Labrador Retrievers are often categorised in one of two ways: English Labs or American Labs. The differences are principally behavioural, though there are differences in appearance as well. Behaviorally, English Labs tend to be more easily trainable, and are often considered better for non-professional owners to keep as pets or hunting companions. American Labs tend to be more energetic and, having been bred to compete in field trials, are better suited for professional owners with more experience and time to devote to training. In terms of appearance, English Labs tend to more prominently exhibit the 'blocky' heads for which Labrador Retrievers are known, whereas American Labs tend to be leaner and longer-legged.
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"We watch The Dog Whisperer frequently, and we know what he means when he says to pick the pup out of the litter that is the most laid back. Most people go and pick out a dog based on their playful attitude because if a pup runs up to them they think the pup "chose them" when really it is just probably going to be a more challenging, hyper pup. We know this information now, but we did not know it when we went to get Bruno (or when we picked out our first two dogs), however he was the last male puppy left so we did not have a choice. I asked my husband why he thought Bruno was the last male left out of the litter and we later realized it was probably because he did not come leaping and bounding up to the other callers. The people that owned the pups had to go pick him up and bring him to us because he just sat at a distance observing the activity. When we first brought him home he went and sat in the corner all by himself after allowing the other dogs to greet him. We thought it was because he was so young and he was in a new environment. As the weeks passed Bruno was easily housetrained, never chewed anything up, and never "got in our face" for attention as the other dogs that we have liked to do. To this day if he wants attention he will just come and lie at our feet or sit by our side calmly. If we do not acknowledge his presence he will go lie by the door. When we took Bruno for his first set of shots, the vet said that he was extremely calm for a Lab puppy and said that he "was 1 in 100." Bruno will be 1 year old in January and we still have one of the best behaved dogs in the world with him."
While individual dogs may vary, in general show-bred Labradors are heavier built, slightly shorter-bodied, and have a thicker coat and tail. Field Labradors are generally longer-legged, lighter, and more lithe in build, making them agile. In the head, show Labradors tend to have broader heads, better defined stops, and more powerful necks, while field Labradors have lighter and slightly narrower heads with longer muzzles. Field-bred Labradors are commonly higher energy and more high-strung compared to the Labrador bred for conformation showing while conformation breeds are calmer in energy, and as a consequence may be more suited to working relationships than being a "family pet". Some breeders, especially those specialising in the field type, feel that breed shows do not adequately recognise their type of dog, leading to occasional debate regarding officially splitting the breed into subtypes.
Some dogs are simply easier than others: they take to training better and are fairly easygoing. They're also resilient enough to bounce back from your mistakes or inconsistencies. Dogs who are highly sensitive, independent thinking, or assertive may be harder for a first-time owner to manage. You'll get your best match if you take your dog-owning experience into account as you choose your new pooch.