The difference between a British retriever and an American retriever

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The difference between a British retriever and an American retriever

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There are numerous differences between us Americans and our British cousins. We speak differently, we spell words differently and we have different values. The British are known for having that stiff upper lip and being calm and collected while Americans have a reputation for being unhinged and going into situations half-cocked. We may speak the same language but we are different peoples. The same can be said for Labrador Retrievers.

Different Types

When dealing with a Labrador Retriever there are two distinct types, a British and an American. Both are bred for their calm temperament, intelligence and athletic ability but just like with people there are differences between the cousins.

There is actually no physical difference between the two kinds of dogs as they are not separate species. The difference between the two comes from the breeding standards and the training methods. An American Lab is typically larger with a height of between 21.5 inches and 24.5 inches while a British Lab will stand between 21.5 inches and 22.5 inches. American Labs can also be longer. A male British Lab weighs around 70-74 pounds with a female weighing about 55 pounds and their American cousins can weight more. Both have a water-resistant double coat and can come in one of three colors: black, yellow or chocolate.

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English labs will look more solid, they are wider and more heavily built with a barrel chest. Their heads are more pronounced with a fuller face and a shorter muzzle with a thicker and more powerful neck. Their coats are thicker with a straighter tail and shorter legs and body. American Labs will look slimmer with a more athletic frame. Their faces are more narrow and streamlined and are longer than their British cousins. They have a thinner neck and a thinner tail

American Labs are bred for work and for the field and have more energy and drive than their British cousins and their high energy level keeps them active all day. They are highly intelligent but are head-strong and need an experienced and strong owner to control them. They are more suitable to be a working dog and not a pet as they can become too hyper-active. American Labs need a lot of exercise and need to be constantly occupied and stimulated. British labs are calmer, less active and much quieter. They are described as sweet, mellow or relaxed but they are still highly intelligent and very athletic so don’t let the demeanor fool you. They are easier to train and are fine for a laid back owner and they are capable of being both a working dog and a family pet.

Specialized Breeding

Labrador breeding is specialized. Most breeds are bred to hunt or for field-trials and their working abilities. Energy, drive and athleticism are the most desirable traits for them. Some are bred for show and are bred for their look and their temperment. Their most popular job is as a hunting dog being used to flush fowl out of their hiding places or to retrieve game. They are also used as drug sniffing dogs, therapy dogs and seeing-eye dogs as well.

One other major difference for Labrador Retrievers is their field training. American Labs are usually trained to respond instantly to a command and for hunting they are trained using dead fowl or dummy fowl. A British Lab is trained with live fowl and real world events like retrieving dead and wounded game. They are not allowed so much as a whimper while on line or else they will be disqualified from training.  Part of the reason for this is the variety of game and climates here in the United States.

Is a British Lab right for you? They are more suited to be a family pet and are capable of meeting a hunter’s needs or just being an outdoor companion. For the right person there really is no wrong answer but for most people a British Lab is the way to go.

Dogs are a companion species. It’s about time – you have an animal for about 15, 16 years, a generation. That time holds so much. You might have had five or six relationships with human beings but one dog. 
–Eileen Myles