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Which Do You Think is Most Disloyal Gun Dog Breed?

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October 19, 2011

Which Do You Think is Most Disloyal Gun Dog Breed?

By Chad Love

A few days ago a friend of mine sent me a link to an older story he had stumbled across while browsing the Internet. The story, on the news site Slate, posed the question of "what is the most disloyal dog breed?" Not loyal, but disloyal, which is an admittedly interesting twist on the never-ending argument about the most loyal dog breed.

From this story on Slate:

The conventional wisdom among dog fanciers holds that each of the 161 breeds now recognized by the American Kennel Club has a distinctive temperament reflecting its history and original purpose...But recent work suggests that the personalities of modern dogs may have little to do with their breed's history.

A researcher at Stockholm University named Kenth Svartberg analyzed the behavioral profiles of more than 15,000 animals and derived several essential canine traits: A dog is more or less playful, curious/fearless, and sociable. Then he studied a few dozen breed types and rated them according to those traits as well as on their level of aggression.

Svartberg turned up two interesting facts. First, like many other researchers, he found tremendous variability among dogs of a particular breed. So even though German shepherds scored higher marks for playfulness than, say, poodles, you'll still find plenty of individual poodles that are more playful than a given German shepherd. Second, he discovered no significant differences in traits among the broader breed groups˜terriers, working dogs, herding dogs, and sporting dogs.

For instance, the terriers taken as a whole were no more aggressive than the other breed groups, and the working dogs were no more sociable or fearless. The recent history of dog ownership may explain why we don't see distinctive personalities in these groups today. Whereas dogs were once bred for a specific task, now they tend to be bred for physical traits (that make for better show dogs) or for a family-friendly temperament (that makes for better household pets).

However, the story goes on to say it is possible to identify fairly distinct personality traits in specific breeds...

So which breeds are most disloyal? That depends on how you define the term. Loyalty is not a trait measured by any mainstream dog personality assessment˜if it exists at all, it's a complicated mixture of other traits. In Svartberg's system, for example, you might argue that a loyal dog is one that's generally affectionate (high playfulness) but aggressive toward strangers (low sociability). By that logic, a friendly and playful Labrador retriever would be construed as disloyal since it's prone to lavish affection on everyone who comes near it.

And therein lies the rub in trying to determine a breed's "loyalty" quotient: what does the term even mean? Are overly friendly dogs "disloyal?" Are dogs who are aloof around strangers "loyal?" Just because a dog doesn't try to rip the throat out of every stranger he sees doesn't necessarily mean he's disloyal to his master, and just because that jovial lab never met a stranger isn't proof he doesn't know exactly who his master is.

As a personal anecdote, my favorite breed, the Chesapeake Bay Retriever, is generally considered to be the most "loyal" of the gun dog breeds, real one-person or one-family dogs. And it's true that chessies were originally bred to not only retrieve ducks in the worst conditions possible, but to guard their master's boat and equipment from strangers. Have all my chessies been loyal to me? Absolutely. But for the most part I don't think my chessies are any more (or less) loyal to me than any other retriever breed would be to its master.

Dogs are individuals, and to me that individuality (as well as the dog's socialization and home life) is a non-breed-specific variable that will always negate any breed-specific traits, real or imagined.

But this would be a boring blog post without a little controversy, so let's play along. Which do you consider the most disloyal gun dog breed? I'll kick it off by saying I think the English setter is the most disloyal, faithless, fickle, traitorous and disgustingly friendly gun dog breed I've ever been around. They have neither pride nor standards in the company they keep, and they possess a craven appetite for attention and affection from virtually any bipedal lifeform, regardless of social standing. A thoroughly disloyal hound if ever I saw one...

What's yours?

Comments (17)

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from Coachcl wrote 2 years 26 weeks ago

In the words of Keyshawn Johnson......Come'on Man. True English Setters are friendly. But I would never say they are disloyal. My male setter right now won't listen to anyone but me. He basiclly doesn't care who walks him, but he is going to drag anyone else. With me he walks right by my side. Hunts within range of me, and doesn't care who else is in the field.

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from FOX wrote 2 years 26 weeks ago

One of the worst dogs I’ve seen would be the weimaraner. They might be loyal to some. All the inbreeding as melted most of their brains resulting in incredibly fickle and expensive dogs that often have problems with aggression ,and a nasty habit of not listening. To me and my experience they are the worst.

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from rob wrote 2 years 26 weeks ago

Golden Retrievers. Hands down the sluttiest of the gun dog breeds.

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jere39 wrote 2 years 26 weeks ago

Another great question. By way of meandering thought, I offer up my French Brittany. Just about the most bidable people friendly dog I've ever encountered. He loves people, has never issued a suggestion of aggression toward anyone. And seems to particularly like women. That said, if I am out without him, he will curl up with my wife for some TV time. But as soon as I walk in the door and choose a seat, he will casually get up and walk over to ensure his back is against me. Similarly, he can sense my gestures, and any gesture suggesting we might be heading out for a hike (we are lucky to live in the woods, and hike every day) and he is ready to roll, interrupting any other activity, play, meal, snooze, ...
To me, that is a loyal dog. I would tend to ignore a loyalty quotient that measures a dogs willingness to take a hand on the shoulder from any passing human as a sign of disloyalty.

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from bbainbridge wrote 2 years 26 weeks ago

Intersting question. Strictly gun dog speaking, I'd call loyalty a dog that only hunts for its person, or if out with someone else is looking for its person. I wouldn't consider a dog that's out to hunt for itself as "loyal" to its owner. That said, I nominate the English pointer.

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from osobear wrote 2 years 26 weeks ago

I think weimaraners are one of the most loyal. Mine defended my family and home from an intruder while I was at work. She also has protected me from a bobcat and a skunk while in the woods. She rarely leaves my side for anything. To me that is loyalty. If I were to go by the comment about only hunting for its master I would say the beagle. When I was growing up people would come to borrow my beagle to go rabbit hunting, he would hunt for anyone.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Thomas.Cochran wrote 2 years 26 weeks ago

Mr. Love, as I was reading through your blog I was thinking the exact same thing, English Setters could be the most "Disloyal". I know mine could give two dog biscuits who's patting his head, as long as they have a gun in their hand he will be right there wagging is tail. Interesting post! Good Luck this Fall.

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from 1Browning2 wrote 2 years 26 weeks ago

The only dogs I've had are Weimaraners. They're intelligent, smart and work horses in the field for me when hunting. A dog will act how it is raised. If its not raised with proper training, for example, many people get Weims because they see them on commercials as pups and think they are "cute" and dont know what they get themselves into. They are very high strung, but with proper training, they can be the best dogs out there. If you dont raise it and make it listen and work obedience, then obviously it wont act like a good dog. My two are great hunters, listen well and are the most gentle dogs i've dealt with. Fox, I understand what you are saying, we all have bad experiences, but it sounds like you have a odd case, because I have had nothing but good results with mine and people I've talked to have said the same about their Weims, so I can't say What i believe to be the most disloyal.

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from Michael Jager wrote 2 years 26 weeks ago

My Weim lives to please his master and anyone else who wants to make him work. When he looks at you the only thing he is thinking is "ok, what do you want me to do now". 1Browning2 is right they do take tons of work and are high strung, but if you put in the work you will be rewarded. The problem again is that most people don't put in the work.
With all that said I would nominate the Blood Hound. If they get a scent, there is no controlling them.

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from Jeff Bowers wrote 2 years 26 weeks ago

I think the whole research, survey, whatever, is moot data unless the background is taken into consideration.

I've worked with rescues. A lot depends on how long they were locked up/neglected/mistreated/starved/etc..

So I don't call it loyalty when one dog, while sitting or laying near 'Daddy', will growl or snarl at any other dog that comes near.

I don't call it disloyalty when a field dog, caged for far too long, will joyfully accept any praise, scratches, or especially treats, from any human she meets.

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from ec_nick wrote 2 years 26 weeks ago

My dad has two black labs and they are hard to train to how you want but our oldest black lab is 4 yrs old and he can hunt in a duck swamp retrieve a mess of doves track a deer, and when we go up north to hunt we pheasant hunt and it usually only takes him 1 pheasant to get in the role. He learns fast and when we are in the field he will only take orders from my dad so if you want him to flush a bird or retrieve a duck you have to tell my dad to tell him that. It just depends I think on how you work with them and also their bloodline but I think black labs are very loyal (If anyone other than me my dad or brother tries to play with him or take him for a walk he looks agonizingly to my dad as if to say "permission to play sir") and they are whip smart and catch on quick

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from 1Browning2 wrote 2 years 26 weeks ago

Jeff4066, your statement is perfect. I do a great deal of work with Weim rescue in the Midwest. I foster many dogs who have been abused, abandoned, and forgotten. Of course, off the bat, they might act aggressive or mean, but it's how they were raised. I believe a lot of dogs actions are based on the owner raising them. So it's on the owner. The dog is conditioned to behave a certain way. Any dog can be loyal, given the right training and attention. And any dog can be disloyal, when it is lacking the proper training and attention.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from jakenbake wrote 2 years 26 weeks ago

I agree with rob. The Goldens are the free-love hippie dippy fruitcakes of the sporting dogs. As an aside, though, Chad, I love it when I see people saying something good about Chessies - but that's probably an extension of growing up on their namesake.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from RES1956 wrote 2 years 25 weeks ago

Never thought or worried about the loyality issue, because a dog who is insanely loyal to one master may not work for another hunter, and that is a trait I consider undesirable. While it is good to have a bond between master/dog, the animal should be willing to work for another (multiple guides taking various dogs). I really do not care if a dog is loyal, I do care if it performs well in the field. What difference does it make anyway?

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from tstep522 wrote 2 years 25 weeks ago

One could try and judge this based on the loyalty one dog would have to a canine companion rather than it’s loyalty to its owner or family. This would probably take this conversation in a totally different direction, but I think you would be able to tell more from the dog’s interactions with its “friends” than with its family. Loyalty always seems to be a little more fickle with friends.

I would say my Vizsla shows me the best traits of loyalty that I can find.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Mark-1 wrote 2 years 25 weeks ago

I've had enough English Setters to declare each dog is separate onto themselves as to "Loyalty", but with quirks. All setters had "hunt" and do anything for me...for the hunt. The females would hang around home and grounds protecting same from intruders. The males be gone from home in a heart beat to play wolf the moment my back was turned...and they were notorious and clever food thieves ...especially when my infant children crawled around with food. But the males were savage towards strangers after dark protecting all of us. All sell us out to trash a garbage can.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from BringEmNorth wrote 2 years 24 weeks ago

My family has had black and chocolate labs all our lives. Everyone has had it's own personality and acted differently in similar situations. I believe loyalty has a lot to do with the masters perception of what loyalty is(hunting,guarding,playing,affection etc.etc). Every dog owner will judge his dog on what he considers loyal. In my opinion if your willing to put the time and effort into it any dog can be trained to do just about anything. Some breeds are naturally going to be better or learn faster depending on the task and what they may have been bread specifically for but even a scroungy mut can learn to be "loyal".

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from scratchgolf72 wrote 2 years 24 weeks ago

my britanny listens to me and my dad, doesnt really care about what anyone else tells her to do. maybe its because she has really only hunted with us. my brother could tell her to come all day but she wouldnt do it. she has shown no sign of aggression towards anyone except pheasants, and the occasional chipmunk she gets a hold of.

i could tell her to sit and stay, leave the room, and come back in 20 min and she would still be there....thats loyalty.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report

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from rob wrote 2 years 26 weeks ago

Golden Retrievers. Hands down the sluttiest of the gun dog breeds.

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from osobear wrote 2 years 26 weeks ago

I think weimaraners are one of the most loyal. Mine defended my family and home from an intruder while I was at work. She also has protected me from a bobcat and a skunk while in the woods. She rarely leaves my side for anything. To me that is loyalty. If I were to go by the comment about only hunting for its master I would say the beagle. When I was growing up people would come to borrow my beagle to go rabbit hunting, he would hunt for anyone.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jere39 wrote 2 years 26 weeks ago

Another great question. By way of meandering thought, I offer up my French Brittany. Just about the most bidable people friendly dog I've ever encountered. He loves people, has never issued a suggestion of aggression toward anyone. And seems to particularly like women. That said, if I am out without him, he will curl up with my wife for some TV time. But as soon as I walk in the door and choose a seat, he will casually get up and walk over to ensure his back is against me. Similarly, he can sense my gestures, and any gesture suggesting we might be heading out for a hike (we are lucky to live in the woods, and hike every day) and he is ready to roll, interrupting any other activity, play, meal, snooze, ...
To me, that is a loyal dog. I would tend to ignore a loyalty quotient that measures a dogs willingness to take a hand on the shoulder from any passing human as a sign of disloyalty.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from 1Browning2 wrote 2 years 26 weeks ago

The only dogs I've had are Weimaraners. They're intelligent, smart and work horses in the field for me when hunting. A dog will act how it is raised. If its not raised with proper training, for example, many people get Weims because they see them on commercials as pups and think they are "cute" and dont know what they get themselves into. They are very high strung, but with proper training, they can be the best dogs out there. If you dont raise it and make it listen and work obedience, then obviously it wont act like a good dog. My two are great hunters, listen well and are the most gentle dogs i've dealt with. Fox, I understand what you are saying, we all have bad experiences, but it sounds like you have a odd case, because I have had nothing but good results with mine and people I've talked to have said the same about their Weims, so I can't say What i believe to be the most disloyal.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from 1Browning2 wrote 2 years 26 weeks ago

Jeff4066, your statement is perfect. I do a great deal of work with Weim rescue in the Midwest. I foster many dogs who have been abused, abandoned, and forgotten. Of course, off the bat, they might act aggressive or mean, but it's how they were raised. I believe a lot of dogs actions are based on the owner raising them. So it's on the owner. The dog is conditioned to behave a certain way. Any dog can be loyal, given the right training and attention. And any dog can be disloyal, when it is lacking the proper training and attention.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from jakenbake wrote 2 years 26 weeks ago

I agree with rob. The Goldens are the free-love hippie dippy fruitcakes of the sporting dogs. As an aside, though, Chad, I love it when I see people saying something good about Chessies - but that's probably an extension of growing up on their namesake.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from tstep522 wrote 2 years 25 weeks ago

One could try and judge this based on the loyalty one dog would have to a canine companion rather than it’s loyalty to its owner or family. This would probably take this conversation in a totally different direction, but I think you would be able to tell more from the dog’s interactions with its “friends” than with its family. Loyalty always seems to be a little more fickle with friends.

I would say my Vizsla shows me the best traits of loyalty that I can find.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from scratchgolf72 wrote 2 years 24 weeks ago

my britanny listens to me and my dad, doesnt really care about what anyone else tells her to do. maybe its because she has really only hunted with us. my brother could tell her to come all day but she wouldnt do it. she has shown no sign of aggression towards anyone except pheasants, and the occasional chipmunk she gets a hold of.

i could tell her to sit and stay, leave the room, and come back in 20 min and she would still be there....thats loyalty.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Coachcl wrote 2 years 26 weeks ago

In the words of Keyshawn Johnson......Come'on Man. True English Setters are friendly. But I would never say they are disloyal. My male setter right now won't listen to anyone but me. He basiclly doesn't care who walks him, but he is going to drag anyone else. With me he walks right by my side. Hunts within range of me, and doesn't care who else is in the field.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from FOX wrote 2 years 26 weeks ago

One of the worst dogs I’ve seen would be the weimaraner. They might be loyal to some. All the inbreeding as melted most of their brains resulting in incredibly fickle and expensive dogs that often have problems with aggression ,and a nasty habit of not listening. To me and my experience they are the worst.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from bbainbridge wrote 2 years 26 weeks ago

Intersting question. Strictly gun dog speaking, I'd call loyalty a dog that only hunts for its person, or if out with someone else is looking for its person. I wouldn't consider a dog that's out to hunt for itself as "loyal" to its owner. That said, I nominate the English pointer.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Thomas.Cochran wrote 2 years 26 weeks ago

Mr. Love, as I was reading through your blog I was thinking the exact same thing, English Setters could be the most "Disloyal". I know mine could give two dog biscuits who's patting his head, as long as they have a gun in their hand he will be right there wagging is tail. Interesting post! Good Luck this Fall.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Michael Jager wrote 2 years 26 weeks ago

My Weim lives to please his master and anyone else who wants to make him work. When he looks at you the only thing he is thinking is "ok, what do you want me to do now". 1Browning2 is right they do take tons of work and are high strung, but if you put in the work you will be rewarded. The problem again is that most people don't put in the work.
With all that said I would nominate the Blood Hound. If they get a scent, there is no controlling them.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jeff Bowers wrote 2 years 26 weeks ago

I think the whole research, survey, whatever, is moot data unless the background is taken into consideration.

I've worked with rescues. A lot depends on how long they were locked up/neglected/mistreated/starved/etc..

So I don't call it loyalty when one dog, while sitting or laying near 'Daddy', will growl or snarl at any other dog that comes near.

I don't call it disloyalty when a field dog, caged for far too long, will joyfully accept any praise, scratches, or especially treats, from any human she meets.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from ec_nick wrote 2 years 26 weeks ago

My dad has two black labs and they are hard to train to how you want but our oldest black lab is 4 yrs old and he can hunt in a duck swamp retrieve a mess of doves track a deer, and when we go up north to hunt we pheasant hunt and it usually only takes him 1 pheasant to get in the role. He learns fast and when we are in the field he will only take orders from my dad so if you want him to flush a bird or retrieve a duck you have to tell my dad to tell him that. It just depends I think on how you work with them and also their bloodline but I think black labs are very loyal (If anyone other than me my dad or brother tries to play with him or take him for a walk he looks agonizingly to my dad as if to say "permission to play sir") and they are whip smart and catch on quick

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from RES1956 wrote 2 years 25 weeks ago

Never thought or worried about the loyality issue, because a dog who is insanely loyal to one master may not work for another hunter, and that is a trait I consider undesirable. While it is good to have a bond between master/dog, the animal should be willing to work for another (multiple guides taking various dogs). I really do not care if a dog is loyal, I do care if it performs well in the field. What difference does it make anyway?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Mark-1 wrote 2 years 25 weeks ago

I've had enough English Setters to declare each dog is separate onto themselves as to "Loyalty", but with quirks. All setters had "hunt" and do anything for me...for the hunt. The females would hang around home and grounds protecting same from intruders. The males be gone from home in a heart beat to play wolf the moment my back was turned...and they were notorious and clever food thieves ...especially when my infant children crawled around with food. But the males were savage towards strangers after dark protecting all of us. All sell us out to trash a garbage can.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from BringEmNorth wrote 2 years 24 weeks ago

My family has had black and chocolate labs all our lives. Everyone has had it's own personality and acted differently in similar situations. I believe loyalty has a lot to do with the masters perception of what loyalty is(hunting,guarding,playing,affection etc.etc). Every dog owner will judge his dog on what he considers loyal. In my opinion if your willing to put the time and effort into it any dog can be trained to do just about anything. Some breeds are naturally going to be better or learn faster depending on the task and what they may have been bread specifically for but even a scroungy mut can learn to be "loyal".

0 Good Comment? | | Report

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