Golden Retriever vs Labrador Retriever — Know the Difference Between a Lab and a Goldie
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Golden Retriever vs Labrador Retriever — Know the Difference Between a Lab and a Goldie!

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What is sweet-natured, gentle, gives lots of wet kisses, and has “retriever” as a last name?

A golden retriever!

Or is it the labrador retriever??!!

Both breeds are indeed sweet-natured and loving and have the name retriever. But the Labrador is slightly larger compared to the Golden. And that is not where the differences end.

Generally, these breeds are similar in so many ways!

But when pitted against each other, it is like comparing apples to apples, only one is green and the other red.

So which apple….. I mean… retriever is good for you?

Read on and find out!

Golden RetrieverLabrador Retriever
Golden RetrieverLabrador Retriever
Size55-to-75-pound, medium size dog. Height is up to 24 inches.55-to-80-pound, medium size dog. The general height is 24.5 inches. 
AppearanceMuscular and sturdy body. Coat comes in different shades of gold ranging form light to dark. The coat is double with a long-haired top coat and dense softer undercoat. Broader head with a smiling mouth.Taller, lankier build with less dense muscle. Double coat with short-haired top coat. The coat comes in three main colors black, cream and chocolate. Floppy ears with a narrow pinna. No featherings on any part of the body. 
TemperamentSmart, energetic, eager to please. They are great pets and companions. Also make exceptional service dogs. They are used for hunting and service training trials because of their intelligence and tenacity. Intelligent, friendly and eager to please. They have high energy levels but they are generally gentle even at the height of their excitement. These are excellent service dogs that love to take care of their owners.
Health IssuesHas a higher prevalence of cancers. Also suffers from heart conditions, eye problems and joint conditions.Has eye problems, is prone to joint issues and allergies.
Feeding HabitsThey are natural scavengers so they can eat things they shouldn’t.Susceptible to obesity with the wrong diet and as they grow older.
GroomingHas moderate grooming needs.Has mild to moderate grooming needs.
TrainabilityHighly trainable and very obedient. They have medium energy so they can be trained in almost anything.Very easy to train because of their obedient and happy-go-lucky disposition. Their high energy levels can interfere with training especially for the pups and young adults.
Golden Retriever vs Labrador Comparison Table

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What To Expect With Each Breed

Golden Retriever vs Labrador Retriever

The golden retriever is just a tad smaller than the labrador. The Lab stands about half an inch taller than the Golden and appears leaner.

With both breeds, you can expect an outgoing disposition and lots of fun and friendly moments. Both love playing fetch, running, and swimming.

(They also love hugging and kissing and pawing! In fact, there’s hardly anything that they DON’T love.)

The Labrador stands at 21.5 to 24.5 inches and weighs about 55 to 80 pounds. On the other hand, the Golden stands at 21 to 24 inches with a weight of between 55 and 75 pounds.

Did you know that Labradors were bred for fishing?

Hunting dogs are common, guard dogs are a dime a dozen but fishing dogs; not so many out there.

Fishermen used the Labrador to haul in their fishing nets, pull ropes between boats, and even capture escaped fish.

They still have webbed feet to this day that help them swim and boy are these dogs exceptional swimmers.

The same can be said of Golden Retrievers. They also have webbed feet and are prolific swimmers.

But they were bred for hunting. Their swimming skills came in handy when retrieving waterfowl like ducks and geese that had been shot.

Both breeds are naturally easy-going and courageous with just a hint of mischief.

You can expect three varieties of the golden retriever and two of the labrador retriever.

Types of Golden Retrievers

English Golden RetrieverEnglish Golden Retriever

This variety is stocky but shorter than the other two. Their heads are broader and the coat is creamier. The prominent feature of this variety is their long coat. The hairs are feathery, straight or wavy, and long.
American Golden Retriever
American Golden Retriever

This breed is lanky with distinctly fewer bulging muscles compared to its two cousins. But it is larger than the English variety. They have richer shades of gold from chestnut brown with the golden glimmer to yellow gold. Their coats are also denser compared to the English and Canadian Goldens.
Canadian Golden RetrieverCanadian Golden Retriever

The Canadian Retriever has the shortest coat of all its cousins. It is the tallest of the Golden Retrievers and has the most variety when it comes to coat colors. Their ears are pulled back further on the head and they have distinctly less feathering on their legs.

Types of Labrador Retrievers

Their names have nothing to do with the location of the breed but more with their roles.


American Labrador

These are considered pets and working dogs. They have great hunting and guarding instincts. Their frame is lighter making them nimbler and light-footed. This variety tends to love the outdoors and can be found chasing small local wildlife all over the place.
American Labrador

English Labrador

This breed is known as the show or bench type Labrador. They are heavier and stockier with shorter legs. You will find most English Labradors are not as agile as their American cousins. The English Labradors also tend to be harder to train because they remain playful well into their adulthood. These dogs are also more vocal (read whiny) compared to the working variety.
English Labrador

The golden retriever is ranked 3rd in popularity according to the American Kennel Club. But the labrador is number one in popularity throughout the United States according to the same club.

1. Appearance

Both the Golden and Labrador Retrievers are considered medium-sized dogs.

Golden Retriever vs Labrador Retriever - Weight and Height
Golden Retriever vs Labrador Retriever – Weight and Height

Now despite their medium size, these dogs are super agile. They can run fast, swim exceptionally well, and jump VERY high.

A golden retriever can get 35 mph when running in short bursts of speed while the labrador can reach speeds of 20 to 30 mph. The Golden is a smidge faster than the Lab. But make no mistake: the latter can attain high speeds fast.

Did you know that a Labrador can achieve a speed of 12 mph in three seconds? Whoa boy!!

Eyes

The eyes of the golden retriever can range from dark brown to a lighter brown shade while the Labrador has different shades of eye color depending on the coat of the dog.

A black or yellow Lab should have darker brown eyes while chocolate-coated Labs tend to have hazel to light brown eyes. The eye rim is black in the black and yellow coats and brown in the chocolate coat.

According to breeders, a Labrador with blue eyes is inferior genetically.

A Golden’s eyes are typically round but the Labrador tends to have eyes that range from round to oval with a downturn at the end. That is why their eyes look soulful even sad while the Golden’s eyes are more alert and vivacious.

Ears

Both breeds have floppy ears that fall past the eyes to end at the jawline of the dog.

However, take a closer look and you’ll notice that the pinna (outer flap of the ear) of the Golden retriever is broader than a Lab’s. Also, it hangs lower on the Golden than on the Lab.

The Golden’s ears also tend to lie flatter in the head compared to the Lab’s.

But despite how the pinna sits on these dogs, the anatomy of the ears is the same. They have narrow, long ear canals that form an L-shape at the inner end.

Coat

Both dogs have a double coat but the Golden retriever has a longer-haired coat while the Labrador has a short-haired coat.

The shorter coat makes the Labrador a better swimmer because they have much less resistance.

Here’s a video of both breeds playing — just look at those shiny coats!

So, the Lab’s coat features short coarse hair that is thick and straight. Underneath there is another coat of softer, fluffy hair that is weather resistant.

In contrast, the Golden also has a double coat but with long, straight, wavy, or curly hairs on the outside. The undercoat is just as fuzzy and soft as the one on the Labrador.

With the Labrador, you can expect three coat colors: black, chocolate, and cream. On the other hand, Goldens come in all shades of gold ranging from gold that strikes light-colored cream coats to deeper gold tones on brown to chestnut-colored coats.

Some breeders claim to have rare white-coated Golden Retrievers but the American Kennel Club doesn’t recognize very pale or very dark coat colors as a breed standard.

Both dogs shed heavily in the spring and fall and moderately in winter and summer. You have to learn to live with a certain amount of fur on your furniture or clothes as a parent to these doggies.

Musculature

Both breeds are very muscular and powerful. They have an athletic build and love the outdoors, which means they tend to maintain muscle tone for the better part of their lives.

For all the activity, it’s no wonder!

Even though the Labrador is lankier than the Golden, their muscle power is similar.

2. Grooming

These dogs require moderate grooming to keep their coats shiny and their skin healthy. Being outside dogs, they tend to get into some very sticky situations.

So be prepared for the unforeseen bath time every once in a while, when they come home looking like something the cat dragged in.

Don’t rush when you brush!

While a Labrador may have a short-haired top coat, you must not rush through it when brushing. Its coarse nature allows it to trap a lot of dirt which makes its way into the undercoat.

black labrador with lots of dirt on coat

A fine-tooth comb will work best on the topcoat of Lab followed by a thorough brush using a slicker brush.

But the Golden Retriever needs even more time dedicated to brushing. They have long hairs on the topcoat and soft feathering on the legs. You have to work the tangled long hairs using a bristle brush and then complete the session with a slicker brush.

Both dogs can benefit from using an undercoat rake to brush the undercoat.

During the blown coat period, consider using a de-shedding tool on both breeds to get the loose hairs. And you may also have to brush more frequently like three times a week or even daily for the golden retriever.

Remember, both dogs shed all year round. But the Golden’s longer hairs tend to stick more to clothes than the Lab’s shorter ones.

The Lab and the Golden both need brushing once a week.

Make bath time Pawsome!

Both dogs love to swim so that means they are not afraid of water. Bathing them is a fun experience compared to other breeds of dogs.

The Labrador needs a wash once a month while the Golden Retriever can go for six weeks between baths.

Both labradors and golden retrievers have that distinctive dog smell. So if they need a bath sooner, don’t hold them back.

However, it is critical to make sure that their coats dry off properly to keep their skins healthy. They can be dried using a blow-dryer or a large absorbent towel.

If you are using a blow dryer, make sure that the appliance is six inches away from the dog’s fur. The heat from the dryer can cause the dog’s fur to get split ends.

The heat can also burn their skin if it is too close to their skin.

Check out our guide on the best shampoos to use on your dog’s coat. These will do a great job on your Lab or Golden.

Keep those ears pink

Healthy and clean dog ears tend to be pink in color. Cleaning the ears of the Labrador and Golden retrievers is easy.

Golden Retriever and Labrador Retriever puppy ears up

As pups, cleaning once a month is sufficient but as they get into adulthood twice a month becomes necessary.

The floppy pinnas of the Golden and the Labrador Retrievers are easy to grasp. Cleaning is therefore a snap. Use gauze dipped in an ear cleaning solution to wipe the outside and insides of the pinna.

A PH-balanced ear cleaning will clean both the inside and the outside of the ear.

Keep it short and sweet

Both breeds are active. That is good news when it comes to nails. The more active your dog, the easier it is to maintain shorter nails naturally.

However, Labradors have a reputation for loving the easy life. They can get quite sedentary as they grow older. That impacts their nails which tend to grow out during this period.

Trim with a dog nail trimmer for a healthy, manageable length.

Golden Retrievers, in comparison, tend to remain active almost all their lives unless they become ill. So, their nails are naturally maintained as they run around. But when they are not as active, they also grow long nails.

Cut the dog’s nails using a trimmer with a nail guard. This especially applies to black and chocolate Labradors which tend to have dark-colored nails. You may not be able to see the dog’s quick and may cut it, causing the dog to bleed.

Golden Retriever nails tend to be light-colored. But so do the nails of the cream-coated Labrador.

Shine that smile

A doggie smile is always worth the effort of brushing their teeth. Sparkly whites are a trademark with the labrador and the golden retriever.

Their teeth alignment is similar although the Golden has a shorter snout compared to the Lab.

Brushing can be done using a finger brush or a regular dog toothbrush.

Both breeds are easy-going when it comes to brushing teeth so you do not expect too much trouble with oral hygiene when they get accustomed to it. Tooth brushing can be done two to three times a week.

Apart from brushing, make sure you give these dogs dental chews as treats and place some food supplements that help with cleaning the teeth. This is especially important for both breeds but for different reasons.

The Golden Retriever is a natural scavenger and will eat anything and everything (or at least taste it). So they need their teeth cleaned between brushes.

The Labrador, on the other hand, LOVES to eat. They are terrible snackers meaning they have a lot of food remnants in their mouths between brushes.

Regularly eating dental chews or teeth cleaning food supplements eliminates the build-up of plaque from the food accumulating on the days you do not brush the dog’s teeth.

3. Training a Labrador Retriever vs a Golden Retriever

How do you train a natural sweetheart?

By keeping them engaged, involved, and upping the fun element.

Both breeds have high levels of obedience. Combine that with their intelligence and you have genius pooches.

man training a labrador retriever

But the Labrador has high energy levels that cause it to quickly become distracted during training. Compared to the Golden Retriever, you will find that Labrador loses focus faster, which may result in the dog taking longer to finally follow the commands.

But that doesn’t let the Golden off the hook. They love chasing small wildlife because of their natural hunting instinct. But they can be managed easier.

  • Find a secluded but familiar environment for the training. Both breeds need little to no distraction.
  • Begin with the simplest commands. Sit, stay, come and go are a good place to start. Limit the space for the training so that when they “come” or “go”, it is within a short distance to and from you. If you let them go too far out they may wander away and get distracted.
  • When they obey a command make sure to give them a treat. These dogs are eager to please but it doesn’t hurt to give them extra motivation. However, keep the snacks healthy.
  • Some people create a doggie gym in their backyard for agility training. This will work for Golden and Labrador pups. But adults may need something more comprehensive. So, consider enrolling them in a local agility training program. When compared with a Siberian Husky like we did in this guide, you will see the Golden Retriever can keep up with any medium to large breed in terms of activity.
  • Both dogs also need mental stimulation. Get them food puzzles and other puzzle toys to engage their minds.
  • A Labrador will benefit more from mental stimulation to help with their attention span. As often as you can, take them to a safe water body and let them swim. They will love you for it. (They will love you without it too, though. They’ll love you in ANY case! Still, take them out to water.))
  • You can train a golden retriever to stay at home alone but labradors do not tolerate being left alone for too long. They become destructive and despondent. If you are away all day or for long periods, consider a Golden retriever over a Labrador.

Both dogs cannot be trained to be guard dogs.

Golden Retrievers and Labradors are intensely protective over their owners and family members.

But they do not make good guard dogs because they love human interactions and attention.

If you should task them with guarding anything, they’d be more likely to let a thief take what they like, and lick them while at it!

4. Exercise and Health

As earlier mentioned, Labradors love to eat so you have to be very careful what you give them to feed on. Healthy food is critical for their overall well-being but more so to keep their weight in check.

feeding golden retriever using chopsticks

Goldens have a healthy appetite but they are not foodies like Labrador. But you still need to feed them on a healthy diet to maintain their health.

Both breeds will benefit from a good portion of lean protein that helps them repair the tissues in their bodies that may be damaged by their outdoorsy lifestyle.

The golden retriever is a medium energy dog so one hour of exercise a day is adequate to keep it healthy.

On the other hand, a Labrador is a high-energy dog.

This is especially evident in the breed during its pup and young adult years. They will benefit from a minimum of two hours of exercise daily.

Health Conditions Affecting Labrador vs Golden Retriever

When the two breeds are compared, breeders have found that the golden retriever has more health concerns than the labrador.

Goldens are prone to cancers like bone cancer (osteosarcoma) and malignant tumors in the lining of blood vessels (hemangiosarcoma), among others.

A study even found that 38% of Golden retrievers will die from some form of cancer!

Experts have found that neutering the Golden Retriever bitches drastically increases their chances of suffering from some cancers.

Labradors, on the other hand, are more prone to lymphoma than other dog breeds. However, with Labs, neutering the females doesn’t result in a very high prevalence of cancer like in Goldens.

cute lab puppies eating

Both breeds tend to inherit joint conditions like hip and elbow dysplasia. In Labs, overfeeding puppies can result in malformation of joints that result in this condition occurring sooner.

In contrast, early neutering in Golden Retrievers doubles the risk of these joint malformations. It is best to neuter your dog after 12 months. Better still, don’t neuter them at all.

Both retrievers suffer from allergies like most other dog breeds. These can be caused by a substance in their food or the environment.

The good news with allergies is that once they are removed, the dog regains excellent health.

An eye condition known as pigmentary uveitis is almost exclusive to the golden retriever. It causes the area where the eye’s blood vessels, the uvea, to become inflamed. Unfortunately, it can lead to blindness.

Other eye conditions to look out for include cataracts, glaucoma, and Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) which occur in both Labs and Goldens.

Golden retrievers are also prone to an inherited congenital heart condition that affect the flow of blood to their hearts.

Speaking of inherited, the Labrador breed also inherits a condition known as exercise-induced collapse. Young adults collapse due to over-excitement during exercise and intense activity.

Labs also specifically suffer from an abnormality of the eyelids where they roll back exposing the cornea. And also, laryngeal paralysis in older labs. This condition causes their voice box to be partially paralyzed resulting in difficulty breathing and a muffled bark.

You can take your Lab or Golden for tests to check for PRA, joint health, and eye tests. Unfortunately, there are no tests for cancer but you can check with the breeder for a pup’s family cancer history.

The life expectancy of a Labrador retriever is 10 to 12 years while the Golden Retriever has a lifespan of 10 to 13 years.

5. Price Comparison — Golden Retriever vs Labrador Retriever Puppy

Golden Retriever puppy and Labrador Retriever puppy

Labrador retrievers are more expensive compared to Golden retrievers. Whereas a labrador pup will cost you an average of $900 to $1500, a golden retriever is cheaper at $800 to $1200.

These are the ranges of buying from a breeder. They are on the higher end because pups from breeders come vaccinated, with DNA tests for various markers of genetically inherited conditions and they are also purebred.

From rescue and shelters you can get them cheaper at by $400 to $600.

Labs are more expensive because of their popularity as pets. Remember they are the number one breed in popularity in the US out of all the 197 breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club.

Overall, also owning the Labrador is more expensive than owning a Golden Retriever because they tend to need more intensive and expensive medical care in the long run.

6. History & Fun Facts About Golden Retriever and Labrador Retriever

Golden Retriever is a Scottish breed while the Labrador comes from Newfoundland in Canada.

The golden retriever was once unfashionable because of its yellow-gold color!! Imagine that?! Somebody somewhere deemed a Golden unattractive and unwanted because of its glorious gold coat. Flat coats retrievers with their black coats were preferred.

The Goldens are a mix of the now extinct Tweed Water Spaniel, a Bloodhound, the Yellow coated golden retriever, and Irish setter.

On the other hand, the Labrador is a mix of the now extinct St. Johns Water dog and British hunting dogs.

The world’s first golden retrievers were born in 1868 and were known as cowslip, Primrose and Crocus.

Both dogs have a rich background of working hard and keeping humans company, and they continue to do so until today.

Long live the retrievers!

Frequently Asked Questions

Playful golden and labrador retriever outdoors

Are golden and labradors pet-friendly dogs?

They are both super friendly dogs that get along with other pets in a multi-pet household.

The best part is that they are just as protective of their family of pets as they are of their family of humans. You may notice that they nurture other pets in the household like kittens, turtles, and hamsters.

Is a labrador a good first-time pet?

Yes, they are. And so are Golden Retrievers. They are gentle, playful, fun, affectionate, and accommodating of human interactions. They train easily so you can teach them house rules and they are always eager to please.

Expect them to bring you gifts like your slippers or even a dead rat. They love your time and may come and lay a paw on you to get your attention. Both breeds work for homes with younger children.

Does the intelligence of Labs depend on their coat color?

No. The coat color does not determine the level of intelligence of the dog. Some unscrupulous breeders lie that the black coated Labs are better at field trials, while yellow coated are better when it comes to service intelligence.

Having said that, some of the stories about chocolate labs being more difficult or less obedient may have some merit.

That is because some chocolate breedings in America are backyard. They are also called irresponsible breedings. The breeders are more concerned about getting the chocolate color and spend less time focusing on the temperament of the dog.

The good news is that you can have all three coats from one litter allowing you to get a well behaved, friendly and obedient chocolate Labrador along with a yellow and black coat.

Bottom Line

Both dogs are happy, intelligent and friendly animals which will make excellent first time pets. But if you are looking for a dog that may be suitable for apartment living, the Golden Retriever is a better fit. 

The Labrador is more likely to climb the walls in smaller spaces. Being a high-energy breed it needs space to run and play, so ranches and the countryside make better homes.

But you are looking at dogs that rank high in popularity so there is no losing with either breed. 

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