Labrador may have plenty of energy, but they are seen as the perfect good-natured family companion. America’s most popular breed, Labradors, are known for their good nature. This is just one of the reasons that Labradors are near the top of the pet popularity charts in America. Their friendly personality is a notable trait, and it’s a perfect pick for a first-time dog owner. But Labrador bites are far more common than many people realize.
Certain breeds of dog will naturally make people cautious, even if they are well trained and well behaved. The same cannot be said for Labradors. But that does not mean that you will not be attacked or bitten by a Lab. A dog attack can be extremely scary, and a Labrador bite can do some serious damage.
Here is everything you need to know about Labradors. Read on to the information you need.
History of the Labrador
The ancestors of the Labrador were working dogs, called St Johns Water Dogs. Their main job was to assist fishermen. Aside from helping the fishermen catch fish, they also helped retrieve nets and ropes.
These dogs were bred specifically to withstand the chilly conditions encountered working on the water in their native Newfoundland. English noblemen who had travelled to Newfoundland and observed these dogs were impressed by their fine temperament, great water skills and work ethic.
As a result, in the early 1800’s some St Johns Water Dogs were brought to England and bred as shooting dogs. This is when the modern-day Labrador started to make an appearance.
Unfortunately, the St Johns Water Dog has since died out. But we can still see remnants of these fine dogs in the Labradors of today. This brief look at the background and breeding of the Labrador tells us aggression was never a quality that was required or encouraged in the breed.
Labradors are noted for their remarkable retrieval abilities, both on land and in water. They feel at home in the water and are natural swimmers, while their short, smooth coats help to keep them comfortable, even in icy conditions.
The breed had become established in England by the late 1800s, and was first officially recognized by The Kennel Club in 1903. In 1917, the first Labrador Retriever was registered with the American Kennel Club, and the breed has been popular on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean ever since.
How Popular are Labradors?
The American Kennel Club organization produces a list of the most popular dog breeds in the U.S. every year, based on pet registration data. Here is the top 5 for 2017:
- Labrador Retrievers
- German Shepherds
- Golden Retrievers
- French Bulldogs
The most recent statistics show that the Labrador is sitting at the top of the charts as the most popular breed. Not only that, but Labs have been in the number one spot since 1991. While the popularity of some breeds goes through peaks and troughs, Labradors remain in the hearts of American dog lovers year after year.
The Nature and Temperament of Labradors
Labrador bites are not considered to be a common occurrence, because this breed is widely regarded as friendly, good-natured and even-tempered. Labradors are energetic and enthusiastic, as well as being loyal and friendly companions.
They are also highly intelligent and show a single-minded focus when they find something that sparks their interest. All of these qualities make it seem highly unlikely that you will ever become the victim of a Labrador biting incident. But Labrador attacks do happen, and are more frequent than many people know.
The Friendly Guard Dog
Labradors are the friendliest breeds. Most dogs are over-protective of their owners, which is why they won’t hesitate to save them in the face of danger. What about Labradors?
A Labrador will come to the rescue, but to an extent. They may bark at the person or thing that threatens you, but this is as far it goes.
Generally, a Labrador doesn’t have it in their nature to attack someone. It is a friendly and playful breed; not a threatening, protective one. A Labrador is the most loyal dog you can find, but don’t expect them to fight. it is just not in their personality.
Not all Labradors are like that though. Each dog has a different temperament. There is a chance that you might end up with a Labrador with aggressive behavior.
You could notice this aggression at the hint of fear because it is amongst the few things that can make a dog aggressive. But that is not the only thing that makes them angry; frustration could also force an aggressive Labrador to lash out.
Why are Some Labradors Dangerous?
It is a widely-held belief that some dog breeds are aggressive, while others are mellow and family-friendly. Just like people, every dog is different.
Every dog can be good, and every dog can be bad, so Labradors can be as dangerous and unpredictable as any other breed. A Lab’s behavior will depend on a variety of factors:
Anyone who shares their home with a 10 or 12 week old puppy will tell you that Labradors bite! And I can reassure you that this applies to all Labradors in the first few months of life.
Fortunately this is a phase puppies go through and not a permanent character flaw. And most adult Labradors are indeed very good natured dogs.
It is believed that the temperament of a Labrador will be influenced by its genes. The genes are by no means the be-all and end-all of dog behavior, but they play a significant role. Studies have shown that a dog’s personality traits are heavily linked to those of its parents.
A Labrador biting problem has been shown to be more likely if the parents are aggressive.
The training that a puppy goes through from birth plays a huge role in its behavior through the rest of its life.
A study published in the Journal of Animal and Veterinary Advances in 2009 determined that 40% of dominance aggression in pet dogs is due to a lack of basic training as a puppy.
Young Labs are prone to nipping and biting frequently with some force, which often comes as a shock to new owners. The suggested methods of curbing this behavior can be confusing and contradictory, because different methods work with different dogs.
If owners do not find a method that works for their puppy, they may end up with an increasingly aggressive Labrador who bites frequently.
One of the downsides of the Labrador’s loyal nature is that it will be protective of its owner and family. A Lab is not a natural guard dog, but its instinct will still be to respond if there is a perceived threat or danger.
This is not specific to Labradors and is true of many dog breeds. But it explains why you may sustain a dog bite injury from an otherwise good-natured pooch in some instances.
Environment and Experience
In some cases, a Labrador might be more likely to bite if it has had negative experiences in its lifetime. A Lab in a loving family will have formed relationships and attachments with humans.
While this might lead to a Labrador biting through protective instinct, a dog from a loving home is likely to be pretty good with people. Labrador bites are much more likely to occur when you come across a distrustful dog with a history of abuse.
Researchers in Spain studied a test group of 12 dogs with aggression problems in a bid to find the cause. All 12 of the dogs were diagnosed with a pain problem.
Of those studied, eight of the dogs had a condition called hip dysplasia – a hip socket problem which is developed by about 13% of all Labradors. Some instances of hip dysplasia can leave dogs in serious pain and even lead to lameness.
The researchers found that the pain-inducing conditions suffered by their test dogs were prompting aggressive and violent outbursts.
This meant that mild-mannered dogs might snap or bite without warning, the behavior of older dogs with no prior biting issues could change, and an already-aggressive dog could become even more so. A painful condition could easily lead to a Labrador biting incident.
What if You Find Your Labrador Suddenly Aggressive?
For any dog owner, a normally calm and placid dog suddenly becoming aggressive is a distressing situation. You may fear that you now have a ‘problem dog’ on your hands, and that drastic measures may have to be taken.
But before you hit the panic button, remember that there are many reasons your dog may be acting this way. With some observation and professional help, most dogs can be treated successfully.
Causes of Sudden Labrador Aggression
If your dog is in pain, they may become aggressive. So, first and foremost, it is worth checking whether your dog is ill, or if it has sustained an injury.
They may not let you near the area that is hurting, so don’t put yourself in danger trying to investigate.
A good suggestion is to take a video of your dogs’ behavior.
Take the video along when you go to the vet, as your dog may not exhibit the same behavior at the clinic.
Even if pain is not the cause of the problem, consulting a professional is the best way to deal with a dog that has become aggressive out of the blue.
While the behavior may seem strange or sudden to us, most veterinarians will have encountered similar situations over the years.
They will be able to help find the trigger and address the problem.
Will A Labrador retriever Bite A Stranger?
No. For the most part Labradors (of all colors) are personable and sociable. Of course, they are individuals, and some will be more tolerant than others.
Their intelligence (which research shows is not significantly affected by their color) and tendency to enjoy human contact, coupled with a natural lack of aggression, means they are not dogs which tend to bite strangers. They usually see a stranger as a soon-to-be-friend.
Their reliable charm and good nature are part of why not only are they one of the most popular pets, but they also are routinely used as assistance/ service dogs.
To conclude, it is clear that Labradors are just not cut out to be aggressive. All you need to know is that it will protect you as long as it doesn’t have to bite / fight anyone. But it can always be trained to be a good guard dog.
Labradors were bred to hunt, and they can be easily trained. So, even though, they are naturally good-natured, you can easily train them to be good guard dogs.
Labradors are quite possibly the most loving dog you can own, which is why it isn’t in their blood to attack. It would rather be petted by the intruder than to attack him / her. It is a great companion and loyal pet.
No breed of dog truly "has a reputation for biting.” Dogs will bite when scared or threatened, or if trained to do so (think police dogs, trained the right way, or fighting dogs, trained through violence and abuse).
Just like any dog can when they are threatened or have been treated badly. So really, it is up to the owner to train their Labrador appropriately and avoid situations that confuse and frighten their dog.
Rest assured that Labradors are by nature kind, gentle, outgoing, and fun-loving dogs that will delight their family with years of loyalty and companionship when given the right environment in which to thrive.
Any dog, for that matter, who is raised in a loving environment with positive reinforcement techniques, and who doesn't suffer from any painful maladies, should not bite inappropriately. That being said, some dogs do “mouth” more than others. This means grasping something with their mouth.
Labs and goldens can sometimes be mouthier because they are bird hunting breeds, hence the retriever tag. They have a natural drive to pick things up in their mouth and bring it to you.