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Dogs have a lot of admirable traits that humans can learn from. They can be tireless and persistent in pursuit of a goal, and they can work together very well with other dogs whether they’re pulling a sled, herding sheep, or hunting prey.

They are incredible listeners, although they listen to a lot more than just words. Every moment, your dog is reading your energy and your body language and reacting appropriately, whether you know it or not.

However, there is one trait that is practically synonymous with being a dog, and it’s also one of the greatest abilities they can teach us to have.

You’ve probably already guessed the answer: Loyalty. A dog will be loyal and faithful to her humans and almost nothing can break that bond. Even a dog that’s been abused will still come back to its owner. That’s how strong a dog’s loyalty can be.

Now cynical people would say, “Dogs are only loyal because you feed them,” But that’s not what’s really going on at all. It is true that dogs will take more quickly to strangers who give them treats, but the relationship between a dog and, for want of a better word, his owner goes way beyond anything as trivial as the dog seeing the person as a meal ticket.

And dogs will show loyalty to more than humans or other canines. Dogs have formed close bonds with all kinds of animals, including cats, owls, hamsters, orangutans, tigers, and even elephants. Needless to say, dogs in a pack are fiercely loyal to each other.

That’s part of what’s behind it. Dogs are pack animals, but they are capable of accepting animals of different species as part of their pack, and that includes us. They have an instinctual need to belong to a group. Once they are part of that group, they will devote all of their loyalty to it.

There’s more going on though and, in addition to a dog’s natural affinity for groups, there’s something else interesting that happens between them and humans. When a dog and their human look into each other’s eyes, both of them experience an increase in the hormone called oxytocin. This same hormone is involved in mother-child bonding during nursing and in the formation of romantic bonds between two humans. But its levels can also increase just by looking in a good friend’s eyes — or in the eyes of our four-footed best friends.

Two other interesting things about this phenomenon is that in a dog’s case the effect is enhanced when they smell a human giving off oxytocin, which is something their species can do; and that despite being dogs’ ancestors, wolves do not show any increase in oxytocin — although they are also not inclined to make eye contact with humans.

I have always had an affinity for all animals, even from before I can remember, but the thing I constantly remind myself is that the human-canine relationship is unique. And, when you really think about it, it’s pretty remarkable as well. We are two species of predators that have created such a strong bond that we live together exactly as if we were family, we are able to communicate despite not speaking the same languages, and the degree of trust between a person and their dog can be absolute.

A dog’s loyalty is something we should keep in mind when it comes to our friends and family because our dogs are already showing us how to have the best relationships possible with both. Be loyal and be trusting. Like your dog, always be there for the ones you care about.

And, beyond that, there’s another powerful reminder in a dog’s loyalty. If they can have such a connection with beings from another species, then why can we not show the same for all of the other members of our own species? I know that this is what they would call a “tall order,” but it’s still an idea worth thinking about, isn’t it? 

At the very least, it’s just more proof that dogs have it all figured out, and we’re the ones who have to learn from them.

Stay calm, and be loyal to the ones you love!

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