How to work with a Labrador's Biting

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Published: 19th January 2011
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In general, Labradors are exceptionally thoughtful and loyal dogs, who make fantastic pets. But every now and then, a collection of traits and environmental factors can cause instances where Labrador biting becomes an unwanted problem. But Labrador biting doesn't have to be a permanent issue, so don't panic if your dog is being difficult at the moment.

What Causes Labrador Biting

First point to make, is that all dogs are prone to biting. However, Labradors are very intelligent and highly reactive dogs. Which means that they are sensitive to your family and home, and might become fearful if there isn't a supportive enough atmosphere in your household. As a natural retriever, they take a lot of comfort in having things in their mouth. So even while they are usually quite gentle, it is critical that they learn early on, what can and can't go in their mouths. While Labradors are generally very good natured and get along with animals and people of all ages, it is recommended that you don't leave them around small children until you've properly taught them that nipping and biting are unacceptable.

Aside fom their yearning to hold things in their mouth, the next big reason for Labrador biting usually comes from a certain level of fear. Fear biting occurs when a dog grows so fearful and anxious of their position in a situation that they will lash out with a bite, hoping to protect themselves from a strange person or dog.

For Labradors, a fear-imprint stage occurs between 8 and 14 weeks of age. During this critical point, a Lab can become worried about things that would seem irrational at any other stage. As their owner, your role is to make it clear that your dog has no reason to be afraid. If you sympathise with the dog at this point, after they've acted scared then you will only highlight that fear and it will get worse.

Furthermore, fear can develop for a dog when they do not have a strong, stable home environment. Many dog owners think they are being supportive of their dogs by providing everything they need and want.

But unlike humans, that type of attention won't be enough to keep a dog happy. Dogs are really after a powerful, firm commander who they can look to if they need protection. Their feeling of safety and security comes from having an alpha leader in their "pack" so it's important you fill this position. That's what you're there for.

Other reasons for fear in dogs might include abuse or poor treatment when they were young. If you have adopted a Labrador, you'll need to be very wary of any potential fear based behaviors.

How to Handle Labrador Biting

If your Labrador has started snapping or nipping due to fear, you should be able to fix this problem with careful training and lots of attention from yourself. This can be done through calm, assertive alpha behavior alongside patient coaching to correct poor behaviors. It is important not to use negative reinforcement for this type of problem as it will only make the problem worse.

What is really useful is building your Lab's esteem with positive training, where they recieve praise for good behaviour. You must also desensitize the dog to any objects he fears. If your dog is fearful of the postman or the neighbor dog, you should provide positive reinforcement while interacting with that source of fear. Which doesn't mean you should let your dog run up to them all the time, but you should watch the postman come and go, and if they stay quiet (your dog that is) you should give them treats as a reward.

Labrador biting can be a significant issue for many dog owners. But if you handle it early on, when your pet is most open to training, then you should see that they quieten down a lot and accept your control of the family and home. Ultimately, if your Lab doesn't stop it's biting or actually gets worse through training, you might need the help of a professional. At home training can do wonders, but sometimes, the fear or aggression is so deeply rooted that you need a pro to help remove it.

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