In this article
Labradors as "attack" dogs
It is essential to understand why using a Labrador as an attack dog may not be a good use of your dog’s abilities and temperament.
First, Labradors are one of the top-rated family friendly dogs in the world. Their large size and strong bark can sometimes be deceiving. However, anyone who has spent any amount of time around Labs knows that their natural temperament is mild and friendly.
There's a lot of things you can train Labradors to do, however I'm not sure that being an attack dog is the best use of their skills.
Attack dogs vs Watchdogs
Now we know the shortcomings of Labs for their use as attack dogs. So, let's consider an alternative role as a watchdog!
If you aren't familiar with the distinction that's okay! I'll break it down for you:
An attack dog is trained to protect its owner or owner’s property when commanded to do so. These types of dogs are expected to “bite” an intruder in this capacity. These types of dogs are usually trained to be used by law enforcement or military use. The average dog owner will usually not need a trained attack dog.
A watchdog, on the other hand, can be beneficial to all dog owners. Watchdogs are trained to alert you of the presence of danger, usually by barking, whether it be at home or away from home. They are not trained to “bite” intruders, though; they only alert the owner that something isn't right. Labradors are an excellent dog to train for this purpose.
Overall, Labradors are protective of their property and owners and want to please. They are brilliant animals, so they can be taught to bark and alert people to the presence of danger without needing to be aggressive toward others.
Regardless, your Lab will not be capable of fulfilling either role without proper training. The following sections will offer guidance on pursuing proper training for your Lab.
How to Properly Train a Labrador
It is possible to train a Labrador to attack on command, but as previously mentioned, they are not the best breed for this line of work.
Before beginning any guard dog training, it is always a good idea to seek professional training. Properly training your dog will reap major benefits in the long run, so it is important to follow a structured program. As is the case with anything, it is best to start with basic training and slowly advance from there.
Online Training is Your Friend
The days of loading up your dog and spending astronomical amounts of money on professional training are over. This was the biggest deterrent for me when it was time to consider training. Thankfully, we live in the age of the internet and information sharing. The inconvenience and excessive cost issues have been solved!
You can find many online dog-training resources. One that I recommend is Brain Training For Dogs, by Adrienne Farricelli. It is the only online training that I reviewed and listed in my Recommended Products section.
Adrienne's approach is easy to follow, logical, and highly effective. Brain Training For Dogs uses a simple progressive training program that breaks the training down into simple school-themed modules - Preschool, Elementary School, High School, College, University, Graduation, and Einstein. It can be done in your own home, at your own pace, and with the free trial and an affordable price (currently $47 at the time of this writing) it is a no-brainer to try it out.
Rather than getting a trainer to work with your dog, you can do it yourself through the use of an easy online program at a fraction of the cost. This will ensure that YOU are the one establishing a bond with your pup firsthand while simultaneously learning training skills which may come in handy in the future.
How to Train Your Labrador to be a Watchdog
After your Lab has completed a fundamental training program, you can begin to teach them to be an attentive watchdog by using a few helpful techniques:
Begin training your dog at an early age. If your dog barks at a stranger, reward him with a treat and verbal praise. This will begin to teach him that this is the response that you are looking for.
Establish a bark command
Use the times your dog typically barks as a chance to teach him a bark command. You can use whatever word you would like. Your dog will not understand your language, but he’ll know when the chosen word is used, he is supposed to bark. When you see your dog begin to bark, say your command.
Make this a game with your dog. Dogs tend to learn better if they think they are playing a game. As soon as your dog barks and you’ve given the bark command, give them a treat or toy, as well as verbal praise.
Establish a quiet command
Just as important as teaching your dog the bark command you have chosen, you must also teach them a quiet command. Again, you can use any word of your choosing, but make sure you use the same word every time. They need to know when to stop as well.
Periodically test their response. Have someone knock on your door or ring the doorbell. Once they do this, point at the entry area, and give your dog your bark command. Teach your dog to bark until the person runs away, leaves the area, or you have given your dog the quiet command. Once they have done the job requested, give them a treat or toy and verbal praise, letting them know they did a good job.
Can you train a Labrador to attack? I suppose you could, but it is not the best choice for this breed. Labradors are kind, laid back, family dogs that want to please their owners. However, it is these same traits that make them better watchdogs than aggressive attack dogs.
In conclusion, if you require a guard dog capable of attacking, it is best to adopt another breed of dog that has the temperament for this type of work.