Are Labs good guard dogs? Or are they more likely to lick an intruder to death than to scare them away?
Some Labs make excellent guard dogs, but others, not so much.
Just like any dog breed, Labs can differ in temperament from dog to dog.
The Labrador does have a few temperament traits that are very common to the breed, though.
Some Labs are great guard dogs, but the vast majority of them will be too friendly and extroverted to be much help guarding your home.
It is challenging to find a Lab that is friendly and accommodating to children and strangers but also has the right temperament to make a good guard dog.
However, it is not impossible.
There are some factors that play a role in whether or not a lab is suitable for guarding your home.
Are Labs Good Guard Dogs and Watch Dogs?
Before we can answer “are Labs good guard dogs,” we need to look at the difference between a guard dog and a watchdog.
A watchdog is usually trained to alert their owner if something is not right or if a threat presents itself.
This usually takes the form of barking, but some watchdogs are trained to alert in other ways.
However, a watchdog is not supposed to engage with the threat.
They are not there to take care of the problem themselves, but to alert their owner to the problem.
Typically, a watchdog will alert that there is a problem and then retreat until backup shows up.
Detection dogs would fall into this category somewhat.
These dogs can come in all shapes and sizes.
Unlike guard dogs, watchdogs do not have to be big or intimidating.
How a Guard Dog Differs from a Watch Dog
On the other hand, a guard dog is a dog that is trained and used to guard property or livestock.
A sheepdog would fall into this category as well as your usual home guard dog.
A guard dog might alert like a watchdog, but they are also expected to engage if necessary.
Typically, a guard dog will be trained to display and alert before moving in to bite the threat.
Their aggression display is their first attempt at dealing with the situation while engaging with the danger is usually the last option.
Size and strength are critical to a guard dog.
While watchdogs can be smaller, guard dogs are usually larger breeds.
Guard dogs and watchdogs are commonly employed together.
There are many breeds of dog that are designed to work together to keep an area safe and guarded, such as the Lhasa Apso and the Tibetan Mastiff or the Cane Corso and the Neapolitan Mastiff.
Can a Lab Be a Guard Dog?
Any dog can, theoretically, become a guard dog with the proper amount of training.
However, this does not necessarily mean that any dog can become a good guard dog.
Both physical and mental traits play a crucial role in whether or not a dog will be a decent guard dog or not.
A guard dog must be large and threatening.
Because guard dogs are supposed to engage with a threat, they must be physically able to do so.
A tiny dog won’t be an excellent guard dog no matter their training.
At the same time, a guard dog must have at least some level of aggression towards strangers and threats.
A dog that is always friendly will probably never engage with danger properly.
Dogs must have the correct traits in both of these areas to become a good guard dog.
Important Traits of Guard Dogs
Of course, some traits are more important than others.
According to one study, the most important attributes of a guard dog are high aggressiveness, high attentiveness, trustworthiness, high activity level, fast mobility, and intelligence.
For example, Chihuahuas tend to be aggressive towards strangers, which could make them the perfect guard dog… in their mind at least.
However, a Chihuahua is obviously too small to be a guard dog and will be unable to stop any threat that enters the home.
Similarly, just because a dog is large doesn’t mean that they can become great guard dogs.
Some dogs are not cut out for the aggressive aspect of guarding.
So, where do Labs fit into all this? Are Labs good guard dogs?
Are Labs Good Guard Dogs?
Labs are usually not used as guard dogs for multiple reasons.
Perhaps most importantly, Labradors have a very low level of aggression.
Many good guard dog breeds were bred to guard property or livestock. The Lab was not, however.
Instead, the Lab was bred to be a flushing and retrieving dog.
In other words, their job was to scare the prey out of hiding and then retrieve it.
Because of their job, Labs were bred to flush prey instead of hunting it.
This has led them to being very unaggressive.
After all, it takes a very laid back dog to not hunt flying waterfowl.
On top of this, Labs were also designed to bring the prey back and give it to their owners.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes even getting your pooch to let go of a shoe is difficult.
How Labs’ Past Shapes Their Personality Today
This led to them being extremely eager to serve and lovers of people.
Hunters could not risk hunting with a dog that might bite them every time they attempted to get a waterfowl from their mouth.
This trait also means that Labs bite very rarely and is a friendly dog with a low level of aggression.
It is in their blood to be friendly.
These factors make the usual lab unsuitable as guard dogs.
Labrador Retriever Guard Dog or Watch Dog
As you can see, the answer to “are Labs good guard dogs” is no.
Your average lab is not going to make a good guard dog.
However, Labs can make good watchdogs if trained correctly.
Labs are commonly utilized to be watchdogs in some situations.
For example, Labs are used as drug detection dogs.
Labs are also commonly trained as guide dogs.
Are Labs Good Guard Dogs?
The answer to “are Labs good guard dogs” is not really.
Labs have been bred to be unaggressive, friendly, and slow to bite – all traits that are not suitable for guard dogs.
If you get a lab, you should not expect him or her to be a very good guard dog.
Instead, you might want to look at breeds such as the Rottweiler, German Shepard, Doberman Pinscher, and Mastiff.
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References and Further Reading
Andelt, William. “Relative Effectiveness of Guarding-Dog Breeds to Deter Predation on Domestic Sheep in Colorado.” Wildlife Society Bulletin. 1999.
Duffy, Deborah. “Breed differences in canine aggression.” Applied Animal Behavior Science. 2008.
Jarret. “Which dogs bite?” Emergency Medical Journal.
Maejima, Masami. “Traits and genotypes may predict the successful training of drug detection dogs.” Applied Animal Behavior Science. 2007.
Duffy, Deborah. “Predictive validity of a method for evaluating temperament in young guide and service dogs.” Applied Animal Behavior Science. 2012.
The Labrador Site Founder
Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.
She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program
Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website