Labradors are generally well known for their equable and friendly temperament. But the breed is not immune from temperament problems. Aggressive Labradors can and do exist. So how do you make sure your Labrador puppy will have a good temperament?
Temperament is created in two ways
The influence of the parent’s genes
The influence of the puppy’s environment.
The foundations of a puppy’s temperament are inherited from his parents, but the way he is raised can have quite an impact on the temperament of the dog you end up with in a year or so.
Choosing the right parents
Your first step to success though is dependent on your choice of breeder and on the parents of your puppy. A puppy that has been bred with care will have two parents with excellent temperament. This gives you the best chance of raising a good natured dog.
Do your utmost to see both parents when you are choosing a puppy.
And be absolutely determined to walk away if the parents are not friendly and welcoming.
Don’t forget that whilst the temperament of the parents may give you some idea as to the potential temperament of the puppy, a part of his final temperament is dependent on correct socialisation.
Socialise your puppy
Effective socialisation is the other essential ingredient to good temperament. Much dog aggression is linked to ‘fear’ or feeling threatened. The more thoroughly and effectively you socialise your dog, the more confident and fearless he will be. Fearless dogs are normally friendly dogs. Fearful dogs are more likely to become aggressive.
‘Guarding’ instincts (which many labs do not have at all) are often based in ‘fear’ and are likely to be diminished through socialisation. Dogs with a guarding instinct will attempt to protect their home/property against what they consider to be a threat. The better a dog is socialised, the less things it will find threatening.
A very well socialised dog will feel threatened by very little and is more likely to invite a burglar in and offer him the key to the safe, than to chase him away.
Don’t expect a guard dog
People often expect quite a lot from their dogs. Many people want a dog that is both friendly and good natured, especially around children. But they also want a dog that will guard their home. Or at the very least, bark at intruders.
The Labrador I mentioned above with aggression issues was a wonderful guard dog. There is no way any intruder would have stayed very long in our home. But it was not worth the price we had to pay, in terms of constant vigilance.
Asking for a dog to be both great around kids and to keep intruders at bay is actually quite a tall order. That is not to say that a dog can’t do both, some can. But not all. And there are serious risks in increasing guarding instincts deliberately, especially when bringing a large dog into a family where there are small children.
Your ‘guarding’ dog may be nice enough to family members under normal circumstance, but you have the rest of the world to consider. Once you have your own children, other people’s children soon come into the equation. And a dog with guarding instincts can be a real worry and a problem when you have frequent child visitors.
Let him be a labrador
Many UK residents may find this strange, but I actually receive a lot of correspondence from people overseas, asking me to tell them how to teach their Labrador to bark, and asking how they can stop their dog being so friendly!
I really don’t think it is appropriate to expect a Labrador to be a guard dog.
And I certainly don’t teach people how to make their Labradors less friendly.
This is not what our lovely breed were intended for. Accept your lovable, greedy, friendly, bouncy lab for what he is, socialize him thoroughly and be grateful you will never have to worry about him biting the postman.
Let him be a labrador. There really is nothing nicer, don’t you think?