Thursday, April 01, 2010

Black Labrador Retriever Aggression

From: Sarah (Canada)

Subject: Black Labrador Retriever with an aggression problem.

Labrador Retriever Name: N/A

Reader's E-mail - Sarah Writes:

I want to preface this by saying I read through Lisa's aggression email and your response to try and find an answer to my problem but I wanted to run my scenario by you just in case. I live in Newfoundland, Canada. We adopted a black Lab (possibly crossed with a Newfoundland) from our local SPCA two years ago, when he was about one. He's now three and about 90-100 pounds, and only a foot or so shorter than I am when he stands on his back legs (I'm 5'4). He's a big boy! Everything was going fine until about a year ago when he started exhibiting random bouts of aggression - always towards my mother whom is with him most often. A few months ago he had wandered into the neighbours yard and wouldn't come out so she started pulling on his lead to get him out and he clamped down on her arm and actually broke the skin, enough that she needed a butterfly stitch to keep the wound closed.

Things were fine after that incident, except for some occassional episodes of snarling or snapping. Last night he was laying in bed with her and the remote control for the television was under the covers he was lying on. She reached under them to pull it out from under him and he clamped on her arm again, but this time got a mouthful of blankets. She punished him by telling him he was bad and sent him from the room. Except for these incidents he's a very loving and affectionate dog, but she admits she's slightly afraid of him now because he's gone after her twice.

His diet is fairly average, we feed him Pedigree food and mix in table scraps like meats, rice, vegetables (he loves cauliflower!). We always make sure to look up any vegetables to see if they're bad for him before we give them to him. He's given Milk Bones as a snack, or apples. I blame his occassional aggression on pent up energy. For a dog of his size (or any size, for that matter) he gets little excercise. It's the usual excuse, the household all work full time jobs so he's often cooped up in the house for long stretches at a time (though I do work shift work so it does get broken up some) and his main source of excercise, if you could call it that, is to run around in the yard when one of us is home. In light of last night's incident I've made a commitment to try and walk him for at least an hour daily in the hopes that this will curb his aggressive tendencies.

He's not neutered, and he has no health issues that we or the vet are aware of, except that he occassionally seems to have a hard time breathing, almost like he's having an asthma attack (this happened three times on our walk today). I would be so thankful for any advice you may have. He's a gorgeous beast and we love him to pieces, and I'd hate to have to give him away because of my mother's fear that he might hurt her some day.

Thanks for taking the time to read this,


All About Labradors Blog response:

Hello Sarah and thank you for your e-mail. I'm sorry to hear about the problem you are having.

First off, as I stated to Lisa, it is hard for me to recommend other specific help without me spending time with your Labrador Retriever.

The primary goal in preventing aggression in your Labrador Retriever is to never allow them to achieve dominant status over anyone in your family. If your Labrador Retriever knows his social ranking, they will usually be good family members.

Your Labrador Retriever should earn everything he receives from his owners. He should sit to receive treats or when you pet him, sit when getting his leash attached, sit before he goes out the door and so on. You (your family) are the boss, not your Labrador Retriever. Constantly reinforce the above with everything your Labrador Retriever does to let him know who the boss is.

Preventing aggression does require that you as the owner wins each and every confrontation with your Labrador Retriever.

I refer all of the readers of All About Labradors to this wonderful article in establishing the Alpha Position. It's a list of rules every Labrador Retriever owner should follow to ensure your Labrador knows his place in your human pack:

Establishing and Keeping Alpha Position

Neutering may be helpful for your Labrador as it may help your Labrador Retriever be less aggressive toward other male dogs and also people. Besides that, neutering has many other positive benefits.

I do recommend that you get professional training to help with your problem. Treating aggressive behavior is best handled by a professional animal behaviorist or an experienced, animal trainer. Ask your veterinarian for a recommendation if you don't know of a trainer.

Hope this will be of some help to you Sarah. As I stated earlier, it is hard for me to recommend other specific help without me spending time with your Labrador Retriever.

Please keep me updated with what you decide to do and how it is working out with your Labrador Retriever.


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Marc April 03, 2010 2:35 PM  

Good advice. I think it's very important to give a dog plenty of activities:)

Ron September 17, 2011 2:51 PM  

I am having the same problem. Male Golden Lab, neutered, 3 years old. about 100lbs. Friendliest dog around, go to off leash dog park, no problems ever. never growled at anyone when walking him, other dogs have come at him and he just stands there. Nothing. He's an outside dog in a large fenced yard, has a heated shelter, I'm in British Columbia, so it does not even get really cold. Loves to play fetch, knows "drop it" with a ball. But every 4 or 5 months, for a couple days, He just becomes savage. Stands at the sliding door and if I even go near the door he freaks out and practically tries to come through the glass at me. I can't even get into the yard. It's frightening, I cant even feed him. Then, the next day it's like it didn't even happen. He is in the yard with a 5 year old German Shepherd and has displayed no aggression towards the shepherd ever even when he is in his aggressive state. The shepherd even steals the labs toys from him, and he does not even do anything. 99% of the time he's friendly, but because of his unpredictability, I would never take him around children. Any advice would be appreciated.

Rikki,  February 03, 2012 8:08 PM  

Having similar problems as the main post, our chocolate lab is wonderful at times then just seems to have random bouts of aggression towards my grand mother, and my sister all of these bouts seem to be only against female family members... Is there anything anyone can suggest to help... we really dont want to give him up but it's becoming a real problem and we dont want him hurting anyone

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