Are Labrador Retrievers Aggressive?

Deciding on what type of dog to get is a big deal, especially if you want a friendly animal loyal and protective of all the family members. If you want a big dog, you probably consider labrador retrievers because of their supposed good nature and loyalty.

However, it would help if you also were researching aggressiveness. It’s essential to ask and answer the question, “Are labrador retrievers aggressive dogs?”

The Short Answer: No In almost all cases, labradors of any color or subtype are not aggressive animals. They tend to be very playful and may bare tooth when playing. Yet, the teeth are all for show. Labs are ideal family dogs as they will not attack people, children, or even other dogs.

It would take enormous effort to provoke a lab to become aggressive, and this typically only occurs as a result of training the dog to be aggressive in the first place.

The Long Answer: Labrador CAN Become Aggressive, but Aren’t Born That Way

These dogs were initially bred to be fishing and hunting dogs. They have also been used as herding dogs trained to fight off wolves and other large wild predators. A level of aggression is required of fishing and hunting dogs to catch prey.

Over time, they were bred by noblemen to be very gentle, loving, obedient, and loyal animals.

Their desire to please their masters is one of their more admirable qualities, but it can also be used against them to make them aggressive on command. While they would not attack anyone of their own accord, they can be taught to attack.

You may have heard of labs being used in dog fighting rings. While that fact is sad and true, labs are often used to train more aggressive dogs to fight.

Labs are used as “baiting dogs” in these instances. A lab might learn to fight back out of a sense of self-preservation under these circumstances, but it’s a false display of aggression.

People who have tried to make a lab an aggressive animal have often failed. It’s just not in these dogs to be vicious. They are meant to retrieve items, hence their name. Retrieval is a different game from attacking.

What If the Labs Are Crossed with Notoriously Aggressive Breeds?

Yes, a lab mix or lab mutt can be aggressive. It just depends on what the other breeds are. For example, if you cross an Akita with a black lab, you might get a very aggressive animal.

Akitas are known Japanese fighting dogs, and despite their intense loyalty to their families or “packs,” the Akita breed has been known to attack without warning.

Ergo, crossing a lab with an Akita is not likely to increase the dog’s loyalty. It’s highly likely to create an animal that does not signal when it may attack or bite until the last second.

Likewise, crossing a lab with a pit bull, a Doberman, a German shepherd, a Rottweiler, or any other breed notorious for being aggressive or trained as a fighting dog isn’t a good idea.

If you see a lab in a pound that is up for adoption, ensure its bloodlines haven’t been crossed with an aggressive breed before you adopt.

What Else Causes a Lab to Show Aggression or Aggressive Behavior?

Dogs of any breed are descendants of wolves and wild canines. They respond to many things almost instinctually.

That means that your mild-mannered, full-blooded lab might suddenly show aggressive behavior or become aggressive in circumstances you may not have predicted. Keep in mind that it is rare for the breed, but it can happen.

As a lab owner, you must get to know your dog well. That way, you can recognize changes in his mood or temperament that are out of the norm and precede aggressive behavior.

Watch for:

  • The dog isn’t feeling well or seems to be in a lot of pain–any dog will snap and bark under these circumstances.
  • Fear- dogs are good judges of people. They pick up on things about them humans can’t. They react to their fear by becoming aggressive.
  • Protective behavior-the dog wants to protect himself, household members, objects belonging to the dog or household members, etc.
  • Social dominance is common in dogs to assert dominance to find the alpha dog in the household. It will calm down after a few days when the lab knows who is the alpha dog.
  • The dog has experienced past abuse and responds with aggression.
  • The dog is a “food hog”–like a prisoner guarding a food tray; these dogs show aggression when you try to remove their food bowl. It only happens with dogs that were starved.

A lab only shows aggressive behavior or aggression when something doesn’t seem right or feel right to him. That’s normal. You must oversee your dog and keep it on a leash around other dogs outside until you know how he’ll behave.

Color Does Not Dictate Aggressive Behavior

There are golden labs, chocolate labs, silver labs, and black labs. Regardless of the color coat and subtype of the lab, they are not generally aggressive at all.

If you want a lab of any color or subtype, you can feel confident in your choice of dog because they are all very mellow pets.

They do love to horse around and play tug of war, but that is the most aggressive these dogs get.

Aggression in Puppies

Instead of a full-grown lab, you may be considering a lab puppy. Who doesn’t want an adorable puppy to play with and grow up with?

However, if you get a puppy that seems aggressive, take heart. This is a puppy thing, and it will pass with proper training.

Puppies are naturally aggressive because, like human toddlers, they are learning about the world around them and about who’s boss.

They test boundaries and limits to see what they can and can’t do. Part of training a dog not to be aggressive and grow out of puppy aggression is to set limits and boundaries early on.

Then your puppy will grow up to be a lovely dog. If you’re unsure how to train your puppy to be a gentle dog, get set up with trainers and puppy training classes.

Adopting a Lab You Didn’t Know Was Aggressive.

Pet shelters do their best to verify that dogs were not abused to the point that they will be aggressive. Shelters run tests with incoming dogs to ensure they are adaptable, including food bowl aggression and general aggression with other dogs.

If you adopt a lab certified as a good family dog and that turns out not to be the case, don’t give up hope.

There are things you can do to turn this dog’s behavior around. It takes extra training through desensitization, exposure therapy, and trigger reduction therapy. A trainer certified in these behavior modification therapies is the right person to ask for help.

So, Labs Are a Safe Bet Where Aggression Is Concerned?

You will get a very calm and loving dog if you buy a full-blooded lab from a respectable and registered breeder who knows what they are doing. A lack of aggression is a trademark of labs.