Labrador Fears and Phobias

Labrador fears and phobiasWhen your Labrador is really scared,  you want to help.

But what is the best way to help your dog overcome fears and phobias?

We take a look at some common Labrador fears in these articles

One of the best ways to avoid fears and phobias developing is to ensure that your Labrador Puppy is well socialised.   Check out our Puppies page for information on puppy care and articles on Labrador puppy behaviour

Getting help

If your Labrador is often scared,  and you are struggling to help him,  a visit to your vet is in order.  He or she will make sure that there are no underlying health issues upsetting your dog,  and refer you to a behaviourist who will help you, to help your dog, to be happy and confident.

Safety first

Remember, a frightened dog may bite if approached.   Never attempt confrontational behavioural modification techniques such as ‘flooding’, or ‘dominance reduction’  which can make matters far worse.

Check with your vet before using methods suggested on this or any other website. And always get professional help if you cannot make progress in resolving problems at home

 

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{ 60 comments… read them below or add one }

Amanda July 30, 2012 at 2:33 am

My dog does not like guys he eather barks at them or hides behind me he used to live with my dad and now with me.I want to get him to be a servive dog but this is a isue with his fear of men.Do you have and adivice?

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Pippa July 30, 2012 at 12:32 pm

Hi Amanda, it is possible to improve the socialisation of an older dog though this will take a lot longer than with a new puppy. Essentially it involves getting the dog used to men at a distance at which he feels comfortable and then gradually reducing that distance.
It would be best to get some help from a good canine behaviourist, as it is possible to make things worse if you approach this in the wrong way.
Pippa

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Deborah Porter August 21, 2012 at 11:02 am

Hi I have two choc labs who are 5 years old and as soon as we leave the house they howl for a good five minutes, any suggestions for dtopping this
Thanks
Debbie Porter

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Pippa August 21, 2012 at 11:21 am

Hi Debbie, there are several suggestions in this article

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PALASH MITRA December 26, 2012 at 7:50 pm

Hi,
We have a 1 year choc lab and everytime he goes for his walk he is pooping uncontrolably. He has started doing for the past 3 weeks.
He has always been a nervous pup but this was never as bad as it is now.
we have been to the vet quite a few times but he has no health problems(God Bless!!)
Any suggestions for correcting this ?
Thanks
Palash

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Pippa December 26, 2012 at 10:15 pm

Might be time for a second (veterinary) opinion. If your vet thinks the problem is caused by anxiety he or she should be able to refer you to a behaviourist that can assess your dog and help you with strategies for reducing stress and building your dog’s confidence outdoors. Pippa

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Dr Archana February 19, 2013 at 10:04 am

Hi I have a male lab pup (8 weeks old). He play bites us considerably but with certain mentioned and practiced techniques, it has reduced. But he still runs after my 6 years old daughter and tries ti nip her every time she pets him. She is really scared to play with him now. Please let me know what I can do.
Thanks
Dr Archana

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Pippa February 19, 2013 at 11:49 am

Children often have problems with puppies nipping them, and it is to do with the way in which children behave and communicate with puppies and over excite them. You can find an article here called How to play safely with a Labrador which I think will help. And another here on biting.

Try to reintroduce a friendly relationship between your daughter and the puppy by teaching her how to calm him. Initially you can do this by having him on your lap whilst you hold a rawhide chew in your hand to distract him. Teach your little girl to stroke him calmly and talk to him in a low quiet voice.

Unfortunately people often think that their young children will be able to ‘play’ in an unstructured way with small puppies and this is rarely possible. I find that the best thing with kids over six or seven years of age, is to get them interested in clicker training. When they realise that they can teach the puppy all sorts of fun tricks, they soon prefer this to rolling around on the floor with the puppy which inevitably ends up in tears.
Best wishes, Pippa

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Jayne Hind February 25, 2013 at 10:04 pm

Help! I have a 4 month old choc lab who appears to have issues when out on walks, always seems to be on guard and barks at cyclists, young children and men. As she has got older her recall is poor hence most walks are on the lead. We have 2 young boys who she plays with nicely and her behaviour at home is good.
Please give me some tips to have a happy dog that can be let off the lead to explore like dogs should!!

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Pippa February 26, 2013 at 1:34 pm

Hi Jayne,
Dogs are more likely to be defensive when on the lead. Have a look at our recall section to get help with getting your dog off the lead, or you can buy a copy of Total Recall.

You may need to use a training line now, in order to keep your puppy safe.

It sounds as though you also need to arrange lots more opportunities for socialisation over the next few weeks. This can take a little longer in puppies over four months, but it is still doable

Pippa

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dr. Pramod patra March 31, 2013 at 8:10 am

hi,
Ihave a 4 months old lab pup .when I take her out to a walk ,she jumps on strangers and lick them and also when an unknown person enters our house she behaves normally and dont bark on him/her .how to change this habbit of her and make her bark on every unknown person.

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Pippa March 31, 2013 at 9:58 am

Hi,
Most four month old puppies are friendly. This is a good thing. In well socialised Labradors this friendliness tends to persist into adulthood.
Your dog is displaying a nice friendly typical Labrador temperament, she may bark at strangers when she is older, and she may not, but I do not recommend that anyone attempts to turn a Labrador into a guard dog.
Pippa

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surendra April 2, 2013 at 1:29 pm

my labrador puppy’s front leg is little bented what can i do for this problem plz give me better suggestions.

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Pippa April 2, 2013 at 1:48 pm

Hi Surendra, you need to take your puppy to a vet.
Pippa

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Donna April 4, 2013 at 5:42 am

Hi,
I have got a 5 year old lab and have just got a Jack Russell pup wins 9 week old. It seems that the lab is frightened or the puppy. If you look at it or allow it anywhere near him. He’s snarled at the pup a couple of times and snapped. What can I do to get him used to the puppy? I’ve tried to get him to come to me while I gold the pup on my knee and played on the floor with them but he just won’t acknowledge that he’s there.

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Donna April 4, 2013 at 5:45 am

Sorry that should say he won’t look at the pup

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Pippa April 4, 2013 at 10:27 am

Hi Donna, it isn’t unusual for an older dog to be put out by the arrival of a puppy. It is best not to force the issue. He will get used to the pup in time. In a couple of weeks your lab will have adjusted to the invasion, and may even be playing with the puppy, but this is not something you can rush. Meantime you need to make sure that your lab can always get away from the puppy if he wants to, and to make sure you supervise them when they are together.
Pippa

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Donna April 4, 2013 at 12:46 pm

Thank you, I’m just really worried that my labrador will bite him. I’m sure he will settle, we’ve only had him for 2 days

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Omar May 18, 2013 at 8:44 pm

I have a 2 year Lab that is so friendly and fun with the girls, but when a guy show up he gets really angry and sometimes afraid, i keep telling him calm down and it’s ok he is your friend but he refuses that this guy make a move. and if we succeeded to make him love the guy as soon as he got distracted in anything and came back to us he start all over again. Can you please lead me on how to change this behavior i am willing to be patient and to do everything to stop this behavior, because many times i want my dog to stay with me and my friends but i end up taking him home because of this and i don’t like this. Thanks in advance

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Pippa May 18, 2013 at 9:25 pm

Hi Omar,
Aggression in dogs is normally caused by fear. It sounds as though your Labrador has either not been properly socialised, or has been frightened at some point by a male. This has resulted in him being afraid of men.
At two years old, this may be quite time consuming to treat, and you will need your patience. However, it can be done. Ideally you need a behaviourist to help you. If you are in the UK then your vet will be able to recommend one. If there are no experienced behaviourists in your area then you will need to do your best by yourself.
You need to convince your dog that men are not scary. This means ‘engineering’ lots of situations where your dog meets men and has a great time. You can make sure that your male friends have some tasty treats to give your dog, and that you don’t force the dog to get so close to men that he feels threatened.
You will need to go at your dog’s pace and to avoid putting him in situations where he feels cornered or afraid. Bear in mind that if he is very scared he may bite.
This is not an easy situation to deal with but with time and your help, your dog may be able to overcome his fears.
Best wishes
Pippa

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Omar May 21, 2013 at 11:32 am

Thanks a lot Pippa, I will try to engineer some situations as you mentioned. And i will tell you feedback of what happened. unfortunately i am not in the UK, i live in egypt and we don’t have behaviorist in my country, so i will have to do everything my self and i hope things will change.
Thank you
Omar

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Janet May 27, 2013 at 9:32 pm

I have a 3year old black lab who has become so affraid of going out for her walk. she has always enjoyed her walks but she become very nervous and shakes uncontrolably, please help as she is a lovely natured dog and has never had problems before..Thanks

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jodie June 2, 2013 at 5:23 am

I have a 3 year old labrodor who is seemingly well behaved.My brothers dog is staying with us for awhile and at meal time we have to separate them as my dog becomes aggressive.When we introduce them back into the same area she will still be quite aggressive with him.sometimes straight away,sometiimes a good 5 minutes after they have eaten.This only happens at meal time and during the day they play like any normal dogs would and even sleep in the same bed.
I am at my wits end as to how to control this behaviour and stop the aggression.

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Pippa June 2, 2013 at 8:11 am

Hi Jodie, you dog is afraid that your brother’s dog will steal her food. If this is the only source of conflict, the answer is simply to feed them completely separately. I suggest you give your dog her own space, so that she can eat in peace and let her relax on her own for ten minutes after each meal.
Pippa

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Cheryl June 2, 2013 at 3:53 pm

We have a chocolate labrador who is 2 and a half. He has been well socialised with humans and dogs and is a big pet who just loves everyone. He has no aggression with food, toys or over-possessiveness towards us when other dogs approach, or when anyone comes into the house (dog or human). Lately though, he has started really barking at random strangers when we walk him. He’s a big lab and people get scared. He has been neutered at just under a year and this is a recent thing. Is there a reason for this, and what can we do about it? There doesn’t seem to be any pattern to it and the people “chosen” are totally random. They can be loud or quiet, close or far away, moving or standing still, male or female.

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Pippa June 2, 2013 at 6:53 pm

Hi Cheryl, sorry to hear you are having this worrying problem. This is not the sort of thing that can be ‘diagnosed’ remotely and you really need to get some help from a behavourist. It may seem random to you, but it is likely that there is a common ‘theme’ that is making your dog anxious. Have a chat with your vet and get him to recommend a good behaviourist to help you.
Best wishes
Pippa

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April June 5, 2013 at 12:24 am

Hi! I have a 6 month old black lab that we just adopted about a week ago. She suffered “puppy anxiety” the first few days but now she’s really come around in the house and with my family. BUT she absolutely HATES the outside. She was ok outside untill she heard motorcycles now we literally have to carry her outside and almost drag her around. It makes us feel horrible but we don’t know what to do. Will she over come this? Any tips on what we can do to help her? Thanks in advance.

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Pippa June 5, 2013 at 1:50 pm

Hi April, have a look at this video which explains how to counter-condition a fearful dog.

Pippa

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Marc Giglietti June 5, 2013 at 9:46 pm

Hello I have a 3yr old chocolate lab that my wife and I recently rescued . He is VERY timid . We do not know for sure if he was beat or not , very shy and afraid of EVERYTHING. We love him so much and are just basically looking for some answers to try and help him not to be so afraid of everything. Please help!!

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Pippa June 6, 2013 at 2:36 pm

Hi Marc, check out this book and this video for information on coping with fearful dogs
Pippa

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April June 6, 2013 at 4:03 am

Thank you for th video. It did help a little bit but my puppy doesn’t seem to respond to treats outside. She does in my home but outside she is still very sketchy and afraid. Any tips?

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Josie June 17, 2013 at 5:38 pm

Our 16month old chunky Labrador has suddenly developed a phobia about getting in the car. It followed an incident when the end of his tail got trapped briefly when I closed the boot! He did go in to start with but even though we’ve enticed him with cheese and his biscuits, he won’t go near the car now. Help!

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Pippa June 17, 2013 at 7:38 pm

Oh dear, poor chap. He obviously had a painful experience. You need to desensitise him gradually. Start by rewarding him generously for going near the car and gradually move the goalposts so that he has to go closer and closer to get his reward. You have to find a baseline, a point at which he is comfortable, in order to build on this
Pippa

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michelle June 22, 2013 at 4:04 pm

hi we have a 9 month old chocolate lab.. who we got at 8 weeks old and has lived with our 4 year old terrier since then..he was fixed at 6 months old.. he will sit give the paw, does not jump , we can take his food and ball no problem.. he comes when we call him right away.. he never barks and loves anybody who comes into our house. a nightmare on the lead but it is approving with new harness. the problem we have is when he was 4 months old a greyhound ran at him and knocked him over in our local dog park at scared him badly.. slowly over the last few months he has developed a fear of medium to large dogs .. he recently has started to snap and snarl when dogs run at him or come up behind him and tries to hide behind me and his hair stands up and his tail goes between his legs… i am concerned as he is quite large dog and he could do a lot of damage if he did attack another dog. he has also got into a few fights with our terrier over the ball. ( the terrier has attacked him first ).. i have taken the ball away and he only gets for a hour a day when we play with him in the garden.. i dont bring the ball on walks with us. anybody can take the ball off him with no problems. he adores our 6 year old daughter and he has never growled at anybody. any tips i would be grateful thank you

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Pippa June 23, 2013 at 3:05 pm

Hi Michelle, counter conditioning a fearful dog can be a long process, but it can be done. There is a good explanation of the technique here You might also benefit from help from a behaviourist.
Pippa

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michelle June 23, 2013 at 6:38 pm

hi pippa thanks for reply… will have a look.. i have spoken to behaviourist and i am going to start puppy social class with him next week with smaller pups and see how we go from there.. had a break through today i finally got him to stop pulling on lead!!!!

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Krista July 15, 2013 at 12:07 am

I have an 8 year old chocolate lab whos always been very social and kind with everyone, I live with my parents and recently went away for a week leaving her with them, while i was gone she took up a habit of grabbing her toys and walking around the house crying, ive been home a week now and its still continuing, i take her on walks and drives and shes fine till we get back home and the crying, nesting, hiding begins again. shes also wanted to be alone and she snapped at our other dog the other day. Ive taken her to the vet and I know shes not pregnant or anything so What can I do to help her? Is this a form of separation anxiety?

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Pippa July 15, 2013 at 8:38 am

Hi Krista, has your bitch recently had a season? Is she spayed?

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Omkar August 18, 2013 at 8:05 pm

Sir I have 7 month old golden female lab .shi is not barking at unknown person either shi try to go near them and mouthing how to teach her to bark at unknwn person….?

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Pippa August 19, 2013 at 8:50 am

Hi Omkar, I would not wish to teach any Labrador to bark. They are not bred to be guard dogs.
Pippa

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Jess Brooks August 29, 2013 at 10:59 pm

Hi there,
I have 22month old yellow lab, who barks at 6 in the morning, and 11 at night. We have tried spraying him and telling him command ‘no noise’ however, this doesn’t seem to be working.
He is our first dog and he was done just before he turned 1. Everything seemed to be calming down, we managed to stop his jumping up and him from being hyper, but then he started chasing cyclists, joggers, going for mopeds and trucks. He has also lunged at a bus before, and seems to have a terrible fear of tyres or anything that moves and we have no clue as to why! We cant stand and talk to one of the ladies from the park without him being naughty, while her lab sits there nicely and just watches.
He still pulls on the lead, while we go to dog training, he’s fine on the lead in the hall, as soon as he’s out the hall its back to normal. We have tried a harness, a halti, treats on his nose, a short lead, a bungee lead and an flexi lead. Nothing seems to be working.
I personally don’t agree with full choke chains, but have looked into a half choke, and I still don’t like the idea of it.

Please, we need some advice!
Jess

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Pippa August 30, 2013 at 6:52 am

Hi Jess, check out the training section in the menu at the top of the page. You will find articles to help you get your dog walking nicely on the lead. The recall articles are in the recall training section and there is an article on night waking which in the behaviour section which may help you. You are also very welcome to join the forum for advice and support from lots of other Labrador owners.
Pippa

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Thomas September 3, 2013 at 10:46 am

Hi,
I hope you can help, we’ve got what appears to be a very unhappy 9 year old female Lab.
She belongs to my mother in law who is very worried.
Her behavouir is strange when someone stands by or touches the windows… she will grab something ( a shoe or toy) and circle around the house with a huff?
Lately she has been trying to dig in the corner of the bathroom? She will be happy in the garden or with the family then will get up and go and dig in the bathroom corner, when she was moved out of the bathroom she would start in the living room and so on…. Eventually she fell asleep in the garden for 2 hours after this digging attempt which lasted about 2 hours.
Also reports of her being able to walk down the garden path but if a flower is sticking out at her head height this will scare her as if she didnt see it was there?.
My poor mother in law is so worried about her, she does’nt feel taking her to the vets and saying ‘ She is mad, or losing the plot’ because she is digging will help as the vets will judge.
In the 9 years we’ve had her this behavouir has only started in the last year, before we’ve never noticed anything of this sort.
We know she hasnt lost her sight and can still hear prefectly well.
Any tips to help her live out her elderly years as happy as can be will be a much needed helping hand :-)
Thank you,

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Pippa September 3, 2013 at 11:37 am

Hi Thomas, I’m afraid only an experienced person that has access to your dog could diagnose whether her behaviour is due to a physical, or perhaps emotional cause. There are so many possible explanations. Do get your mother in law to take your dog to the vet. A vet will be able to eliminate any possible physical causes, and to advice you on what to do next. Pippa

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Priya September 12, 2013 at 11:29 am

Hi! I have a 9 month old Labrador who is very amicable to all. He does’nt even bark at strangers when they enter our house But barks at small children who run around.
And then he does’nt even bark back when the streetdogs do. He seeks for friendship to them. Please Help me! Lemme know what We should do to change him! I’m Helpless…

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Pippa September 12, 2013 at 4:08 pm

Hi Priya, check out this article Best wishes, Pippa

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Karen October 16, 2013 at 9:57 pm

I have a 9 year old black lab who I am not sure if he is over excited in the car but he licks the windows as we are driving down the road and just drools. It is gross! I won’t even let him in my car anymore. Is is anxiety or excitement? What can I do about it?

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saurabh October 17, 2013 at 10:13 am

i have a female lab abt 3 years old…she always want two persons with her while going for a walk….
is there any solution for her habit??

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Lori gust October 20, 2013 at 7:06 pm

I have an 8 year old Chocolate Lab. I have had her since she was 6 weeks old. She is the love of our lives, and extremely well cared for. As she got older, she became frightened of things, people, hiding under my bed. When she was young, hiding under the bed seemed cute and funny but as year went on, and long story short, after being diagnosed with liver disease, and several other problems that only cost me thousands of dollars, come to find out she has Addison’s disease. An emergency vet suggested I give her the blood test for Addison’s and sure enough, that is what she has had for years. This disease mimics other problems and diseases. Breaks my heart as all those years I thought it was funny that the vacuum, my hair dryer and other items frightened her, she was actually suffering from fear…..please read up on it….bets do not know a lot about it but it is a REALLY sad disease. Dogs can live with the medicine/shots that cost $200+ per month. The cost for the test is around $400 but well worth it. Just thought I would add my two cents in response to dogs being scared, separation anxiety, etc…….can’t always be fixed. Do yourself a favor, give your dog the test.

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Tonya October 28, 2013 at 4:33 pm

I have a one year old lab collie cross and for the past year she will not go out for a walk.she wants to nut as soon as we opened the door she wants to come back pulling and crying we have been to vets nothing medically wrong and have even tried anxiety pills still didn’t work .she will go to a field and walk though.we are getting very frustrated and I think the dog is aswell.

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Pippa October 29, 2013 at 5:30 pm

Hi Tonya,
It sounds as though you might need a couple of sessions with a behaviourist to get at the root of your dog’s anxiety. Best wishes, Pippa

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Christina November 6, 2013 at 4:49 am

Hello,
I’m raising a yellow lab puppy for Leader Dog for the Blind. He’s 13 months old and is still having accidents, in the house and recently in his kennel (which hasn’t happened since he was a few months old). The vets at Leader Dog neutered him 2 months ago thinking that would fix the problem (they usually don’t neuter their puppies until 13-16 months of age, in case they want to breed). He literally has to pee every 30 minutes, still, if not more often than that. They have tested his urine and found nothing abnormal. They have recommended measuring and limiting his water, which we do but nothing is helping, and it seems to be getting worse. I have another dog at home (a jack Russell) who has pretty bad anxiety. I’m wondering if he has anxiety as well and it has to do with him having accidents. Any help is appreciated.

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Samantha November 8, 2013 at 5:57 am

My black lab has recently become kind of hostile. It all started when we all became a part of a new living situation and the arrival of a new irritating dog. Before all of this he was a great dog, great with everybody. Now I don’t want him around me, quite frankly I’ve become a little afraid of what he’s going to do. He’s not “my dog” per se, but I do want my buddy back. Please advise me on my next steps.

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Pippa November 8, 2013 at 8:31 am

Hi Samantha,
It is a good idea to make your vet a first port of call where behavioural changes are concerned, as sometimes there is a physical cause. Once that possibility is ruled out, then your vet will be able to refer you to a behaviourist. Your dog will need to be assessed before anyone can advise you on the right course of action. Best wishes. Pippa

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Phil February 14, 2014 at 10:07 am

My choc lab is about 21 months old. The first time he went on a bus he was fine just layer loving saying hello to everyone as they walked past. But ever since it’s an impossible battle to get him on a bus or in a black taxi. Which is hard because my wife doesn’t want always leave him home if I have the car at work. Not even his favorite food tempts him. Any help would be great. Ps he has no problem getting in our car

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John Brown March 5, 2014 at 8:15 am

Hi
We have a 6 year old lab (male) who my daughter who wascavet nurse brought home as approx 8 week puppy stray. He is our third family dog and for his first two years we also had a collie/lab cross (9years when ee had the puppy) . We went to puppy training with him nd he is well socialised, an absolute joy to have, apart fom he barks lot at home. During the last two days he has become exceedingly strange. He ran off from my ife whilst on his walk and ran home, never any problem bfore , recall always perfect. Now this morning trying to hide and will not come to eithr of us, growled at me my wife and barked at me?
No changes at home or routine, no one has harmed him or shouted at him? Any ideas before I take him to vets for a check up.
(P.s. he had his annual lpto jab last week?)

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Yanitsa K. May 8, 2014 at 2:36 pm

Hi there,
i have a black lab – 6 months old. We have problems when we go for a walk with older dogs, that seems to attack him no matter what he is doing. Is this a common problem or just my dog smells funny :) Also we were attacked by 2 huge dogs (Cane corso) that injured badly my husbant because of the dog.

Thank you :)

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Abby C May 16, 2014 at 8:31 am

Hi, I have a 15 month chocolate lab who has become scared of raised voices (ie an argument in the home) or a change in tone. She will very quickly take herself away from the situation and has begun shaking when she finds herself in these situations. HELP Pleaseeee.. Thank you :)

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Vicki Johnson July 12, 2014 at 1:43 am

We have a chocolate lab who has become terrified of “bad” weather! We’ve never had a problem until about month or so ago…. I don’t know why this has started because we’ve never had this problem until recently . Any help with this would greatly be appreciated!!

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suzanne July 22, 2014 at 9:47 am

hi i have a black 11 month old lab, he is an amazing dog, but the past month has started to growl at people at my door, i.e. asda dropping order off, takeaway man. It is not very often he growls at people, obviously family and friends he has grown up with he is fine he takes his toy to them. Not sure what to do!!??

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