Are Labradors Aggressive?

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Key Takeaways

  • Labradors are typically not aggressive - and are amongst the calmest of dog breeds
  • Signs of aggression as a puppy included excessive nipping, barking, and even staying away from people
  • Aggression can be avoided by gentle discipling a dog, including just ignoring a dog that is behaving poorly.
  • Unexpected aggression should result in a vet trip to see if the dog has anxiety or physical pains that are causing a dog to lash out.

Labradors can make excellent family pets and hunting dogs. A question remains: Can labradors be aggressive - and why?

Labradors are typically not aggressive. A labrador can become aggressive when attacked repeatedly or punished physically as a young pup. Otherwise, labradors typically aren’t born aggressive and are loyal, calm pets. Experiencing aggression from a labrador is a sign of issues in the past.

We’ll talk about aggression with labradors and how to avoid getting a labrador that may act aggressively in the future. We’ll also give suggestions on how to discipline a labrador without hurting the dog.

In this article

What are typical labradors like?

Labradors are amongst the calmest of dog breeds. A normal labrador has tons of energy and is very loyal to a family. They actually make great dogs for kids, too. Labradors were initially noticed and bred in Europe and Canada when they showed the ability to jump into water to help retrieve a hunters kill - and come back happy about it.

Whether you are looking at a yellow lab, black lab or something else - know that labradors are highly trainable and pretty smart! That’s why they are favored for families and hunters.

Just explaining this makes us want a labrador!

How do labradors become aggressive?

Let’s be clear on one thing: Aggression isn’t always a bad thing. Aggression from a dog becomes too much when the labrador won’t stop or when it physically attacks other people or dogs. Aggression when defending territory against strangers or when the dog feels like its life is in danger - can be normal.

Dogs like the labrador, or even the well known pitbull, typically aren’t born aggressive to humans or other dogs. They are most often trained that way - and rewarded for being aggressive and potentially punished for behaving like a typical, calm, pet.

What are signs of aggression from a labrador?

When a labrador is a puppy, it might display some signs and behaviors that feel like aggression, but they are not. For example, a labrador pup who bites gentle or growls is normal and is learning to play or fight, and how to communicate to other dogs and humans.

Gentle biting or growling shouldn’t be punished unless it starts to hurt. If it does start to hurt or get annoying, there are a few things you can do to help stop the labrador without getting aggressive to the dog.

How to discipline a labrador gently

Providing gentle discipline is amongst the keys to keeping a labrador from being aggressive.

  • Take away favorite toys
  • Ignore a dog that is behaving poorly, like biting or growling
  • Use your voice - deep and authoritative if you can, rather than even touching the dog
  • You know your dog best, what non-painful or aggressive things does your dog not like?

Next, we’ll talk about using positive reinforcement for a labrador instead of punishing the pup.

Positive reinforcement to avoid aggression

From humans to dogs, positive reinforcement always works best to maintain a tempered, calm dog - or even a human.

  • Give treats as rewards for specific positive behaviors. You should also slowly stop using treats to encourage positive behaviors without rewards.
  • Praise and petting! Most labradors love being touched by a gentle human hand. When the labrador pup - or adult - does something wrong, give him or her lots of love with plenty of pets and verbal praise. Note that with dogs, verbal praise is more about tone than words!

How to make a labrador less aggressive?

Does your labrador go to far when playing - or not stop being defense when asked to calm down? Especially if your labrador bits or tugs on you - you might want to start trying to get them tone their aggression down.

Making an aggressive labrador less aggressive is a bit more of a challenge than training a labrador properly when young - but sometimes the dogs temperament changes. If you didn’t raise the dog, it’s not your fault.

  • Bring the labrador to a vet. A labrador can become aggressive when in pain, though the dog can also be very good at hiding it. Learning that your dog has been in a lot of pain is not fun for the owner - but can ultimately lead to a better experience and longer life for the dog - without aggression.
  • Get calming meds. Your labrador might actually have anxiety and become unable to control its behavior. There are anxiety meds for dogs that can help greatly.

Unfortunately, removing the aggression from a dog who was mistreated as a pup can be very hard and result in some setbacks. It is worth trying though especially if trying behavior treatments seems to work a bit.

How to detect the potential for future aggression in a labrador

Here is the harder part: You want a labrador puppy, but aren’t sure who to buy from. While the chances of getting an aggressive puppy aren’t particularly high, its hard to underestimate the need to give away a dog in a couple years if aggression becomes too much.

Assuming you don’t have a long time to play with dogs at an animal shelter or place that breeds labradors, look for a few signs like these:

  • Hiding from you. A dog may hide from you and even gentle contact if it experienced previous abuse.
  • The dog lunges repeatedly. It’s OK if the dog lunges a little bit to start some kind of contact, but doing it over and over isn’t normal, especially if you or the current owner calmly try ways to make the dog stop.

Buying a labrador from the right place

Organizations like the Animal Humane Society know dog behaviors pretty well - and can tell you of warning signs that a dog might be come aggressive. These issues are typically also covered by a “return policy” on a dog that is around 3 months long. They’d rather not have pups that don’t fit in their households .

Most real breeders have a guarantee of some sort that if a dog becomes aggressive, the business will do something for the new owner. We won’t get into specifics about what a business can do - because that is up them!

If you can, you should also meet the parents of the puppy, and the owner. See how the dogs are treated in a moment. If they all seem to be hiding or fighting excessively, you might want to skip that dog.


Mark Brunson

Mark Brunson

Mark is the founder of Everything Labradors and a husband and father of 3. He enjoys spending time with his family, including his dog Molly, a Labrador/Golden Retriever mix. He’s a big fan of the outdoors and loves to travel to new places.

Read more about Mark Brunson