The American Labrador is a working bred strain of the world’s most popular breed. They tend to have a slimmer build, an enthusiastic, active temperament and weigh more than their English cousins.
The terms American Labrador and English Labrador often come up when talking about one of the world’s most popular dog breeds.
Both of these dogs are Labrador Retrievers. But when viewed side by side you’ll notice some variations in their physical looks.
So, are there other differences between the American and English versions of the Labrador breed? Let’s find out if the American Labrador will suit your family.
American Labrador Vs English Labrador
“American Labrador” and “English Labrador” aren’t official terms. More accurate descriptions of these two dogs would be working type Labrador and show type Labrador.
This is because their differences have more to do with the roles they were bred for than where they came from. American Labs were bred for working ability, and English for show quality.
American Labs are more active, clever, and stubborn. While English Labs are calmer, sweeter, and friendlier.
For this reason, the American Labrador excels as a working dog. But, the English version makes a great family pet.
However, this doesn’t mean that the American Labrador won’t make a good pet. Or that the English Lab will be low-energy.
Origins Of The Labrador Retriever
The ancestor of the lovable Lab is the St. John’s Dog of Newfoundland, Canada.
This hard-working dog worked as a fisherman’s mate. He was tasked with retrieving game without damaging it.
In the 1800s, visiting English nobles brought these dogs back to England, where British breeders refined and standardized the breed. But, the split between American and English Labs didn’t come until much later.
As exhibiting dogs came into fashion on both sides of the Atlantic, the bloodlines for showing and working lines began to separate. Breeders started to create two different varieties of the breed.
If you’re interested in learning more about the fascinating history of the Labrador, check out this article.
American Lab Appearance
One of the first things you’ll notice about these two dogs is their difference in size.
American Labs are both larger and leaner with a more athletic physique. Standard height varies from 21.5 to 24.5 inches, compared to the smaller English Lab which measures from 21.5 to 22.5 inches.
Generally, male Labs weigh between 65 to 80 pounds and females from 55 to 70 pounds. But, English Labs can be as much as 20 pounds heavier without being overweight. This is due to their shape and structure.
They have a stockier, heavier build and bone structure than their American cousins.
The working type Lab has a finer bone structure, longer legs, and a lengthier muzzle. Plus, they have a narrower head and neck. Their famous otter tail is also thinner and less “otter-like.”
Even the American Labrador’s double-layered water-resistant coat, which comes in yellow, black, or chocolate, is less dense than that of the English Labrador.
American Lab Temperament
Both types of Labs are outgoing and active dogs who aren’t prone to aggressive behavior. But there are some differences when it comes to temperament.
Although all Labradors are known for being energetic, American Labs are working gundogs with strong instincts to hunt and retrieve.
You can expect their energy and stamina to know no bounds.
This means they need lots and lots of physical exercise and mental stimulation to keep from becoming bored and destructive.
These dogs are also typically more independent, intelligent, and adventurous than the English variety.
American Lab Training
In addition to their many other desirable qualities, Labs are also known for their trainability.
This study of Labrador Retrievers found working dogs to be more trainable than show dogs. But others claim that they’re more difficult to control due to their high energy levels, nervousness, and natural instinct to hunt.
Luckily, both types are intelligent, eager to please, and highly food motivated when it comes to rewards during training sessions.
The American Lab can excel at competitive sports such as agility.
These dogs are also well-suited to a wide variety of service dog roles.
Regardless of the type of Labrador, they will require proper training and socialization.
American Lab Exercise
There’s no question that any Labrador Retriever is going to need lots of daily exercise. It’s just that the American Lab will likely need more than the English Lab.
Although the amount of exercise can vary from dog to dog, an athletic American Labrador typically needs approximately two hours of daily exercise.
As long as mental and physical requirements are met, these dogs are relaxed companions.
But even the best trained American Lab can turn to unwanted behavior if they have no way to release pent-up energy.
Walking briskly offers mutual benefits for both dog and owner. But this athletic canine will need some off leash time for aerobic activities.
Running, swimming, playing Frisbee, retrieving a ball, and other games are all great ways to keep an American Lab in shape.
Exercise-Related Health Issues
It should be noted that the Labrador breed is prone to some serious health problems that are related to exercise.
Young adult Labradors are genetically at risk for a condition called exercise induced collapse (EIC). This causes loss of muscle control after periods of extreme exercise.
Bloat is a life-threatening stomach condition that can be brought on by vigorous activity before and after eating.
Labradors are also at risk for hip and elbow dysplasia which can be made worse by excessive exercise.
American Lab Health
On average Labrador Retrievers will live from 10 to 12 years of age. One strain of the breed isn’t known to be healthier than the other.
When buying a puppy, it’s important to choose a breeder who has done DNA tests that ensure their breeding stock have been cleared for inherited diseases.
Quality nutrition, adequate exercise, and proper veterinary care will also help your pet live a good long life.
Inherited conditions that affect the breed include the muscular disease hereditary myopathy. Puppies present with an abnormal gait and their growth can be stunted. Generalized weakness often gets worse with exercise and cold temperatures.
Do American Labs Make Good Family Dogs?
Famously friendly and affectionate. Both the English and American Labrador can make a great family pet.
These dogs bond with the whole family and will get along with other dogs as well.
Choosing between a field or show dog really comes down to personal preference.
Since American Labradors have so much energy, they do best with active families that enjoy spending time outdoors.
Both of these dogs need a daily commitment to exercise. But, the American strain can be more hyperactive, especially if they don’t have enough to do.
First time owners and those with a less energetic lifestyle may find the English Lab easier to handle.
Rescuing An American Lab
American Labs wind up in shelters for many different reasons.
But one of the biggest factors is that people get these dogs without realizing how much energy they have.
Chewing and barking can be viewed as behavioral problems rather than an active dog’s needs not being met.
Due to the breed’s popularity, many organizations help both English and American Labradors find a new forever home.
Finding An American Labrador Puppy
If you live in the US, the American Kennel Club is a good resource for finding a registered breeder.
Responsible breeders will screen both parents for health issues prior to breeding. They’ll also allow you to meet the parents and see where the puppies live.
Choosing a good breeder is the best way to get a healthy puppy with a good temperament.
Do not buy an American Labrador puppy from puppy mills where dogs are mass produced at the lowest possible cost. These animals have a high incidence of health and temperamental issues.
Avoid pet stores and websites which advertise dogs at a low cost.
This article will give you more great tips on finding an American Labrador puppy.
Is An American Lab Right For Me?
American Labrador Retrievers have many super traits that make them great family pets.
But, these dogs need lots of exercise and human contact to be happy.
If you’re looking for a running or hunting companion, then the American Labrador is a good choice.
Do you have an American Labrador Retriever or are you thinking of bringing one into your life?
Tell us about them in the comments section.
Want to Find Out More?
If you love reading about the Labrador breed, we have plenty of amazing articles you will love. Take a look at a few of the links below to find out even more about this great breed.
- English vs American Labrador
- Are Labradors Apartment Friendly Or Do They Need To Live In Houses?
- Labrador Colors
- Why Are Labradors Always Hungry?
- 6 Things to Consider Before Buying a Labrador
References And Further Reading
- Duffy DL, et al., “Breed differences in canine aggression,” Applied Animal Behaviour Science Volume 114, Issues 3–4, 2008
- Lofgren SE, et al., “Management and personality in Labrador Retriever dogs,” Applied Animal Behavior Science, 2014
- “Presence and impact of the exercise-induced collapse associated DNM1 mutation in Labrador retrievers and other breeds,” The Veterinary Journal, 2011
- Woolliams, JA, et al., “Canine hip and elbow dysplasia in UK Labrador retrievers,” The Veterinary Journal, 2011
- Bley, T., et al., “Genetic aspects of Labrador retriever myopathy,” Research in Veterinary Science, 2002
- Kraijer-Huver, IMG, et al., “Characterization and prevalence of cataracts in Labrador Retrievers in The Netherlands,” American Journal of Veterinary Research, 2008
- Andelfinger, G. et al., “Canine tricuspid valve malformation, a model of human Ebstein anomaly, maps to dog chromosome 9,” Journal of Medical Genetics, 2003
The Labrador Site Founder
Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.
She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program
Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website