If your Labrador keeps growling at other dogs, this post will show you a number of possible reasons why and what you can do about it.
So, why does my Labrador growl at other dogs? Possible reasons are that it didn’t socialize with other dogs as a puppy, it was mistreated, it’s being protective, it’s being dominant or you might have inadvertently reinforced the behavior.
Your Labrador could be growling at other dogs for many reasons and it could be due to a combination of them. However, there are some things you can consider when trying to figure out the exact cause. There are also a number of things you can do about it.
Why your Labrador growls at other dogs
Below are common reasons why Labradors do it and what would make them more likely to be the main reason why your Labrador has been doing it.
Labradors will, naturally, explore their environment a lot as puppies and it is when they will learn about the world. Not getting a lot of exposure to other dogs when it was younger could be why yours growls at other dogs. This is because it might not have learned what dogs it can trust so it sees them as a threat.
In this case, desensitization training would likely work best which is discussed a few sections below.
It was mistreated
The cause could also be that it was mistreated by another dog either recently or in the past. If it was mistreated by a dog recently and it has started being aggressive towards other dogs since then, it would likely be due to being mistreated by the other dog.
The reason why it does it might be that it is being protective. This would be more likely if it also growls at people that it does not know, at times, as well. It would also be more likely if it growls more at dogs that it is unfamiliar with especially when at home or around your property.
Reinforcing the behavior
It might be the case that you have been inadvertently reinforcing the behavior by giving it things that it wants when it growls at other dogs.
Instead of giving it things such as treats when it does it, try to use the training tips mentioned below to train it not to do it. You can also try to recognize when it is likely to be about to start growling and to redirect its focus onto you or doing something else.
Things to consider
Below are some things to consider when trying to figure out why your Labrador has been doing it.
When it first started to growl at other dogs
If it did not always growl at other dogs, it would help to consider what else happened when it first started doing it since it might be the case that there was an event that caused it to start.
If it started growling at dogs suddenly, it would make it more likely to be due to things such as being mistreated by other dogs recently or you might have reinforced the behavior. It would help to consider what else happened when it started doing it.
Whereas, if it has always done it being dominant, overly protective or not getting much exposure to other dogs as a puppy could all be causes.
When it does it
It would also help to consider if there are situations when it does not growl at them and what is different in those situations.
If you notice that it does it more to certain dogs than to others it could be the case that it is being dominant or that it is due to having a strong prey drive.
Whereas, if it seems to be that it only growls in certain locations then it might be due to feeling insecure in that location for some reason.
How to get your Labrador to stop growling at other dogs
Below are some options that you have when training your Labrador to stop growling at other dogs.
Train it to associate other dogs with rewards
One option you have is to train your Labrador to associate other dogs with rewards.
To do this you would start giving your Labrador special treats when you are approaching other dogs with it and stop when your Labrador begins to growl at them. By doing this it will learn that growling around other dogs results in it not getting rewards.
Desensitize it to other dogs
Another option would be to let it be around other dogs in a controlled environment. When doing so you would reward it when it is not growling and stop rewarding it when it starts to growl. If it starts being well behaved again, you would reward it. This will teach it that being well-behaved results in it getting rewards.
Train it to listen to your command
It is also important to train it to listen to your command in general so that it learns how it is meant to behave and so that it does what you want when you need it to.
If you have not given it much training, it would help to start with the basics and to build up to training it to do more challenging things in more distracting environments.
Get help from a dog behaviorist
If you cannot figure out why your Labrador growls at other dogs, you cannot get it to stop or it becomes aggressive, the best option would be to get the help of a dog behaviorist or trainer. By doing so you will be able to get expert advice tailored to your particular Labrador and to train it in a safe manner.