Labrador Retrievers are British dogs bred for hunting, sporting, and companionship. While these dogs are well known for their friendly demeanor and exceptional loyalty, people often worry that such a big dog might become aggressive at any point, especially around other dogs. Can Labradors become aggressive towards other dogs?
Some Labrador retrievers can be aggressive toward other dogs, but they are more well known for being well-tempered and friendly. Each Labrador has a different personality, so the possibility is always there, but it is unlikely that a Lab will be aggressive towards other dogs unless attacked.
This large breed of dog would be a huge danger if they were aggressive, but they are more often gentle and patient than aggressive. Keep reading to learn more about the causes of aggressive behaviors in Labrador retrievers.
Labrador Retriever: Typical Temperament
Before we talk about aggressive behavior in Labrador retrievers and how to manage them, we should talk about what the typical behaviors and temperament of a Labrador are. Understanding the typical behaviors of this breed will help you understand why aggressive behaviors are so uncommon.
Labradors are specifically known for how well-behaved and friendly they are. This makes them great family dogs, as they get along well with children and larger groups of people.
While every Lab is different, they are generally happy to have attention, which means that they are very unlikely to snap at a child who is poking or prodding them. You can read more about Labradors being good with children here.
Labradors are not only great with children and families, but they are also known for being incredibly loyal and patient. This personality trait makes them great hunting and sporting dogs. They love being active and enjoy spending time with their owners in any way they can. They are friendly with other people and dogs, which means they will not cause problems at the dog park. Any fighting they do is typically play fighting.
Labrador retrievers are eager to please and smart, which makes them easy to train. This is another behavior that reduces the risk of aggression. A dog that is eager to please will learn quickly to not be aggressive because it will make its owner upset with them. Aggressive behaviors are easily shut down with dogs that are eager to please.
Interestingly enough, this eager-to-please attitude makes it easy to train Labradors to become guard dogs, even though their temperament is not aggressive. A Labrador without training will not be a very good guard dog because they are not bred to be aggressive. However, with proper training, a Lab can become a very obedient and effective guard dog. You can read more about this here.
Why Labradors May Become Aggressive to Other Dogs
Now that you know that Labrador retrievers are not aggressive dogs, and you know more about their general behavior, it is important to learn about the situations in which they might become aggressive towards people or other dogs.
While it is not common for Labs to become aggressive toward other dogs, it is not impossible. Labradors might become aggressive toward other dogs if they are not socialized, are being protective, or are provoked by another dog.
The first way a Lab might become aggressive to other dogs is if they are not properly socialized. This just means that if a Lab has not been exposed to many dogs before, or they have not been trained to act properly around other dogs, then they might act aggressively out of fear or confusion. Oftentimes, Labrador Retrievers that have not been a part of a home before will exhibit these behaviors.
Another reason a Labrador retriever might become aggressive toward another dog is if they are protecting their toys or their owners. Labradors can be quite territorial and possessive if not trained otherwise, so they might be aggressive toward other dogs if they try to steal their toys, or if they are interacting with their owners. This can be trained out of a Lab, but it is better to tackle the issue early on.
The final main reason that a Labrador retriever might become aggressive is if they are provoked by another dog. Labradors don’t typically start fights with other dogs unless they feel they have a good reason. If your Lab has begun to fight with another dog, it is likely that the other dog was being aggressive and provoked your Lab. When around other dogs, keep an eye out for aggressive dogs who may start a fight with your Lab.
How to Manage an Aggressive Labrador
Knowing the situations that Labrador retrievers might show aggressive behaviors will help you understand why your Lab is being aggressive. If your Labrador starts to become aggressive in one or more situations, you should take the initiative to manage that aggression and determine the cause. (Source)
You can train a Labrador to not act out aggressively. This is most easily done when they are younger, but it can be done when they are older as well. If your Lab is aggressive because they are not socialized, you can train them out of this behavior by introducing them to other, well-behaved dogs in a controlled environment. Have your Lab and the other dog on leashes and don’t let them get close enough to touch. Over time, you can lengthen how much they are able to interact until your Lab is no longer showing aggression to other dogs. (Source)
If your Labrador is acting aggressive because they are protecting you or their toys, you can train them to be much calmer about it by giving them one toy at a time and letting them play with it for a little while, and then commanding them to sit. Once they sit, take the toy and put it away. This will teach them to not be so possessive. You can also do this with aggression towards people by commanding them to sit before interacting with other people and dogs. This will teach your Labrador to be less possessive over you.