Some families may want a Labrador simply because it makes a wonderful companion; however, the breed does have a reputation for being protective.
Although a Labrador by nature is not an aggressive breed, the dog may instinctively sense that you are under threat.
Even then, the dog will likely be protective of you and may choose to bark rather than to attack to alert you to the danger.
Are All Labrador Protective?
All breeds of labrador are capable of protective behavior.
Young puppies aren’t protective – from a survival point of view, they are the protectee, not the protector!
Protective behaviors usually start during adolescence, as a dog reaches social maturity.
There is no evidence of a difference in protective behavior between male and female dogs.
But a female dog who has never shown protective aggression in the past may suddenly do so while she is rearing a litter of puppies.
Likewise, dogs of either sex might display increase protective behavior if a new baby joins your household.
Labrador - Protection Vs Possession
An easy mistake to make is confusing protective behavior with possessive behavior.
Many dogs, including Labs, guard resources which they perceive as having a high value.
And sometimes dogs protecting their family are mistakenly described as resource guarding them.
However, some vets are concerned about including humans in the list of things that can be resource guarded.
Because possessive aggression and protective aggression are two different things.
Possessive aggression (resource guarding) is how a dog keeps something desirable to themselves.
And protective aggression is how they try to prevent “one of their own” from being harmed.
This means a Labrador which resource guards isn’t necessarily protective as well.
Do Labradors Protect Its Owners
Labradors are not widely regarded as strong candidates for human-protection roles.
In fact, some evidence, such as this Dutch study, indicates that Labradors are more likely to be protective of their home or territory than their owner.
This is not necessarily a bad thing.
Excessive protection of their owner is one of the most common behavior problems reported by dog owners.
And it can be time-consuming and frustrating to overcome, not to mention expensive in trainer and behaviorist fees.
But to understand why Labs aren’t very protective, it helps to understand what motivates a dog to behave protectively in the first place.
Controlled protective behavior in dogs is actually very difficult to teach.
Most dogs that perform successfully in guardian roles actually come from breeds that have a hereditary instinct to behave protectively hardwired into them.
Such breeds include German Shepherd Dogs and the Mastiff breeds.
Their protective instincts are closely linked to an innate mistrust of unfamiliar people, animals and things.
In practice, when people train GSDs and Mastiff to work as livestock guardians, they do it by encouraging their puppy to form strong social bonds with their herd at a young age, through careful socialization.
As they mature, their handler also rewards them for being attentive to the whereabouts of their herd, and what’s going around them.
Finally, behaving protectively of the herd follows as a natural combination of being bonded and attentive to them, and wary of everything else – it doesn’t need to be taught.
Labrador as a Guard Dog
A guard dog is trained to protect the property or the people. Unlike a watchdog, they are not always alert. A guard dog is expected to react aggressively, but this doesn’t mean attacking anything or anyone. However, if the dog can sense any threat, it will attack.
A guard dog is normally big in size, to appear more threatening to the attacker.
A Labrador is a medium-sized dog, which is good. However, it doesn’t have the required temperament to be a proper guard dog.
Their friendly personality can prevent them from properly attaching the threat.
To answer the question, if Labradors can be guard dogs, my answer is, a no.
It may fit the physical requirements, but it fails at the mental requirements. A guard dog is supposed to be threatening and aggressive, and a Labrador is far from that image.
You may use them for hunting because Labradors were also bred to be hunting companions. It can sniff out the prey and flush it out to the open field.
Labrador as a Watchdog
No, I’m not referring to that watchdog. This is about a watchdog, which is also known as an alarm dog. Unlike a guard dog, a watchdog is only meant to keep an eye out for any dangers.
It is not trained to attack the threat. A watchdog is expected to stay alert at all times, and to alarm you about any intruder. It will alarm you the best way it knows how to – barking, lots and lots of loud barking.
Though Labradors can’t become guard dogs, they do make an exceptional watchdog. Lucky for you, it is a quick learner. A Labrador is really easy to train because it can quickly learn all sorts of tricks.
While training it to be a watchdog, simply give your lab a treat every time it barks at you after someone comes into the house. Over time, it will naturally begin barking after spotting anyone it doesn’t recognize.
Don’t worry; it will not hurt anyone, Labrador’s are too friendly to do that. It’s one of the reasons why I love them so much. But its past experience in hunting could help it become a vigilant watchdog.
You can sleep at ease, knowing that the lab is on the lookout.
Just keep a bat or something close, by since the lab will only alarm you, it won’t be attacking anybody.
Does A Labrador Willing to Protect me?
By now, I think you know that a Lab is willing to protect you. But you aren’t the only thing it’s going to protect. A Labrador will go the extra mile to protect a couple of other things. What are they?
- Bed – The first thing you need to protect is your own property. In the dog’s case, it’s the bed.
- Family – How could it not? Labradors love their family, possibly more than the love a family has for them. It will protect you if the need arises.
- Food and water – As far as time can go back, it’s always been a survival of the fittest. Even the friendliest pets will fight to protect their food and water.
- Other pets – The Labrador is loyal to its family, including the pets. It will protect the adopted brothers and sisters if it has to.
- Property – The bed isn’t the only property they are willing to protect. If trained properly, a Labrador is willing to protect your property.
- Seat in the car – Did you really expect it to give up the opportunity to stick its head out the window. Try to take their seat in the car, and be prepared to have your couches torn to shreds.
To be clear, when I say a lab is willing to protect, I mean that it will bark, or under some rare circumstances attack. But it’s mainly a loud and threatening bark.
Training Labrador To Be Protector
Through the right training, a Labrador could even become a guard dog. It’s surprising, I know! To train a lab to become a guard dog, you can reach out to an expert.
If you don’t want to go with an expert and plan to do it on your own, follow the steps below;
- Get prepared – put on safety gear before you set out to train a dog to be aggressive. Cover your arms with something that will protect you if the dog ever bites.
- The next step is obedience training, which will be a nice warm-up session for the actual training.
- Then, every time a dog barks to inform you about someone coming near the house, give it a treat.
- Now it is time to teach the dog to bark on command. To do this, you can use everyday situations like eating and walking to train them to respond to your command.
- Step 5 is to take the dog out for a walk around the block. This will help it get familiar with the area you want it to protect.
What is step 6? There is no step 6; all you need are the 5 steps mentioned above. A friendly tip, you could also train a friend to disguise themselves as an intruder to test if the dog reacts the way you want it to react.
The Labrador’s Personality
To get a better understanding of how you can train the Labrador, you will need to dig deeper into their personality. More specifically, dig deep into their instincts and drives.
Before I go into the details, let’s clarify the difference between instincts and drives.
What is instinct? Instinct is defined as a reaction to an event. When you’ve successfully trained the dog to bark on command, it becomes an instinct to bark, whenever you tell it to. How is it different from the drive? A dog’s drive is described as a biological urge to achieve a goal or satisfy a need. In this context, a dog’s drive would be to eat food to stop feeling hungry.
What are a dog’s instincts and drives? Good question, you can read all about it in the section ahead. We found the 9 instincts and drives, in specific, that shape up a Labrador’s personality as we know it.
- Fight, Flight or Freeze
If any dog ever feels threatened, it will defend itself by either fighting, fleeing, or freezing. A Labrador has a high flight drive, meaning it will run at the first sign of trouble. However, you can train it to either fight or freeze.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a Labrador or a Beagle; all animals have a strong food drive. We all need to eat to survive. Some dog breeds can be picky eaters, but not your lab. No, no, a lab will lick the bowl clean, till it has no food left. As a result of this high food drive, your Labrador is in danger of becoming overweight. Be careful of how much you feed it.
Dogs with a high guard drive are very protective of their toys and bed. They are also very protective of their family. A Labrador has a low guard drive, and it is not aggressive in nature. The Labrador isn’t very protective by nature; it likes to share its toys. But if you want it to be high in this drive, you can train them. Simply follow the steps mentioned in the section above.
The herding drive refers to an animal’s urge to keep the pack together. A Labrador doesn’t have a high herding drive. It likes the pack, but it doesn’t have a strong sense of looking after the people in the herd. Don’t mistake this for disloyalty or insufficient love. A Labrador will still love you and remain loyal to you till its dying breath.
Since Labradors are retrievers, they have a high hunting drive. A Labrador was bred to hunt and retrieve, which is why it has all the characteristics you need for a dog with a high hunting drive. They can use the smell and tracking senses to hunt. In addition, a Labrador really enjoys hunting and retrieving.
Labradors have a high pack drive; they like to socialize with other animals and humans. Due to the high pack drive, they feel a very close connection to their family. This is why, they are so eager to have your attention at all times. Having a strong pack drive also has some drawbacks. When you leave them alone, it could make them anxious and scared, leading to destructive behaviors like chewing out the sofa.
A Labrador is willing to play, whether it is the middle of the night, or if you are in the middle of eating your dinner. Unlike other dogs, an adult Labrador will be as playful as it was in puppyhood. A lab’s high play drive can let you use it as a reward too. I don’t see a downside to this, who doesn’t want a playful and loving dog that never matures?
Labradors aren’t aggressive, but they are an animal that preys. It has a good prey drive, which you can control with training. To counter the prey drive, you can take the Labrador to hunting activities. I do think, it is important to reduce this drive; otherwise, you’d risk the Labrador bringing a small animal back home.
All animals, including humans, have a sex drive because we need it to survive. Labradors also have a sex drive, which is very noticeable when it’s high. When the lab has a high sex drive, you will often find it humping or mounted on something. You could either let have it spayed/neutered or simply let it mate.
Guard Dog vs. Watch Dog
To reiterate, there is some benefit from having a large dog when it comes to protection and guarding your home. Most criminals are opportunists and they are looking for the easiest home on the block. A large breed dog, or even a small yappy dog, can make a burglar move onto another home.
What we are talking about here is not a guard dog. It is a watchdog.
Some dogs can be trained to alert their family or owners if something is out of place or there is a threat present. This is what you saw Lassie doing in those old black and white TV shows.
Some dogs just do it instinctively.
Most watchdogs, however, will back up or retreat once they have alerted you to the danger.
The benefits, however, may end there. If a criminal chooses your house even though you have a dog in the home, you really don’t know how your pooch will react.
A guard dog, unlike its counterpart the watchdog, is trained to alert (loud barking) and also to engage if the barking does not do the trick. They will be trained to display signs of aggression before biting. Biting, however, will be an option in the event that aggression does not dissuade the perpetrator.
Unfortunately (if you were hoping Labs would do this), Labradors have what is called a soft mouth and they are not known for biting down hard. They can definitely do so in some situations, but typically they “mouth” things rather than biting down.
It is just another one of the traits that most Labs have that make them unsuitable for guard dogs.
With guard dogs, the bigger and the more intimidating, the better. Think about Rottweilers and Dobermans. They are awesome guard dogs because of both their temperament and breeding as well as their intimidation factor.
“To be sure, the dog is loyal. But why, on that account, should we take him as an example? He is loyal to man, not to other dogs. ”― Karl Kraus