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Aggressive Labrador Retriever

Hi John,
I have 3 dogs; a 7 year old Blue Heeler X female, a 6 year old PomChiand an aggressive Labrador Retriever that is 5.5 years old and female. 3 years ago the lab bit me in the face. She did growl to warn me, unfortunately I didn’t perceive it as a warning since she had not done that to me before and the next time I put my face towards hers to pet her, she bit. There were no further aggressive incidents involving biting until this past weekend when she attacked the PomChi; seemingly unprovoked. She punctured the skin at the back of his neck. He will be ok.
The lab, Sadie, is sort of a strange dog. She has issues with anxiety – she becomes “spooked’ by noises outside if she isn’t with the rest of the pack. She will occasionally retreat to the basement (not usual for her) and we know to leave her alone at those times. I have learned to read her body language fairly well now so as to avoid further problems with her. She is not good with outsider dogs; she will charge another dog with her fur raised, then when she gets too close, she will back off and run away crying.
I had some bloodwork done to ensure there were no medical causes for her recent aggression. There were not. Most of my family and my Vet included, feel that she should be put down because even if I rehab her, you just never know if she may snap again one day. I am really struggling with this decision though; on a day to day basis, to me she is a beautiful, loving dog. I can’t imagine packing her up one day to take her to her death – it just seems wrong. Yet I understand that because she has this in her, it can resurface at any time.
Do you believe a dog like this can be rehabilitated to the point of low/minimal risk for reoccurence? Any advice?
Thank you very much, your input is appreciated.
S. (Ontario)
Hi S.
Thanks for the email. Believe me I understand the emotional impact of the quandary you’re in. We have to keep in mind that I haven’t met your dog or can ask the questions I would ask in a consultation but I can say I have helped people with dogs like this but it’s very much a case by case scenario. I use a specific protocol to assess dogs like this in order to determine what the underlying influences are. It’s often not just one thing and some are more amendable to treatment than others.
You did the right thing regarding the blood work particularly if the dog has had what you would consider a behaviour about face by which I mean, aggressive behaviour was not a personality trait at any time, to any degree for the first 3 years of life.  When this is the case I recommend blood work, x-rays that include a careful dental check. I also consider breed and make sure the veterinarian is looking for any physical issues that are known as common to the breed.
Behaviourally speaking you really need to connect one on one with someone with some real experience with this sort of behaviour.
I offer telephone consultations if you can’t find someone locally to help.
John Wade

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4 thoughts on “Aggressive Labrador Retriever”

  1. We have a 3 yr old male chocolate. He is a very sweet, normal lab on most accounts with the general behavior issues like digging, chewing up things he shouldn’t, and barking wildly at every single dog or person who walks by our house. He is so wonderful with our grandkids, ages 0-15, and we 100% trust him with the family. The problem is, if he happens to escape our fenced yard, he will, and has, bitten humans and another dog. Fortunately for us, the people were somewhat understanding, but it is extremely embarrassing, and a huge liability for us (especially in the state of California) where you can be sued for everything you own if someone chooses to do so. We have had 4 incidents, 3 with humans, and now one with another dog yesterday. All bites were punctures, and obviously a very scary thing since it happens so fast, and abruptly. We got him as a puppy because we knew labs were good with children. We have another dog (pit bull mix) who we rescued when our lab was one, and they are perfectly fine together. At this point, we don’t know what to do, because like I said, it happens in an instant, with no warning he’s agitated at all. Because of this, I don’t know how I could trust aggression training because it’s like something snaps in his brain…. I can’t have this happen again. Any advice would be appreciated. Thank you.

    1. Hi Kim,

      I agree, sooner or later you’re going to get sued civilly and risk losing your home insurance coverage or as is happening more frequently these days with dogs with his aggression history, you may find yourselves charged with criminal negligence. A dog bite from a dog that size that’s puncturing is serious. But of course, you know this or wouldn’t be writing. I’d need to a lot more to provide assistance. This is the sort of inquiry that I would typically recommend one of my virtual consults. They’re a lot more thorough than you might think. They average 2.5 hours and then the real work begins. You have to be comfortable using the video feature of your phone as I’ll need some specific video before we chat and we video progress so I can keep you on track and massage what you’re doing in the weeks and months to come. I’ve helped a lot of people from around the world with aggressive dogs from around the world in this manner. If you want details on what they entail, send me an email. [email protected] You should also read this article I wrote for people in your difficult situation: Seven Options Available to Dog Owners with Dogs With Very Serious Behavior Problems (Aggression)


      John ‘Ask The Dog Guy’ Wade
      Embracing Science and Common Sense

  2. I am the owner of a beautiful male chocolate lab. He will turn one on the 2nd of January. I also have a loving sweet male blue heeler, terrier mix whom turned 1 in August. My lab outweighs the heeler by at least 40 pounds. They have for the most part gotten along very well, I say most part because over the course of the past few months Boone (my lab) has seemingly unprovoked attacked Jasper (my heeler). I can not find a trigger for these attacks. I thought at first maybe it was over food as Boone is extremely food driven so I began feeding them separately in a different area of our home. I am at a loss as my husband says he’s going to end up killing our heeler. Last night was the worst as once again he attacked Jasper this time injuring him. I honestly cannot find a trigger for these attacks. I don’t want to get rid of Boone but feel I don’t have a choice as my husband is adamant about it. Any suggestions.

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