SOCIALISATION - THE FIRST FEAR IMPRINT
The First Imprint in your labrador pups life occurs during the Socialisation period from weeks 8 - 24. During this time there is 'a fear imprint period from weeks 8 - 16'. And during this time, any traumatic, painful or frightening experiences can have lasting impact on your pup and its ability to confidently relate to people and other dogs. More so than if they occurred at any other time. Unhelpful timidity is often the result of a lack of socialisation. And these dogs regularly become 'fear biters'. To become acceptable companions, labradors pups must be socialised. Socialisation is not in itself training. It is the essential exposure to the outside world. I think of socialisation as exposure to People, Vehicles / Traffic & other Dogs. They need to interact with you, your family, and other people in as many different settings as possible. If they are not exposed to other (immunised) dogs during the Socialization Period, the pup can develop 'dog to dog aggression'. Labradors that are denied socialization during this critical period regularly become unpredictable because they are fearful and this leads to aggressive behaviour. It is during this time, that your dog needs to have positive experiences with people and other dogs. These experiences build confidence and help deal with undesirable timidity. Therefore, you need to socialize and teach your puppy how to interact with people and other dogs in a positive, non-punitive manner. You should gradually introduce your puppy to new experiences, environments, and varieties of people. If you have not socialised you labrador, in most cases, it is not to late to start. The easy answer is to take your pup with you 'everywhere'.
Socialisation and Obedience Training
Socialisation means exposing your puppy to experiences like 'People', 'Vehicles & traffic', 'other dogs'. You do not want a growing dog with 'dog to dog aggression issues'. And you certainly don' want 'dog to people aggression'. The frequency and severity of aggressive behavior can be eliminated completely with proper socialisation and obedience training. In some dogs, the best you may hope is a reduction the possibility of aggressive actions. However, you must weigh the risks of keeping an habitually aggressive dog.
Always keep your dog on a leash in unconfined places. In the home, you may want to attach a leach to 10m running line. A buckle on the collar is attached to the line so that your dog can move comfortably. This will give your dog safe confinement. Contextual and indoor training on a leash will promote greater control.
Promote trust and affection in your dog. Dogs never meet face to face,...they meet nose to rear. Dogs are scent driven. When your meet a dog, don't make initial eye contact,rather allow the dog to sniff your hand. Don't make fast movements towards a dog. This will reduce anxiety and reduce fear based responses in your dog. Promoting trust requires regular obedience activities, training and behaviour management. With successful treatment, there is still no guarantee that the aggressive behavior won't return.
Counter-conditioning is the most obvious step is training on a leash. A head halter may be required when you take an aggressive dog into a public situation. Each dog is unique, and the success of varies depending your capability, motivation and scheduling of structure training and rewarding good behaviour.