Choosing Between The English Lab Versus The American Lab

Pet Type


May 16, 2020

The Labrador, otherwise known as Lab or Labrador retriever, is one of the most beloved dog breeds in the world. Famous for their obedience, loyalty, and playfulness, Labradors are highly trainable. They are great disability assistants, providing guidance and companionship to the blind, deaf and autistic people. Labs are also known to be great at performing screening and detection work for law enforcers.

Labrador’s origin dates back to the 1500s in Newfoundland, where they were used as fishing dogs to bring in fishing nets as well as retrieve fish. Their water-repellent coats and webbed paws made them an excellent choice for the job. After witnessing their skills in Newfoundland, the Earl of Malmesbury introduced Labradors to England, where they participated in hunting sports. It is in England that Labradors earned their name.

Labrador’s popularity grew fast, and by 1900 they were introduced into American households and eventually the American Kennel Club (AKC). Today, the Labrador tops the AKC list and continues to impress. 

Characteristics of the English Lab Versus the American Lab  

Now that we know of the Labrador’s origin, how then do we differentiate them from each other? We are going to get into some of their subtle and not so subtle differences to help you better understand your furry companion. 


The English Lab (commonly referred to as Shows or Bench dogs) is bred purely for shows and performances while his American counterpart (widely regarded as Field) for working. The different roles they play in society has resulted in their different appearances, albeit minimal.

The English Lab has to conform to the AKC standards and regulations, some of which are listed below:        

  • Size and proportion: They should be reasonably short, attaining a height of 22.5 to 24.5 inches for a male dog, and 21.5 to 23.5 inches for females. Their weight should be 65 to 80 lbs and 55 to 70 lbs for the male and female respectively.
  • Head size: Their skulls should be broad and well-developed. Their heads should be clean-cut and without fleshy cheeks. The nose should be extensive, and their nostrils well-developed. Their eyes should be kind and friendly, exhibiting calm temperament, alertness, and intelligence. Black and yellow Labradors are required to have brown eye color and brown or hazel for the chocolate Labradors.
  • Neck: Their necks should be muscular and without excess skin.
  • Tail: The tail should be medium in size, thick at the base, and gradually narrowing toward the tip.
  • Forequarters and hindquarters: Both should be muscular and balanced. The shoulder blade length should be equal to the upper arm length.
  • Coat: Their coats should be short, straight, and dense, giving a hard feeling when touched by hand. The recommended coat colors are black, yellow, and chocolate. No color combinations are allowed.

Since the American Labs don’t participate in shows and competitions, they tend to be larger, slimmer, and more athletic in appearance. This build enables them to work effortlessly. They also have longer necks and thinner coats of varied colors, including color combinations. Unlike the English counterpart, the American Lab’s tail is more extended and slimmer. However, you should remember that the Fields will vary in appearance as they are bred without any restrictions.  


Although both breeds are highly affectionate and pleasant, the English Lab is generally calmer and sweeter than the American Lab, who is more outgoing, adventurous, and slightly stubborn. They are also more active and love moving about to expend their high energy levels. If you’re up for some games and want a four-legged buddy to keep you engaged, then the American Lab is a perfect choice for you. On the other hand, if you want a gentle and sweet friend to always dote on you, then the English Lab is what you’re looking for.  

Exercise/ Active Hours

Labradors are generally energetic dogs. They will need you to take them for walks and exercises; otherwise, they can be quite destructive. They require at least one hour of activity to keep them happy and fulfilled. So if you’re looking for a lazy dog to nest indoors, Labradors might not be for you.

In comparison, however, the American Lab is more energetic and demanding. Having a reasonably large compound for them to play and run around in will come in handy for you to avoid any mishaps in your home. If you live near water, your buddies are sure to enjoy swims and water activities. 


Training your Labrador from a young age is essential for future social interactions and proper behavior in your household. When professionally trained, Labradors are great guide assistants to visually impaired and hearing impaired people owing to their intelligence. They can also sniff out drugs and explosives at screening points, as well as rescue people during natural disasters such as hurricanes.

Despite their enthusiasm, the American Lab may appear harder to train than the English Lab thanks to their high energy levels. Exposing your dog to regular environmental noises like car horns and revving motorbikes early in life helps them concentrate better when they’re older. You should also familiarize your puppies with other animals from a young age to encourage their friendliness. 


The average life expectancy of Labradors was initially 10 to 12 years. However, a recent study has shown that they can live for up to 14 years, making them a relatively healthy breed. This lifespan is, of course, dependant on gene factors as well as other environmental factors such as accidents and injuries.

While Labradors are generally healthy, they are susceptible to several diseases such as cancer and hip dysplasia. According to a study performed in the UK, 9% of English Lab dogs are obese. Commonly bred for shows, the English Lab’s docility plays a significant part in developing obesity. As in human beings, obesity increases your dog’s chance of contracting diseases such as hypertension, heart failure, diabetes, and osteoarthritis (degeneration of joints).

Keeping your furry friend active and honoring your vet’s appointments can, therefore, tremendously help in prolonging your dog’s life. 


Feeding your Labradors good quality and nutritional food helps keep them healthy. Labradors are known to feed very well, and this can often lead to obesity if not kept in check. Field dogs need to be fed more often than show dogs because the former burn more calories during the day. Nonetheless, how often you feed your Labs should be directly proportional to their age and how active they are, regardless of whether they’re American or English. 


You should wash your Labrador every six weeks. Washing them more often than that will damage their natural coat oils and put them at risk of contracting skin diseases. Since the English Lab has a thicker coat than his American counterpart, you are more likely going to have to brush his coat more often. On the other hand, you might also need to groom your American Lab’s coat regularly since they are more likely to get dirty from all their playing. 


The average cost of a well-bred Labrador is between $800 and $1,200. Owing to their way of life, you are more likely to pay a premium for a Bench Lab than a Field Lab. This high cost is because their lineage gives them certain traits that are mandatory for their participation in AKC.  

In Conclusion

From the above characteristics, it is clear that there are not many significant differences between the English and American Labradors. It is also essential to know that factors such as age, genetics, and the environment can affect the disparity between the two breeds. So whether you get yourself an English Lab or American Lab, there’s no right or wrong pick; it’s just a matter of preferenc