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Aggressive with Strangers

March 22nd, 2006, 08:47 AM
I know I am at fault for not socializing Cocoa enough. But, we got him in the dead of winter and we live in northern Ontario, Canada and it is still winter here. So, the biggest outtings we've had are limited walks around the neighbourhood and we rarely encounter another person/animal as it's just too cold.
I will be taking him out to the dog park, etc. once spring gets here.
Anyway, Cocoa is AWESOME with his 'pack' meaning me, DH and our 5 kids. He is such a sweetheart: obedient, submissive, fun, gentle. He's the best!
The only company we ever get is my MIL and FIL that live nearby and Cocoa loves them too.
He used to be SUPER friendly from when we got him until about 3.5 months old. Every stranger he'd jump on and beg for affection. Well, that drastically started changing for no reason about a month ago.
Now he won't jump on people that come to the door he'll sit beside me and watch seriously.
He'll growl at people coming close to our car when it's parked and we are in it. He barks at the door when he sensed somethings wrong. If he sees a stranger on our property he barks/growls viciously at the glass door or window.
The other day when I was walking him there was a lady walking from behind us going faster than us. I couldn't even get Cocoa to move forward as he wanted to go towards her so badly. When I turned to look his hair was all standing up and he was NOT impressed with her at all.
The big thing happened yesterday as I was coming home with him from a walk. I was just in our driveway when a nice lady with a 4 year old choc lab female came onto our property to chat and for the dogs to meet...great that's what I want!
Well, Cocoa was SO SO aggressive. He was worse with the lady than the dog too. She was being very nice and put her hand out for him to sniff. But, he would just back up and growl and bark at her with hair up no matter what we tried. He was going crazy, I had to restrain him. The lady said maybe he's getting territorial as they were on our property??
It's just so odd to me that he is so sweet with us and all our kids, but hates anybody else. Aren't Labs naturally friendly?
Will visiting the doggy park help or upset him too much?
Is this aggressive or just protective or just being anti-social? It all happened at the same time from changing to puppy stage to more dog stage.

March 22nd, 2006, 09:27 AM
I will be taking him out to the dog park, etc. once spring gets here.

If your dog is aggressive towards strangers, please avoid the dog parks until you get his behavior under control. Otherwise it could just be trouble.

it's natural for a dog to sound the alarm when strangers are in the yard, walking by, or at the door - mine does it too - he growls and does the "alarm" bark, but I don't let him do this to people we meet. It's all part of teaching your dog manners, you have to put him in situations to meet new people (and dogs), and teach him to act appropriately.

The more exposure to social situations he gets, the better he'll be. If it's possible in your area, I STRONGLY suggest you enroll in obedience class. Nip this behavior in the bud NOW. Obedience class will help socialize him and teach him the manners he needs.

March 22nd, 2006, 11:26 AM
:ca: I agree

March 22nd, 2006, 11:55 AM
Sorry, labs aren't naturally friendly anymore then pit bulls are naturally aggressive. While genetics does play a role - you breed a nasty tempered dog to a nasty tempered dog (of ANY breed) and you have a really good chance of having nasty tempered puppies. Equally important is training.

I had a very gentle, obediant dog that was great with my kids but submissive was never a word that came to mind when describing her. So, since you use that particular word in describing your dog, I can't help but think that your dog IS submissive, as opposed to confident.

This sounds much more like fear aggression then protection. From reading your post, it sounds like this behaviour happens when the dog is leashed or in some way confined (to your car, etc.). This means your dog can't flee and feels the need to protect HIMSELF from whomever he is afraid of.

I would strongly suggest finding a trainer. This needs to be addressed in somewhat specific ways depending on the dog and the triggers and a trainer that can actually see the dog will have great ideas on how to get him past this.

I would never take a dog of mine to a dogpark. While you may know your dog, you don't know the rest of the dogs there. If you think that socializing your dog with other dogs is necessary, then find a couple of friends with dogs you know and socialize with them.

March 22nd, 2006, 12:25 PM
I absolutely agree with LavRott! Pls find some other way to socilize your dog - as I noted previously, I have spent mega time with my brother's chocolate lab - from puppyhood thru adolesceancestors for 3 generationsnce to adulthood (He is now 4 and the most wonderful, friendly, kind and gentle dog you ever want to know. I love him dearly!)

But it all takes lots of work. We live in the Maritimes and also have very cold winters tho this one has been not too bad - an aberation that I hope icontinues, lol. So, the dog attended obedience schools and other activities where he met other dogs. Local rescue groups and Pet stores may have activities as well.

If you bought this fellow from a reliable, credible breeder than they must know his genetic lines - usually a dog is not considered purebred unless you can list the ancestors for three generations. Did you see the mom and papa dog? What were their temperments like? It is helpful to know the temperments of the parents - tho I do realize a with a rescue dog you may not have that option but certainly, sovcialzition and care can usually (tho not always) outweigh temperment probs.

I have to admit I am not a fan of dog parks - never went to one and doubt I ever will. Perhaps I am fortunate in that where I live there are many dog lovers so we walk our pets in the area without much problem. With a dogpark, you never know what you will get and with an aggressive dog, you will be the one who could be facing a serious situation if your dog - and labs are strong ("Mine" once pulled me down not deliberately but because he was anxisou to "see" something on a wooded path where we walkinbg so if he wants to chase a child or another small dog and hurts them, you could find yourself in court and your dog could be in trouble.

This AM, this letter appeared in our Lets to the Ed:

NB Telegraph-Journal | Readers' Forum
As published on page A7 on March 22, 2006

Keep those pets leashed

In response to the article "Recreational walker wants dogs on leash in city park" (Telegraph-Journal, March 20) I heartily agree, but feel that measures should extend to all Saint John trails.

My mother, who is advancing in years, was recently walking in the Irving Nature Park when she was approached by a strange dog.

The owner followed, leash in hand. My mother is not anti-dog. In fact, she is quite attached to my own Labrador retriever, but when she commented to the dog's owner that her dog should be on leash, she was met with arguments bordering on rudeness.

Apparently, this woman believed that her dog was special, and the posted signs to keep pets leashed did not apply in her case.

It is more common to see dogs walking free than on leash, even during the park's open season.

We have all heard of unexpected aggression from seemingly docile animals. As the pet population grows, and the potential for unforeseen incidents rises, it is up to responsible pet owners to ensure the safety of anyone who comes within their dogs' path.

Parks are meant to be shared by dog owners and others alike, and it is a small price to pay for the privilege of using our parks and trails, to keep your dog suitably restrained when in these public spaces.

If unfortunate events occur, our beloved pets may end up banned from enjoying these trails with us.


I am a dog lover and could not agree more. Strange dogs sometimes scare me so I can imagine how someone who does not love animals feels!! I would enroll your puppy in an obedience class - he is young and has time to learn.