Labrador Fears and Phobias

Labrador fears and phobiasLabrador fears and phobias are a serious business.

When 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

labrador-jacket-800Check out our Labrador Behaviour section for more help and advice on managing a fearful Labrador.

If you’d like all of our best Labrador information together in one place, then get your copy of The Labrador Handbook today.

The Labrador Handbook looks at all aspects owning a Labrador, through daily care, to health and training at each stage of their life.

The Labrador Handbook is available worldwide.



  1. Our family has 2 labs, both get on fantastic. Ole is 10+ and george is around 4.
    All is well until a month ago George decides at night he wont come in from outside to go to bed, he has taken to lying under a bush like a fox.
    We have to coax him out or physically lift him.
    Other occasions he wont get out of the living room at bed time either and has started shaking.
    It is bizarre as he is normal george up until bed time then he goes weird. Also note during the day if you tell him to get into bed he goes without any shaking or drama. Any suggestions of what this means anf any solutions to resolve this, would be appreciated.

  2. My 6 months old lab is afraid of my 1.5 years old pembroke welsh corgi…they’re fine being around each other, but on occasions, my corgi does his alpha thing and snapped at my lab when he gets more attention than him. They don’t play wih each other like they’re used to anymore. Any tips to help them get along?

  3. My 10 month old Labrador has started acting very odd. We recently moved house, and he is his normal self in the house and garden and when on his walks.
    But just this week if I try to put him in the car to take him out or even try to walk in front door from a walk…he bolts. So I have to pick him up and carry him inside and then he lays down with tail tucked in and ears back! It’s as if he thinks I am going to hit him! Which I never have and never would do!

  4. Our 5yr old Labrador was bitten by my daughters kelpie some weeks ago and shook for 1/2 hour. My daughters son visited today at our house and Otto was shaking and very subdued after he arrived. Is this maybe that he could smell their dog on my grandsons clothes? Any ideas?

  5. My wife and I have a Golden retriever and a Yellow Lab . Last Saturday we bought a male Yellow lab . By the way the other two dogs are female . The golden is the Alpha dog and she is 9 years old. Like I said we bought the male yellow lab and he is 8 weeks old . Our other yellow lab is scared of the puppy ?? She does not want him touching her or anything . She will not play with him either , neither my wife nor I know what to do with her and any help would be great .

  6. Our lab is 12 years old and has been a very well behaved and very well adjusted dog her entire life. She has always gotten very stressed and anxious with fireworks and thunder storms. She will pant, shake and shiver, and get very clingy while the fireworks or thunder are happening, and then for a short period afterward. We give her a lot of attention and some liberties at this time to comfort her. Starting Saturday night (2 days ago) and for the two days since, her behaviors have been like there were fireworks or thunder going on, but there is nothing new or loud around the house. She has been clingy, following us around, hiding in my clothes closet or under the kitchen table, etc. Our vet is a good friend and came over Saturday night to look at her. He asked about her acting lost or confused. I haven’t noticed lost or confused behaviors. Only scared. He suggested increasing her glucosamine as extra joint pain may increase stress, but basically didn’t find anything of a health nature. Does anyone have any experience with an older dog suddenly becoming extremely anxious and scared?

    • Did you get any information about this? Our 12 year old lab has been having similar symptoms since last month. She has always been fearful of loud noises such as fireworks and thunderstorms, but is now showing fear and anxiety when there isn’t anything going on. It also seems like she has her sleep cycle mixed up. She is staying up at night panting and shaking. Our vet has prescribed antianxiety meds but so far nothing has worked long term. I would appreciate any information you can share.
      Thank you.

      • My 7 yr old lab is doing the same thing. He just started it a couple of days ago. He has the look of fear in his eyes and has trouble calming down.

    • Our dog got anxious when she was in pain. But I think she yelped and then shook like she was scared. It was like she didn’t know where the pain was coming from/why it was happening, so she was just scared it would happen again. I think it ended up being back issues that meloxicam or some other pain meds took care of.

  7. My 4 year old chocolate lab is refusing to go in my house and when he gets in he runs downstairs and just sits on the couch or in front of the door. Also when we tell him to go up the stairs he won’t and he starts to shake. Help I don’t know what to do

  8. I have a two year old lab mix puppy, he is afraid of men except my husband and my son. How can I help my lab mix puppy? He was fine until one of my sons friends stayed the night but know he won’t go to any man he stays close to my husband or me or a safe place like under the kitchen table just to get away from them.

  9. Hi my name is Tom, I have a 5 year old black lab great dog. I manage three buildings lot of doors storefront he will not go in any door except the apartment door for my apartment I need to help him feel confident to go through other doors I plan on taking him to Petco for shots my fear is he won’t go in the front door send help thank you.

  10. My lab is 5 years old, and has suddenly become afraid of his doghouse. He will not get in it even if it’s raining.
    I have tried putting his feed, toys, and treats inside of it, but he still refuses to go inside. I’m on disability, and can’t afford a new doghouse that he may or may not use

  11. We have had a 13 month old lab in our house now for 3 weeks just got him desexed 1 week ago
    Now he has had no problems coming in from outside and coming into our lounge room but the past couple of days he seems scared to come into the lounge area or anywhere there is a corridor to enter a room he tail is wagging still but once he does slowely enter the lounge room he only stays for a couple of pats and walks out again
    Is is just so strange how he had no problems in doing this before and all of a sudden he seems scared or nervous

  12. My 6 year old Labrador retriever is scared of nearly everything. Me and my two Labradors moved home about 6 weeks ago and she was fine – the Labrador male (4 years old) is a happy go lucky, eating, drinking, playing dog and so was she but suddenly she changed 4 days ago – she’s scared of nearly everything. The worst is that she doesn’t want to come into my room anymore and that is were the 3 of us sleep – what am I to do – she’s never been like this?

    • It sounds like you might need to pop to the vets, as sudden changes in behavior can be as a result of medical issues. If the vet can’t find anything wrong, then they should be able to refer you to a canine behaviorist who can help you further in overcoming her fears. Best wishes, Lucy

  13. HI! My name is Caitlin and my husband and I are having a hard time with my two year old rescue black lab named Leonidas! I got him at three months when my husband left for deployment yet when he came back my husband and Leo have a love hate relationship with eachother. I was told Leo was abused as a pup and that’s why I got him! First time meeting him he popped a squat and peed on the floor! He was so scared and excited it seemed the poor little guy was confused on what to expect from us. At first this wasn’t a major red flag I till he got older!!! Now every time when some one walks in the house he pops a squat and pees and I mean he PEES like a half a gallon! It’s gotten so bad over time that now when my husband hooks the leash onto his collar he pees in the house and my husband gets so frustrated and angry he can only just walk away! We can not afford to go to a trainer and yet we can’t since Leo has a tendency to be aggressive to other dogs as well. I don’t know what to really do here! My husband wants to get rid of him now and I can’t bare to do that! My father taught me how to train dogs for basic techniques and our 13 other dogs have been just fine but I just don’t know what to do for him or where to start!

  14. My golden lab is 7 yrs old. Last summer she was attacked by a savage dog while playing on the green. Thankfully she was ok, but I am noticing that she barks at some larger dogs now. She is a very friendly dog but as soon as she sees another big dog come up to her she gets very protective. I’m worried she will become aggressive as it is not in her nature. She plays with lots of other dogs and has great friends of other labs and boxers. Is it a protection thing for her or is it social anxiety with other dogs? I must mention, many of the family are away on holidays so could her behaviour be because of that? Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

  15. I took our 10 yr old lab Rocko up for a swim in the lake and a good long walk i put him in the back of the van and when we got home i went to take him out and he snarled and barked at me as if i was a stranger im now afraid to let her in the garden with my daughter who is 7 eve though we have Rocko since he was born any thoughts on why this happened

    • Hi Paul, I recommend you take him to the vet initially, to make sure that he hasn’t hurt himself somehow. They will be best placed to advice you on how to proceed. Best wishes, Lucy

  16. My 2 year old lab is acting so different since my other lab (her mother) died 3 months ago. She had never been separated from her and now is acting depressed. She is being a loner…does not like to hang with other dogs, doesn’t want to hang out on the dock as before, just prefers to stay inside and sleep. She also seems afraid of so many things now. I know it is tough on her being alone now, but I thought she would get better by now. We are thinking of adding another lab puppy to the family just to help her. Is this a good idea? Has anyone had this problem?

  17. We have a 7 year old chocolate lab, ever since we put our one dog down he has been very anti social with everyone. He used to curl up to her and lay between her paws. He seems to think that was his security blanket. He barks for no reason at all. Ever since we put her down a year ago due to old age. He will growl at night when we are getting ready to go to bed. His bed is in our room alone with our other dogs bed. I will not pet him when he growls like that. What can we do?

  18. hi ive got a 9 month old black lab shes called sansa shes beautiful and my first ever dog, i stay at home with her but when i nip out i come home to find shes ripped up slippers and anything else i thought i moved out of her reach, she never chews anything of mine just my partners anybody any suggestions as i cant nail everything down with her,ive also noticed when she sits at the door she often barks at people walking by and she never did that before. could she have got these trates from our other dog whos a shih tzu a naughty girl too. but i just cant stop sansa chewing things up its embarrasing when people come to stay at our house and they leave with a chewed up luggage case. please help ive tried alot to stop her.

  19. Please help-
    Feedback appreciated!!
    My four yo Chocolate lab was recently (three weeks ago) rescued from a shelter. He’s not eating regular and get really upset when I leave the house, even to go up to the mail box. Leaving him two or three hours has him howling and barking angrily at me. What can I do? The vet put him on Prozac. What is your response?

  20. I have a 4 year old Lab that has become afraid of his doghouse, for some reason. It was raining when I got up, and I looked out the window to check on him. There he was standing in the pouring rain, but not seeking shelter inside. It really bothers me to see him standing in the rain, instead of getting into his house. This has happened in the last few months.

    • maybe you should go and be your dog and find out why. Maybe dog wants to come inside with human companion. Next time it rains go be your dog and see how it feels. People who have dogs should not if they think leaving them outside with only a dog house is good. PEEEELLLEEASE no excuse.

      • you are right Brandy, that person should go and see how it is to stay alone outside!! this is a nighmare, if we get dog he should be our family and stay in home with us! terrible people

  21. We have a 1 1/2 year old english lab who all of a sudden will not come into our bedroom or our bed…which he had been doing all his life. He seems to be fearful possibly of the standing mirror in the corner…so we have removed it, but the behavior still continues..treats, meals, toys, etc. cannot bribe him to move toward that room….what to do…???? we want him back in our room!!!

    • I have the same problem. My lab is 7 and always slept in my bedroom. Now he acts like something is scaring him. He won’t step in my room. I have bribed him to no avail. Let me know if you figure this out

    • Did you ever find out what this was? Our Lab is 9 months old and has slept with us in our bedroom up until 3 nights ago and now he is terrified of our room. He wont go past it or in it. Now he just barks like a scared bark at our room. We have no clue what to do. We took him to the emergency vet and they said he looked fine and perfectly healthy. They were no help at all. Did you find out what was wrong with your lab when doing this?

  22. I have a 5 year old lab that is awesome with everyone. Loves people and all the attention they can bring and gets along with all dogs. Although recently she has been reacting to people on bikes and today at the dog park freaked out with a group on snow shoes and bit a poor lady that had just pet her. I knew she has grown into some fear with bikes since she flinches when they are around so normally I am prepared but now with the snow shoe group I don’t know what to do. Can you train for this? Please guide me in the right direction.

  23. Hi I have a two year old black lab and he is scared mainly of males. Fine in the house when people come in, although some males he finds quite scary. There was a man sat on the beach with a cap on, taking photos of the scenery, and our dog just went up to him, barking continously, fortunately the man himself has two labs so didnt put his hand out straight, put his arm out with his hand face down…….Eventually our dog came back, after one minute of just barking at him….what do we do

  24. Hi there,

    Billy, my 10 month old black puppy, which we got 4 weeks ago is scared of new people that come to our home, he submission urinates and then will sit and bark at the visitor.
    Besides being upsetting to myself & girlfriend his barking his so loud that’s it’s ear pearcing.
    He is great on a lead & when out walking and meets other dogs but he is just so scared around new people.
    Any guides to over come this – he starts puppy schools in a week but I have been reading the book and just can’t find the guidance yet

  25. I have a 1 1/2 year old lab mix and golden retriever. He will not come up stairs and sleep in bed with me. Before I was upstairs he slept with me is he just scared of Heights

  26. We just adopted a 10 mo old chocolate lab. She spent her first months at the home where she was born and is really comfortable around other dogs and people, but since moving to our home a few days ago, she is really having touble with walking. She seems to get scared partway into the walk and then freezes. We try to distract her with a toy, treats, happy praise, which is only sometimes successful. It’s hard to get her 67lb body to budge. Any ideas/tricks we should try???

  27. i have a labrador dog.he is now 2 year old. he always sleep inside the house but now my parents did not allow me to sleep him inside the house. so i decide to move my dog outside the house. but i afraid that he is alone at my garden. so i want to know that is he scared from dark and alone becouse he always sleep inside the house at my room and house lobby. plz tell me..tnxx

  28. We have a 2 year old Male Chocolate Labrador. His name is Griz. We have had him since he was 9 weeks old. He is a super happy and loving dog. For the first 8 months we had him I took him to work everyday so he was around a lot of people. We also have a 4 year old Male Labrador that we have had since a pup as well. Both of our dogs are indoor dogs. Griz had two major surgeries before he was 8 months old. The issue we are having is that he is afraid of everything. Any little noise he hears from outside he will bark at. If we are outside and a new sound or noise (like hammering, other dogs barking, etc) he gets nervous and runs inside. Simple things like getting a pan out of the cupboard or pulling a hanger out if the closet will make him back away. We have never scared him or teased him. Often times I will sit down on the floor with the object and tell him its okay and allow him to come and look and smell it on his own time. Any new person he sees he will bark and run from. Do you think those surgeries created this fear? He is a great dog and we love him so much. But we wish he wasn’t so nervous with everything. Any suggestions? Thank you.

  29. I have 1 and half year skin colored labra, he used to be very good wid me he has lots of fun with me but suddenly what happened to him I don’t know his behaviour is really very weird for me rather he afraids of me like anything I have never done anything which makes him afraid now he run away or hide immediately when he see me he bite me badly for two times please tell me what are the reasons for this and how I can overcome his fear of me

  30. I have an 8 year old half Black Labrador half golden retriever. She has been a great dog who loves any amount of attention we give her. About two years ago, she started occasionally acting weird. When a strong wind came up or a rain storm blew in, she gets super nervous. She spends her days in our back yard but when this happens, we bring her into her kennel in our garage, which is where she sleeps at night. Not quite two years ago, when one of these events happened during the day while we were away at work, she dug a hole under our fence and escaped. In the past two years, she’s escaped at least a dozen times. I throw a big rock under the fence and fill the dirt back in. She has been so bad lately, we have put her on a cable attached to our tree in the back yard. Last weekend, my wife was home and went into the back yard mid day and our dog dug a hole under the fence and was standing in the neighbor’s yard while still on her cable connected to our tree. She seems very nervous or anxious all the time. We started giving her Melatonin as advised by our vet and that seemed to help but she still dug. We even adopted a give-away puppy for a companion while we are away. Now she is teaching the puppy to dig. We love our dog but I don’t know what to do to calm her down and keep her from digging holes under our fence to escape. I am open to any and all suggestions.
    Thank you.

  31. My 2 y o lab is afraid of stairs. Whenever we have to go up or down on stairs he panics and if I really insist, he is running as if the stairs are burning or something! Is this a common problem or is it just my dog? Thank you!

  32. Our family adopted a lab retriever mix from a shelter last week. His mom was a stray, but the litter was born at the shelter and the puppies were in foster homes. He is just 3 months, but a very scared puppy. He has bonded with me, but runs to his crate or a corner of the house whenever my husband comes home. He stays there until I come to get him. How can we help him not to be afraid?

  33. I have a 5yr old black lab that all of a sudden has become afraid of almost anything. We noticed the fears started once we got her fixed because we were having a baby. It started out at being a afraid of the water running for a bath, loud noises, the baby’s walker, and the sound of the wind coming in from the windows. This is all new to us, she has never been afraid of anything. When she gets afraid she starts panting, shaking, tail between legs, paces, tries to jump on our laps. We don’t understand why this all of a sudden started, we feel bad that it all started when we got her fixed.

    • I have a two year old lab mix who has the same thing happening. She is constantly hiding under the bed and it breaks my heart. And on our walks, unless we’re off in the woods, she’s super anxious. I have no idea what to do. She’s socialized and otherwise very happy.

  34. Hello,

    My Black Lab, Harley, is almost a year old (February 5th) and he is terrified of quick, sudden movements and noises (such as something falling to the floor) and gets his “anxious look” and runs away. He is also terrified of my closet doors and the vacuum cleaner (he even wont go near, and if he does will RUN past, the closet it is in. This all just started. Any suggestions?

  35. We have a 1.5 month old baby girl, our first 🙂 We have 3 dogs which have been great with her, with the exception of our 2yr old pup who thinks she’s old enough to try and play with haha. The question I have is about our 4yr old male black lab mix. He has been my pup, my baby from the moment I brought him home and has only ever liked me to cuddle next to. His behavior towards my husband has changed since our baby. When my husband calls him to him (no matter the tone) my lab wont leave my side. Even if he is not by me at the time, he will come over to wherever I am and lay or sit on my feet and just look at my husband. Occasionally he wags his tail but not always. Is he just being protective or is this something else?

  36. I have a male lab who is about 2 years old. On the whole he is a lovely dog but 6 months ago, he started trying to climb onto me whenever the washing machine goes on. He will go around the house looking for someone to climb onto, smacking them with his paw and panting. I have been looking into how to help with this and have been told that he is having anxiety issues with the washing machine (that he previously didn’t have). To do the washing, I have to physically put him into the back yard (which is getting harder to do as he really doesnt want to go out) but its the only way I can put the washer on. As soon as the cycle’s finished, I let him back in and he’s totally fine again. I’ve tried the vet, they gave me a 4 day prescription for him and said that if it doesn’t work, we can try prozak or a dog behavoirist. Ive tried a dog behavoirist, but they wanted £2450 to help him and this is a low income family. I really dont want to have to rehome him – is there anything else I can try. Finding a launderette to do my washing also isnt an option.

  37. Hi
    We lost our 16 year old Border Collie last August 2014, and rescued a beautiful Lab mix to be buddies with our Hound mix. We have had her for a 1 & 1/2 months, and they are not buddies yet. The major problem is she is terrified to go outside and we cannot walk her yet. She was chained outside with the lady that surrendered her the last 6 months, and had never been in a home before. She has never had an accident, however we need to get her over her fear of the outside. We live in the city and she came from the country. Help!!

  38. Hi
    I am Deepa. I have a 7 month old male Labrador puppy and he is very friendly.He never barks at strangers.He consider everyone as friend.Yesterday some one tried to broke into house through window at night but puppy didn’t even barked.I don’t know what to do.What can I do to make him bark at strangers?Please help me to solve this problem.

  39. I have a 6 month old black lab. He is super sweet and loving. We rescued him about 2 months ago. He is afraid of men and we are not sure why. He does the submissive urniation with my husband a lot. My husband has been trying to do everythign with playing with him down on the loor, ignoring him when he is acting submissive, petting under the chin. I”m the one that tells him NO or stop that when he is doing somethign that he is not suppose to. What should we do. My husband just wants to play with him and love him without getting pee on.

  40. I got my female black lab at 8 wks old. She is now almost 4 yrs old. She has never been abused by me or anyone in any way shape or form. Up until she was about a year to a year and a half old she started having fear of males. Sometimes to the point to where she is shaking in fear. But she goes head over heels for any female that walks in my house. Help me solve this problem. Thanks