Choosing between English and Field Labrador Retrievers

Both English and field Labrador Retrievers make great pets, but there are differences. The English and field Lab distinction isn't an official one; however, there are distinct differences when it comes to breeding.

To choose between the two, consider which type of Lab will fit into your life. If you make a conscience choice between the two types, you'll have a better chance of getting the type of dog you really want.

The English Lab

Although the term English Lab doesn't designate an actual sub-breed of Labrador Retriever, it refers to a Lab with show dogs in his pedigree. They are the dogs bred for the show ring, with conformation and temperament as first priorities.

If want to compete in conformation dog shows and/or breeding Labs is your passion, then consider an English Lab. You may need to get on a waiting list for that special puppy that will have the potential to earn his Show Championship. Make sure your dog comes from a breeder who tests for the common conformation problems that Labs can have.

If any of the following are important, you should consider an English lab.

  • I want a dog that won't be more active than I can manage.

  • I want a dog with a show champion pedigree for showing and breeding.

  • I want a dog with a show champion pedigree so that I can brag about it!

  • I want a dog whom I can train to become a well-behaved companion.

    English labs are bred with special attention to the breed standard and conformation.
    English labs are bred with special attention to the breed standard and conformation.

Of course, a good family pet needn't have a championship title and needn't even be particularly close to the breed standard in appearance. Although English labs are active as pups they tend to settle down with good, positive training and can make great family companions.

The field Lab

The field Lab is also not an official sub-breed, but a distinction used to describe dogs that have been specifically bred to have the qualities necessary for a successful hunting dog: boundless energy and more endurance than most families want in a pet dog. These Labs are a great choice for someone who wants to participate actively with his or her dog in field trials and who has money and time to spare.

Field labs will have lots of field titles in their pedigree and are usually much more active. Successful field trial dogs take a lot of training. Attend some field trial events to see what it's all about. Then look for a breeder who has demonstrated success at producing dogs that have done well in field trials. Then start researching, learning, and practicing.

If any of the following are important, you should consider a field lab.

  • I want a heavy-duty hunting dog.

  • I want a dog to compete in field trials to show off their natural retrieving ability.

  • I want a dog that I can train to be a good companion, but with whom I can also compete in the higher levels of AKC obedience trials.

Remember, field trial champions are like Olympic athletes. Too high an activity level in a family pet isn't desirable unless you plan to put the dog to work doing an extremely active task, such as (as the name suggests) training for field trials.

If you're looking for a mellow, pleasant family dog to accompany you on leisurely walks around the block, don't go for the puppy with a pedigree rife with field and utility titles. Field Labs have extra energy and sense of adventure. If you're not prepared for that, you could have a problem on your hands.

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