Dealing with an overly aggressive Labrador Retriever.

Since Labrador Retrievers do not have a very confrontational temperament, overly aggressive Labradors are fairly rare. However, due to many Labrador Retrievers being brought up improperly, or being rescued from abusive households, there are instances when a Labrador Retriever will develop an aggressive temperament. If you own a Labrador Retriever that is portraying overly aggressive tenancies, do not get discouraged. It is possible to remedy this behavior, though it may take a significant amount of patience and time.


Most dogs tend to portray aggressive behavior out of fear, or territorial instincts. Though Labrador Retrievers are not known for being a territorial breed, it is possible for a Labrador to develop this trait. Most fear-based aggression is caused by improper socialization, which is an important part of training during a dog’s early years. Socialization involves exposing your dog to as much external stimuli as possible, to help your dog to become accustomed to them. This includes other people, other dogs, loud noises, small animals, and anything else that could possibly cause your dog to become frightened or excited. Lack of early socialization training can cause a dog to grow up being fearful of new things, and respond to this fear by portraying aggression.

Some dogs may also respond aggressively to aggressive behavior in others. For example, if you have your dog contained in your yard, and an unknown person across the street is yelling angrily, your dog may begin growling. This is because they are responding to the aggressive behavior, and the fact that this behavior is coming from an unfamiliar source. Although Labrador Retrievers are generally not very aggressive, they may occasionally portray this aggressive response.

A Labrador Retriever may become aggressive when they have been threatened. If you leave your well-behaved dog at a dog kennel for a few days, and upon your return they begin to display aggressive behavior, this can signal that they had been poorly treated at the kennel. This may not be the kennel’s fault, as your dog may have come in contact with another aggressive dog, or felt threatened by being alone in an unfamiliar place. Identifying the reasons behind your dog’s aggression is a huge step towards fixing this behavior.


Never punish your Labrador Retriever for portraying aggressive behavior! This may actually backfire, and trigger more aggressive tendencies in your dog. Your dog is being aggressive in response to something, and it is important to instead fix the source of the problem.

Try to determine if your Labrador’s aggression is being caused by a medical condition. Some aggressive dogs are actually in pain, and are simply responding to this discomfort. This is very common in Labrador Retrievers that are experiencing genetic joint disorders, which can put your dog in an extremely large amount of pain. If your dog suddenly begins to display aggressive behavior, it can be beneficial to first bring them to your veterinarian for a checkup, to rule out any medical causes for the aggression.

If your dog is not spayed or neutered, you should strongly consider this operation as a part of reducing your dog’s aggression. This operation is very effective at reducing your dog’s level of hormones, which will help prevent many behavioral problems (aggression, marking of territory, heat-induced behavior). Talk to your veterinarian about this operation, and consider it as a viable option.

Try using positive reinforcement when your dog ceases to be aggressive. If they are growling at something in particular, such as a squirrel, immediately give them a treat when they stop growling. Once you identify the stimuli for their aggressive behavior, try using positive reinforcement when they do not respond to this stimuli with aggression. This may take quite some time, and it is important to be patient with your dog. Repeat the positive reinforcement as much as necessary, even if you do not think that you are making progress. Your dog is always looking to please you, and will learn eventually.

If all else fails, try employing the help of a reputable dog behavioral specialist. They will be able to greatly help you in identifying the cause of your dog’s aggression, as well as specific case-based training programs to help you prevent this aggression.

Read these great articles too:

Comments (13)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Janice Hatch says:

    Our Chocolate Lab, has aggressive tendencies and it seems to be when he doesn’t get his own way. We have had him since he was 5 weeks old (he is neutered) and this last week he got a little worse, I was actually afraid of him when he came at me with front teeth bared. He starts off by flying around the house at 90 miles an hour and then turns on you. Then 2 days later he went after my husband. Most of time he is sweet, of course he is also all still puppy at 9 months. He also has a terrible habit of eating anything that will fit in his mouth rocks, etc., which concerns us alot. We have tried everything as we care about him and want him to be a part of our family, but his temperment has us very concerned.

  2. Claire says:

    Our chocolate lab had similar behavior as a puppy and would not relinquish items that he took without aggressive behavior. He destroyed many items. We consulted a behavior specialist and put him into training for two months. At the end of that time (and much expense)they were not able to modify his behavior. The trainer sent us home with a device that allowed us to spray him with Citronella if he would not release an object. This did work and he will relinquish clothing items, pencils, etc. As he became older, he mellowed a bit. However, he would behave aggressively towards all of us at times. He was neutered as soon as he could be to decrease his hormone levels (something that we were advised to do). However at three years old he still exhibits aggressive behaviors to us and at the kennel (the trainers board him for us when we are on vacation). I am sad to say that we have finally given up and are going to have him put down. He has had a good home, loads of love and attention and training but his instability has continued. It hasn’t cropped up often, but we cannot afford the liability of him hurting a person that comes to our house. His temperment has won out over our best efforts. Good luck, but it may be a lost cause.

  3. Ines says:

    I have a chocolate labrador, I rescued him 2 years ago. Charlie now is 3 years. He is my best friend,we do everything together, walking, bike,trekking, canoeing, travel everywere. Charlie is a fantastic dog with children and older people. However Charlie with other dogs is a questions mark!!!I never know how he is going to behave. I lived in London with charlie. I manage to break a bit his habit of atacking other dogs specially small ones!!But now I had to move to another country. I have my walks everyday with no less then 2 hours and he is great, but if there is another alfa dog then charlie just goes for it.
    If I see a dog I never run and always try to charlie to smell him but is always a question mark. With female dogs is a gentleman!!!my god!
    I just want to be able to walk with him without be concerned who I am going to find in the way.
    Please I really need some help.
    best regards, Ines and Charlie

  4. Kay says:

    Wow. You’re going to euthanize your pet just because he’s a little unruly? I was a veterinary technician before I became what I am now, a narcotics detection K9 handler, and I have to say, with all that I’ve experienced, I think one has to be pretty lazy and very heartless to just kill the family dog because he’s hyper and isn’t your idea of the perfect, well-behaved pet.

    Did you ever consider the possibility that YOU could be the problem?

  5. Chris says:

    We have had Labs for 25 yrs.

    We also after 6 yrs of working with our aggressive Lab.

    We have his brother and he is a typical yet mellow Lab.

    Different Moms.

    He was knocking me over while hiding to escape (when I had thought all the dogs were out we have 3 Labs, well 2 now)

    It seemed the more one on one positive I gave him the more alpha he became.

    I would come home (we have property fenced in plenty of dog area) and someone would have a bite.

    He started getting worse after we found out he had Lupus (dont know if a connection)and would growl at my quad son.

    He was off since we brought him home as a puppy.

    Would sit and give us the evil eye, or just want to be off by himself alone.

    It was the sickest gut feeling thing I ever did.

    We have everything built for the quad son and cant lose that due to a liablity dog bite.

    I have had to put down old/sick dogs but never an aggressive dog.

    The worst guilt is the first thing we noticed was the peace in the house even with 3 other dogs (Labs/other) in the home.

    I kid you not it is like not even having dogs.

    Everyone goes to chow/other routines no one charges me to get out the door to the public.

    It is amazing that one guy could create that much chaos and dog fighting in a home.

  6. Jocke says:

    I have a 15 month old labrador which showed canine aggression two months ago and we are now in a program trying to get it under controll. It’s much better but it can easily come back. It takes a long time and it’s quite frustrating.

    She started to show crate aggression a while ago as well. I think it’s hard to treat this. She growls and snapps when she is in the crate or getting out. I’m telling her of with “NO” and tell her to get down. Then slowly gets her on the side and then she is submissive to me. I’m not entierly sure if this is reasons of fear or dominance or maybe both.

    I’m socializing her with people and other dogs several days a week

    This is only a problem in our home and not in the kennel she visit twice a week.

    I have a dog trainer trying to help us but I would be very happy if someone could give me some ideas of how to deal with it

  7. Lotty says:

    KAY – you try and live with an agressive dog, You try having tried all you can. You cannot tell people that they are lazy. Sometimes safety has to come first. You tell me where you can rehome an agressive dog and then people will do that, but otherwise sometimes all they are left with is to put them to sleep before they do serious harm. I’ve spent hours, days even searching the web for where to rehome a dog with aggressive tendencies. We have been told our dog has such deep underlying problems pre-living with us that we will not be able to resolve them. No-one though seems to know where to rehome him. Come on KAY…tell us all how to do it.

  8. Kerry says:


    My black Lab is one year old and is in general a very sweet-natured dog – she doesn’t exhibit aggression in the home or in any way towards any family members but will bark when people come to the door – that’s all she does in the home apart from repeated barked a a very few people after they have come in whilst backing away from them.

    However, she has begun to become more aggressive when we are out, often barking at people for no reason and sometimes children. Today when I went to fetch my daughter and her out of the field near where we live, she didn’t recognise me at first and so came racing up the field barking with all her hackles up – if I had been a child it would have been very frightening for them, although I still don’t think she would bite.

    Angel (the lab) was attacked quite ferociously by another dog when she was about 6 months and I wonder if this has anything to do with it – she also used to sleep with my eldest daughter until I realised she was looking for top position amonst the children and so stopped that and her getting up on the sofas – I don’t know where to start to stop this barking at people – help!

  9. Joleen says:


    Our five year old Black Lab is a good boy. However lately he has taken to growling at our 8 year old Yellow Lab when he is sitting on the couch. He does not want her anywhere near him and will growl at her. Then one minute later he lets her “kiss” him. Any suggestions on how we can break him of growling over his territory?

  10. Erika says:

    Ok. I don’t know where to start. I have a 7 year old black lab. Which i have had since he was 2 weeks old. He has always been aggressive towards strangers since a pup. We always tried to make him interact with people but he would always be to aggressive toward them. So i started putting him outside when people were to come over (once he was old enough to actually harm someone) . He is really over protective with us and the house over all. We would take him to the vet with a muzzle and when we would take him to the puond to get his rabies shots they would always tell us that we should put him down for that, but he’s my baby (big baby) I cant imagine doing that. Anyways We’ve noticed that he’s starting to get a little more aggressive and now towards my family. Just yesterday he growled at my mother as soon as she was going to go outside. This has never happened before and its starting to scare us. We don’t want anything to happen to my neices or nephew which come to my house everyday and are under the of 5. Now she suggest that we do put him down and im doing my best to change her mind. Im planning on neutering him maybe it would lower his testosterone. I reallly need advice. I can’t handle putting him down but i also don’t want him attacking any one of us. Im even willing to hire a trainer but not sure if some one affordable will even train a dog thats aggressive towards people. Please help..

  11. Jonathan says:


    Sounds like you need help from a behaviorist trainer, or trainer, and fast.
    With kids around you don’t want to play.
    I would call your Vet, they might know someone, or google locally for someone.
    Good Luck

  12. lisa says:

    The dog next door keeps atacking my lab biting though the fence etc.. he has now became agressive towards other dogs how could i help him deal with this. I have him on a 30 ft chain where the other dog cant reach him or see him but my lab still growels at other dogs and is very protective. Before he was a very social puppy and loved to play with other dogs.

  13. Betty says:

    I have an almost 3 years old yellow lab and he is extremely over protective when he is with the family. He does not let anyone come near us and now the vet does not even want to treat him because he is too agressive for him. H eprescribed me some pills to give him next week in order for him to give the dog his regular check up. I do intend to neuter him and see if the problem gets better but overall he is great will all of us inside the house.