English Labrador Retriever: Dog Breed Characteristics & Care

History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

English Labrador by water

Eric Raptosh Photography / Getty Images

The English Labrador retriever is a medium-large sporting dog breed from the United Kingdom with a short, dense, water-repellent double coat that comes in black, yellow, or chocolate. The English Lab is technically the same breed as the American Lab; the American version is just slightly lankier. But otherwise the two are very much alike. The dog features a sturdy, muscular build with a broad head, friendly eyes, and triangular ears. The Lab’s tail is medium-length and tapers toward its tip. While this breed is a strong athlete (and particularly excellent swimmer), it’s also a lovable companion that can excel in service and therapy work.

Breed Overview

Group: Sporting

Height: 55 to 70 pounds (female), 65 to 80 pounds (male)

Weight: 21.5 to 23.5 inches (female), 22.5 to 24.5 inches (male)

Coat: Short double coat

Coat Color: Yellow, chocolate, black

Life Span: 10 to 12 years

Temperament: Active, friendly, affectionate

Hypoallergenic: No

Origin: United Kingdom

Characteristics of the English Labrador

English Labradors generally have a friendly and upbeat temperament. Most tend to get along well with everyone, including other dogs and strangers, when they've had proper training and socialization. High energy and an eagerness to please also help to shape the Lab's personality.

Affection Level  High
Friendliness High
Kid-Friendly High
Pet-Friendly High
Exercise Needs High
Playfulness High
Energy Level High
Trainability High
Intelligence High
Tendency to Bark Medium
Amount of Shedding High

History of the English Labrador

The ancestors of the English Labrador actually came from Newfoundland, Canada (not Labrador). Back in the early 1800s, there was a breed in this area known as the St. John’s water dog—also called the lesser Newfoundland—which worked on fishing boats. English nobles visiting the area took note of these dogs and ended up taking some back home with them. 

The breed continued to be refined in the United Kingdom. It was used as a gun dog to retrieve waterfowl during hunts, thanks to its loyal and responsive nature and prowess in the water. 

The version of the dog back in Newfoundland ended up dying out, so the Lab’s breed standard we know today came from the U.K. The Kennel Club of the United Kingdom first recognized the Lab in 1903, while the American Kennel Club admitted it in 1917.

English Labrador Care

Plan to give your Labrador ample daily exercise. And be prepared to spend some time on brushing to keep up with the loose fur. Fortunately, Labs typically take well to training and socialization.


Aim for at least a couple hours of exercise per day for your Lab. In general, Labs would rather exercise and play with you rather than being left to their own devices. Long walks, running, cycling, swimming, and hikes all are ideal activities. Plus, this retrieving breed loves vigorous games of fetch. Dog sports, such as dock diving, also are excellent ways to provide mental and physical challenges for this water-loving athlete. Training your Lab in service or therapy work can help to keep it mentally stimulated as well. 


Plan to brush your Lab a couple times per week to remove the loose fur and distribute skin oils. Also, expect periods of higher shedding typically as the weather changes in the spring and fall. During these times, you might have to brush daily to keep up with all the loose fur. 

A Lab’s coat stays pretty clean with regular brushing. But you should still plan on a bath roughly once a month, depending on how dirty your dog gets. Also, check your dog’s ears at least weekly to see whether they need cleaning, and be sure to dry them well after swimming and baths. In addition, trim your dog’s nails every month on average, and brush its teeth daily.


Begin training and socialization ideally when your Lab is a puppy to prevent bad habits from forming. A puppy class is a great way to teach basic commands and manners. Labs are smart and eager to please, so they typically pick up on training quickly. Plus, they tend to be very food-motivated and respond well to positive-reinforcement training methods

To socialize your Lab, aim to expose it to different people, other dogs, and various locations from an early age. As long as Labs have positive experiences around strangers, they tend to be very friendly when meeting someone new.

Common Health Problems

This breed is generally healthy, but it is still prone to some hereditary health issues, including:

Diet and Nutrition

Always provide fresh water for your Lab. Feed it a high-quality canine diet with balanced nutrition, typically via two measured meals per day. Some Labs are prone to overeating and becoming overweight, so be sure to measure your dog’s daily diet and be mindful about treats. Discuss both the type of food and the proper amount with your vet. 

Also, because Labs are prone to bloat, which can be triggered by eating too quickly, you might want to feed smaller, more frequent meals. Try to keep your dog calm around mealtimes, as well.

Where to Adopt or Buy an English Labrador

English Labradors are more common in the United Kingdom, but it’s still possible to find Labs of this variety elsewhere. Contact local animal shelters and Labrador rescue organizations to see whether there’s a dog in need of a home. For a puppy from a reputable breeder, expect to pay around $800 to $1,500 on average.

For more information to help you find an English Lab, check out:

English Labrador Overview

  • Generally takes well to training

  • Often gets along well with kids and other pets

  • Loyal and affectionate

  • Requires lots of exercise

  • Fairly heavy shedder

  • Prone to overeating and weight gain

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

Before bringing home an English Labrador, do thorough research to make sure the breed is right for your lifestyle. Talk to Lab owners, rescue groups, reputable breeders, and veterinary professionals. Spend some time around the breed, too, if possible.

If you’re interested in similar breeds, check out:

There’s a whole world of potential dog breeds out there—with a little research, you can find the right one to bring home!

  • What's the difference between American Labradors and English Labradors?

    English and American Labradors are technically the same breed. But the English variety tends to be slightly stockier and just a bit calmer.

  • Are English Labradors good family dogs?

    English Labradors are generally very tolerant of children, as long as they’ve had proper training and socialization. Some might be a bit too energetic and enthusiastic for young kids.

  • Are English Labradors good apartment dogs?

    This breed can adapt to apartment living, as long as it gets sufficient exercise and socialization every day. Otherwise, it might become overly vocal or destructive.

Article Sources
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  1. Labrador Retriever. American Kennel Club.

  2. Labrador Retriever. Dog Breeds List.