Working Labrador vs Show Labrador: Which Is The Better Dog?

Labradors are amazing dogs owned by many families in the world. In fact, they are the world’s second most popular dog. You might be surprised to know that this dog breed has two versions. There are many differences between the Working Labrador vs Show Labrador.

Working Labradors are bred for performance, excelling in tasks like hunting and retrieving. Compared to them, show Labradors prioritize appearance, conforming to breed standards. But they also have some similarities.

What is the Labrador Retriever breed, and why is it so popular?

These dogs have their first recorded appearance in Newfoundland, Canada. They have a known history starting somewhere in the 1700s when they were used as retrievers for local fishermen. With time, these dogs were noticed by English nobles who popularised them during the 19th century.

In 1917, these dogs were officially accepted by the AKC. Since 1991, these dogs have been the world’s most famous dog. However, this changed in 2022. “For the first time in history, the French Bulldog was crowned the most popular pup. This means that, after 31 years, the Labrador Retriever is no longer the most popular dog breed in America.“, says Dr. Sarah Kloepple for PetMD.

What are the two Labrador Retriever types?

As time went on, people bred two different Labradors for work and show. Working Labradors are also called American or Field Labradors. Compared to them, Show Labradors are called English or Bench Labradors. 

What are the key differences between Working and Show Labradors?

With time, each type of Lab developed its own characteristics that made it easier to do its task. That’s how the types started to differentiate.

Characteristics of Working Labradors

As the name would suggest, these dogs were initially bred to work. Hence, they developed an athletic build ready to do jobs like hunting and retrieving to assist people with disabilities. These dogs have leaner bodies, narrower heads, and less dense coats. Their excellent sense of smell and strong swimming abilities make them very useful in their jobs.

They have a high physical stamina and energy that helps them work for longer. The negative side of this is that they require quite a lot of exercise to stay calm. If Labs are left home alone for long, they can get destructive. They also have a strong work ethic and are highly motivated. Their high intelligence makes them great at learning new commands and finishing tasks efficiently.

Characteristics of Show Labradors

If we look at the show vs. working Labrador distinctions, we can notice that Show Labs have been bred to conform to specific Labrador breeding standards. Being prepared to win dog shows, they are only allowed to look as the Labrador clubs describe them.

Thus, these dogs have a stockier build with dense coats and broad skulls. Also, they possess a longer muzzle and a higher-set tail. They focus on appearance rather than agility so they do not require as much exercise. In fact, they are often described as laid back and with a relaxed demeanor. With these dogs, the focus is more on grooming rather than exercise.

How do the training methods and exercise requirements differ?

All dogs from this breed need training and exercise, as they are considered active. However, the amount of them differs depending on the type.

American Labradors require rigorous training. They need to be both mentally and physically stimulated. Activities like retrieving, tracking, and agility exercises are something that they enjoy. Labs are also amazing at swimming so taking them to a pool might be a great exercise. Obedience training is a great way to train these dogs while stimulating them mentally. Working Labradors compared to show Labradors require shorter and more fun training sessions, as these pet dogs like to be lively and playful.

English Labradors do not need as much training and exercise to be happy. They need the daily walk to the park and socialization to spend their energy, but won’t ask you to play a lot of demanding games. Teaching them some basic commands will be enough to satisfy their need for mental stimulation. They can focus more on the training, so the sessions can be longer. To make training easier, use positive reinforcement as a tool.

What are their differences concerning grooming and medical problems?

Grooming these dogs is not difficult. Labs love the cold because they have double coats. But their coats shed and need to be brushed at least once a week. You should also bathe them once a month and use a shampoo made for dogs. Bathing too often can damage their coats. Nail clipping and ear cleaning are also important. Show Labs need more attention with grooming techniques, as they need to look perfect for dog shows.

The benefits of working Labradors over show Labradors is that they are not prone to becoming obese. This is due to the fact that they like to exercise more. That said, working dogs to tend to injure themselves more often. Some genetic diseases common in both types are hip dysplasia and progressive retinal atrophy. Dr. Ryan Llera, describes PRA as such:

Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), is a group of degenerative diseases that affect these photoreceptor cells. With this disease, the cells deteriorate over time, eventually leading to blindness in the affected dog.

Why are each type of Labrador popular and what do they cost?

The working ones are often wanted as hunting dogs or service dogs. The show ones are bought by people who want to compete in dog shows. Because working Labs are more useful and require more time to be trained, their price is also higher.

The average price of a Labrador can vary around $400-$1500. Dogs that have parents who are dog show winners will cost much more. Those that have been perfectly trained for specific tasks will also have a higher price. Adopting this dog without worrying much about the type will cost you much less. It will also help the dog to find a warm home for itself.

How to choose between Working Labrador and Show Labrador?

When deciding on the type of dog you want, you need to know what your interests and needs are. If you are an active person who enjoys outdoor activities, a Working Lab will suit you best. The same goes for people who need a service dog or a hunting partner.

If you are someone who likes to spend time grooming their dog and competing, a Show Lab would be better. The choice is all yours.

Three labradors

Working Labrador vs Show Labrador – Final thoughts 

Labrador Retrievers are the world’s second most well-liked dog breed and for a good reason. These dogs are loving, playful, and full of energy, fitting in almost every home. But with time, two types of the Lab breed were created.

Working Labradors were created to hunt and help people, hence why they developed bodies that were athletic. Their stamina and energy help them work and run for long periods of time without getting tired. Show Labradors were created to participate in dog shows, thus ending up more relaxed and laid back.

Both of these types of Labs are great and will be loyal and loving friends. It is up to you to decide which one temperament fits your personality more.


What are the typical color variations in Labradors?

There are three types of Labradors when it comes to color. This includes yellow, black, and chocolate. No matter the color, their double coats are water-resistant, which is why Labs are so good at swimming.

What are the top dog shows for Labradors in the United States?

There are a few great shows you can take your Show Lab to. The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is one of the most prestigious ones. The American Kennel Club National Championship and AKC Eukanuba National Championship are other good shows.

Can you show a Working Labrador in dog shows?

While it’s possible, Working Labs may not conform to the strict conformation standards required in dog shows. Working Labrador vs Show Labrador typically gets lower scores due to lower grooming and confirmation points.

More information on the Labrador Retriever

Here are a few other resources that offer more information about the popular Labrador.

You can find a lot more information on Labradors on our site Dogisa!

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