If you’re looking for a dog that has a bold and independent streak, you’ve come to the right place! Listed below are 21 of the most independent dog breeds.
While many people want an affectionate dog, others prefer an independent breed that’s companionable but also happy to do their own thing.
How do we define “independent” though?
To put it plainly, the breeds on this list “know their own mind.” They can be stubborn and don’t necessarily live to please their owners. Independent breeds are usually intelligent and alert, as they were often developed as working dogs, but need plenty of training and patience.
An independent streak does not mean that a dog can be left to fend for itself though. These breeds still need plenty of care, attention and exercise. Some may cope better when left alone than others, but many independent dogs get bored easily and can’t be left for long periods.
In fact, many of these breeds demand more time from their owner as they are smart, stubborn and need extra training.
The Akita, for example, is a courageous dog that shows plenty of independent traits, but it needs continuous companionship and stimulation or it can become destructive. On the other hand, breeds like the basenji and Shar-Pei are more tolerant of being alone.
With that said, let’s get to the list!
Beagles are small and tough companions with an independent streak. They are an active dog that are happy and playful, but are also stubborn. This means they require a patient owner who is willing to put time into training.
As a hound, they were originally bred to track down rabbits and other small animals. This is also why beagles rely heavily on their nose. If they pick up an intriguing scent, it can be difficult to get them to listen!
The greyhound is a naturally laid back, intelligent and quiet breed. They tend to have a sweet nature and can make great family pets – as long as you don’t mind a dog that doesn’t care much about pleasing you. Greyhounds don’t respond well to being left on their own for long periods, and they can have a stubborn attitude when it comes to training.
Greyhounds are one of the fastest dog breeds, with a top speed of over 40 miles per hour. This rapid pace, combined with a strong prey drive in some individuals, means they often can’t be walked off-lead in unenclosed areas. Many people are surprised that greyhounds don’t need much exercise though – they are built for speed, not endurance!
If you’re looking for an aloof dog breed – at least in terms of appearance – the Afghan hound is an obvious choice. That doesn’t mean these dogs don’t know how to have fun though. While some have a dignified air, others are playfully clown-like. Most are a mixture of the two.
Like many hounds, the Afghan is not that bothered about pleasing you. This trait, combined with its stubbornness, means you must have plenty of patience when training. They are usually gentle dogs, but they shouldn’t be left on their own for long as they can quickly become bored.
The Shiba Inu is one of six dog breeds to originate from Japan. It was originally a small game dog, although it was sometimes involved in hunting boar. Today, they are a popular companion dog around the world for their intelligence, grace and loyalty.
While the breed has a good nature, they are also bold and can sometimes show aggression towards other dogs. Many people describe the breed’s attitude as “superior,” which is probably a good way to describe it!
The dog’s independence means that it can be difficult to train, so obedience training should begin early in its life. It’s an intelligent breed, so it can pick up training easily. The question is whether he wants to do what you say!
The basenji was originally bred in Africa as a hunting dog. They are energetic and friendly dogs that can make good companions – but only for people who enjoy the challenge of a stubborn breed.
Due to its background, the basenji is an intelligent breed but with a strong sense of independence. These dogs survived for thousands of years by being capable of independent thought, so they have no interest in doing something just to please their owner. A basenji can often understand a command and just decided to ignore it. This can make them very difficult to train.
Even so, some people find the independent nature of the basenji endearing. They are certainly not a breed for everyone though.
One of the most loyal dog breeds is the Korean Jindo. They are highly intelligent dogs that are quiet and often have wonderful personalities, which has made them a popular breed for both individuals and families. The Jindo is likely to bond strongly with its owner, but this can take time to develop.
Like most of the dogs on this list, the intelligent and independent nature of the Jindo means that it requires respect before it can be effectively trained. Once they trust their owner, however, their loyalty makes them easy to train.
As you might have guessed from the name, the Cairn terrier was a breed developed in Scotland. It was bred on the Isle of Skye to get rid of vermin. The dog has many left-over traits from its origins, including intelligence and boldness.
While a Cairn terrier can make an excellent family pet, they are also independent dogs. You’ll need to teach him that you mean your commands, but this isn’t a breed that responds well to physical punishment or scolding (not that any dog should be treated this way). It’s also almost impossible to prevent a Cairn terrier from chasing small animals.
The Akita is a big dog breed that originated in Japan. It was bred to protect important people, while also hunting large animals including bears. As you would expect from a breed with this background, Akita dogs are loyal and are almost impossible to frighten.
When socialised and trained correctly, an Akita can make an affectionate and enjoyable pet. They generally don’t mix well with other dogs, however, and can be unsuitable for children.
The Akita isn’t as stubborn as some of the other dogs on this list, but they are determined and can be difficult to train. You need to have plenty of patience and be willing to thoroughly research the type of training that works well with this breed. They are a companionable dog, so they don’t like to be left on their own for long periods. An under-stimulated Akita is much more likely to be aggressive.
If you’re looking for an independent dog that tolerates being alone more than other breeds, the Chinese Shar-Pei could be a good option. This breed was first developed hundreds of years ago with the purpose of hunting, fighting and herding. The breed has a short coat and is known to develop a strong and loyal bond with its owners.
Like many of the dogs on this list, the Shar-Pei could be described as aloof – at least some of the time. It’s a calm dog that’s great for apartments and can also make an excellent watch dog. The downside is that its strong-willed nature can make it difficult to train. While the dog picks up commands quickly, it doesn’t always obey.
The Siberian Husky is one of the most striking dog breeds. They are also athletic, intelligent and affectionate, yet won’t cling to you or constantly beg for attention.
However, they are not usually recommended for first-time dog owners or those with little training experience. The Siberian Husky might be intelligent, but they require an extremely patient approach to training due to their independence. If not trained correctly, they can become disobedient and difficult to manage.
Huskies also have a sense of wanderlust, so make sure your home and garden are properly secured. Many huskies are killed or lost because they found a way to escape.
Tip: Huskies are escape artists and often slip out of their harness. Check out our guide to the best harnesses for Huskys for more information.
The Manchester terrier was originally bred in England for hunting rabbits and rats. This type of terrier is highly agile and loves to chase. It’s not uncommon for it to bring back dead small animals either.
As you would expect from a true terrier, the Manchester terrier is an independent dog that’s also highly loyal. It doesn’t cope well with being on its own for long periods of time though, as it’s likely to get bored and either bark or become destructive. This can be managed with plenty of exercise.
The bearded collie was originally from Scotland, where it was bred as a herding dog. Today, they are a popular companion pet, but many are still used as sheepdogs due to their speed and boundless energy.
Bearded collies don’t tolerate being left alone as well as other dogs on this list. They have high intelligence and expect to be included with whatever the rest of the family is doing.
Like most sheepdogs, the breed can be stubborn as they were bred to make independent decisions. For this reason, early obedience training is important.
The Jack Russell is a popular independent breed that’s funny, energetic and intelligent. This breed was originally bred to hunt foxes, which is why it has a bold and courageous personality.
On the other hand, the independent nature of the Jack Russell can make it difficult to train. The breed can learn almost any trick – but can be “creative” in how commands are interpreted! They also hate to be bored, so require plenty of patience and mental stimulation.
The miniature pinscher has its origins in Germany, where it was bred to hunt rats and other vermin. Many dog owners think it was created by breeding small dobermans together – although it’s actually a separate species.
Miniature pinschers are energetic dogs that have supreme self-confidence. They enjoy family life and hate being left alone for long periods. They aren’t as difficult to train as some of the other dogs on this list, but require patience and positive methods.
The largest terrier breed is the Airedale. It has its origins in Yorkshire where it was bred to catch rats and other small animals. It also makes an excellent working dog, due to its intelligence and confidence.
This intelligence also manifests as a stubborn streak though – and the breed certainly isn’t one that’s eager to please. If you own one, be prepared for a challenge when training. Airedales can also react aggressively when threatened, although they are generally not aggressive dogs.
The Polish lowland sheepdog is a herding breed that’s still used as a working dog today. It’s a well-natured and obedient breed that’s becoming an increasingly popular companion dog. They are also suitable for children if socialised from a young age, although they may show herding tendencies.
While this breed is intelligent and listens to an owner it respects, it has a strong will. This means it requires consistent training. They also tend to become strongly attached to the family and show little interest in other people.
The Whippet is a family-friendly dog who tends to get on with almost everyone. Despite their rapid speed, they are gentle dogs who enjoy sleeping most of the day – at least once they reach adulthood. They are also affectionate, calm, and rarely bark, making them a straightforward canine companion.
Whippets don’t tolerate being alone for long periods (no dog does!), but they are known for having an independent streak. This can make training more difficult, so it’s important to be patient, consistent, and only use positive training techniques.
The Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever is an attractive retriever breed that was originally bred to retrieve waterfowl. It’s an energetic dog that needs plenty of exercise, but can make a loyal and fun companion in the right household.
As an intelligent breed with its own ideas about what it wants to do, the duck tolling retriever is certainly not as willing to please as other types of retriever. For this reason, they need consistent training and plenty of exercise. The breed is great with kids, although it has a strong prey drive for small animals.
As the name suggests, the fox terrier was bred to chase foxes during hunting. They are still sometimes used for that purpose, although they are much more common for showing and as companion dogs.
Due to their past, fox terriers are energetic dogs that need lots of exercise. They are loyal to their owners but need plenty of socialisation and training if in a household with other pets. The breed is also very bold and intelligent, which means they can learn almost any command – as long as you’re willing to be patient.
The Alaskan malamute is an imposing breed that has immense stamina. With its wolf like appearance, independent streak and high energy levels, the malamute is usually only recommended for experience dog owners.
The malamute is a highly social breed that often treats strangers as best friends. Many people incorrectly assume they are stupid, as they can be difficult to train. This is usually because of their independent nature though, as they are actually clever when trained correctly. They require plenty of exercise and hate being left alone, so this isn’t a breed for apartments.
The final entry on this list is the stubborn Scottish terrier. With short, stubby legs and a dignified manner, this terrier has a slightly comical appearance – but its loud bark is scarier than you would think. They are also one of the bravest dog breeds, although this sometimes shows itself as stubbornness.
As Scottish terriers were originally bred to work independently, they are notorious for being difficult to train. They like to make their own decisions, as they would have needed to do this as working dogs. They can be trained, but only with immense patience and positive reinforcement.
With that said, the Scottish terrier still has many of the traits of a working dog. This means they are happiest when they have a job or purpose. They aren’t the easiest dogs to own, but many owners fall in love with their independent personalities.
Independent dog breeds can be a great choice if you want a pet that doesn’t blindly follow your commands. These breeds can make excellent and lovable companions, with many independent breeds being intensely loyal to the right owner. If you want a pet that’s eager to please, however, then these breeds probably aren’t for you!
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Richard is a journalist who specialises in dog behavior. He's written hundreds of articles and books related to dogs, including for the Continental Kennel Club, Dog Fest (the UK's biggest dog festival) and various veterinary surgeries. When he's not spending time with Jess and Rudy (his beloved Labrador and Golden Retrievers), he enjoys reading, hiking and watching sports. You can find him on Facebook or Twitter.