labrador guarding by fence

By Andrew Fischer

Are Labradors friendly or dangerous?

The short answer is that generally Labradors are very friendly. The American Kennel Club describes Labs as kind, family-oriented and outgoing dogs. They have a good reputation with children of all ages. They also get along well with other dogs and other animals. 

Labradors are not too noisy. They are fun-loving, easygoing and trusting with strangers. 

Their ability to learn makes them very suitable for therapy work and for rescue missions.

But like all other breeds, Labradors’ behaviour strongly depends on their training. If a Labrador is brought up properly, he will be very friendly. On the other hand if he’s brought up alone, doesn’t socialize or if he is mistreated, he might not be as friendly as other well-raised Labs. 

So although Labrador’s temper level never goes too high (unlike for example Rottweiler’s), their obedience purely depends on how you raise them.

Their lack of fear and boisterousness usually require particular training and firm handling. 

Good characteristics of Labradors

Labrador Retrievers are amongst the most friendly dog breeds in the world. 

They are quite playful, calm, kind and even-tempered. Unlike some other dog breeds, a Labrador is very unlikely to attack another dog, animal or child.

They are quite easy to train and are known for their obedience. If they receive a proper training and the right attention, they make very well-behaved companions. They are definitely capable of mastering many more commands than just “stay”, “sit” and “come”. Even if you will buy a Lab puppy that seems to be totally out of control, going through a full obedience training  should result in the dog being well behaved and under control.

Labs are very suitable for families with kids.

Labs are also very suitable as working breed. Since they have very sharp senses they are used by the police in tracking criminals, drugs, bombs etc. Also they are hunting and sporting dogs. They are bred to retrieve game birds. Since they have a very soft mouth they can handle the game without puncturing it with their teeth. You can also see Labradors working with the disabled and doing visits to orphanages as therapy dogs.

Labradors are less likely to cause injuries. Biting incidents involving Labs are not common. Their bite is very weak compared to other breeds so even if a Labrador  was to bite you, it likely wouldn’t cause a serious injury. 


Bad Characteristics of Labradors

Although Labradors are generally considered to be one of the friendliest dog breeds, they can also pose some risks. 

All dogs need to be treated with healthy respect. All breeds, including Labradors, could potentially cause a serious damage if they did attack. An adult male Labrador weighing around 40 kg’s will have a bite strength of 330–370 Pounds per square inch (23-26 kg/cm2).

But it’s highly unlikely to become a victim of an unprovoked Labrador attack.

Some potential risks include:

First of all, Labs are very energetic and unpredictable. It can happen that a Labrador will run into people. This could be dangerous to very young kids and the elderly. Labrador owners should be cautious whenever their pup is near a vulnerable person.

Labradors are sometimes too trusting with strangers and therefore they are not quite suitable as guard dogs.

Labradors also tend to put on a lot o weight because they like to overeat. Therefore they need daily exercise.

Labradors, just like any other dog, may react dangerously when feeling threatened. Sometimes fun games can get out of control (if for example the game gets too physical). In such cases the dog could feel threatened and fight back. Make sure you are able to identify warning signs if your pooch doesn’t like a specific activity. 

Some Labradors may be also trained to defend, protect and guard. If you are getting a Lab from a shelter, make sure that you know its background. If the dog was trained to be an aggressive protector, it could pose a challenge for you to make him family-friendly. 

Use safe manners whenever meeting a new Labrador

Although you may see a dog’s owner breaking all of the safe manners listed below, as a stranger you don’t have the same bond with the dog so you need to follow these good manners.

  1. Let the Labrador approach you. Don’t initiate direct and unexpected contact.
  2. If you need to approach the dog, avoid approaching head-on. Turn your body so your side if facing him. This position is less threatening to the dog.
  3. Don’t maintain prolonged eye contact. Rather you can make several brief eye contacts and then shift your eyesight to look at something else.
  4. Don’t hug a strange dog
  5. Don’t chase the dog
  6. Don’t try to take something from the dog
  7. Offer your hand for sniffing below the dog’s nose
  8. Don’t go straight for a head pat

Some Labs may be fiercely protective when they see strangers. They can bark until their owner tells them that the stranger is welcome. This proofs that even Labs may be trained to be aggressive and protective.

Any dog will attack if it feels directly threatened. Even Labs have some of the survival instincts every dog needs. So can a Labrador attack? Yes, they can, but the chance of a Labrador acting dangerously is smaller than other breeds.