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Why Are Dogs So Loyal to Humans? | Pupford

September 27th, 2023

Filed under Pet Parenting

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Dogs are (hu)man’s best friend. I’m sure you’ve heard that a few times over your lifetime.

But there’s a reason why that saying has held true through all the years – because it’s true. Dogs have been bonded with humans for tens of thousands of years according to historians.

If you’re reading this with a dog at your feet or with their eyes on you, wondering what you did to deserve your dog getting so attached to you, this article is for you.

Today we’re going to dive into why the dynamic duo of dog and human is so, well, dynamic! In doing so, we’ll tackle FAQs like:

  • Are dogs really loyal to humans?
  • Why are dogs so loyal?
  • Are some dog breeds more loyal than others?
  • Can dogs develop loyalty over time?

Along the way, we’ll provide some tips for keeping the precious relationship between you and your dog happy and healthy!


dog getting pet by owner

If you came into this with any skepticism on whether or not dogs are ACTUALLY loyal to humans, it’s time to put that to bed.

Because YES dogs really are loyal to us!

When your dog excitedly greets you when you come home, wants to be snuggled up near you while you watch a movie, or sets up camp under your desk while you work from home – those are absolutely your dog showing their loyalty and affection to you.

If you haven’t yet, start paying attention to your dog’s behavior when they’re with you. Soon you’ll start to see just how many of their actions scream “You’re my favorite person!”


A dog’s loyalty is one of the qualities that make them such a great pet. But dogs haven’t always been household pets, so how did their loyalty develop?

pup parent hugging their dog

There are a few theories:

  • We’re the ones that give them food

Our dogs know that we’re the ones providing them food, shelter, comfort, etc. – and they’re grateful!

Even before the domestic dogs of today, wolves were taken in by humans and used for protection while hunting in exchange for food and shelter.

That pattern stuck. Throughout history, there have been constant examples of people providing for dogs in exchange for work. Over time, dogs developed a loyalty towards those who kept them safe and their bellies full. Makes sense!

Eventually, we realized that their companionship was just as valuable – enter: the domestic dogs we know and love today.

  • Dogs are naturally pack animals

While many professionals have dispelled the “alpha dog” portion of the pack theory, it is true that dogs thrive in family group settings.  

When we bring a dog into our home, they don’t become loyal to us because they think we’re their “alpha” or leader, but rather they consider the people and animals in their home to be their family group (or pack).

Because of how they view their relationship with us, dogs will trust us to provide for them. When we fulfill that duty, it creates a sense of belonging for them and their loyalty develops.

There have been a couple of interesting studies that showed how canine brains work in terms of their attachment to humans:

  • A ScienceDirect study showed that when dogs were presented with scents from their human, a stranger, and food, their brains had the strongest reactions when they were sniffing their human’s scent.
  • Another study had a staged interaction between a dog’s human and someone who was a stranger to the dog. The stranger would act rudely to the dog’s human. Then, the dog was given the opportunity to interact with the pair – and many purposely chose to not interact with the “rude” stranger.
  • And MedicalNewsToday reported about a study that concluded that “the relationship between dogs and their guardians is very similar to the bond between young kids and their parents,” with similarities like:
    • The dogs were much more confident in interacting with people when their caregiver was present
    • The dogs were less eager to work for food when their caregivers were not present, showing a great impact on their level of motivation.

If choosing us over food and giving the cold shoulder to people who wrong us doesn’t tell us dogs are loyal, I don’t know what would!


woman hugging their dog

While some people may have different visions of “the loyal dog” than others, there isn’t really a difference in loyalty from breed to breed. It’s more about the individual dog, their personality, and how they show it.

Dogs may show their loyalty by favoring:

  • The person who feeds them most often
  • The person who primarily trains them via positive reinforcement (AKA treats!) 
  • Anyone who walks them, plays with them or otherwise has a good time with them


There’s a common misconception that a dog has to be with you from puppyhood in order to have a strong bond based on loyalty.

But there’s also another misconception that dogs who get adopted in adulthood love you unconditionally because you brought them out of an unfavorable situation.

Neither is entirely true.

Your dog is definitely happy and grateful to be part of your family and cared for, but the stage of their life at which that happens doesn’t really have an impact on how their loyalty develops.

Loyalty is really just a part of your dog’s instinctive behavior, and you can bring it out by providing daily care, playing games with them, offering mental enrichment, training with treats, and overall filling their lives with enjoyable things.

When it comes to dogs and loyalty, we can really sum it up in one sentence: Love and care for them and they will do the same in return!


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