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Labrador nervous/aggressive behaviour(28 Posts)
We have an almost 3 year old lab. She is very calm, well behaved (mostly) and loving, thinks she's a lap dog most of the time, extremely patient and tolerant of our kids. Walks well on the lead, has fairly good recall, loves other dogs etc.
But, she hates people coming to the house that she doesn't know, this isn't too much of a problem as we can lock her away most of the time but she constantly barks and growls at the neighbours, even though they have spoke to her etc and it's getting embarrassing.
Also, when we are out walking she will walk fine, we go to crowded places and it doesn't bother her but every now again she will pass some one and just jump up at them and 'bite' their hands (not hard, not really aggressively, it's hard to describe) or she will start barking/growling at someone passing. As she is a lab and so a big dog this can be quite daunting for people as she appears quite aggressive. At first it was only if someone startled her/appeared from nowhere, but now she just picks random people she doesn't like the look of.
There have been times when we have been camping etc where people approach to chat and she will go to them warily for a stroke but then start growling and/or barking.
A few weeks ago we were walking home from school run and it was quite busy, I was walking with another parent just chatting and then all of a sudden the dog just jumped up at this parent and grabbed the jacket she had in her hand and then started barking at her and jumping up. She tried to stroke her but she just kept barking/growling in an aggressive manner until the parent left and walked ahead. It's so strange that I don't know what to do as she comes across quite aggressive but actually if the person she is barking at approaches her, she will stop barking and let them stroke her, but also growl at the same time! She has never ever bitten anyone or snapped at anyone aggressively.
I can't quite work out if it's a nervous thing or maybe a protective thing?
Any tips for stopping this behaviour? She is an absolutely gorgeous dog in all other ways and I really don't want to have to stop letting her off the lead or even worse muzzle her as I don't think she would ever actually hurt anyone but I'm sick of having to apologise to people and calling out 'it's ok she won't hurt you, she's just a noisy pain in the butt'
It would be irresponsible of anyone to try to diagnose this sort of problem on a forum.
You need a decent behaviourist.
Avoid anyone who talks about alpha, being the boss, pack leadership, dominance etc.
If you join the FB group “Dog training advice and support” they’ll point you in the right direction.
You really do have to have your dog on the lead in the mean time until you get to the bottom of this behaviour. She is giving clear warnings and they are being ignored (still growling while being stroked) grabbing people's hands with her mouth etc. There's a good chance she might bite someone eventually. I'm thoroughly sick of dogs off leads doing all the things you describe to dd6 - they seem to make a beeline for her even though she's walking quietly and minding her own business. Luckily she is confident with dogs and well used to them or she'd probably have a phobia by now. Do what honeysuckle suggests but please do keep her on a lead in the mean time for the dogs sake as well as everyone else
She is a on a lead when she does these things. I generally cross the road to walk around people now to avoid the embarrassment. She is only let off for a run on fields.
It's just such strange behaviour and hard to describe, as it appears aggressive but it's not really but it kind of is. Especially as 9/10 people she will be very happy to greet or will walk past and not bat an eyelid.
Also, she wants people to stroke her and she will keep going back for more but will be weird about it at the same time.
I will seek professional opinions but just thought I'd ask to see if it's something that others have experienced.
She never bothers with kids, mostly just men
The going back for more doesn't mean she wants more, she's anxious and unsure what to do or where to put herself. At the moment it's not aggressive but it might become so if it escalates. Assume she's not always been like this so it is escalated from nothing initially? Definitely enlist the help of a behaviourist as no one over text can advise without seeing the dog
If she's mouthing people like that when she's on the lead, then she really needs to be wearing a muzzle in public until you've got to the bottom of her behaviour.
A growl is a dogs way of staying "Stop: I'm uncomfortable with this" and by allowing people to stroke her anyway you're ignoring all her warning signals and setting her up for failure. If she learns that growling won't stop the behaviour, she may well escalate to a snap or worse, a bite.
Due to their popularity, labradors are actually the breed most likely to bite people and they're big strong dogs - if you can't stop her mouthing and jumping then she needs to have a muzzle on. If she accidentally bites too hard and breaks the skin you're in real trouble and she could be put down.
I posted about a similar problem I have with my dog (if you want to look it up it was 'my dog doesn't like people' I think) got some really useful advice.
My dog is the same about people in the house and strangers approaching us. I totally know how you feel. Unfortunately people constantly want to pet him / which I have realised is a no no. I had 3 sessions with a behaviourist and I would really recommend this. She has set me up with understanding and a plan.
With my dog he is just scared basically so I am working hard to change his opinion of strangers with counter conditioning. I am training him to ignore strangers on walks and see people coming to my home as a great thing.
Everybody who comes around has to ignore him, no eye contact, speaking to him etc this gives him time to sniff them, get used to them etc.
I really think a behaviourist is a good first step. Somebody on here also recommended the Facebook group 'reactive dogs uk' that was an excellent recommendation. It will make you feel not alone with this problem and give you tons of resources and advice. In the meantime I would avoid busy times like school runs. His reactions are unpredictable so whilst you are walking him don't stop and chat to people. I know how embarrassing this is and not what we expect when we get a dog! But you can't risk him biting somebody and then reporting you x
I've stopped taking her to school. I will see if I can find abehaviourist local to me and try that. My worry is exactly what people have said that she ends up snapping and hurting someone. She is a really gorgeous dog and a popular breed so everyone wants to pet her and no one ever thinks they need to be cautious.
To be honest when she first did it, it was once in a blue moon, I just used to joke that she had a sixth sense for dodgy looking people but it's getting worse so we need to put a stop to it. Like I say we were just confused about the behaviour as she will only do it with 1 out of 10 people we pass and she is perfectly fine when we go out for the day to places like the lakes where there are lots of people.
She does sometimes do the same to other dogs too (like 4 or 5 in her life) but only ever if she is on the lead so I think this is a separate thing.
We are just finding it difficult because she is so soft and loves people and being fussed and likes to sit on everyone's knee but then she will just be strange like I've said randomly.
The biggest likelihood is that this behaviour will spread as she uses it more and more and it works - inevitably the thing she doesn't like goes away.
I suspect she is not as happy greeting people as you think tbh.
Totally agree that this needs an accredited behaviourist - the quicker the better. In the meantime she must be under control and kept at a distance from all people great enough that she does not react at all to them. That probably means 25m or more.
Could you get one of those coloured leads that are coded to whether your dog is nervous/approachable?
I don't mean this to sound nasty but your post made uncomfortable reading. I'm no dog expert but she's clearly an accident waiting to happen at the moment. What if she goes for a child? I know you say she doesn't bother with children but you can't say that for definite. I certainly wouldn't be happy if a dog came and took my hand in its mouth, bite or not, and I'd go mad if it happened to one of my children! People shouldn't have to this happen to them, not everyone loves dogs and some are frightened of them.
You need to muzzle her until you've sorted this. People's safety has to come before your dog.
This is interesting to me because yesterday I passed an elderly neighbour who owns a dog. I won't say which breed as that would be outing. We were all walking towards each other and the dog was sniffing walls and passed me, paying no attention to me. I said hi to the neighbour and we carried on walking when we said a few words as we passed so that I passed the dog, ie was behind it. Suddenly the dog started barking and growling at me. I carried on walking and dog continued. It was unpleasant for me.
Does this mean that the dog is nervous, insecure or what? Sometimes when the man leaves dog outside the shop the dog barks a lot.
She is a really gorgeous dog and a popular breed so everyone wants to pet her and no one ever thinks they need to be cautious.
Then you need to be really firm and say no. It's absolutely not okay for people to approach your dog and fuss them without asking for your permission. If they do approach, you need to say no - she doesn't like strangers. It doesn't matter if she's mostly good - all it takes is one bite or snap and you're going to have no choice but to keep her leashed and muzzled at all times in public.
The law nowadays even states that a dog doesn't have to bite to be considered intimidating and aggressive - if your dog lunges and growls at someone but doesn't make contact, that dog can be reported as a dangerous dog. Dangerous dogs have to comply with certain laws which include being kept on a short lead and muzzled at all times. If owners don't comply, the dogs are taken away and destroyed. I don't say that to upset or scare you - it's just the reality of the situation. A dog near us was recently taken away and put to sleep because it's owners refused to muzzle it in public after it bit a stranger on a walk and it bit again. It was only young, but the court ordered the dog be destroyed for public safety.
You really need to address this and get in a behaviourist to deal with the problem, and in the meantime I think you need to keep her on a lead and muzzle her if she's out in public.
Good luck - these kinds of issues can be sorted but you need professional help to deal with it.
OP - join reactive dogs UK and get a recommendation for a behaviourist. It's not a regulated industry so you need one who knows what they're doing.
They have lots of excellent resources, including one on muzzle training. If you train your dog to wear a muzzle while she's still long, it will always stand her in good stead, even if you can turn this behaviour around. It will make you much more relaxed and people will also give her a wide berth.
The other thing you can do is get her a yellow coat from here: https://www.yellowdoguk.co.uk/index.php/online-store which will again alert people to the fact that she's fear aggressive.
Any of the people she has gone for could have reported her to the police. They wouldn't make you get her put down at the moment but they would keep a tally and if they get more reports, then it could be on the cards.
Look after your dog - she's telling you she's unhappy so please listen to her.
Please get a behaviourist who uses positive training to see what's going on. Any mention of alpha, pack leader etc,is complete nonsense and outdated.
Does sound like fear aggression ,but I would certainly get some help. Also get someone who is actually qualified as any idiot can set them up as a behaviourist and they can do more harm than good.
Meanwhile get your dog a muzzle.
A muzzle isn't the worst thing that can happen to a dog - and it's a visual sign to others to not pet her.
Not to hijack the thread, but with reference to my post above, should I cross the road in future? Advice please!
Dog Training Advice and support on FB is a great suggestion. They can advise you on a really good behaviourist who can observe this behaviour and advise. You need someone to see this and explain to you why it’s happening and what to do.
For now? Avoid people. The law says that all someone has to do is say your dog made them feel worried etc and your dog could
Be labelled a dangerous dog. That’s a legal route you must avoid. Good luck.
My rescue was very scared of men when we got him and the behavourist made me look at it very differently. I had the dangerous dogs act explained to me, the danger as my dog is a big dog and therefore more is expected of him. She also asked me to look at the reason why I didn't want to say to complete strangers no don't touch my dog.
Once he wasn't forced into interacting with strangers, he became much more relaxed. Get a good behavourist to help you it is really worth it
My dog is scared of everything and will growl when he’s scared. We are working with a behaviourist. I now bluntly tell everyone who tries to stroke him ‘no, he’s scared and will bite’ (he won’t bite but generally people listen to bite more than just he doesn’t like it). It’s about keeping him and others safe while I rebuild his confidence.
Think about muzzle training him.
A) It’s always a good idea for any dog to be able to happily wear a muzzle. Think of it as just another life skill.
B) Often it will deter people from approaching your dog.
C) It may serve to help you to relax which in turn may help your dog relax; sometimes there’s a “vicious circle” element with reactive dogs whereby the owner tenses up even before the dog sees the “trigger” thereby causing the dog to tense up.
However do NOT use the fact the dog is muzzled as a reason to get closer to people or allow people closer to the dog!!!
For everyone's well-being (esp your dog) you should see an animal behaviorist. Sounds like an otherwise lovely dog, and an unfortunate incident could be devastating to you all because people just aren't very forgiving of big dogs. I'd bet a session or two could diagnose the issue and show you what you need to do to correct it. Then both you and your dog will be happier. A good behaviorist is like a translator for your dog. Good luck.
I should probably say that we don't allow her to go to people now. We keep her away and on a short lead when passing anyone so that she can't react. I do always make a point of saying she's really nervous of people she doesn't know so that people won't stroke her but she doesn't help because as I say that she will be approaching them wagging her tail and nudging them for a stroke but then she will react after the stroke.
With it being a new year we are starting to think about the summer and camping etc so we need to get her some help.
Should also make it clear that When she has jumped up and mouthed people that was not aggressive at all just annoying and embarrassing.
The barking and growling though is aggressive.
We are definitely going to seek some advice so thanks everyone.
We have tried distraction techniques which work really well while out but because she doesn't react every time to every person we find it hard to be consistent.
Has she had a check up?
My reactive dog was reactive because of pain... he was by nature a friendly dog, but, he’d greet a stranger... then react aggressively to them because his back and joints hurt him.
It’s always worth getting a full check up anyway with behavioural issues.
I think the advice to vet check in case of pain is good but honestly, I am astounded you let the behaviour get so far.
If a strange dog jumped and mouthed/bit my hand whilst 'barking aggressively' I would 100% report it to police and dog warden.
You are very lucky that so far no one has.
I agree that with a PP that she should be muzzled too.
Glad to hear you are no longer allowing people to stroke her.
I would put her in a sit behind or next to you if people stop to talk to you/try to approach her so she isn't physically able to get near them and nudge their hand.