Are Labrador Retrievers Aggressive?
[Full Guide]

Aaron Rice Expert Dog Trainer
Written: January 17, 2022

Labradors are one of the most popular dog breeds, and they make great family dogs. Some people still ask, “Are Labradors aggressive?” This is an excellent question to ask if you are looking to get a family dog or pups and want to be sure that your kids will be able to play with your new labrador retriever.

It is important to remember that any dog breed or any pups can show hostility if fear or food aggression are in the mix. Dog behavior can be influenced greatly by training as a puppy and other factors. Lab puppy training does require a certain amount of education for many people. Knowing how to train your puppy correctly can prevent the dog from displaying behaviors that could lead them to become a problem dog.

Let’s take a closer look at Labradors as a breed and learn more about their behavior and traits.

Are Labradors Aggressive?

Labrador retrievers are famous for their good personalities and their trainability. The American Kennel Club rates the Labrador highly for their kind behavior and their willingness to please. This information is backed up by studies showing that aggression in dogs is often linked to training and not to the breed itself.

Socialization and exercise are often major determining factors in animals displaying aggression. Health conditions can also be to blame. No matter what personality your Lab has, pain or improper training can be factors that will lead to aggressive tendencies in any breed.

Let’s look at the Lab breed background more closely to learn about their tendencies.

Background of the Labrador Retriever

The Labrador retriever comes from Newfoundland. They were needed to be hunting and water dogs. Due to this, the Labrador was bred with care to be loyal, kind, and lacking in aggression. This background is why Labs enjoy mouthing toys and other items but will never react with fear when a human takes something away from them.

This history has led to creating a breed that views humans as the pack leader and enjoys time spent with them. Often thought of as husband dogs, Labs love persons of all ages. People who own a Lab or lab puppies will rave about their great personality, overall health, and love of children.

The Lab breed is known for good health, good behavior, and a willingness to play. They thrive when they feel they have a job, and they love other dogs and children. Labs also love each other, which means that you can choose to own many Labradors at the same time.

Why Might a Labrador Display Aggressive Behavior?

If all of the things that we have discussed before are true, why are Labradors aggressive in some cases? Several factors can cause aggressive behavior in dogs, and many of them are linked to training. Training can predict your dog or puppy’s health, and it can foretell theirs overall life experience.

If you have a Lab or are considering getting one, here are some reasons that dogs can show aggression. If you want to know if Labrador Retrievers are aggressive, we need to look at reasons dogs might display this behavior.

1. Food Aggression

Aggressive Behavior related to food can be an issue in any breed of dog, not just Labs. Dogs naturally protect things that are important to them. They might feel this way about their chew toys, or their pups, but they will almost always want to guard their dog food. This is a matter of instinct connected to survival, even in domesticated dogs. 

While aggression related to food is due to dog behavior, it can also be motivated by conflict with another dog or situations caused by an owner’s behavior. Animals cannot control their environment, and another problem dog or a health condition might lead to aggressive tendencies.

2. Fear Aggression

This is another common and instinctual response in all dog breeds. Concern about safety or other dogs and people can lead any animal to exhibit fear. This type of aggression is commonly seen at dog parks or around an owner who is not viewed as the pack leader. Poor training experiences can also lead to this kind of aggression in dogs.

One of the biggest factors for this problem is lack of socialization and prior bad experiences with other animals. Animals can do nothing else to show they are feeling defensive in these situations, leading to conditions that cause aggressive behavior.

3. Poor Health

If a dog is in pain or has health conditions that make it feel bad, it might display aggressive behavior. Seizure conditions, arthritis, and other health concerns can cause a dog to show signs of aggression. Dogs who are struggling with bad health should see a veterinarian for treatment, but some owners do not realize that this is the root cause of the bad behavior.

Sudden temperament changes, lack of energy, and obvious signs of pain should never be ignored. Dogs always require the help of people to resolve health concerns that might be leading to aggression.

4. Frustration

Pets can get frustrated just like people. Children throw tantrums when they cannot understand something, and dogs might as well. The root cause of lots of aggressive behaviors in dogs is often frustration. Factors that can lead to frustration in the Labrador Retriever are unclear training cues, other aggressive animals, and prior life experiences.

Avoid games like tug of war, as they can lead to issues. These games can also cause fear of the leash. The play that you engage in with your Labrador dog is part of their socialization. This means that people can accidentally teach their Labs to be aggressive.

Ways to Prevent Labrador Aggression

  1. Food aggression is an easy behavior to prevent. Feed your Lab at the same time each day. Make sure that they are not in pain due to bad teeth or other health conditions. If you have a Labrador puppy, take the time to pet the dog while it eats. You can also remove the dog bowl full of food for a moment and reward the dog if it does not show food aggression.
  2. Fear aggression is a bit trickier to address, but it can be done. Fear might be triggered by poor health, children who are not nice to the dog, misdirected high energy, the age of the dog, or unfortunate situations that have happened in the past. Trust is the best way to address fear behavior in a Lab. Take the time to reward brave behavior, but do not discourage fearful tendencies with your own aggression. 
  3. Poor health is often easy to approach. Health conditions typically show clear signs that something is amiss. A veterinarian can diagnose the root cause of health problems and help your dog or puppy feel better. Once their discomfort is resolved,  your dog should not be aggressive anymore. Labrador dogs who can play games and exercise again will be much happier. If your dog’s aggression is age-related, some medications can help them avoid the pain.
  4. If frustration is the root cause of your dog’s behaviors, some training tips can prevent this. Do not work on the same tricks too often. Make sure that you allow your Lab puppy to get rid of excess energy before attempting to teach them something new. Reward your pup with a structured training plan that they trust. Labrador Retrievers do best when they are trained with consistency.

Last of all, make sure that your Lab is appropriately socialized. Many aggressive behaviors result from a dog that has not been properly exposed to new experiences as a puppy. You can teach an older dog about life just like a pup. Dogs who have been trained to respond without aggression to other dogs and children are the best pets to have.

Are Black Or Chocolate Labs Aggressive?

This is a common question, but it has a simple answer. Black or Chocolate labs are not any more inclined to display aggressive behavior than any other color Lab. This is excellent news if you have had your eye on a Black or Chocolate lab!  Life experience has much more to do with aggressive behavior than any other factor.

Wrapping Up

It is safe to say that a Labrador Retriever is much less likely to be aggressive than many other dog breeds. They are famous for their good personalities and bond with humans for excellent reasons! Labs make great family pets and perfect husband dogs because they are a happy, kind, and loyal breed of dog.

If you want a dog who enjoys the dog park, always wants to play, and gets excited when it sees its leash, then a Lab is the one for you! This breed has a great temperament, loves to work, and adores children. If you get a lab puppy, you can teach it to be kind to people and other dogs.

This article should have made it clear that aggression in dogs is not related to breed, but is related to health conditions, lack of exercise, or incorrect training behaviors of humans. Certain dogs’ personalities might be inclined toward aggression, but this is relatively uncommon in the Lab breed. You should feel confident in your choice to get a Labrador pup to share your home.