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Aggression in Labs?

Guinness' mom
June 9th, 2008, 03:47 PM
Hey Guys...looking for some advice
My chocolate Lab Guinness is 1 year old neutered male, yesterday while he was with my husband a guy (we are acquainted with but not Guinness) came up to my husband to talk to him and Guinness bolted from under the picnic table when the guy reached to pet him he jumped up and snapped at him. I'm really upset with the whole incident. He usually is so happy go lucky. He has growled if someone he does not know approaches his crate when he is in it but I always felt that was because he was in his crate and felt maybe threatened. It was very hot yesterday he had a bone near him and he has had diarrhea for a week that the vet diagnosed as probably colitis so he was kind of off. But that's still no excuse. He is my second lab and the reason I chose that breed is because they are normally friendly fun family dogs.
Any suggestions...thoughts...etc?

June 9th, 2008, 04:03 PM
I have a chocolate too and honestly I think he maybe was just off that day! they are such good dogs...maybe he sensed something with this person? I would try to set him up again in that same sort of scenario and see if he reacts the same way? Good Luck with your boy! Love the name by the way! perfect for a lab!

June 9th, 2008, 04:12 PM
Could he have been guarding his bone? Has he ever shown any signs of resource guarding prior to this?

June 9th, 2008, 06:15 PM
I also think he may have had reason with bone nearby and not feeling well. But of course he cannot do that. In this case I think it is your responsiblity to save him from unwanted friendly encounters when he might not be feeling well.

My lab girl got a bit defensive when she was a year old. Never snapping, but she did bound up and bark at people. After talking to her breeder we decided that she was growing up and thinking it was her place to guard me and the best defense was a good offense sort of thing. I did two things that helped her. First I upped her obedience and made sure she knew I was in charge whenever we met someone. I called her to heel, told her to sit and just very lightly touched her collar as she was usually off leash. I also noticed she did not do this with people I knew so I started greeting everyone with "hi, how are you, great day, lovely weather," whether I knew them from a hill of beans. It worked and seemed to reassure her that I WAS in charge so she didn't have to be. Maybe worth a try?

June 9th, 2008, 07:03 PM
Any dog can be aggressive. My daughter's friend has had to put down their lab b/c he bit people. I agree with Longblade that obedience training is what he needed. However, part of the problem is a lot of people greet strange dog by patting them on the head without warning. I was taught to show your hand to a dog you first met and let it smells them. If he shows any sign of aggression or growl, just back away slowly. I know it's hard to educate stranger. But I would warn people approaching until Guinness gets more training.

June 9th, 2008, 08:14 PM
Just because you own a breed known to be friendly doesn't mean it will be, still train and socialize your dog regardless of breed. When your animal is not feeling well keep it away from strangers, we had a case here where a dog bit a child because it was recouping from surgery and the child just wanted to say hi, normally the dog is lovely but heck it wasn't feeling well. Please protect your dog and others.

My dog was attacked by a lab and the lady who owned said oh it's a lab they are normally so friendly! She never bothered to train the dog or socialize it as well it's a lab?!

Lots of lovely breeds known to be just wonderful get dumped at the shelters because they don't live up to their breeds reputation, well it's not the dogs responsibility to figure out life, it's up to the owner to teach them.

June 9th, 2008, 09:19 PM
He could have been having an off was a very hot day.lots of things could have caused it.the guys body language,how fast he went down to pet a strange fast did he reach out to pet many things could cause it.i would keep an eye on the dog to see how he reacts to other people.with aggression it can be any breed.

June 10th, 2008, 08:25 AM
i betcha its either his age or there is something wrong with the stranger. Mister went through somethign similar between 11 and 15 months where he was... a little off. i mean, he never DID anything but you could tell there was a level of.... irritation??? that just wasnt normal. *shrugs* whatever it was, he is over it now.


June 10th, 2008, 08:46 AM
He has growled if someone he does not know approaches his crate when he is in it but I always felt that was because he was in his crate and felt maybe threatened.

It sounds like Guinness has a bit of history... A lot of dogs tend to feel insecure/defensive when they are restricted or confined and cannot distance themselves and approach a potential threat at their own pace.
It sounds like at the latest incident he was under the picnic table (which could have reminded him of his crate) so Guinness who was probably a little tense comes out, only to have a stranger invade his space. He was likely overwhelmed and unsure, hence the snap. Dogs cannot verbally say "Pardon me, but you've breached my personal space" - they communicate with body language - Guinness was likely giving off calming and distance increasing signals (lip licking, turning away, blinking etc...) only to have them ignored or go unrecognized which left him with the option to run away (flight) or escalate his distance increasing signals (growl, air-snap, lunge, bite etc...) so they couldn't possibly go unnoticed. Humans find it very hard to witness aggression in dogs but we need to remember that it is a part of HOW they communicate.

As others have said, ANY dog can be aggressive - they all have teeth and their own triggers and thresholds that could end in aggressive displays under the right, or perhaps wrong circumstances.

Since Guinness has growled when approached by strangers in his crate, I would take that as a warning sign and not accept it as is. I cannot think of a good reason to allow a dog to react in his crate, so that is something I would work on changing through counter-conditioning (pair good things with strangers approaching him in his crate).
Although it sounds like Guinness may have just had an off day, I would also set him up for success when meeting people. Explain to friends/strangers and especially children that when meeting Guiness they should ignore him until he approaches and if they do acknowldge him, they should offer a tidbit, then allow him to sniff and if he's okay, scratch under his chin/around his ears. You should also make sure that they don't give off threatening signals unknowingly (ie: direct/prolonged eye contact, standing tall/square and then bending over Guinness' head to pet him)...

Guinness' mom
June 10th, 2008, 02:11 PM
:fingerscrThanks so much for all the replies....much appreciated.
I wish to add a few details and clarify some things.
I do feel my dog is to food driven and I think most of you are right about the bone.
Guinness and I have been going to training, as I apparently am not the "Alfa male" and was having problems with him obeying me and walking this 75 pound beast was so un-enjoyable. I have bought the harness, the halti, choke collar and then actually ended up with the pinch collar (which I swore I would never use!):sad:
Our trainer did do some things to see any type of aggression in Guinness and he responded positively to her and other dogs but as many of you have said this can come out at anytime and not in the controlled environment of our classes. I am also going to visit another trainer who tends to only work with the "working class dogs" i.e. German Shepherds, Dobermans, etc. And he seems to be well known for aggressive issues, but was told to be prepared as he demands respect and will most likely correct him much more strongly. Wish me luck:fingerscr

June 11th, 2008, 12:49 PM
I am afraid too many people rest on the laurels of 'retriever' type personalities and assume they will be super nice no matter what.

Every dog is an individual and every dog needs good training, good socialization and great leadership. We are not thrilled with the terms 'alpha' or 'dominant' as they can convey an aggressive attitude towards dogs. Often people describe a dog as 'aggressive' and the dog is truly just being assertive due to his fears or lack of manners - it doesn't indicate the dog is actually a mean dog. Fears and lack of manners are a direct result of lack of good human leadership in their lives.

This is an adolescent dog and for what ever reason he thought the stranger was an intruder, he was insecure about the stranger’s intentions - he didn't see his parents taking control so he leapt right in and did the job for everyone.

Dogs are dogs first and foremost. They are all about survival and that means they can be disposed to protecting what is theirs (bones, food and pack members). It is our job to teach them that all people are part of the bigger pack and should be treated with respect and good manners. They need to learn that all dogs & other animals need to be treated kindly & respectfully. They need to understand that all food, bones and toys belong to humans not dogs. They EARN the food, bones and toys by having good manners. This is like saying all children need to have good social morals, manners and the ability to read and write. Being a good: teacher, parent, leader simply comes with the package of kids and dogs.

So the work that is needed here is to establish yourself as a great leader and teach your dog greater social skills. This means he needs to learn things like...
Stay (do NOT move from that spot)
Leave it (take your energy away from what it is you are concerned about)
Settle (calm down)
Come (leave what you are doing and arrive at my feet NOW)
Stop (stop in your tracks)
Drop it (drop the object from your mouth NOW)
Take it (take the object in your mouth)
Play (amp up your energy)
Easy (take your energy down)
Say hello (greet someone with calm energy)
Share (allow others to share your things)
…plus at least 2 dozen more.

He also needs to learn these things without the use of force or bribery. His reaction to the stranger was instinctual (right side of brain) - he did not really think before he reacted. We need to activate the thinking side (left side of brain) of his brain and that comes through his relationship with you. You teach a child or dog to look to their parents for the answers and it teaches them to hesitate before reacting. They must ask for permission first before acting. Just as a child asks to play at the neighbors, a dog must look to you first before chasing the squirrel or leaping at the stranger. He is looking to you for direction and you are ready with an answer. This way of training also teaches you how to be more sensitive to the changes that occur in your dog’s body language (as he is thinking about going after something) and heightens your awareness so that you are ready to stop the thought before it becomes and action - easier for both of you.

If your child randomly punched other kids on the playground you would be watching him like a hawk ready to guide him through his decisions - correcting the bad choices and rewarding the good ones. You need to teach your dog right from wrong too. "NO don't chew that shoe, YES come chew this toy." "No don't leap on humans, YES come sit calmly by me and wait for your next cue". This is about communication and a strong relationship. The more you communicate with your dog through cues and signals the greater his abilities and confidence grows. Providing that you follow through with your directions and he respects your word. But the less guidance we offer to him the greater his insecurities, assertive behavior and disobedience will grow.

You need to find a really good trainer who will teach you how to be a great leader without force or bribery. A trainer who will teach you to read your dogs signals and empower your leadership. It is not hard at all – you just need to become more aware of what your dog is thinking and feeling, and provide him with lots of good structure throughout his day. So when a stranger shows up the dog looks to you (knowing his wonderful leader has it all under control) and waits patiently for your next word of wise direction.

Guinness' mom
June 24th, 2008, 06:16 AM
UPDATE....I have been a couple of times to a different trainer....and boy did I get a work out...LOL. He pointed out allot of mistakes I have been making especially my body language(my body erect and hands on my hips when the trainer is telling me I'm doing something wrong:laughing:and then how I slouch over or slighly move away from guinness when he is misbehaving) In other works I try to stand up to a big guy but then don't with my dog:wall: When I am at this class it is seems 2 be 2 types coming, big men that are training for sports/agililty shows and then there are the women trying to get control of their big work dogs. LOL ( I am not trying to say that women are not in charge of their dogs just the few of us that are not are in this class:o)
even with only 2 classes under my belt I feel more confident and have seen improvement in Guinness. I just have to work allot more on recall because outside he is not doing it if not on a lead.