Labradors are firm favorites as pets, especially with families. It is taken as read that these gentle canines can be trusted with adults, babies, children, and even cats and other dogs.
Though they are generally docile, Labradors should never be taken for granted and you should always consider the possibility, however slim, of a change in temperament. Do Labradors attack? Any dogs, labradors included, can be driven to attack.
Though it’s extremely unlikely for a labrador to launch an unprovoked attack, it should never be assumed impossible. Always be aware of this possibility and look for any signs of a change in temperament.
Do Labradors ever attack? Are they aggressive?
Labrador retrievers are consistently ranked as one of the most popular breeds among pet owners. And it’s pretty obvious why they’re everyone’s favorite! They’re cute, cuddly, incredibly smart, and best of all, very friendly.
Think Labrador, and close your eyes. What’s the first thing you visualize? I see a golden ball of fluff, wagging its tail, tongue hanging out, showering me with unconditional love.
For the most part, that’s exactly what Labradors are; 30 kilos of pure, unadulterated love. Ever wondered if a Lab is capable of aggression? Do they get aggressive? Do they ever attack? I looked up the answers to all these questions, so you don’t have to.
What Cues Will Your Lab Give If He’s Getting Angry?
There are certain telltale signs that your dog is upset. These include them turning their head repeatedly, yawning, licking their nose, or simply trying to get away from the trigger. They may even have dilated pupils and wide-open eyes. Now, if you notice any of these signs, take control of the situation.
When we are in a threatening situation, our instinct is to either fight or retreat. It’s the same with your dogs. If you don’t remove the threat or get them away, they will ultimately put up a fight in their defense.
This is why it is important to always keep a keen eye on them. You’d do the same for your kids, you know.
Why Labradors Don’t Usually Attack
It just isn’t in a Labrador’s nature to attack. The breed is gentle, sociable and loyal which is why they are one of the most popular family pets around.
It is extremely rare for a Labrador to attack any person or any other animal. The way it is treated and socialized from the beginning of its life is key in how it behaves throughout its life. There’s more detail about this later on.
Are There Other Things That Can Trigger Aggression?
There can be many reasons why a Labrador may suddenly begin exhibiting aggression. Let’s talk about each of them one by one
- Stress: Any sudden changes in the environment, such as moving to a new place, having a new family member or a pet, or losing a family member can cause a dog to become anxious and aggressive.
- Illness: If nothing new has happened, but your Lab is still acting odd, think about when you last took him to the vet. Obviously, your dog can’t tell you he’s unwell. So, this may be his way of letting you know.
- Social aggression: If there are multiple dogs at home, there will be a fight for the leader of the pack. Showing aggression may just be a dog’s way of asserting its dominance.
- Leash aggression: Some dogs only become angry and agitated when they’re put on a leash, and are otherwise perfectly calm and happy. This phenomenon, known as “Leash aggression” just indicates that the dog doesn’t like to be restrained.
- Fear: If your dog is feeling threatened or vulnerable, it may use anger as a defense mechanism. It may be worthwhile to check if anyone around the dog is making it uncomfortable.
- Possessiveness: This trait is not unique to humans. Some dogs don’t like sharing their stuff either. And I honestly don’t blame them, since I hate it too.
When A Labrador Might Attack
- If it’s an untrained dog – without proper training, a Labrador does not learn boundaries.
- If it feels threatened – a dog may attack if it feels it is under threat from someone
- To protect you and your family – a Labrador will consider you as part of its pack and may attack anyone who seems to be a threat to you.
- To keep your children safe – Labradors are really protective of the children in a family. For instance, if the children are outside and a stranger comes on to the property a Labrador may become aggressive or attack to protect them. Delivery people often find this!
- It’s injured or unwell – if your dog tries to attack you for no reason it could be in pain. Look for any symptoms and if you can’t get near you may have to call a vet for advice.
- It is not exercised properly – Labradors need to expend their energy properly every day. A lack of exercise can cause a dog to feel hyped up and then it is more likely to appear aggressive.
- Play that goes too far – some people go way too far with play. Tugs of war where you never let the dog win can encourage aggression. Rough and tumble play can over-excite a dog. Know when enough is enough. Teaching dogs to seize when playing is never a good idea
- It’s provoked on purpose – if you provoke a Labrador by taking a bone from it or a favorite toy, don’t be surprised if it becomes upset.
- It’s abused – punishing a dog with smacking or shouting is a recipe for disaster and often leads to it displaying violence driven by fear of you. Never physically punish a dog.
The Signs That A Labrador Might Attack
- If its ears are back, its tail is tucked under and its mouth is tightly closed, a dog is scared of something and may bite if suddenly approached.
- A growling Labrador could become aggressive so be careful about approaching it. If the growl becomes more intense as you approach, back away and let it calm down.
- Sometime Labradors gaze into your eyes but if one stares intently at you with a frozen body stance it is in a challenging mood and could be considering an attack. Back carefully away to a safe position.
- Raised hackles are a sign of aggression so beware. This is often a sign that a fight is imminent. If there’s no other dog around, make yourself scarce!
- When a Labrador curls its lip up to bare its teeth, it could be grinning because it has been naughty but this could also be a sign of aggression.
- If a Labrador is backing away from you it could be scared and trying to get away. If you can’t encourage it to come to you don’t approach it as if it feels cornered it could attack.
- The dog is stalking you, with head low to the ground, an intense stare and a stiff body. Many dogs will do this behavior in play, but if it’s playful, it is usually accompanied by a play bow or relaxed body language. Stalking outside of play is predatory behavior and could mean a bite.
- When a dog is eating or gnawing a bone and you approach, a stern growl is a warning not to come near. Many dos do this and don’t attack, but there is a chance it could so don’t tease.
- If a male Labrador has designs on a female Lab who’s in season, you could get attacked if you try to intervene.
How to minimize the chance of a Labrador attack
- Train it – Labradors are intelligent dogs and so can be easily trained. The earlier you begin training the better. A well-trained dog will be obedient to its owners and much easier to control.
- Avoid training it as a guard dog – training a dog as a guard dog always introduces the possibility of unpredictable behavior. A guard dog is not particularly suitable as a family pet.
- Treat it kindly – if mistreat a dog, don’t be surprised if it retaliates
- Supervise children around dogs – children are notorious for accidentally upsetting dogs. They get into their faces, pull their ears and tails, poke and prod them. Take the time to teach your children how to respect your Labrador and treat it nicely.
- Protect it from provocation – there are some insensitive an unkind people around who take delight in teasing and tormenting dogs. Be sure you know and trust anyone who you allow to be around your dog to ensure it isn’t driven to attack.
How to ensure a Labrador pup won’t become aggressive
- Meet its mother – if the mother is a happy, well-cared-for dog, her puppies should also be good-natured
- Check how it has been socialized – for a Labrador puppy to grow into a confident and sociable dog, it needs to be socialized properly as a puppy. The breeder (or owner of its mother) should interact with the pups, they should be exposed to other people, children, and animals so they learn to be relaxed and comfortable around them throughout their lives.
- Train it – start puppy training as soon as possible to ensure your Labrador grow up to obey you and learns how to behave around other people and dogs. It is really important to ensure a Labrador will always be obedient for you.
- Nip viciousness in the bud – don’t allow any viciousness. Discourage it at all times. Don’t play fight or allow rough play that could lead to aggression.
Are Labradors aggressive? No, they are generally not.
Do Labradors ever attack? They most certainly do, but not because they are nasty or aggressive.
There are a few things that we must always keep in mind
- Each dog has an individual personality and may exhibit traits that are not characteristic of its breed.
- Training affects the way your dog behaves.
- Nature and nurture are both important determinants of a dog’s behavior. Saying that all Labradors are invariably calm is like saying all babies are exactly the same.
- Sudden changes in a previously happy Labrador’s behavior are never normal and must be probed.
- Your Lab will show many obvious signs if it is distressed about something, and a lot of times these problems are fixable.
- Neglect and abuse can have devastating and permanent effects on any dog’s personality, even a Labrador.
- Just because they’re Labradors doesn’t mean you can push them and they won’t ever attack you. Never provoke a dog!
In summary, Labradors are amazing creatures. They are incredibly smart and loving. It is very rare and atypical for one to turn out to be aggressive. When one is acting in an unusual way, it may not be its fault. If I were to give a simple, one-line answer to the two title questions.