Labrador Retrievers are well known for their unsurpassed loyalty to their owners, and are used extensively by many law enforcement agencies. However, there are many pet experts that suggest that Labrador Retrievers do not make the optimal guard dog. While this is not true of all Labrador Retrievers, there are many temperament characteristics that contribute to Labradors not being the best dog to choose for a guard dog.
Most Labrador Retrievers are adopted as family pets, or for companionship. Labradors have one of the best personalities for interacting with other humans and dogs, though this is not an optimal trait for being a guard dog. Labradors are very gentle, and are not known for turning on their owners (as some other breeds are known to do). This is because the Labrador Retriever was bred specifically for a companion dog, emphasizing the positive traits for a loyal temperament.
The aggressive tendencies of some breeds is a result of early training, breed-based temperament characteristics, or emotional distress. While aggression in general is not seen as a positive temperament trait in a dog, some measure of aggressiveness is required for a dog to be an effective guard dog. An ideal guard dog for a family, is a dog that will only be aggressive when they feel that their “pack” (family) is being threatened. A family guard dog should not be territorial, since this can result in some of the aggressiveness being diverted internally (against family members) if this territory is violated. The Labrador Retriever is not known for being a territorial breed, and will most likely never show unneeded aggression against friends or family members.
Labrador Retrievers can be trained to be good “watch-dogs”, while still maintaining their positive temperament characteristics towards family members and visiting friends. This can be accomplished by forming a very strong bond with your Labrador. A good bonding tactic is to constantly keep your Labrador Retriever’s sleeping space in your room. Sleeping in the same space is an important instinctual pack-based trait for canines, and will show positive bonding effects with your Labrador Retriever.
It’s extremely important that your Labrador understands the difference between “unknown person” (which could be a visiting friend) and “bad person” (which would be someone threatening the safety of the “pack”). You should socialize your Labrador Retriever with as many people as possible, so that they become familiar with “good” human behavior. This can be done with an intensive socialization training program, which involves constant interaction with many external stimuli. This should ideally be started at a very young age, though it is possible to socialize older dogs as well.
Though Labrador Retrievers are not well known for being guard dogs, their solid loyalty to their owners is legendary. Labradors are entirely dedicated to their “pack”, and will thrive off of constant positive interaction. They will do everything possible to keep their owners safe, which is why they are so frequently used by the GDA (Guide Dogs of America) to service blind individuals. While this is not specifically “guard dog” behavior, Labradors can be reliable dogs to keep their owners safe in times of distress.