Broadly speaking, dogs in the UK can be classified as companions or working animals. Companions are essentially pets. Their main purpose is to provide their owners with company and entertainment, and they are not expected to perform any particular roles or jobs. In contrast with this, working dogs are owned and employed because of their ability to perform specific roles or jobs, while companionship is an additional benefit they bring. These roles and jobs typically include guarding, protection, retrieval and tracking for hunters, vermin control, and supporting the disabled. Working and companion dogs can both be excellent additions to the right homes, but which one would be better for a particular owner should be given careful consideration.
Companion dogs are bred with characteristics such as friendliness, calmness, and docility in mind. In the case of showline dogs, an absolute emphasis is placed on aesthetics to conform with breed standards to the detriment of health and temperamental stability. Breed characteristics will always be present, but dogs bred from companion or show lines tend to be more relaxed and primarily require social stimulation in the form of time with their owner and family. So, while the Labrador Retriever is nominally a working breed, individual dogs bred from companions can still do well in most normal home environments.
Working dogs are intelligent and energetic, so thrive when given a particular role or task to fulfill. They are likely to have been bred with this in mind, so their physical characteristics may be less standardised than could be expected with a companion or show line dog. Working dogs are best suited to active owners and have very different needs for companion animals. While they are very rewarding animals to keep, a working dog demands a lot from its owners and can never be given too much physical or intellectual enrichment.