Ever here the story about the dog that went to his master's grave every day, and sat there from dawn to dark? Remember Lassie? OK, so not everybody's dog will be so loyal or smart, that they can rescue you from a precarious situation every week like Lassie, but loyalty does come naturally for most dogs.
There's a reason dogs are “man's best friend”: they want to be! Dogs are highly social pack animals that are naturally predisposed to bonding to a leader, and being part of your “pack” or family. While your dog may not ever have the opportunity to rescue you from a well or drag you from a burning building, teaching your dog to be loyal will make him a wonderful, loving pet and make it easier to train a host of other behaviors. It is also important for your dog's well being and social health, as dogs really need and want a leader and a pack to be loyal to.
Teaching your dog to be loyal to your family, his pack, and recognize you as a leader is something your dog is highly motivated to do. So, training him to be loyal to you and your household members is usually fairly easy, it just takes time to develop the relationship. Dogs need social structure; they are social pack animals and they recognize a hierarchical social structure with a leader, they are programmed that way. It is your job as your dog's owner to fulfill that role and make him feel secure as a pack member. When a dog feels like he is part of your pack and you are his leader, he will be the most loyal friend you could imagine. Teaching your dog to behave, do tricks, and fit into your family will be the natural result of a loyal dog that feels like he belongs to his “pack”.
The best way to start developing loyalty is with a puppy, but even older dogs that may be acquired from difficult situations, such as rescue or shelter dogs, can develop loyalty. It just takes a little extra patience and understanding to integrate them into your family, and provide them the security they crave. While a puppy may naturally bond with you and recognize you as his leader in a few weeks, an older dog may take a few months to settle in and be a loyal household member. Providing your dog with time, attention, and affection and being a leader that gives your dog direction and purpose, will establish long-lasting loyalty in your canine companion.