Labrador Behavior

0001-84796025Labradors are renowned for their superb temperament. But even the nicest dog can have problems with behavior crop up from time to time.

Some of these problems might seem trivial to others.

But when it is you that is losing sleep, dealing with complaints from neighbours or repairing destroyed furniture, it is not trivial at all.

In this section we take a look at common Labrador behavior problems.

You’ll find articles, tips and advice to help you understand Lab behavior and solve your dog’s problems fast, effectively and kindly.

We will begin by giving you some general behavioural information and taking you through an FAQ of common Labrador behaviour problems and their solutions.

We will then give you links to our most popular Labrador Behaviour articles where you will find detailed answers to your behavior questions.

You can jump straight to the section that relates best to you using the contents menu.

Bad Behaviour or Bad Training?

Sometimes the line between a ‘training problem’  and a ‘behavioural problem’  can be blurred and in fact many behavioural problems,  jumping up for example,  can be resolved through simple training measures.

0001-122699945Others are more complex and require deeper investigation.

Knowing why a dog behaves as it does,  and what caused the problem in the first place is not always helpful.

Sometimes it is simpler to just treat the symptoms in front of you.

For example,  some labrador puppies will become quite aggressive around food at an early age.  Others will let anyone take their dinner.

Knowing why one puppy is different from another isn’t that helpful,  the process required to treat food guarding is always the same.

At other times,  a good understanding of what causes a behavioural problem, and steps may need to be taken to manage the dog,  perhaps avoiding the fear trigger.

Resolving behavioural problems

Treating  your Labrador’s behavioural problem is normally tackled in one of two ways

  • Training
  • Management

Problems such as jumping up, running away, night-waking, dragging you along on the lead, and food guarding,  are all best resolved by training.

Problems such as chewing, counter surfing, bin raiding, boredom barking, eating poop,  passer-by barking all need managing by restricting the dog’s options and/or providing him with alternative entertainment

Fear and anxiety in Labradors

Fear related problems caused by lack of socialisation and/or abuse, can sometimes be treated by desensitising the dog to the root cause of its fear.

front-finishAt other times a management approach may be more appropriate.

For example, a  rescue dog that has developed a deep seated fear of children may simply need to be kept away from kids.

The trauma to the dog of trying to desensitise it,  and the time factor required to do so may be too great.  It may be simpler to keep the dog muzzled in public and  rehomed away from small children.

If some aspect of your labrador’s behaviour is worrying you,  do have a chat with your vet.

He will have seen many similar problems before and if necessary will be able to recommend a suitable behaviourist who will advise you on retraining or managing your dog’s problem. 

Analysing Labrador behaviour

Our understanding of dog psychology has improved greatly in recent years,  but perhaps there is sometimes a tendency to take an analysis of individual dog behaviour too far.

We are quite quick to put rather human labels like separation anxiety on to dogs where once we would simply have stated ‘my dog doesn’t like being left alone’  and left it at that.

If a problem with Labrador behaviour is disrupting your family life,  it needs fixing, no matter what the root cause.   Not only for the benefit of the dog,  but also, in order that peace and harmony can be restored.

Dogs do not fare well in households where everyone is stressed and upset.

Not a problem dog?

Whilst we cannot help loving our dogs, if we can avoid labelling them as having this problem or that problem, and just deal with any behaviour that arises in a practical and appropriate way, I suspect their lives might be easier.

No two dogs are the same and there is a wide range of what is ‘normal’  behaviour.  

But ultimately, if your dog’s behaviour is spoiling your pleasure in him then you need to take steps to put this right.

Behavioural problems in Labradors can normally be successfully resolved. 

The chances are that your Labrador  is not a ‘problem dog’  and that if you seek help,  his behaviour can be dramatically improved with training,  or managed well enough to enable you to live peacefully together.

Let’s take a look now at some common Labrador behaviour problems and what you can do to resolve them.

How do I stop my dog jumping up?

Jumping up is quite cute in puppies, and of course many of us allow them to do this until they start knocking people over.

Curing jumping up is not too difficult, but it requires patience and persistence.

If you have a ‘jumper’ take a look at this article, there is a really useful video at the bottom.

Help! My dog is nipping my arms and it hurts!

There is a lot of information on biting in small puppies on this website.  But it can be very worrying when this behaviour persists, or reappears in an older dog.

This is a common problem in families with a young dog aged between 6 and 18 months.  At this age, your dog is still mentally a puppy, but he is now a very big puppy, and the biting really hurts.

Most biting in older puppies is associated with over-excitement and inappropriate play (rough housing) with the dog.  Check out these two articles for further information

as well as the biting information link above.

How can I stop my dog whining?

Dogs often learn to whine when they are crated or left.  In fact, we often inadvertently teach them to do this, by rewarding the whining (letting the dog out or going back to him) in order to get some ‘peace’.

It’s all very well knowing how we went wrong, but how do we put it right!

Happily, there is quite a straightforward training programme to teach your dog to be quiet in his crate.  You can find the instructions here: click for quiet.

You’ll also find more information about noisy Labradors in general, in this article: Noisy Labradors- getting to the root of the problem

How do we stop our dog stealing our stuff!

Labradors love to carry things around in their mouths.  This is partly because they are natural retrievers, but also partly because they soon learn that picking up your stuff gets them a whole load of attention!

lab carrying toy

“Mum! He’s got my Teddy” squeals your five year old, and all of a sudden, everyone’s attention is on the dog.

Avoid chasing your dog whilst he is carrying something as dogs love being chased, and this will only encourage him to run faster.

The best way to get things out of a dog’s mouth and returned safely to their owner, is to swap for a tasty treat.

If you do this on a regular basis, you’ll soon find your dog running up to you, to offer you the things he finds on the floor, rather than running away with them.

Initially you’ll need to use amazing treats like chunks of roast beef.  So keep a little pot of yummy left overs in the fridge for this purpose. Once your dog starts to bring you his ‘treasure’ on a regular basis, you’ll be able to ‘fade’ the treats down to the occasional bit of kibble or dog biscuit.

Obviously it helps if you can train your family to put their stuff away, but you can’t nail down everything in the house!

You may find your dog is less inclined to pick up your cushions etc, if you give him some soft cuddly toys of his own.   Or you may need to pop a baby gate across the sitting room, to keep him away from the sofa and chairs until you are there to supervise.

Help us stop our Labrador raiding the bin!

Some behaviours are so common as to be normal, and bin raiding is a universal problem for Labrador owners.

It is a rare Labrador that does not consider the kitchen ‘bin’ to be a source of wonderful edible delicacies! And of course, he has all day to figure out how to get in there, whilst you do not have all day to figure out how to stop him.

Teaching a dog ‘not’ to raid a bin in your absence is rarely possible.   And punishing the dog when you return home and find the contents strewn across the kitchen floor, will only serve to make the dog fearful of you on your return.

This usually results in a dog offering ‘appeasement’ behaviours which we humans tend to interpret as ‘guilt’.  Whilst the dog is of course completely oblivious to any concept of ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ when it comes to helping himself to food.

The best solution for bin raiding is therefore to place the bin where the dog cannot get at it, or purchase a Labrador proof bin.

How can I stop my Labrador running after other dogs?

Most Labradors are very friendly indeed.  And one of the biggest problems for many young Labrador owners, is getting them to come back when there are other people around, or other dogs to be played with.

Teaching a dog to recall in the real world, where there are lots of temptations, is a skill.  And it is one that you can teach to any dog provided you do so in a structured way.

Check out our recall training centre for lots more information on recall in general,  and this article:  Proofing your recall  which will help you teach your labrador to recall away from other people and other dogs.

You might also find it helpful to read: Why has my recall broken down?

My Labrador wakes up too early

Early morning waking, or night waking is  another annoying problem behaviour that may start in spring or summer as the lighter mornings set in.

Sometimes there is a clear trigger for night waking to begin,  but the waking carries on after the trigger is removed.

In other cases, the early waking puppy just carries on early waking, with the addition of some increasingly demanding barking to hurry you downstairs.

We look at night waking in some detail in this article. Night waking – how to restore the peace

How can I stop my dog eating poo?

This horrible habit is surprisingly common.  We have devoted an entire article to what you can do to prevent or cure it.

You can check it out here: Why dogs eat poop and what you can do about it.

Eating poo is not the only horrible habit that Labradors may indulge in.   Take a look at this article:  Why do Labradors eat rubbish  for more information and help.

My dog is over a year old and still chewing up our home!

We all know that puppies chew stuff.  Especially when they are teething.

But many people do not realise that Labradors can be particularly destructive towards the end of their first year, long after they are firmly in possession of a full set of adult teeth.

This article: How to stop your Labrador chewing things  takes a close look at chewing and other destructive behaviours, and what you can do to resolve them.

My dog is so naughty…

We all like a well-behaved dog.  Many people write in to us to ask how they can get their dog to ‘listen’ to their commands.  The answer to that is with a structured training programme.

Behind every well behaved Labrador, lie many hours of training.  Getting your dog trained may seem like an effort at times, but training brings huge rewards.

A trained dog responds to your commands or signals without hesitation,  not just at home, but when you are out and about, or visiting friends too.

Getting to this point takes time, information and some effort.   You’ll find the information right here on this website.  Check out How to cope with a naughty Labrador  before you start.  Then skip over to our training section.

Don’t worry about whether you will succeed, it isn’t as hard as you might think.   Once you make a plan and get going, training is actually a lot of fun.  For you and for your dog.

Getting started with Labrador training

The pleasure of a well-trained and obedient dog are immeasurable.

0001-84735434Training your dog is quite a journey and you’ll need to help and support along the way.

So do join the forum where you can chat with other labrador owners all at different stages of the training process.

It is great to start training whilst your dog is young, but remember that a dog of any age can be trained. It is never too late to begin.

Other Behavioural Problems

If your problem isn’t mentioned here, do use the search box at the top of the right hand sidebar.  There are many hundreds of articles on this site about Labrador behavior, why not check out the comprehensive list below for further help:

Getting help from your vet

Sometimes there is an underlying health problem behind a Labrador’s bad behaviour.

Always check with your vet before attempting to modify your pet’s behaviour at home!

New puppy on the way?

Happy-Puppy-jacket-image1-195x300For a complete guide to raising a healthy and happy puppy don’t miss The Happy Puppy Handbook.

Published in April 2014, the Happy Puppy covers every aspect of life with a small puppy. Including how to deal with common puppy problems and how to avoid and cope with difficult behavior.

The Happy Puppy Handbook is available worldwide.

284 COMMENTS

  1. Good morning sir/ mam,
    I m Shivangi from Dehradun Uttarakhand my dog( mikky) is not doing anything just not doing anything he remember my brother not doing any activity not eating food from last two what I do sir my brother out of station he gone tranning CDs

  2. I have a five month old male lab puppy who was great,so sweet and attentive. We just brought home a 3 month old female lab puppy. My male lab has turned into a demon. He will not leave the female lab puppy alone. He is jumping on her, biting her and being very aggressive. I don’t know what to do. I am so afraid he is going to hurt her. Please, any advise will be greatly appreciated.

  3. I have a 11 month old chocolate lab female. She bites, if I say no, she just comes back and bite again. I will stand up and leave her a while alone. When I walk out again she is ok, but when I walk and she plays with her toys, she will jump on me and bite anything she can get hold off. She also jump on me when walking, I have tried saying no, but she don’t stop. Until I go inside the house, she looks at me with a what are you doing face. She never had a hiding. She eats anything inside and outside the house, she have space allot. Allot of toys. We are going for training as well, she walks nicely with the leash until I stop giving her the treats. Then she wants to bite the leash, and walk me not the other way around. She interacts very good with other dogs at the training. I really need her to stop biting and jumping

  4. i have a 5 year old black female lab and she is amazing, but she has now taken to chasing mainly greyhounds/whippets she has been nipped a few times by them when running, but now she wants to eat them, there is no warning really she doesnt bark/growl just chases them but want to bite them,

  5. My 7 month old yellow lab will not tolerate a leash, I have tried to leave leash on her but she chews it & will not walk on leash either will jump up & try to grab leash. Do you have any suggestions on how to train her to her leash. I would love to be able to walk her. This is my third lab and the first one I have not been able to use a leash . Also I am a 76 yr.old female so I need to be able to handle my adorable lab. Will appreciate any advice you can give me.

  6. Help please, my 7 month old yellow lab bites me all the time, but he only bites me, he doesn’t bite any other member of my family or strangers. With strangers he’s a little angle. But with me, even I’m sitting there gently stroking him and he’s all came one minute, next minute my arms in his mouth. I have literally tried every technique I’ve read about or been told about from other doggy owners, from ignoring, yelping, leaving the room and nothing works. He’s well trained and does lots of tricks. But with me its like he’s suddenly possessed, jumping up biting, growling and its very aggressive. I an literately covered in bruises and he often draws blood, granted not as much now he has his adult set of teeth, with his puppy teeth I was constantly covered in plasters. I promise he’s not a monster, and he if fantastic with every single other person, but its just me he mistakes as his personal chew toy. I really am at my wits end and any advise will be gratefully received.

    • Mine is the Same way although he’s not aggressive ((as in no growling or even any kind of aggressive Behavior)) but he does the Biting nipping thing. I’ve tried everything I’ve read! Every training video and article. I’m at wits end because he is large now (( 5 & 1/2 Months)) and is getting rough. How do I stop this? If you find anything out that helps please let me know. He was so easily trained with everything else but this.

  7. Hi! Help…We have a one year old yellow lab male. He will take something of someone’s that he knows he can’t have and hides. When you try to get the item. He gets very aggressive and growls at my husband 4 childern and me. Please any suggestions are appreciated.

  8. I have a gorgeous 6mth old male lab who has started to refuse to want to go on walks. I find I’m half dragging him out of the house but once we get to the park he has a great time running around with other dogs. When it’s time to leave he refuses and sits/lies down and refuses to budge no matter how many treats are on offer!! Suggestions ?

  9. my black lab is aggresive around puppies, he is 3 in Aug and ok with older dogs but puppies he tries to grab and pull them, I have to drag him off most of the time. He is such a soft dog at home as well.

  10. My 14 month old lab still eats everything. She recently swallowed a sock, and constantly puts rocks in her mouth. I am hoping she outgrows this along with other bad puppy behavior soon. She also gets out of control at night , every night barking and nipping. What age do I worry this is not something she will outgrow.?

      • Yes, thank you, I have read that many times and keep hoping she outgrows it. It also states most puppies outgrow it and my vet told me she’s still young and should outgrow it. I’m nervous that she should have by now and isn’t going to. I appreciate your help.

        • Hi Joan – My lab is like this too, but only outside. He’s 11 months now, and thinks everything on the ground is up for grabs – but sticks are his favourite. It seems to worsen when he is around other dogs. He gets so excited that he NEEDS something in his mouth, so he grabs the nearest thing, a rock or a piece of wood or sod, only he SWALLOWS it. We have had to go the emergency once already, he made himself so sick doing this. Luckily, in the home, he is not like this and has never so much as chewed a shoe since we got him. I too, am hoping he outgrows it fully. He has a great “drop it!” it or “leave it!” if you can address it in time, but I’m not always fast enough.

          • We have been working on trade command which is helping. I also have been throwing ice cubes outside so she chews on them rather than rocks. Good luck to you, it’s a scary thing.

  11. MY ten year old Lab has become very demanding especially where food is concerned.I cannot eat anything without her constantly barking at me, I have tried putting her in another room, but she scratches the floor and door until I open it, any tips please.

  12. 3 rules to go by for Labradors.1 exercise Labrador need about a good hour of exercise. Not just a walk around the block.2 discipline very straight with this one.3 love lots of love :). I have a 2year old chocolate lab.I take her to the park to chase the ball run around for a good hour or two. Never had any issues.

  13. my chocolate lab is 2yrs now & she eats well but she is so much smaller than her brothers & sisters she is only 45-50lbs should i be concerned the vet says shes fine & happy but seeing the other pups from the litter there is a big difference i love her to death n she is my baby but wow is she small

  14. I have a 2 year old chocolate lab. My problem is that she only listens to me and if my wife tries to command her to go on her bed she doesn’t listen and shows her teeth. Normally she’s good around other people and freindly but she doesn’t like to listen to anyone but myself.

  15. I just brought an 8 week old lab pup home to my 8 yr old lab. we introduced them in the yard, it went ok. My older dog is not very tolerant of the pup. What can we do?

  16. My lab is 10 years old all of the sudden he gets on the counters and takes things and every morning I’m cleaning up garbage if I forget to hide it he is driving me crazy he never used to be this way I love him to pieces but I have been resorted to putting him in his crate even during the day now when I can’t keep my eyes on him it’s almost like he went back to puppy stage

  17. I have a 11 month old female Chocolate Lab. I have had heard her since she was 3 weeks old, she was taken from her litter, due to an abscess and drain tube and I bottle fed her. My only issue with her now is she has became food aggressive. I have tried several things from hand feeding, and sitting with her, holding her food bowl while she eats. Adding treats to her food. She in the beginning stages of this behavior was worse when my husband fed, and better with me. Now she growls at me, tries to place herself between me and her food. I also tried tried making her sit and stay while filling her bowl and not eating until I gave her the command to do so. However, her aggressive tendency are becoming more frequent and I need some advice on what to try. Thanks for any help!

  18. Help my lab is so attached to me… he about to be 4 but still only wants me around to eat or even go to the bathroom.. I have to go outside with him or he won’t go.. I have tried to have him go outside and he will just sit by the door till I walk outside with him.. he won’t eat till I come home.. my roommate will feed him and he won’t eat it till I walk in the door.. it really sucks cause I’m in the army and have to leave a lot

  19. Our beautiful black lab is four years old and pretty well behaved – except, he chases cats. He lives with a cat, who he does chase when the cat runs, but generally they get on well. The problem is when he sees a strange cat, he is off the lead and the cat can run. I think he would kill the cat if he caught it, which would be intolerable. In your experience do Labradors catch and eat cats? What can I do?
    Thank you.

  20. HELP! I have a 9 year old female, sweet as can be, but about 8 months ago she started peeing in the house, in the same spot. We did the whole vet thing and she was fine. I re arranged the furnishings and it stopped for about 1 week, then she started on a rug. I’ve done everything from pads to coming home every 3 hours to no water and restricted water…..ive gone through three nice rugs and Im at my wits end….anyone with a similar situation?

  21. My 3 year lab has started winning and off her food she only whinnes with toys it only been two days she is drinking and will only play at the park

  22. We just got a 3 and half month old Lab Puppy, she was living in a big yard with so many kennels and about 50 other Labs… We’ve had her for about 4 to 5 hours now but she seems to be scared, which I can understand, can you tell me what I can do to help her to relax and about how long it will take to get her to feel comfortable here in her forever home?

  23. Hi Phipps we have a 4 year old male black lab he is a really good boy except for one problem when he has a cuddle with me he constantly chews the right sleeve of my jumper he do sent do it to anyone else except me I have several jumpers I have had to cut the sleeves to make them wearable does anyone have any answers I’m quickly running out of tops

  24. Hi i have a 1yr old lab puppy and he is so sweet and adorable. .. untill i walk him. He is really vicious towards other dogs, its gotton to the point where i have just bought a bark collar for him to wear whilst walking (havent tested it yet). I have just finished obedience school with him but it was a flop cause i spent most of the time away from everyone else as he just wouldnt settle. He is trained to sit, wait etc, and when i walk him he is fine, untill he sees another dog, then he just goes to run and attack! … he has actually pulled so hard to the point i fell on my belly and he dragged me along the ground. …. has anyone else had this problem with there labs???

  25. Hi Pippa ..my three year old lab has started barking at people and running away ..I’m finding it distressing as my other lab is so good .will keeping her on the lead help and walking her separate from her brother
    Regards
    Sylvia Dadd

  26. My 2 year old rescue loves walks, but she is super strong and every time she see’s a bunny, raccoon or large bird she darts for it. I’ve hurt my wrist and have had to put the leash around me. She walks next to me obediently until she is distracted by wild animals. Any advice?

  27. Hi I have a 12 week old chocolate lab female pup who when I am at home is good as can be for a pup and goes to the toilet nicely. However 3 days a week I’ve had to go back to work and she seems to just poo everywhere. To begin with I thought it might have been us being to confident that she had the toilet training down but I’m now starting to get the impression this is being done out of spite now for leaving her. Can anyone suggest how to overcome this please. Many thanks

    • Puppies never empty themselves out of spite. Which is good news for you, because that would be very hard to fix. Here are the 15 reasons that puppy parents have problems with toilet training. Check out number 4 – you are probably making your puppy wait too long between toilet breaks. So you’ll need to arrange for someone to come and let her out while you are at work. Or teach her to poo and pee on puppy pads. You’ll find instructions for that in our house training guide

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