Why is My Labrador Suddenly Aggressive?

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Why is my Labrador suddenly aggressive? Labrador Retrievers are one of those breeds that just scream cuteness and brighten anyone’s day, so it’s especially devastating when they turn aggressive. This can leave owners and admirers shocked, confused, and even scared. Let’s dig into 4 possible explanations…

So, why is my Labrador suddenly aggressive? Labradors become aggressive for a number of medical and environmental reasons: Fear, illness, frustration, and evolutionary development. Some cases of aggression may pass naturally, while others may be more serious, both of which require immediate attention.

Owners who are unfamiliar with the causes of their dog’s aggressive actions may make the situation worse or encourage more erratic behaviour.

Fear-Inspired Aggression

Fear in Labradors is something that can begin as a puppy and develop over time, or come out of the blue following a traumatic experience or threatening environment.

The method of solving phobia induced fear in a Lab is much different than solving fear that developed from a young age, so differentiating the two and approaching them from different angles will give you a better chance at tackling the problem.

Fear-inspired aggression usually stems from psychological events that occurred as a puppy or at birth.

Similar to how humans react, aggression that comes from fear is hard to pinpoint and often times leads to physical aggression (biting, scratching, attacking).

Simply speaking, Labs tend to display these fear-fueled aggression when they get caught in situations where they feel trapped, unable to escape a given situation, or feel like their in danger.

Illness-Inspired Aggression

Illnesses can cause long-lasting aggression in Labs at any point in their lives and at any degree of sickness.

There are two kinds of illnesses you need to worry about when identifying what may be causing your Lab’s aggression:

  1. Regional pain
  2. Generalized pain

Regional pain refers to the kind of pain that dogs get from an illness at a certain part of their body (examples: infected ear, intestine/stomach infection, tumors, etc.).

If your Lab only reacts aggressively when this certain area of their body is stimulated (for example, scratching their ear), you’re looking at regional pain.

Generalized pain, however, is caused by an illness or issue that affects the entire body. This kind of pain causes Labs to be in a constant state of aggression.

Examples of issues causing this kind of pain includes:

Frustration-Inspired Aggression

Frustration in your Labrador is normally inspired by its environment and acts as a response to a situation that it is being forced into against its will.

Some other incidents that will spark this kind of aggression may be:

  • General discomfort
  • Other dogs
  • Being forced into places they don’t want to be (kennels, other people’s houses, cars)
  • Other people

Common signs of frustration aggression include high-pitched barking, charging (towards other dogs or people), bouncing in place and/or pacing (mainly in a circle or a back-and-forth path).

For example, if you recently got a new neighbor next door and your Lab becomes aggressive every time it goes outdoors, it would be safe to say that the new neighbors are the source of your Lab’s aggressive tendencies.

Evolutionary Development

In some cases, your Labrador’s sudden aggressive behavior may tie back to the kind of environment it was raised in or where its parents come from.

Unlike fear-inspired aggression, Labradors may become aggressive in response to a trigger they learned while they were being raised, not a trauma-induced trigger.

Ask yourself:

How was my Labrador raised?

If you adopted them when they weren’t a puppy, where did they grow up?

Were they in a position that brewed aggression (police dog, dog fighting, stray)?

In some cases, your Labrador may be aggressive based off where their parents came from.

If you adopted your Lab from a place where the parents were not in the best conditions or were rescued, as well, your lab may be suffering from an outburst of natural genes.

If it’s the last case, and your Labrador’s sudden aggression is because of the genes their parents passed down, there is not much you can do to get to the root of the issue.

Related Questions

How do I fix my Labrador’s aggression? The first thing you should do is take your Lab to a qualified veterinarian and address any concerns/problems with them. From there, you will likely be given a number of tips (and possibly medicine) to calm your Labrador down and work on controlling their aggression issues.

If this is not possible, the internet will give you sufficient resources for identifying what is introducing the aggression and how to deal with it (use the types of aggression listed in this article as a starting point).

What if my Labrador doesn’t get better? Treating sudden aggression in Labrador Retrievers can be a lengthy process and may require a lot of time to come to a solution and remediate the issue… so stay optimistic and be patient.

If the problem doesn’t improve after a month, or if the aggression gets significantly worse, visit a veterinarian as soon as possible. In some cases, it is a mental health issue or literal issue with your home environment and your Lab may require relocation or other medications.

Will I need to put down my Labrador? Euthanization is a last-resort for many veterinarians and Lab owners, so more than likely this won’t be necessary.

The vet may recommend that you euthanize your Labrador if the aggression becomes dangerous to humans or other animals, or if the aggression is being caused by an irreversible underlying issue (sickness like cancer or arthritis).

In drastic cases of aggression, courts may order that your Labrador be put down out of fear of a lack of public safety.

Can I have an aggressive Labrador in a house with family? This depends on how severe the aggression is and who/what it is aimed at.

If, for example, your Labrador is aggressive in the sense that it barks at most other dogs but doesn’t harm people, you should be safe.

However, if there are any signs of aggression towards humans that may put your family at risk, consult a veterinarian and closely monitor your lab. In some cases, your Labrador and family won’t be compatible, especially if there are children in the picture.

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