Although the Labrador retriever is a gentle giant and usually a very friendly dog, there are times when it is necessary to protect their owners.
This is especially true if you plan to guard your home, property, or even your children or other family members.
The question can be asked: “Will Labradors protect their owners?” The answer is “It depends on the dog.” If the owner has had the dog since it was a puppy, trained it properly, and has a close relationship with the Labrador retriever, then the dog will surely protect.
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
How Protective Aggression Works
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 being harmed.
This means a Labrador which resource guards isn't necessarily protective as well.
The Root of the Behavior
Labrador Retrievers are bred to be loyal dogs.
In fact, you may even notice that Moses looks to you as if you are his pack leader and he will probably follow you in any way that you want. You may also find that this breed works in law enforcement sometimes and Labrador Retrievers usually are bred to work as guide dogs. They are trained as puppies and learn to act as an assisting leader for their owners early on in life.
Therefore, their loyalty is extremely strong and they are not timid when it comes to protecting their owners from anything that may seem dangerous because it is just a part of their canine nature. Yet, it is important to know that this dog breed will not act aggressively towards their family, which you may have noticed in Moses.
Moses is extremely gentle and loving towards you and your family all of the time, even though he barks quite often.
As puppies, Labrador Retrievers have been known to constantly bark and they may even be overly sensitive to the world they are being introduced to. In the past, Moses may have even caused you trouble when you were out in social situations because he may have wanted to alert you of things while you were out and about.
Most owners will train their dogs early on to understand that they do not need to bark at everything and as the owner, you are their alpha leader.
Most times, Labrador Retrievers will understand this and easily listen to the training that you are providing.
Yet, that does not change the fact that your dog is protective over you. If you are not home and a stranger comes into your house, your dog is going to protect the house like it is your life at stake because of his extreme loyalty.
Labrador As A Guard Dog
People often ask "Are Labs Protective?"
because they are hoping to get a family dog that will also be a guard dog.
If you are looking for a guard dog, then you probably should not get a Labrador. I love this breed, but Labradors are not good guard dogs for several reasons.
That is not to say that they are not loyal or affectionate to their owners. They are. In fact, they are very affectionate and very loyal.
Are Labs protective? Well, yes, to a degree.
But, they are not as protective or territorial as other breeds. They are very friendly towards people and other animals.
Their innate friendliness is easy to take advantage of if you are familiar with the breed.
They are not likely to become aggressive or mean with others unless provoked. On the other hand, if you have been around Labs, you know that they can have a tendency to bark.
So, in this manner, the Labrador can serve as a watchdog even if they do not make good guard dogs.
I think there are some things that need to be defined before we go any further. Some Labrador-lovers are going to be indignant to the fact that I believe their favorite breed is not protective. Well, let’s define what protective means and what it does not mean.
First, when I think of a guard dog, I am not talking about the Golden Retriever or Labrador Retriever because they do not have a “mean” streak in them naturally. That is not to say that there are not mean retrievers. There are. However, that means streak is not in them by nature.
For example—and I know that I am going to catch grief for this—there are some dogs that have been bred for their “mean” streak just like retrievers have been bred for their ability to find birds and retrieve to hand.
Pit Bulls come to mind as a dog breed that has nurtured the meanness factor. I understand that some Pits are sweet but, they have been bred for the purpose of fighting and you cannot train that breeding out of a dog. It is always there.
Because Labradors lack that mean factor, I don’t think they make a good “traditional” guard dog. The fact is that most people know about the Labs typically good disposition. Give him a treat and he will be your best friend.
Will Labs Attack Intruders?
Just because they're generally receptive to meeting new people, doesn't mean that all Labradors are guaranteed to be happy around everyone they meet.
Even placid dogs can be wary of new people in their home if they weren't socialized well as a puppy, or have had bad experiences with intruders in the past, or if they are startled.
A Labrador may react then aggressively to an intruder either because some protective instincts within them have been triggered, or because they are frightened.
However, aggression should always be a dog's last resort.
Before they attack, dogs perform several behaviors to communicate that they're uncomfortable about someone's presence.
adopting a tense standing position
baring their teeth
snapping their teeth
and lunging without making contact.
But they might skip some of these signals if they have been punished for them in the past, or the intruder ignores them and presses ahead quicker than they are comfortable with.
This is why it's important to never punish a growl or other sign that your dog is uncomfortable.
And never pressure them into an interaction they “should” be happy with “because they're a Lab”.
Are Labradors Loyal?
Protective behavior in dogs is largely a reflection of how dogs feel about unfamiliar people and animals.
It’s not a reflection of how they feel about you.
So even a Labrador completely devoid of protective instincts can be completely loving and unswervingly loyal to its owner.
If you treat your Labrador kindly and ensure all their needs are met, you’ll witness their loyalty in the way they seek out your company and dash back at the sound of their recall cue.
Will Labradors Protect Their 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.
How to Train a Labrador Retriever Guard Dog
At the moment, your Labrador Retriever spends his days shuffling across the floor trying to follow you into every room. They're still young, unsure, and highly dependant on you.
You have to admit, you secretly love how attached they have become to you. In fact, you love nothing more than cuddling up with Max on the sofa after a long day at work. However, you also have other plans for Max. You brought them home because you wanted a guard dog.
Training a Labrador Retriever to be a guard dog comes with a number of benefits. First and foremost, you'll have a fantastic way to keep yourself, your family, your house, and valuable items safe.
This means you can relax as you drift off to sleep in the evenings. This training will also increase your control and make it easier to teach the Lab a range of other commands too.
The Full Package Method
- The earlier you can start training your Labrador Retriever, the sooner you will see results. That means start encouraging any promising signs from an early age. Any interest in strangers, including barking, should be rewarded with treats and praise.
- Enroll your dog in group obedience classes. This will help socialize them with other pets and people. It is important they understand how to get on with pets and people they do know.
- Teach your Labrador Retriever ‘sit', ‘down', ‘stay' and any other basic commands they may need later on. This will also enhance your control, increasing the likelihood they will follow your instructions.
- Practice having people approach the house or area you want the dog to protect. Draw their attention by pointing, whispering and getting animated. As soon as the dog barks, reward them with a treat. Do this each time and they will soon get into the habit of defending against strangers.
- It is important you do not use punishment during training. This may only make your dog aggressive and then potentially dangerous. Labrador retrievers respond best to positive reinforcement.
- Morning walk Secure your Labrador Retriever to a leash and walk them around the perimeter of the area you want them to protect. Do this each morning and any space within the area will soon begin to feel like their territory, which they will naturally want to defend.
- Evening walk Go for the same walk again each evening. Remain calm and quiet as you go, you want your Lab to concentrate. This perimeter training can start proving successful in a matter of weeks. STEP 3 Get their attention Whenever a stranger approaches the door, encourage the dog to go over. You can point, whisper, and do everything you can to get them worked up. It may be time-consuming to start with, but be patient, they will eventually bark.
- Click A clicker is a fanatic way to communicate with your Labrador Retriever. Simply click whenever they follow instruction correctly or display the right behavior and you will have a brilliant way to speed up the learning process.
- Reward As soon as your Labrador Retriever barks, click and then swiftly hand over a treat and give them lots of praise. Make sure they get the treat within three seconds of barking, otherwise, they may not associate the action with the reward
- Watch closely Spend a couple of days closely watching your Labrador Retriever. You’re looking for any situations which trigger a bark. You’re going to use these situations to teach them to bark on command. When they are about to be fed or taken out for a walk are common triggers.
- ‘Bark’ Now place your Labrador Retriever in one of these situations and issue a ‘bark’ command just before or as they start to bark. Give it only once and use a playful tone. Dogs respond best when they think they are playing a game.
- Reward As soon as the dog does indeed bark, be sure to give them a tasty treat or play with a toy for a minute. You can also give out some verbal praise. The happier they feel, the more likely it is they will repeat the behavior.
- Have someone knock Spend a few minutes each day practicing the ‘bark’ command. Then have someone the dog does not know too well knock on the door. Once they have done that, point at the door and instruct the dog to bark.
- Reward Have the person shout and then run away. It’s important the Lab knows they need to bark until they hear someone flee. You can then hand over a tasty reward. Now simply practice this a few times each week. Before you know it they will naturally bark at any stranger that approaches.
To answer, "Are laboratories protective enough to be watchdogs?" I want to say it might not be a person's first choice as a guard dog, but you can definitely train it. There is no question about their loyalty, they are as loyal as any other dog can be. Every dog has a sense of ownership and protective instinct towards its family. In labrador, all you have to do is get those instincts and work on them a little. Finding professional help can never go wrong. I always suggest that you go to a qualified person as they will teach a dog something that is not their first instinct. It can be a great challenge for you to do this yourself first. You can always start with a little help from a professional and you can take it from you. In any case, stay calm and relaxed with your dog, aggression won't do much good. Make sure you value your dog and acknowledge their efforts either verbally or through reward. Dogs are highly intelligent animals who can feel great when valued or encouraged. The most important thing here is to do these sessions with your dog as this will not only help train him but also help build good chemistry between them and You.