Working Labrador vs. Show Labrador

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Written by: Celestine Gomez
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There’s no doubt that Labrador Retrievers are known to be a joyful handful. I mean, that’s one reason this breed is one of the most, if not the most, popular dog breeds.

A friend of mine even told me that her Labrador is the main reason she is now living a much healthier lifestyle. “I had to keep up with the pace,” she had said.

The thing is, when I think back on my childhood Lab, he wasn’t a handful at all. If anything, he had a wise calmness about him.

Of course, the first question that popped into my head was, “Is there more than one type of Labradors?”

It turns out that there are two types of Labrador Retrievers: show Labrador and working Labrador. Although both of them are descendants of the same breed, they have different physical features and temperaments. While working Labradors are fit, slim, and energetic, show Labradors are short, bulky, and calm.

To save you time, I’ve gathered everything you need to know about working labradors vs. show labradors. So, keep on scrolling!

Origin of the Labrador Breed

Historically, hunters used Labrador Retrievers to fetch game and bring it back undamaged. Fishermen also used them to help with retrieving fish and hauling nets.

Since the 1800s, Labrador Retrievers have evolved into the breed we now know and love.

Due to their loving and compassionate nature, people started to keep Labradors as house pets.

Nevertheless, after dog shows and exhibitions took off, people started to breed Labradors to foster certain qualities. This breeding process gave rise to the concept of show dogs, hence the name “show Labrador.”

Over time, the working type Labrador and the show type Labrador developed many dissimilar characteristics.

Four Labradors Retriver on a spring meadow. Small depth of field

Differences Between Working Labrador and Show Labrador

If you look closely, you’ll notice that working Labradors and show Labradors aren’t identical. Each Labrador type has its unique features and characteristics.

Common Names

Working Labradors are called American Labradors or Field Labradors. Show Labradors, on the other hand, are often called English Labradors or Bench Labradors.


There aren’t many drastic differences between working Labradors and show Labradors when it comes to their appearance. They’ve, however, developed certain physical traits that serve their “purpose.”

Working Labradors have a leaner, slimmer, and more athletic build, while show Labradors are chunkier, heavier, and blockier.

Additionally, show Labradors have a more classic chiseled Labrador head, shorter legs, and a thicker neck. Working Labradors, on the other hand, have narrower faces, longer necks, and a slightly taller build.


Show Labradors have a calmer temperament, and they’re perfect as house pets. On the other hand, working Labradors are more active, energetic, quick-witted, and enthusiastic.

However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that working Labradors aren’t good house pets. Working Labradors just need a more experienced owner.

Generally, both types are equally loving, caring, and sensitive.

Two Labradors sitting in a meadow, black and bright


Labrador Retrievers were mainly bred for hard labor, which is why they’re constantly active.

That said, working Labradors have higher energy levels than show Labradors, but they’re much easier to train.

Still, such characteristics don’t automatically apply to all Labrador Retriever dogs, as there are always exceptions.


Due to their love for food, Labrador Retrievers are at constant risk of obesity.

More seriously, both types share the same health risks because they descend from the same ancestors. They’re more likely to develop Hip and Elbow Dysplasia, which is a condition that causes abnormal growth of the joints, leading to painful arthritis.

In addition, Labrador Retrievers are prone to vision issues, like Progressive Retinal Atrophy
. This is a condition that causes eye cells to deteriorate over time and eventually leads to blindness.

Just keep in mind that while these are serious cases, they aren’t unavoidable. If you keep your Lab happy and healthy, he’s most likely going to live a long and disease-free life.


While show Labradors have thicker coats and tails than those of working Labradors, they’re both easy to groom.

They don’t need to bathe more than once every six weeks to maintain their natural fur oils. However, it’s recommended to brush your Labrador Retriever twice a week.

Typically, a Labrador Retriever will grow a really thick double coat of fur when it’s winter. Don’t worry, though. Just like any other dog, its undercoat will shed when it gets warmer.

Bathing of the yellow labrador retriever. Happy dog taking a bubble bath.


Both working Labradors and show Labradors consume approximately three cups of food per day.

That said, this portion is subject to change depending on the dog’s activity level and exercise routine. What’s important is to monitor his diet, food quality, and daily calorie intake to avoid excessive weight gain.


If you’re not looking for certain show qualities, and you just want to purchase a Labrador Retriever as a pet, you’ll find that there’s not much price difference between the two types.

A Labrador Retriever can cost anywhere from $400 to over $1,700, according to Keystone Puppies.

Nevertheless, depending on the dog’s age and health, you could pay as little as $50 if you choose to adopt it. Working Labradors often end up at shelters after being abandoned by inexperienced owners.

They require an active lifestyle and would be a great fit for an athletic owner who goes running and hiking regularly. Unlike show Labradors, which are calmer, working Labradors are more suitable for first-time owners or small families.

There are a few other factors that may affect the price, including:


If you’re looking to buy a purebred show Labrador whose ancestors were dog show winners, expect to pay extra for that. Puppies that are “show-quality” require extra care, time, and money. That’s why their price may reach up to $2000.

What’s more, the breeder usually registers the dogs with the American Kennel Club as proof of their pure bloodline.

Whether you’re looking for a working or a show Labrador, avoid backyard breeders. Even though their prices are cheap, they never test the puppies. So, you may end up paying much more money to treat your pet for health conditions you were unaware they had.

Beautiful dog puppy Labrador Retriever playing with rubber ball on grass


As mentioned before, a Labrador Retriever has some common health issues. That’s why you should buy your pet from a trusted breeder and make sure that the puppy has been tested.

Just keep in mind that the tested puppy may cost around $400 more than the untested one.


Typically, Labrador Retrievers come in three colors: yellow, chocolate, and black. Yellow Labradors are usually the most expensive, while black Labradors are the most affordable.

Although the chocolate color is common in working Labradors, it’s very rare to find a chocolate show Labrador.


Whether you’re looking for a working or a show Labrador, always remember they’re the same breed. There’s no pup better than the other, but there’s a pup that’s better suited to a specific person than another.

It’s really helpful to do your research to know the differences between a working Labrador vs. show Labrador before buying one, especially for first-timers.

Whichever you choose, we wish you many happy memories with your lifetime companion.

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Celestine Gomez

I'm Celestine Gomez, worked for 5 years in an animal shelter in Los Angeles, California. Having noticed the inherent passion and zeal in me to care for pets, I took a step further to create a team of I and like-minded individuals to provide an informative resource in order to broaden the knowledge base of a regular pet owners.