Is My Lab Puppy Aggressive… or Just Playing?

The dog pack is an amazing thing to study and behold. Its so unlike our “packs” (families) yet they try their best to adapt and become part of ours…and they do it quite well! If you are interested, the BEST book I ever read on this subject, and recommend to ANY person with a dog, is the Monks of New Skeet’s :  “Be Your Dog’s Best Friend.” (they also authored, ‘The Art of Raising a Puppy”)

The above books will explain the dog pack and HELP YOU COMMUNICATE WITH YOUR DOG LIKE A DOG, NOT LIKE A PERSON 🙂  Peek inside their brains and behaviors!

But in 33 years of experience with Labradors (and we always had at least 5) you had the alpha bitch, the alpha male, and everything in between. That pecking order would even change overnight, and to us, as it seemed to happened so suddenly, and we could never “predict” the alpha–it wasn’t always the largest, or the fastest, but I always wondered if it was genetic and constant. Or even intelligence, but found it to be an every-changing organism that is fascinating to behold.

I also watch every show/documentary I can about wolves and their packs as many of the behaviors still carry over into the domestic dogs we all love and enjoy today. BUT, on that day you scratch your head and say, “Why’d he do that?” the dog pack may hold many clues. Timeline and PBS have many great documentaries. Most I find on Youtube.



Now, I can honestly say I’ve never seen an aggressive puppy in my life. But I’ve observed pups that have no idea how those sharp little nails and teeth can hurt us. And we certainly want to curtail any play biting in one day if every family member is consistent with our recommendation on play biting. , Still, each and every time I raise a litter I watch in amazement as they just ‘work it out,’ day by day. BUT when they are taken from their “pack” (litter) and enter your family you are now their new PACK. And as they played with their PACK-MATES, they will try to play or communicate with you. Thus, you need to understand true aggression and merely puppy play biting or growling. Also realize, your dog may treat the children in your household like “litter mates” and the parent figures as alpha. Its very interesting to observe. (mostly because they get away with more with kids!)

If you have two dogs, you may have heard this level of play and enjoy the snarling and growling, tug of war and chasing–just like they did with their litter mates (most puppy buyers don’t know this as they have not observed the play behavior of a litter that occurred the first 8 weeks where it is overseen and monitored by someone else).

Between two unfamiliar adult dogs, this play should not be encouraged on their first meeting.(like a dog park!) This is something to take slow. It can easily turn dangerous if your dog or the other suddenly shows any aggressive body language like pulled back ears or snarling. This is for dogs that know each other WELL. They may or not ever play like that. Some have more play drive and will be happy to play with you OR their other canine family mate. And, to be sure to prevent bullying by other dogs, read our other blog, ” When socialization and dog parks go terribly wrong”

Also, don’t allow your pup to CHASE your kids. It will end badly. They’ll grab at their pants, socks or shoe/shoe laces and down your child will go–a very unwelcome ‘face plant,’ indeed! So encourage your child to STOP whenever the pup jumps or bites and freeze. If they are unable to apply the proper force or consistency to the training,  you may have to jump in and assist. To bypassing this step will turn your lab into a BULLY. I can’t tell you how how many stupid people will say, “Oh he’s aggressive” then when I ask about play-biting they say, “Oh I could never do that…I could never correct that” and now you have a 80-90 dog jumping in grandma and all the babies that it comes in contact with–or nipping at them still.

Starting early with understanding dog socialization and stopping bad habits early will save you that 15- 24 month old  BRAT that has never been trained or corrected.

And as I usually say, “there’s no bad dog, just bad owners,” if they neglect to socialize their dog away from biting, jumping or perceived aggressive behaviors.. For info on correcting this behavior, go to either the link above from our Youtube channel or find additional talks on similar topics on our blog. –Donna Stanley, Owner, Endless Mt. Labradors, with guest blogger, Olivia Stanley




Leave A Comment