Are Labrador Retrievers Good Guard Dogs?

Aaron Rice Expert Dog Trainer
Written: January 17, 2022

People often want to know: Are Labrador Retrievers Good Guard Dogs? This question is usually asked because they hope to get a family dog who will also be a good guard dog. Many property owners use guard dogs to protect their possessions and their home.

Labrador Retrievers are amazing dogs for many reasons, but they are not a leading choice for guard dogs. This is because they are loyal and affectionate, but they are too kind and sweet to act as protection dogs against an intruder in many cases. 

Will a Lab Protect People?

The biggest factor in considering if your lab will protect you is defining what protection actually means. Protective behaviors are linked to innate social tendencies in every breed. Every dog breed has been created for specific tasks, from guard dogs to guide dogs to companion dogs.

Labrador Retrievers are, by nature, sweet and kind. They like other dogs and get along with more aggressive dog breeds because of this. They are unlikely to show aggression toward other dogs or people. However, this does not mean that they will not protect their family.

Even Lab puppies will still know if someone means to harm their owner or family. They love their pack, and they will stand up for anyone they feel is being threatened by barking and posturing. The main difference between this type of dog behavior and true aggressive actions is that it is mostly for show. 

Labradors are not like other breeds of dogs, such as Doberman Pinschers, who will take action against someone they feel is an intruder. A Retriever will alert the family about someone or something that should not be where it is, but a Lab will not chase or hurt this person or thing.

Labs are still used for law enforcement because of their alert nature, and they are suited for dog training pursuits as well. Labs are inclined to trust a stranger, but they can be educated to take on other traits if necessary. Their affable personality is excellent for training.

What Kinds of Protection Will a Labrador Retriever Provide for a Family?

Labs are excellent family dogs because they are service-minded and love to have jobs and receive training. They may not attack an intruder, but they are excellent at providing an early alarm system for a house threat. A watchdog is fourth on the list of effective deterrents for house break-ins.

A dog uses warning barks to notify their pack of potential threats, and a Labrador will provide this service while out in the yard or when someone comes to the door. They see humans as their pack leader and alert them to threats.

Labs will also ensure that children do not fall into the swimming pool or that another dog will not harm them. Labradors are, by nature, very caring, especially of their pack, and they will not allow harm to come to anyone around them. This is a behavior of good guard dogs.

Studies show that guard dogs are often less effective at providing safety than an alarm system and a pet that makes noise when someone comes to the door or enters the yard. If your standard for home security is prevention, then a Lab can provide this service for you. Dogs attacking people entering a yard or a home are not the only means to keep a property safe.

What Items Will my Lab Protect?

Labradors are likely to protect certain items and routines. They value their pack leader and will look to you for that support. They will become focused on specific things that they feel belong to them. This can be a toy or another dog. A Lab might also protect its food or its bed.

Protective behavior is still not guard dog behavior, but it can be useful to know which things a Lab might care about enough to defend them.

  • Family
  • Food or water
  • Kennel
  • A toy
  • Their bed
  • Other animals
  • An area on a property
  • A Fenceline
  • A trusted friend or neighbor
  • A trailer or outbuilding
  • A pond or body of water

These are the things that matter to a Lab, and they will alert their family to threats related to them. While this is not ideal guard dog behavior, it is an excellent attitude and trait for a family dog.

Labs might be well known for their sweetness, but they are still medium-to-large dogs and can provide a deterrent for intruders and people who want to harm the property or people in a family. Their acute sense of smell is a trait that can allow them to make their owners aware of danger much sooner than another dog might be, making them a good watchdog.

All Dogs Are Protective and Can Serve as Guard Dogs

Many people are not aware that all dogs demonstrate protective behaviors. Labs, just like many other breeds of dog, will bark and alert their pack to threats. Even a chihuahua can make enough noise to make a burglar or stranger think twice.

The idea that a good guard dog is needed to protect homes and families is sometimes not truly correct. Any breed of dog can protect a home or property. Attacks on intruders can often be legally unfavorable to pet owners, so dogs that make noise are a better security system than a dog that bites.

If you have been holding off on choosing a Lab because you thought a Labrador would not be alert enough, you can rest easy that this is not the case. Guarding a property is possible even for a small dog breed if the dog barks when it is worried about something. Labrador Retrievers are not known for being vocal dogs, but they can be taught to make noise when it is necessary. Watchdogs are often more helpful than guard dogs for home protection.

Risks of Guard Dogs

Something that many people do not consider when selecting an aggressive dog breed is that owning this kind of animal opens families up to risks. Guard dogs who will actively defend a home or property can cause injury or harm to their owners or other people. Many aggressive breeds can even harm their own family in moments of distraction or excessive emotion.

Owning a protection animal brings great responsibility along with it. Consider these risks when selecting a breed that is known for its aggression:

  • 4.4 million people a year are bitten by a dog in the US.
  • 31,000 people a year need reconstructive surgery due to a dog bite
  • In some cases, dogs who have bitten someone must be put down.
  • Children are killed in dog attacks annually. 79% of annual dog-related fatalities happen to children.
  • You can go to jail or prison for owning an aggressive dog.
  • Guard dogs can hunt in packs, making them deadly to smaller dogs or humans.
  • It is not legal to own certain breeds of dog in some states.

These statistics should demonstrate how important choosing the right breed of dog is. Labrador Retrievers are the perfect breed to pick if you do not want to be a part of any of these yearly accident numbers, although no dog is perfect and owning a dog is a responsibility. If you live within city limits, there is likely no reason for you to own a dog that is as dangerous as a weapon.

Can Labrador Retrievers be Trained as Guard Dogs?

Labradors were originally bred to be used for hunting and as water dogs. This means that their sense of smell and their visual acuity is head and shoulder above many other dog breeds. They have soft mouths and will not bite down hard on anything, but they have a deep voice. This baying tone was selected for hunting dogs but can be used for other skills.

Due to their powers of observation, Labs can be taught to warn their family about many kinds of things or threats. Teaching a Lab to guard is a matter of repetition and training.

A treat-based reward system can be used to train your Labrador to bark when certain things occur. Labs are easy to teach new skills and love to please. This makes showing them a new behavior quick and easy.

To reward alert behaviors, feed a treat to your Labrador Retriever when they make a noise to tell you about someone at the door. You can use this training plan to encourage them to make you aware of all changes that you want to hear about.

Be Considerate of Others

If you live in a neighborhood, be sure to be considerate of your neighbors. They will not want to listen to a Lab barking all day.

Labradors should be trained to bark at specific stimuli that they think are a threat. This can be the ringing of the doorbell or certain noises and activities. It is bad training to teach a Labrador Retriever to make noise for any and all actions or sounds.

Labradors are sometimes known for barking, so they should not be rewarded for making sounds when they are not needed. When training a dog, always use patience and awareness of animal behavior. Retrievers are intelligent and can worry a lot if they get scared.

Guard Dog Breeds

If the answer to “is labrador a good guard dog” has disappointed you, some common breeds are known for their aggressive protection traits. As mentioned before, these breeds require some responsibility and care to own and train.

  • German Shepherd
  • Rottweiler
  • Doberman Pinscher
  • Mastiff
  • Chow
  • Standard Poodle

These breeds are known for their dominant personalities and their tendencies toward aggression. A Lab will never be as domineering as these dogs. Ownership of a protection dog will always bring responsibility. Buy these dog breeds with care and ensure to train them well. Also, remember that no matter which breed you pick, each dog has their own personality.

So, Are Labs Good Guard Dogs?

The answer to this question is usually no. Labs are good hunting dogs, and they are great family pets. But they are too sweet and kind to make good protection dogs.

Selective breeding has created the Labrador Retriever to be a loyal animal that is cheerful and happy. They have been bred to react with patience and kindness to concerns, not anger or fear. 

However, protection can be provided by more than aggressive acts. Labradors can show protective behaviors through alert barking and paying attention to the needs of their pack.

Barking alone can deter a home intruder threat, and many people are worried about walking up to a large dog.

If you require a guard for your home, it is more effective to install an alarm system. There is no way to own an aggressive dog without opening yourself up to risks. If you want your home to be safe, buy an alarm and build a fence.

If you want to have a lifelong companion who will shower you with love and loyalty, then a Labrador Retriever is the right choice for you. If you want to own a guard dog, then you might want to choose another breed.