If your Labrador is afraid of other dogs, you might be wondering why and what you can do about it. In this post, I will show you a number of common causes and what you can do about them.
So, why is my Labrador afraid of other dogs? Possible reasons are that it didn’t socialize as a puppy, it was mistreated by other dogs, it is being submissive or it might naturally be timid.
Your Labrador might be being afraid of other dogs for many different reasons and it might be due to a combination of them. However, there are a number of things you can do about it and there are some things you can consider when trying to figure out the main cause.
Why your Labrador is afraid of other dogs
Below are some common reasons why Labrador can be afraid of other dogs and what would make them more likely to be the reason why yours has been being afraid.
The reason why your Labrador is afraid of other dogs could be that it did not get to socialize with them as a puppy. When Labradors are puppies they will learn a lot about who to trust and who not to trust. If it did not meet many other dogs then it will not have had the opportunity to learn to trust them.
In this case, it would help to let it socialize with other friendly dogs whenever possible. It would also help to employ the other tips that will be mentioned below.
It was mistreated by other dogs
The reason might be that other dogs were aggressive towards it. This would be especially likely if you know that other dogs were aggressive towards it while it was still a puppy.
In this case, it would also help to socialize it with friendly dogs when possible and to give it positive reinforcement and desensitization training as well.
It could also be the case that it is being submissive this would be more likely if it does things such as hide its tail, hide behind you or go onto its back around other dogs.
The reason that it is being submissive could be that the other dogs are bigger than it, they are slightly aggressive or that other dogs mistreated it in the past.
This would be more likely to be the cause if it is still a puppy. If it is still a puppy, it is likely that it will become less afraid as it becomes older.
The cause could also be that your Labrador is naturally not very trusting of other dogs. This would be more likely if it has always been afraid of them and it didn’t start being afraid suddenly.
In this case, it would help to give it positive reinforcement training, desensitization training and to avoid rewarding it when it shows signs of being afraid.
Things to consider
Below are some things to consider when trying to figure out why your Labrador has been being afraid of other dogs.
When it becomes afraid
It would help to consider the timing of when it becomes afraid and in what situations it tends to do it.
If it only seems to get afraid when it’s in a certain location, then it would suggest that it is something in the environment that is causing it to get afraid. One possible reason could be that it was mistreated by another dog, in that location, in the past.
If it seems to always be afraid in all locations then it could be that it was not able to socialize as a puppy or it is naturally submissive. However, it could still be that it was mistreated by another dog especially if it was not always afraid.
If it becomes afraid around all dogs
Another thing to consider would be the type of dogs that it tends to get afraid around.
If it does it some of the time then it would be more likely that it is being submissive especially if the other dog is bigger than it or aggressive. It could also be the case that it was mistreated by a similar dog in the past.
Whereas, if it becomes afraid around all dogs then it could be the case that it was mistreated in the past, you have inadvertently rewarded the behavior or that it is naturally more timid.
How old it is
It would also help to consider how old your Labrador is. If it is still a puppy, it would be more likely that it is afraid because it has not yet learned what dogs to trust and what not to and because it is not yet fully grown. In this case, it is likely that it will become less afraid as it gets older and bigger.
Whereas, if it’s an adult then it could be due to any of the reasons mentioned above.
If it was always afraid of other dogs
If it was not always afraid of other dogs, it would also help to consider what else happened when it first started being afraid of them.
If it has become afraid suddenly then it could be the case that other dogs mistreated it recently or it might be due to something such as illness or injury.
Whereas, if it has always been afraid then it would be more likely to be due to things such as nature, not socializing as a puppy, being mistreated by another dog as a puppy or you might have inadvertently reinforced it.
How to get your Labrador to be less afraid of other dogs
Below are some options you have when getting your Labrador to start being braver around other dogs.
The first option to try to do is to allow it to be around other friendly dogs as often as possible.
If it does not get the opportunity to be around other dogs very often then it will be more difficult for it to learn not to be afraid of them.
Positive reinforcement training is where you reinforce the behaviors that you want to see from your Labrador by rewarding it when it displays.
To use positive reinforcement training to get it to be less afraid of other dogs you would reward it after interactions where it was not afraid, reward it while it is near other dogs and it is not being afraid and stop rewarding it when it starts to become afraid.
Avoiding encouraging the behavior you don’t want
It could be the case that you have inadvertently encouraged your Labrador to be afraid around other dogs by rewarding it when it shows signs of being afraid.
Instead of giving it things such as attention, toys or treats, when it is afraid, try to reward it while it is not being afraid and to stop rewarding it when it becomes afraid.
See a dog behaviorist
If you can’t figure out why your Labrador is doing it or you cannot get it to stop then one option would be to get the help of a dog behaviorist. By doing so you will be able to get expert advice tailored towards your particular Labrador and to see how to train it safely.
If your Labrador is still young then it would help to socialize it with other friendly dogs, in a controlled environment, so that it can learn to trust them provided it has gotten the required vaccines.
It is not necessary for it to be with other dogs
One more thing to consider is that it might be in your Labrador’s nature to not like other dogs. In this case, it shouldn’t be too much of an issue and it might help to separate it from other dogs when possible.