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Donna Hill's

Service Dog Training Institute


All Dogs of the Same Breed Are Not Created Equal!

lab puppy closed mouth hard wrinkles

Many people who are looking for a service dog just pick a breed whose general characteristics they like, find a breeder and go with that. What they don’t understand is that not only do the puppy temperament and energy levels vary within a litter but they also  have lines of dogs within the same breed with different body shapes and energy levels. These are generally bred for different functions and the pups will often follow the line more closely. That increases the chance of getting a pup with the temperament and body build that best fits your needs as a service or assistance dog.

active field line labrador

This is a 27 month old female field line labrador retriever. She has a thin build, long legs and is a highly active dog. She moves quickly and is very intelligent. She weighs about 45 pounds and is on the very small end for a labrador. Other dogs from her litter were the same build but both taller and heavier than she is. She has a lot of energy and needs much daily stimulation. Dogs from field lines may also be referred to as “American Labradors”.

Dogs from lines like these do well in high drive activities where endurance is needed like border drug sniffing dogs, Police sniffing dogs and search and rescue. They thrive in active work and can become destructive if not worked enough!

18 mos yellow lab autism dog

This 20 month old labrador is in a puppy raising program for a program that professionally trains autism dogs. She is medium build and medium to high energy range. She weighs about 60 pounds. She is a blend of field lines and the bench lines (conformation) of labradors.

A dog like this would be ideal for a family that has an teen with autism and are quite physically active. She would be too boisterous to be a a younger child’s autism dog or a therapy dog though. She might work as a hearing dog as they need to be calm but ready to alert to sounds even when sound asleep. A slightly lower energy lab might make a good diabetic alert dog as well.

heavily built black lab

This is a 48 month old heavily built labrador. He tips the scales at 90+ pounds. While he is overweight, you can see his bone structure is heavy compared to the other lines of dogs above. If he were a better weight, he would be well-suited as a mobility dog (if he was the appropriate height for the handler), autism dog or PTSD dog due to his calm unflappable temperament. A dog like this has lower to medium energy needs. I could not get a side standing photo of him as he preferred to lay down. You can see how thick his tail is in comparison to the other lines.

This dog is more typical of the old style ‘bench labs’ from England (and hence may be referred to as “English Labradors” and may be from imported lines.) They have slightly shorter legs and are stockier than the field lines for the body shape. They are sometimes called “English labs” or are from “Conformation” or show lines. They are bred to patiently wait in the duck blind, then run out periodically to retrieve the ducks. This male is on the very large size of weight for a male labrador. In most dogs, males are typically both taller and heavier than the females.

Different body styles and energy levels also occur in golden retrievers, spaniels, beagles, German Shepherds, border collies, setters and other breeds. Be clear on what you are looking when you search out breeders. Take a look at adult dogs from a breeder’s lines and check out their energy levels, exercise needs, temperament and overall health that will match your lifestyle and family needs. 

Can you guess which of the three rough lines the 12 week old yellow lab puppy in the top picture is from?

A combination of the two. The pup has longer legs than a bench line but a more stocky build than a typical field line. She has moderate to high energy level and is with an active family. Time will tell if she’s a good match for them.

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