|No, of course not.
Both the field dog and show dog should have exactly the same conformation
and condition. Ever since the early 1800s the Labrador Retriever was meant
to be a working retriever. Its hunting and retrieving qualities was the
reason the Labrador Retriever was imported to England in the first place,
and to many other countries subsequently.
Dr. B.W. Ziessow wrote,
"By definition, conformation in any breed is the symmetrical formation
and arrangement of (body) parts; conforming to a model or a plan (i.e.,
the breed standard). The first question that must come to mind in judging
any breed or evaluating an individual specimen is "Can the dog do the job
he was originally intended to do?" It is axiomatic that proper conformation
is basic to the survival of any breed and is equally important to both
the show dog and the hunter. It is ludicrous therefore, to think of type
as something extra to breed conformation and/or soundness (which is tantamount
to proper movement). Without them you can't have true breed type. Accordingly,
there is one (and only one) correct type of Labrador Retriever."
A Labrador Retriever
should be able to excel in field work and have the quality to win in the
show ring. After a hard day's work in the field, under difficult conditions,
he should be able to be a nice companion and friendly, relaxed family dog.
there a difference between show dogs and working dogs?
Yes, there is. Many
Labradors who win ribbons, medals and cups at dog shows (and are used for
breeding), are physically unable to do the job the Labrador was originally
intended to do, and many Labradors being run in field trials (and are used
for breeding), don't come up to the breed standards of conformation and
This is a very disturbing
types" and "Field types" - a breed split
In the United States
the show bred Labradors are often called "English", while the field bred
Labradors are called "American". For more than 60 years however the breed
split exists on both sides of the Atlantic. In England the Buccleuch kennels,
for instance, have always concentrated on field work. Even in the 6-generation
pedigree of Buccleuch Virginia, born in 1995 and a nice example of linebreeding
back to Swinbrook Tan, you will not find one Show Champion, but many, many
Show bred Labradors,
and this is a fact, are usually stockier with more "bone" and coat. They
have larger, blockier heads and otter tails. They are more easy going and
laid back than their field bred counterparts. Field bred Labradors are
bred for working. They are usually taller and leaner than show types, tend
to have thinner faces, tend to suffer from separation anxiety, and forget
about the otter tail that is so typical of the breed. They are very hyperactive,
and never want to stop playing & fetching. (Many people would call
them "nervous" or "edgy".) There is, however, a difference between British
bred and American bred working Labradors.
In my "Labrador
Typecasting" I describe the field type as "Whitmore".
No distinction between
the "show" or "bench" type and the "field" or "work" type however is made
by the Kennel Clubs, but it is a fact that the two types come from different
breeding lines and we have to live with that fact.
A simple combination
of a show bred Labrador and a field bred Labrador isn't the right method
to get a multi-purpose Labrador. First of all this outcross would be a
waist of good and trusted bloodlines, and you just might end up with a
litter of edgy, skinny, snipe-faced Labrador puppies that are completely
useless for field work. Secondly, the hereditary syndrome of Exercise
Induced Collapse (EIC) is recently being observed with increasing frequency
in young adult Labrador Retrievers, and most affected dogs have been from
breedings. (In this video
of an EIC episode you can clearly see
that the affected dog is a "field" type.)
Being a Labrador breeder
I aim to breed multi-purpose Labradors - Labradors that are wonderful family
dogs, good looking Labradors, Labradors that can work in the field. Yet
I have always kept a certain distance from the pure field bred, because
I don't like the way they look and I don't like the way they behave in
the living room. The closest I got to introducing a field bred to my bloodlines
was acquiring a bitch who's sire was from pure and familiar (trusted) "show"
lines, while her dam's sire was also pure "show" line and her dam's dam
had a field bred as a great-grandmother. This bitch wasn't the best looker
in the world, but she was a wonderful family pet and had good hunting qualities.
She - in combination with pure show bred dogs - gave me three litters of
For me it's quite
a risk to take my chance with a Labrador that has "field" lines in its
pedigree, even more now we've got this hereditary syndrome of Exercise
Induced Collapse (EIC). So I don't do it.
Since the Kennel Clubs
and most Labrador Clubs refuse to admit there's a difference between show
bred and field bred Labradors, and therefore refuse to publish information
about this subject, I feel that we, the breeders, are obligated to inform
the public in general and our puppy buyers in particular about these differences.
Labradors are NOT
right for everyone. Labradors are a breed that need a lot of exercise,
and if you cannot provide that, then forget about this breed. Labradors
from show lines tend to gain weight easily because they do not have such
a high drive as field bred Labradors, but dogs from both strains need plenty
Even if you want to
acquire a Labrador mainly for working purposes, it's safer to get it from
lines with working abilities (applies to most show bred Labradors)
than from pure field lines.
Also I need to stress
once more that the British breed different types of field Labradors than
Americans, and that they train their dogs differently. Because the British
absolutely must train retrievers that are steady and quiet under considerable
pressure -- say while 200 or more pheasants are felled in a driven shoot
-- they believe that starting a dog too soon on field work tends to create
a dog whose retrieving expectations will rise to intolerable levels, and
with them the amount of maintenance required to keep a Labrador steady,
quiet and otherwise well-trained. Again, the best of the British Labrador
breeders produce animals of kind and quiet temperaments because the British
are highly discriminating breeders. And again, steadiness and quietness
are qualities of temperament, and temperament can't be trained, it must
be bred for. The British have long known, however, that certain training
techniques and philosophies accentuate these desirable genetic qualities.
A dog that inherently is capable of being steady and quiet in the field
can be assured of fully developing those traits if certain training techniques
are followed. Conversely, the same animal can be developed into a much
more excitable, less quiet and less steady dog if training techniques are
used that -- intentionally or not -- tend to hype up, or excite, a dog.
So there certainly is an aspect of environment, too. In
Britain, the Labrador was, and still is, used primarily for upland game
hunting, often organized as a driven bird shoot. Typically, separate breeds
were used for different tasks; and the Labrador was strictly for marking
the fall, tracking and retrieving the game. But in the United States and
Canada, the breed's excellence at waterfowl work and game finding became
apparent and the Labrador soon proved himself adaptable to the wider and
rougher range of hunting conditions available. The differences between
British and American field trials are particularly illustrative.
of gundogs, by comparison, often begin throwing retrieving dummies and
even pigeons when puppies are only a few months old. They often breed a
different type of field dog and prefer the hyperactivity to kind and quiet
A pure American field
bred Labrador is usually itching for a job and is always eying a ball,
even when lying down, which you are likely to see rarely. It cannot seem
to catch the concept "That'll Do". It always wants to run, and is always
hopping and jumping. Huge amounts of daily exercise are a must. Because
these dogs are so active, not having enough exercise can lead to extreme
cases of aggresion, which happens quite often. They will take out their
frustration on other animals if they do not have enough exercise. American
field bred labradors are bred to be constantly swimming, working, fetching
in the field for hours on end. Their muscles twitch for activity at a constant
rate. They are not the right type of dog for most people. Daily training
is a must and do not even consider an American field bred Labrador unless
you are planning on getting one for much more than a pet. Hunting and agility
are two excellent sports of this type of dog. Both British and American
field bred Labradors can make wonderful pets, but they do require tons
and tons of mind stimulation.