Why is My Labrador Suddenly Aggressive? 10 Reasons and Solutions

Look at a Labrador Retriever’s face and tell me you see anything but adorableness; labs are a breed that brightens anyone’s day; that is why people tend to disbelieve that they can get aggressive. Unfortunately, this may leave owners or future owners stunned, perplexed, and even terrified. 

Fear, sickness, dissatisfaction, and habit are some of the factors that cause Labradors to become violent. Some episodes of aggressiveness may pass independently, while others may be more dangerous, requiring rapid action

So, Why is my labrador suddenly aggressive? Labradors become aggressive when they are abused, trained to be aggressive, fearful, sickness, frustration, or evolutionary growth, but there are several things you can do to change this behavior. Once you know what’s causing it, it should be much easier to get it to stop.

The many causes why your Labrador is becoming aggressive will most likely provide some hints. Continue reading to learn more about the probable reasons and what you should do about them.

10 Reasons why your labrador could be suddenly aggressive 

why is my labrador suddenly aggressive featured image

Let’s start by looking at some of the internal issues (coming from the dog himself) that may be causing your Labrador to become suddenly aggressive;

  1. Canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD), 

a behavioral disorder affecting old dogs;  CCD dogs display behavioral abnormalities such as confusion, modified relationships with humans, other animals, and the environment, disturbances in the sleep-wake cycle, hostile behavior, and changes in activities

  1. Pain

If your Labrador has become aggressive all of a sudden, it might be due to discomfort or sickness. if he displays other symptoms of pain, such as limping, refusing to move, and weeping. In this scenario, going to the vet is the best alternative.

  1. A lack of physical activity

Labradors should be active daily. When they do not receive enough exercise, they may begin to behave strangely. It is generally advised that they obtain at least one hour of exercise every day.

  1. Defending a territory or its owner

Suppose your Labrador becomes violent in the circumstances such as when someone threatens their territory or loved ones. In that case, you will note that if your lab becomes aggressive just when there are visitors in your home or when someone knocks on the door, it is probable that it is doing so to protect itself.

You can learn more about your Labrador’s territorial and protective instincts in my article on will a Lab attack an intruder here.

  1. No interaction

If your lab is not aggressive to you but is aggressive to other dogs and humans, he did not have enough socialization as a puppy.

 When dogs are young, they learn a lot about who to trust.

  1. lack of training

If you have not given your Labrador any training, he will behave as it feels like. This is unlikely to be how you want it to act, which is why it requires extensive training.

External Reasons

  1. Previous guardians

If you obtained your lab as an adult or adopted it from a shelter, consider the possibility that its former owners groomed it to be violent or abused it, causing it to become hostile.

In this instance, seeking the advice of a canine behaviorist might be beneficial so that you can see how to encourage it to modify its behavior in a safe manner.

  1. Encouraging the behavior.

Owners may encourage the behavior by giving the dog what he wants when he becomes violent: offering things like attention, toys, or treats when the lab becomes violent; violence may be something he is doing more to obtain more rewards.

It’s important to know that you may be encouraging the dog intentionally or unintentionally, so you will need to take a subjective look at your own behaviors with and around your dog.

  1. You’re addressing violence with violence.

Labradors are very responsive and reflect their owners’ behavior, so if the owner is acting violently, the lab is more likely to follow suit. Instead, rewarding it for good behavior and using positive reinforcement training to encourage it to act the way you want it to would be beneficial.

You can learn more about why physical punishment with your dog never works in my article on how to discipline a golden retriever.

  1.  You’re overly emotional.

If your emotions are heightened, don’t blame your dog for it. Dogs are reactive, so it’s best to connect with them calmly and use positive reinforcement training to persuade him to behave the way you want.

Aggression warning signs in labs to watch out for 

Pay attention to the signs. Always, before a dog becomes aggressive, some symptoms will show, if repeated more than usual, this might turn the dog’s behavior into an aggressive one.

The apparent symptoms of aggressiveness are not always simple to identify. As a result, some pet owners believe their pet is acting aggressively in an unexpected circumstance when, in reality, they failed to see the red flags.

These are the signs you should watch out for:

  • Growling that develops into a menacing bark.
  • Curling the lip 
  • baring teeth
  • The hair on the back of the neck is raised.
  • Attacking an animal or person
  • Biting
  • Nipping
  • Piercing stares
  • Snarling
  • Lunging
  • Snapping

On a side note, many people believe that the color of your Labrador’s coat has some kind of effect on their temperament and personality, so I’ve made this guide on the truth to black Labrador aggression here that is definitely worth checking out as I put this question to rest once and for all. Okay, now, let’s talk about what you should do if your Lab suddenly starts acting aggressively.

What to do if your lab become aggressive suddenly 

In some situations, if the cause is a mental health problem or a physical problem with your home environment, your Lab may be needing a change of place or medicine.

The first thing you should do is bring your pet to a qualified vet and deal with any underlying condition. You may be offered a series of recommendations to calm down your Labrador and help manage its aggressiveness problems.

Other than that, training methods will help you calm down your dog.

Treating unexpected aggressiveness in Labrador Retrievers may be a long and time-consuming procedure to solve a problem… Stay patient.

For an analysis of different scenarios and what to do and what to do in each situation, check out my guide on why do Labradors attack their owners here.

How to train an aggressive labrador? 

  • Pay attention to reactions. 
    • Every time your lab reacts aggressively, he strengthens the perception that makes that behavior more likely and harder to change until it becomes his default in the future.
  • Don’t subject your dog to trauma; 
    • If your dog is a victim of trauma, you should know that aggressive behavior that has grown due to this particular reason is more difficult to change.
  • Use positive reinforcement training. 
    • Use Rewarding responses (treats, toys, back pats, belly rubs..etc) to desired behaviors to help your dog become calmer and less aggressive.
  • Pay more attention
    • Keep an eye on your dog and don’t neglect or abandon him for long periods of time.
  • Neutering 
    • Neutering your lab helps them relax, become naturally calmer, and improves their general well-being.
  • Don’t bore him out
    • Make sure your dog isn’t bored since a bored dog is a destructive dog. If you don’t keep your rambunctious lab engaged, he’ll focus his energy in the wrong places. 
  • Regular Exercise
    • Regular high-intensity exercise for your dog can assist in releasing any pent-up energy that could contribute to aggressive behavior.
  • No Surprises
    • Avoid unexpected meetings and surprise visits because an aggressive lab already sees outsiders as a threat.

For a step-by-step guide on how to train your dog to stop biting, check out my article on why do golden retrievers bite here. And yes, you can use the same steps with Labradors as you can do with Goldens, they are both friendly, intelligent breeds that behave very similarly, so the same steps and tips should work just as well with your Lab.

Before you go, don’t forget to check out my recommendations for what will work with your dog below;

Living with a Retriever: Recommendations and Sources

Related Questions

Why is my labrador growling at me? 

Your Labrador might be growling at you for various reasons, including feeling pain, fear, defending food or property, frustration, delight, dominating or maybe growling is the method to inform you that he is really uncomfortable and wants their personal space.

Why do labradors become aggressive? 

Labradors become aggressive when they are abused, trained to be violent, afraid, ill, frustrated, or suffering from a mental illness. It should be a lot easier to get it to stop once you know what’s causing it. Still, there are numerous things you may do to modify this behavior.

Why is my dog suddenly aggressive with my child? 

Your dog might become aggressive with your child if he did not have sufficient socialization with youngsters when it was a puppy. Or maybe he had a bad experience with a kid or two when he was young. A dog may lack training on engaging effectively with the children’s various ages and activity levels.

Helpful Resources 

Labrador Retrievers for Dummies by Joel Walton, Eve Adamson (which you can also check on Amazon here

Breed differences in canine aggression – Deborah L.Duffy – YuyingHsu – James A.Serpell

Understanding dog aggression: Epidemiologic aspects: In memoriam, Rudy de Meester (1953-2012) – Gina Polo, Néstor Calderón, Suzanne Clothier, Rita de Casssia Maria Garcia,

Behavioural testing for aggression in the domestic dog – Willem J.Netto – Doreen J.U.Planta

If you liked the article, you can share it using the share and pin buttons at the end of the post. I’ll really appreciate it ♥️♥️


Hey there, I'm Matt, the author behind Retrievershub.com. With a deep love for dogs and a dedication to strengthening the bond between owners and their retrievers, I've created a hub of resources for enthusiasts like you. Through engaging articles, training guides, and product reviews, I aim to provide practical advice that makes a real difference in your life as a dog owner. Whether you're a seasoned pro or new to the world of retrievers, my approachable and informative writing style ensures that you'll find valuable insights. Join me on this incredible journey of discovering what makes retrievers tick, unlocking their potential, and creating an unbreakable bond with your furry companion. Let's embark on an adventure of dog ownership together. Thank you for visiting Retrievershub.com and being part of our vibrant community.

Recent Posts