Labradors may hold the reputation of being one of the world’s most friendliest and outgoing dog breed, but there’s a darker side to them that virtually nobody talks about — their attacks on humans.
People often downplay the risks associated to Labradors, but in this article, we’re going to get real with you on the statistics of Labrador attacks as well as the reasons and factors that may contribute to such aggression.
We’ll also go over the most effective way to defend yourself from an attacking Labrador.
So Here’s Whether Or Not Labradors Attack Humans:
Labradors are capable of attacking humans in general. In the US alone, there had been hundreds of recorded Labrador bite attacks since 2018 and there’s no signs of slowing down in the number of attacks either. Labradors are also the 8th dog breed out of over a hundred breeds with the most attacks on humans in the United States and Canada alone. The Labrador attack statistics are oftentimes underreported and the real figures are much more likely to be higher.
It’s crucial to understand the dark side of Labradors and take necessary precautions in order to drastically reduce the chance of your Lab ever snapping out on humans in general.
Note: Our articles are comprehensive and in-depth. Feel free to expand the table of contents below and skip ahead to sections that interest you.
Statistics of Labrador Attacks
According to the CDC, Around 4.5 million dog bite attacks have been reported annually in the US from 2014 to 2020.
Approximately a thousand US citizens that have been bitten by dogs require an extensive emergency care treatment to date on a daily basis.
Also, according to a 40 year statistical report of Dog attacks, death and maimings in U.S and Canada from 1982 to 2021 for all dog breeds; there has been over 11, 246 reported attacks and 970 deaths overall.
Of that number, Labrador attacks had succumbed 82 victims, 68 of which were maimed. And a total of 7 victims were killed by Labradors for the past 40 years according to this data.
This also makes them the 8th dog breed with the most attacks in the U.S and Canada, with pitbulls topping the list. Here’s a brief rundown of the top 16 dog breeds with the most attacks according to the data:
1) Pit Bulls
3) German Shepherds
4) Bull Mastiffs
8) Labrador Retrievers
9) Chow and Cane Corso (with similar attack cases)
10) Great Dane
12) Doberman and Cattle Dog
13) Belgian Shepherd
14) English Bulldog
15) St. Bernard
16) Australian Shepherd
The data of Labrador attacks presented by the above source may not truly reflect real figures as they were reports of individuals or private organizations and not of an official government agency.
Hence, to corroborate existing data of Labrador attacks, we’ll also break down the statistics of Labrador attacks by 6 select counties and cities in US since 2018 according to this data.
Labrador Attacks up to 2023
1) Woodbury County, Iowa (March, 2023)
From 2018 to March 2023, there had been a total of 85 Labrador bite attacks — making them the 2nd dog breed after Pitbull with the most attacks in this county.
2) State of South Carolina
From 2019 to 2020, a total of 7499 bite attacks were observed from all dog breeds. Of those, Labrador and their mixes account for 833 bites overall.
3) Kansas City, Missouri
In 2020 alone, 373 bite attacks were recorded among all breeds. And Labrador Retrievers came second on the list with 34 bite attacks.
4) Aurora, Colorado
From 2017 to 2019, a total of 1180 bite attacks were recorded. And of those numbers, Labradors Retrievers were responsible for 121 bites in those 3 years.
5) Harris County, Texas
6683 bite attacks were reported in Harris County from 2013 to 2016 and 917 of those attacks are from Labradors, which also make up around 13.72% of all attacks.
6) San Antonio, Texas
From 2016 to 2017, a total of 2499 dog bite attacks were recorded in San Antonio and 14% of which (360 bite attack cases) stem from Labradors.
From these data alone, we cannot bury our heads in the sand and perceive Labrador attacks as merely a statistical anomaly.
The stats have shown us, time and time again, that Labrador attacks on humans have been on the rise in the US since 2016.
The counter argument to the perceived danger of Labradors would be that the stats are skewed due to a larger pool of Labradors across the nation.
That may be true, but it doesn't take away the fact that Labrador attacks on humans are an ongoing threat all across the world and it shouldn't be taken lightly or shrugged off.
Why Are Labradors Capable Of Attacking Humans In General? (3 Main Factors)
1) Strong Jaws & A Wide Mouth
A Labrador with a bite force of approximately 230 PSI (top 25 dog breeds with strong bite force), which can definitely inflict quite an amount of damage due to their strong jaws.
Their wide mouth, coupled with the structure of their long and sharp teeth are partly the reason why Labradors are capable of attacking humans – apart from the fact that Labradors usually have the best well-maintained teeth amongst all other breeds.
But it’s important to note that Labrador bites are not typically severe as other dog breeds as they generally have softer mouth.
2) Strong Musculature with Great Agility Skills
Though Labradors aren’t as stocky as Pitbulls are, but they do have a sturdy and athletic build with great endurance given how highly energetic Labradors are in general.
Labradors are known to have strong and muscular necks, shoulders, frontlegs, hindquarters as well as a powerful chest that enables them to be efficient sporting and hunting dogs.
These muscles aren’t typically visible as they are often obscured by its own double coat.
Unfortunately, such a muscular build may come at a price of attacking other dogs and humans alike if their aggression, dominance, protective instincts gets over triggered.
This is because a Lab is able to lunge itself at the victim at a fast pace thanks to their brawny legs.
3) Greater Sense of Smell and Vision Compared To Other Dogs
Labrador Retrievers possess a remarkable visual acuity that sets them apart from other canine breeds. This is attributed to their breeding as exceptional hunting and water-retrieving dogs, which demands excellent eyesight.
While most dog breeds fare at a 20/70 vision range, Labradors have an almost perfect 20/20 vision – coupled with a better depth perception ability thanks to their reduced eye spacing.
And this enables Labradors to easily sense any incoming threats or movements that may be deemed a threat to them — even in the dark.
Not to mention that Labradors also have a great sense of smell compared to other dog breeds thanks to their larger snouts, nasal cavity and bigger olfactory epithelium — which translate to a higher number of scent receptors that are much more developed compared to other dogs.
Hence why they make great sniffers and would smell any ounce of fear and threat within its vicinity.
Coupled with both a heightened vision and smell as well as a highly energetic muscular body — it comes to no surprise why Labrador attacks on humans have been on the rise all over the world.
5 Main Reasons Why Labradors Attack Humans
1) Poor Breeding & Genetics
Given the sheer amount of Labs in the US, UK, Canada and how popular this particular breed is; quite a number of unethical backyard breeders have popped up over the decades.
And it’s no surprise why quite a significant amount of today’s Labradors are a result of a subpar puppy mill breeding.
Labradors that had been poorly bred are more likely to have a predisposition towards aggression and other behavioral problems.
A puppy that hasn’t been bred up to the standards as prescribed by a governing breed club are more likely to inherit the negative and aggressive traits of its parents due to a lack of selective breeding or temperament tests — and this is the primary factor of aggression seen in today’s Labradors.
The appearance of dogs are taken precedence over temparament, health, and genetics in these unethical puppy mills.
Mixed breeding with no regard for health tests or titling practices, coupled with a lack of a recognized mixed breed standard are also part of the problem why quite a number of mixed-Labs are pretty aggressive and would attack humans or other dogs for the slightest triggers.
Hence, it’s advisable to only acquire a Lab from a licensed breeder who sells only pups from Labs that have been line-bred as working or show Labs for generations.
When choosing a puppy, it’s important to aim for a middle-of-the-road pup – avoid picking the most aggressive or the most submissive pup in the litter.
You can also gain valuable insight into a puppy’s potential future behavior by observing the mother dog’s demeanor. This can give you a rough idea of what to expect as the puppy grows into adulthood.
2) Lack of Socialization.
Labradors are highly energetic, playful, and sociable by nature. And they thrive with human companionship and attention. An untrained Lab that’s left alone to its own devices would likely lead to situations where it’d get destructive and aggressive out of boredom, fear and anxiety.
Labradors that lack the socialization skills early on are always bound to develop aggression and behavioral problems.
A lack of exposure to other dogs, humans early on may delay the fear imprint stage in puppies — hence the display of aggression as Labradors get even more energetic and bigger. More so when they’ve been poorly bred by an unethical backyard breeder.
This is because a lack of socialization causes Labs to be extremely reactive, less confident, less adaptable & resilient to their environment, and less self-aware of their surroundings which would inevitably result in clumsiness and mischief.
Puppies that are not properly socialized may find it challenging to adapt to new people, environments, and situations, thereby increasing their susceptibility to anxiety and aggressive behavior driven by fear.
A destructive and a bored Lab would get aggressive and hence get into trouble as it lacks the self-control to manage their fear, temperament and reactivity when they are supposedly triggered.
3) Lack Of Training and Supervision
Labradors thrive with human companionship, attention and with proper training. Therefore, an untrained, unsupervised and an undisciplined Lab would almost always land itself into trouble by engaging in destructive or aggressive behavior as they can’t differentiate the right from wrong due to a lack of established consequences.
An untrained Lab would also have extreme difficulties in following commands, thus making it harder for owners to correct and take charge of their dog’s behavior and etiquettes.
A lack of rules and structure would also translate to an undisciplined pooch which would act upon their impulses willy-nilly.
An untrained Lab also makes a disobedient Lab, and given how energetic and how prone Labradors are to separation anxiety — they may exhibit dominance and aggression as a way to cope with the void within, i.e, growling, groaning, baring their teeth, displaying stiff body language, etc.
They often become destructive and pick up instinctive protective aggression due to the lack of love, care and discipline if they are left to their own devices.
The aggression present in Labs may also be an accidental positive reinforcement due to owners downplaying any sort of mild aggressive behaviors early on.
They may perceive such behaviors as being cheeky or playful, therefore turning a blind eye to them or worst – laughing it off which signals happiness to the Labs.
Labs will inadvertently pick up on this and it will create a positive feedback loop to behave in such manner overtime.
Sometimes it may not be a Labrador’s fault nor is it the Lab owners that are responsible for Lab attacks.
A line-bred hunting Lab dog are very particular about strangers invading their personal space, and given how exceptionally high their prey drive is, they would not hesitate to lunge at the attacker in retaliation.
Also, nearly half of all Lab attacks are on children due to a lack of supervision on the parent’s part.
A child may playfully tap on the Lab multiple times with slight pressure, and once it’s had enough of those continuous taps overtime – it may bite in retaliation purely out of instinctual drive to defend itself from fear and pain.
Hence, why it’s crucial for parents to always supervise their children whenever they’re in close proximity to the Lab.
This is because a high energy Lab that hasn’t got their needs met will typically become more hyperactive, impatient, and reactive without any impulse control.
And when they are provoked in this state, they will retaliate out of fear and anxiety.
5) Underlying Illness or Rabies
Labradors may also display erratic changes in behavior for the worse if they suffer from any underlying diseases.
This is because a Lab in pain would get easily irritated, triggered and are more reactive to their surroundings – more so for an energetic dog breed like a Labrador.
A Lab in pain is a vulnerable Lab, and they are constantly in alert mode for any incoming disturbances or threats to protect themselves.
If the intruder fails to pick up on the Lab’s warning beforehand, Labs may lash out as means of protecting itself.
It’s also crucial to understand that Labs in pain are also less receptive to tolerance and treats.
So seek vertinary care if your Lab acts aggressive all of a sudden. And if you’re a stranger to a random Lab or any other dog breed out there, it’s best to stay away from it if you suspect something is off.
You might also be interested in Do Labradors & Boxers Get Along? (10 Facts You Must Know)
How To Defend Yourself Against A Labrador Attack/ Precautions To Take
We’ll use the ABC method to defend ourselves from an attacking Lab — Avoid, Bolt and Confront.
Avoidance is the best option.
Be aware of your surroundings as much as possible so that you can avoid a dangerous dog attack situation in the first place.
Scope out the entire area for unleashed dogs or check to see if their owners are nearby. Also, be sure to avoid areas where stray dogs are likely to hang out in packs.
Stay off your phone and ear buds out when moving from place to place. Dogs (predators) target weak, unsuspecting victims.
As a backup plan, your expressed confidence and posture will solve most problems.
If you appear weak, their prey drive will kick in and they will certainly attack.
Get out of the situation whenever possible if you happen to encounter an attacking Labrador or an off-leashed Lab that behaves out of the ordinary in public.
It's important to keep in mind that bolting away from an attacking Lab should only be your option if the Lab is far enough for you to bolt away from or if there's a nearby wall or a fence you could climb over to escape from it.
Don’t try to outrun a dog unless you know with 100% certainty that can make an effective escape.
The average person runs 10-15 mph, all Labs can run over 25 mph. So, if your escape route isn’t 3-4 times closer than the distance between you and the dog, you won’t make it, so don’t try if you have to turn your back to the dog to do so.
If the dog catches you from behind, he will almost assuredly knock you down, and that is the MOST dangerous place to be in a dog fight.
If you didn’t AVOID, cannot BOLT, and you wish to survive, you now have to fight as explained in the next paragraph.
There are no two ways around this. It is time to accept this fact. Find your voice, get your posture correct, and get your defense and weapon(s) ready.
Energy Levels & What You Shouldn’t Do
Dogs tend to read your energy, and they are unlike humans who rely on social cues.
You have to display a calming energy with confidence or intensity.
Energy and postures are important to signal to the dog that you’re calm and in control of the situation.
Never turn your back on an attacking Labrador. There are three basic drives that formulate everything a dog does, one of them is the Prey Drive.
If you turn your back on them, whether to run or to protect your face, you automatically kick their already engaged prey drive into overdrive. This is because you've just acted like a prey animal.
And the posture should be protecting your centerline and you don’t want to face the dog squarely out in the open.
It’s better to turn away slightly to be off-center in a way that you’re able to guard your center line with your shoulder from any attacks on your vital organs.
Being slightly off-centre with both hands in a cross guard defense position will only enable the attacking Lab to bite you in non-vital areas such as your forearm.
While the cross guard method may be effective and may save your life in any Labrador attack, it’s crucial to also deliver strikes with your fisted arm while staying in the cross-guard position.
A hard push-kick towards the chest area of the Labrador while staying in the cross-guard defense position are also effective in warding off an attacking dog.
It’s important to NOT aim your foot in its face, as it may bite and pull on your foot, thus toppling you down.
You can deliver a push-kick method by first driving your knee up, followed by a hard push in your feet as if you’re kicking down on a door.
Oftentimes, a knee up is sufficient to hold a dog off. It’s important to note that this isn’t a flick kick.
You may also need to keep pairing or deflect the dog away with a closed fist while in your cross-guard defense position.
When you’re deflecting the dog away with your forearm on a closed fist, you’re stepping away and using its own momentum to send it in the other direction.
In this pairing method, you want to continually step away in the other direction/on the outside and keep deflecting. You may also want to use the push-kick method with this for a much more effective defense.
Grab Any Nearby Item (If Any)
If there’s a large enough stick laying around, you may use it as a weapon of defence.
Position your hands on the large stick as if you’re sweeping with it, and flick it towards the dog with a hard push. Such flicks will deliver a devastating blow and it’s very effective to ward off an attacking dog.
Swinging the large stick around is NOT effective in combating the attack, as it may lunge at you when you're swinging it away in the opposite direction of the dog.
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