Do Labrador Retrievers Make Good Protectors?

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Arguably, Labrador Retrievers are too gentle to protect people. Is that true? Do Labrador Retrievers make good protectors?

While Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers are widely considered too gentle to be protectors, it is more complicated than that. Each Labrador Retriever is different, and some of them can be good protectors.

Labradors are a fairly poor but not terrible breed if you want protection. Labs are not used as attack dogs by police forces because they are not aggressive enough. However, labs can be taught to be good watchdogs (barking at an intruder) and sometimes even guard dogs (attacking an intruder).

You can't always count on a Labrador to attack a violent person when it should. Labrador Retrievers are used by police forces, but not as attack dogs. They find trapped people in collapsed buildings or smell drugs and weapons.

I trained police dogs for years and while labs are excellent dogs, we do not train them to attack armed and dangerous suspects. A Doberman or a Rottweiler makes a much better attack dog. However, some Labrador Retrievers can protect you if they are more aggressive than average for their breed.

Labrador Retrievers Need to Be Trained to Protect a Home

At worst, a Labrador won't even bark at someone who is breaking into your home. A Labrador Retriever likes physical exercise, naps, socializing, or toys, and is not interested in fighting. If a stranger enters the home, the dog might ignore the stranger.

However, you can at least train a Labrador Retriever to be a good watchdog. You can train a lab to be suspicious of strangers and to bark loudly at a stranger who enters your home uninvited. They are not naturally protective like many other breeds are, but they can be taught to be.

Training is key. If you want your Labrador to not be gentle, you have to train it to be more aggressive. Labradors are large and powerful but naturally nice dogs that have trouble with a more aggressive role.

Can Labrador Retrievers Fight?

Yes, labs are capable of fighting even though they are usually unwilling to do this. Despite normally holding things in its mouth without biting them, a lab has a powerful bite. It can bite as hard as a Pit Bull, though not nearly as hard as a Mastiff.

The size and muscles of a Labrador Retriever also make it capable of fighting. Sometimes, its instincts will tell it to run away, but Labs have been taught to fight off wolves. Many other dogs are much more likely to fight than labs.

Guard Dogs vs Personal Protection Dogs

Not all dogs that are expected to fight are guard dogs. There are also personal protection dogs that are trained to travel around with a person or a group of people and defend them if anything dangerous happens.

These dogs are not very different from guard dogs. They need the same traits to be successful. Protector dogs need to be large and aggressive but very obedient.

Advantages of Labrador Retrievers as Protectors

Alertness

Labrador Retrievers listen, pay attention, and react to events. If a burglar breaks into your home, the Labrador will certainly notice. However, it might ignore the burglar if it is too gentle.

Loyalty

Labrador Retrievers care about and feel like members of their families. This can help them be aggressive in the right situation. Their instincts may make them protect their families even though they are naturally less aggressive dogs.

Lifespan

Labradors also live for a reasonably long time for a larger dog breed. They live for 12-14 years. They stay healthy for long enough to protect your family effectively for many years.

Labs Can Be Intimidating

Even though they are usually gentle, an angry Labrador is intimidating. A lab has a wide waist and broad shoulders, which makes it look scary if it acts threatening. The dogs are large and muscular enough to intimidate an intruder.

Swimming Skills

While a guard dog usually won't have to swim, it might have to in exceptional cases. Labs have webbed feet that make them excellent swimmers, and they naturally like the water.

Labs Are Safe Around Your Kids

Are there any advantages to using a lab as a guard dog instead of using a more aggressive breed? Possibly, the advantage is that a lab may be safe around your kids and friends even if you train it to be aggressive with intruders.

Obedience

Labradors are very obedient dogs. This does not guarantee that they can attack a dangerous person when their owners want them to, but it may allow them to a lot of the time. Some labs make perfectly good guard dogs, even though they are not an ideal breed for the job.

What Traits Do Protector Dogs Need?

Protector dogs need to be aggressive, attentive, trustworthy, fast, and intelligent. Labs have most of the qualities, but not all of them.

Labs are fast and can easily outrun humans. They are also intelligent, trainable, attentive, and in most situations trustworthy. However, you can find a more aggressive breed that has all of the other positive qualities.

Reasons Why Labradors Are Not Good Protectors

Many types of dogs were bred to protect livestock. These dogs are large, aggressive, and willing to fight other animals.

While retrievers are hunting dogs, they were not bred to attack prey. Instead, they found prey shot by hunters and brought it back to them.

They were bred to gently hold a bird in its mouth without damaging it, not attacking other animals or intruders. Aggressiveness was never an advantage for the breed.

What Breeds Make Good Protectors?

The Rottweiler, Doberman, German Shepherd, and Mastiff are all great at protecting people. Rottweilers are great because of their intimidating appearance and reputation. If a thief knows you have a Rottweiler, they might try a different house.

Rottweilers also have a very powerful bite. However, they are less aggressive than their reputation would suggest. They can certainly be aggressive but may need training.

Unlike Rottweilers, Dobermans were bred specifically to be protectors. Dobermans are large, fierce dogs that can guard any home. They can be affectionate, but sometimes only to one person in the family.

Shepherds and Mastiffs

German Shepherds are also popular as protectors. They can use their strong sense of smell and acute hearing to detect a stealthy intruder. German Shepherds had to be aggressive to defend sheep from predators.

Mastiffs are among the largest and most powerful dogs. Some breeds can bite harder than any other dogs. They were bred as protectors and sometimes as herding dogs.

Talk to a Professional Trainer

Sometimes, you can train a dog to be a good guard dog yourself. However, this is a challenge, especially if you have a Labrador.

Since Labrador Retrievers are not naturally protective, it is hard for an average dog owner to train them to protect a home. If you want to use your lab as a guard dog instead of finding another breed, talk to a trainer.

A professional trainer can teach your lab to bark at and hopefully even attack a dangerous person if the situation requires it. Remember that even with professional training, the dog might fail to attack. Police forces do not train labs to attack for this reason.

About THE AUTHOR

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