Monday, June 21, 2010

The Difference Between English and American Labrador Retrievers

The Labrador Retriever is one of the most popular pet dogs in North America and in the UK. But not all labs are the same - there are different body types, different personalities, different colors and more. One of the most common divisions in kinds of labs is by breeding origin. These are generally referred to as English Lab Retrievers and American Lab Retrievers.

While all labs are originally from North America, via their origins in the St. John's Dog, they've been bred in the UK for long enough that there are now some differences. English Labs have a solid coat, just like American dogs, and come in the same range of colors (chocolate, yellow, black, and sometimes dilute chocolate and black, or "silver"). But they're not really shaped the same, and they have slight differences in temperament.

English Labrador Retrievers are more solidly built than their American cousins, with wide heads and muzzles, blocky bodies and a solid shape. They also have a more docile personality and are less excitable. These dogs have shorter bodies, too, and have been show and pet dogs longer. They're also called bench, conformation, or show labs.

American Lab Retrievers are taller and usually more lightly built than English Labrador Retrievers. They're often called field Labradors or working labs. For much of their history, these dogs have been hunting animals. They have narrower heads and longer noses, as well as a more lively personality. They're just as friendly and easy going as an English lab, though.

To make matters more confusing, both kinds of Labrador Retriever can be found all over the world. The term "English Labrador Retriever" just means that the dog's ancestors were from England. An American lab's ancestors came from North America. There's also an Australian line that's not common in the UK or US, but can be found in many places in Asia.

The AKC and other registry organizations don't really differentiate between English Labs and other body types. Instead, they judge all labs by the same standards. A Labrador has to meet certain personality qualifications, and has to look a certain way to be considered "on type." Dogs shouldn't be thin and willowy like a Doberman, for instance. Whether the animal's ancestors came from one place or another doesn't really matter to the judges.

So which kind of Lab Retriever will be best for you? It depends on what you want out of your dog. There are a few differences. An English Lab Retriever is generally more solidly built and more docile, while an American lab is more energetic and may be a better hunting animal. Both types are good family pets and eager to please. Just take the time to meet a few dogs, and see which ones you prefer.

Tim Williams is a Labrador retriever enthusiast. He owns and maintains Labrador Retriever Answers, a resource for all Labrador retriever lovers and where you can find more great information on English Labrador Retrievers and other essential lab advice.

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Anonymous,  June 22, 2010 6:25 AM  

I think a another article you should write should be, "What is the difference between a $2000.00 breeder quality dog and a dog you buy out of the newspaper or at a pet store." I have had labs all my life, I can certainly say there is a huge difference between quality breeding, and people who just want to have puppies. My American lab, at his prime needed constant exercise all day, every day, otherwise, someone unknowingly would have dumped him at a shelter. This type of lab is great for the family/person who has lots of acres, owns a farm, and/or runs his/her dog daily. They are meant to be out in the fields, hunting, not sitting at home. The general public think ALL Labs are family dogs, happy to sit at home and do nothing all day. That is a LIE!!

When they purchase a lab in a pet shop or through the paper, what they get is certainly not what they envisioned.

I learned the hard way!! So when I wanted another Lab who was easy going and homeward bound, I did a lot of homework. I found an amazing breeder of quality English labs in Long Island.

For anyone looking for the perfect docile lab, this is what you should be prepared for... a good breeder alwways screens their potential families very critically. They usually want to meet with you, even after you have filled out tons of paperwork. If you do not fit what they are looking for, they will turn you down. It is certainly not a bad thing, but the way a quality breeder acts. Other points about a good breeder, he/she picks the pup right for you. You will be at least $2000.00 for that puppy. You will get papers that show 3 generations for that puppy, with at least one parent eing a champion. Learning the hard way, now all three of my dogs come from a top quality breeder of English Labs, Gaetacreek Labradors in LI. All of my current labs come from the most famous lines in Labrador history. Was is worth the $2000 grand per dog? Absolutely!!! All of my dogs are certified in hips and eyes annually, whereas my poor American Lab, suffers daily from the pain of hip dysplasia (a common problem in poor quality labs). I can say he has lived a wonderful, pampered life and is now 11 1/2 years old. I hope that anyone who reads this does their homework and finds the right type of Labrador breeder. If only I have known....C. Hoens, Central, NJ.

Fay June 22, 2010 4:32 PM  

Outstanding comment C. Hoens. There are many unscrupulous Labrador Retriever breeders out there and it does take some investigation to find the right ones. Hope your comment is helpful for others. Thank you!

Anonymous,  March 02, 2012 12:04 PM  

Don't support puppy mills! Save Labs at shelters! Do Research and Adopt! not all animals are sick. my beautiful chocolate lab (American breed) was adopted from a shelter over a year ago. She is super smart, grateful, loving, and wonderful.

Fay March 03, 2012 4:11 PM  

Thanks for your comment!!

Ann March 27, 2012 8:58 AM  

does anyone know the origins of the American lab, what the breeding line is? i.e., when breeding this line what other breeds did they mix in the foundation line to come up with this line. My American lab is an excellent pointer so I was wondering if there could be some bird dog in him. His build is tall and lean, weighting in at 100 lbs.. could there be a little hound in there also.. can't find any info on the origins of this incredible line of labs. thanks

Kris,  June 30, 2012 11:09 AM  

I adopted my two year old English Lab from an animal shelter. He was two days away from being euthanized. I took him to the vet to discover I paid only $125 for a young, perfectly healthy two yr old house trained lab. He was current with shots and neutered. He is so friendly and easy going, smart, eager to please. There are too many perfectly good abandoned dogs out there. Do the world a favor and save yourself some money, adopt a dog!

Anonymous,  August 30, 2012 7:18 PM  

Well I know which one my lab is now! I have one English and one American!

Dan H September 15, 2012 7:36 AM  

We have one of both also, it's fun having two dogs with such different personalities. My chocolate American is hard to keep up with, very energetic, he will fetch a ball until your done, my yellow English is docile and loves to walk around smelling stuff more than anything else. One thing I'll point out as none of these comments do, is how expensive it is to own labs, buying them, getting them fixed, food, shots, vets. My yellow seems to get hurt everywhere, just in 2012, my chocolate needed a wart removed from his paw.. 850$, my yellow tore an acl 370$ visit with a 3600 quote for surgery if she doesn't recover in her own, annual shots probably 300 per dog, checkup point is, you need extra money to own and care for these dogs properly. Good luck enjoy them like we have.

Anonymous November 30, 2012 7:20 AM  

Thank u for the info, i might be getting an american lab!! thanx

Anonymous,  December 13, 2012 7:20 PM  

I have an American male yellow lab and he would run all day and night if I could keep up with him! He is very smart and loving though.

Anonymous,  December 28, 2012 11:00 PM  

Our American lab was one of a litter of 13. He ended up being 120 pounds and very tall. Active and loving. I say was as before his 4th birthday he became ill. We thought he had an intestine blockage as is not uncommon. However he had liver disease that was beyond treatment. We had to put him down 24 hours later. The most wonderful dog we have ever had. It broke our hearts. I will again rescue a lab as the shelter dogs need a good home and a chance. I participate in rescue transports and have seen a lot of lab and lab mixes. 99% of them are wonderful ready to go home pets needing a chance. I'm not interested in breeders or kennel club, dog show animals ........I'm interested in a loving pet that is looking for a good home. Unfortunately we have learned the hard way about the medical conditions that accompany this breed but has not soured me from having another black lab.

Anonymous,  August 24, 2013 7:57 PM  

We have adopted American Lab, through a rescue group bringing them to New England from a Tennessee kill shelter . Perhaps his previous owners did not like his conformation. Whatever the reason he is absolutely gorgeous, with a lovely disposition, very smart, agile, and quite possibly the world's best dog! We are energetic people and its great having a dog that's not a lay about.

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