposed to be more loyal than others. From there, you should bring your dog home, and then raise it in a way that encourages trust and affection.
Choosing a Loyal Breed
1. Research breeds of dogs. If you’re looking for a dog whose breed is known to be loyal, talk with local dog breeders or pet-store owners to find out which breeds they view as being the most loyal. Breeds that are commonly considered among the most loyal include: Collies, Boxers, Brittanys, and Labrador Retrievers.
- Since dogs have individual personalities, a dog of any breed can be a loyal, loving companion. However, some breeds are genetically more predisposed to be loyal than others.
- The loyalty and disposition of the dog will be especially important if you have a family, or if there will be young children around the dog.
2. Look for an affectionate breed. Breeds that have an even temperament and are known for their affectionate, devoted nature are more likely to grow into loyal adult dogs. Affectionate breeds will require less rigorous training and should easily develop a trusting, loyal bond with their owners. For an affectionate dog, look into breeds including:
- Newfoundlands. These dogs, although very large, are known to be affectionate, docile, and remarkably loyal to their owners.
- Golden Retrievers. This is a common breed for good reason: Golden Retrievers are even-tempered, loyal, and great with small children.
- Welsh Corgis. These dogs are playful and have sweet personalities, making them a loyal breed.
3. Think carefully about breeds known for excessive aggression. Many breeds of dog have been purposefully bred to strengthen their hunting or fighting abilities, or possess a naturally aggressive nature. Other breeds have been inbred or over-bred to the degree that dogs of these breeds often have common behavioral problems. However, this does not necessarily effect loyalty, as dogs with behavioral issues can still be loyal to the individual owners.
- Aggressive breeds include: Shar Peis, Chihuahuas, Jack Russell Terriers, Giant Schnauzers, Cocker Spaniels, Chow Chows, and Dachshunds.
- Aggression aside, several of these breeds are simply temperamental or difficult to control. Pit bulls can respond aggressively to teasing or tormenting, and other breeds (including Chow Chows) often only bond with a single owner.
- Dog aggression is unrelated to size. Many people are under the misconception that larger dogs are more likely to be aggressive—this is not true. In fact, most of the aggressive breeds are smaller dogs.
4. Watch out for breeds considered difficult to raise. Even if a breed of dog is not specifically aggressive or violent, these dogs may be challenging to raise for other reasons. Some breeds lack affection, while others are bad around children or require large amounts of training and handling. Unless you are well aware of the challenges of raising a difficult breed, opt for an easier type of dog. Difficult breeds include:
- Bullmastiffs are huge dogs that require large amounts of training to control. They also do not get along well with other dogs.
- German Shepherds are a very energetic, intelligent breed, and will need plenty of care and training. If neglected or mistreated, they can become aggressive.
- Akitas are a large breed of dog, who require long walks (at least 30 minutes) daily. The breed also sheds heavily and requires a lot of training, making it a poor choice for inexperienced dog owners.
- Bulldogs suffer from many health problems as a result of their overbreeding. They also usually cannot swim, easily suffer heat exhaustion, and require many hours of training.
5. Don’t assume loyalty, or lack of it. Dogs are creatures with individual personalities, who are not completely behaviorally determined by their genetics or breeding. While individuals of a certain breed may tend to act with or without loyalty, there are many factors outside of breeding that influence a dog’s behavior. Many of those factors have to do with you, the owner.
- Even dogs from breeds often considered aggressive or difficult can be loyal, if you train the dog properly from the start, meet its breed-specific needs (large amounts of exercise or grooming, etc.), and treat it with respect and affection.
Instilling Loyalty from the Start
1. Purchase necessary items before you bring home your dog. Whether you’re adopting an 8-week-old puppy or bringing home an older dog from a result shelter, you need to be prepared before the dog arrives. Visit a local pet-supply store, and ask the clerk what they recommend that you purchase for the type and age of dog you’re bringing home. Plan on purchasing:
- Water bowl, food bowl, and a bag of dog food or puppy food.
- A leash and collar.
- A soft blanket or bed that your dog can claim as their own.
- Stain remover and carpet or tile cleaners.
- Bones and/or synthetic chew toys.
- A dog kennel or cage to keep the animal in when you leave the house.
2. Give your dog time to acclimate to your home. Regardless of a dog’s age, it will be stressed and confused the first time it’s brought into a new place, such as your house or apartment. Rather than giving your dog run of the house immediately, it helps to introduce them to each new room slowly. Walk your dog through the house to give them time to adjust—this will lead them to trust you and grow in loyalty.
- Similarly, if other people or pets live with you, introduce your new dog to them one at a time. This will increase the dog’s trust for, and loyalty to, each family member.
3. Puppy-proof your house. If you’re adopting a puppy, you’ll need to make sure that fragile, valuable, or easily damaged items are out of reach. Decide ahead of time when you’ll feed the puppy—puppies need to be fed three to four times a day, and these meals should come at regular intervals. Finally, show your puppy an outside area where it can go to the bathroom, and give it plenty of positive affection.
- If you already own a dog, you’ll need to give the two dogs—whether puppies or older dogs—time to get familiar with each other. Hold one of the dogs on a leash, and have a friend hold the other dog on a leash. Let the two dogs smell each other, while praising and petting them both. Keep the dogs in a controlled environment, such as a fenced backyard, as they begin to play together.
4. Be patient with dogs that have suffered abuse. If you’re bringing home a dog that has been mistreated or abused, you’ll need to exercise extra patience when bringing the dog home. Help your dog move beyond their abusive past by giving them a private, safe space—a crate or a kennel—that they can retreat to when they please. Avoid putting the dog in stressful situations or playing too aggressively, as the dog may take this as a sign of abuse and become afraid or aggressive.
- Also give the dog plenty of time in a low-stress environment to acclimate to other people in your house or apartment.
5. Develop a regular schedule with your dog. Dogs feel comfortable with routines, and will be more affectionate and loyal towards you if you maintain a daily routine for the dog.
- Feed your dog at regular times. Whether you feed your dog once or twice a day, make sure to do it at the same time daily. For example, you could feed your dog shortly before leaving for work, and again shortly before you eat your own dinner.
- Take your dog for daily walk. This is especially important if you live in an urban area without a large backyard. Walking your dog at a consistent time—say 6:00 in the evening—will help your dog establish a routine, and also keep your dog from experiencing boredom.
Building Lasting Loyalty
1. Form an emotional connection with your dog. This is a crucial step in developing loyalty in your dog: loyalty will develop out of an emotional connection between owner and dog. If you show your dog that you care about it and that it can trust you, the dog will develop a sense of loyalty. Praising your dog, petting it kindly, and giving it treats will all help you endear yourself to your dog.
- Stimulating your dog physically and mentally will strengthen this bond. Play with your dog and walk it often, and train the dog to keep its mind sharp.
2. Train your dog to obey your commands. Obedience training is a crucial step towards developing loyalty in a dog. If your dog views you as the alpha in the social structure and respects you enough to obey commands, they’re more likely to behave well and treat you with loyalty.
- You can take your dog to an obedience-train class, where they will not only learn simple commands (sit, stay, come), but will also be socialized with other dogs and people.
3. Use positive training with your dog. Implement a system such as reward-based training (in which the dog gets a reward or treat for correctly following a command) with your dog. Your dog will become more obedient and will also view you as a source of food and other good things.
- This will help your dog develop trust towards you, which in turn breeds loyalty.
4. Do not unnecessarily punish your dog. While there will be times when it’s appropriate to punish your dog, you must punish it correctly and never with violence or cruelty. Punishments are often ineffective, as your dog may not understand what it’s being punished for and may learn to fear or avoid you.
- If you choose to punish your dog—for example, by taking away its favorite toy after it’s destroyed one of your possessions—make sure to implement this punishment while the dog is in the act of misbehaving. Otherwise, the dog will not understand what it’s being punished for.
- If you excessively discipline your dog to maintain its obedience, it may grow to fear you and treat you with aggression. To train a loyal dog, focus on positive reinforcement.
5. Be loyal to your dog. The best way to ensure that any dog will be loyal to you is to treat your dog with loyalty, love, affection, and respect. Train your dog to obey you, and hold it to the rules that you create. Dogs develop loyalty towards owners who care for them (food, bedding, warmth, etc.) and who protect them, play with them, and pay attention to their needs.
- Dogs are social animals, and appreciate being useful around the house. If you give your dog a “chore” or to do around the house, they’ll fell useful and will also enjoy the positive reinforcement after they’ve completed a task. You can train your dog to bring you the paper or fetch a pair of slippers.