Golden Retriever vs. Labrador: Which Is Right for You?

You want to get a great family dog that will complement your lifestyle, and you’re probably at a fork in the road: Golden Retriever vs. Labrador Retriever? 

While it may seem like the two are the same, there are some differences to consider when choosing between the two. So how do you know which one is better for your family?

Before bringing a new bundle of joy home, you’ll want to look at this breakdown of the differences between Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers below:

Everything You Need To Know About The Differences Between Golden Retrievers & Labradors

  1. What Is a Golden Retriever?
  2. What is a Labrador Retriever?
  3. Similarities and Differences Between Golden Retrievers and Labradors
  4. General Appearance of Golden Retrievers and Labradors
  5. Personality and Demeanor of Golden Retrievers and Labradors
  6. Health and Wellbeing of Golden Retrievers and Labradors
  7. Is a Golden Retriever or Labrador Better For Your Family?

When thinking of Golden Retrievers and Labradors, many people assume they are essentially the same dog. Some people believe that a Golden Retriever is basically just a Labrador with longer hair. While the two breeds do share a lot of similarities, they also have some important differences.

To begin with, let’s take an introductory look at the two breeds!

Golden retriever vs. Labrador. A golden retriever nd a Labrador sitting together in a grass field.

What Is a Golden Retriever?

Golden retriever vs labrador. Adult golden retriever sitting in a field with tongue out.

The Golden Retriever’s origins date back to the mid-1800s. Lord Tweedmouth of Scotland wanted to create a highly intelligent dog that was friendly, determined, and very beautiful. It was also important that this dog could withstand the cold winters in Scotland.

It is believed that the first Goldens came from a combination of the yellow Retriever, the Bloodhound, and the now-extinct Tweed Water Spaniel. After centuries of careful breeding and refining, we now have the Golden Retrievers we know today.

The modern Golden Retriever is known as an ideal family dog. That is one of the reasons they land at number 4 out of 194 on the American Kennel Club’s list of most popular dog breeds. Known for their friendly nature and enthusiasm, Golden Retrievers make for excellent therapy dogs in hospital settings or nursing homes.

Golden Retrievers are also known for their exceptional intelligence. They are very easy to train and have a remarkable eagerness to please. These qualities make them great service dogs or guide dogs for handicapped individuals, such as visually impaired people.

While Golden Retrievers make excellent working dogs, they also have a very relaxed nature in an everyday setting. Most Goldens can be found lounging beside their owner or accompanying them for walks, water play, and more.

MORE>> Types of Golden Retrievers

What Is a Labrador Retriever?

Golden retriever vs labrador. Two labradors sitting in a field. One is a dark black and the other is a light cream.

The Labrador Retriever has origins dating back to the early 1800s in Newfoundland, Canada. Labradors derived from what was once called the “St. John’s Dog.” St. John’s Dogs resulted from European fishermen venturing to Canada and bringing their dogs with them. 

These dogs eventually intermingled and bred, leading to the St. John’s Dog. The St. John’s Dog is believed to be the ancestor of many modern retrievers, including the Labrador, Flat-Coated Retriever, and Chesapeake Bay Retriever . 

The St. John’s Dog no longer exists, but over the last 200 years, these dogs were bred and refined into what we now know as the Labrador Retriever. Thanks to several favorable characteristics, the Labrador has earned a spot as the number 1 most popular dog breed from the American Kennel Club.

Much like Goldens, Labrador Retrievers are amazing family dogs. They are fun, friendly, and highly intelligent. Bred as water dogs, they enjoy playing outdoors and have very high energy.

Labradors make excellent working dogs because they are easy to train and eager to please. They are very loyal, becoming devoted to their owners early on. This makes them great service dogs, often being seen as guide dogs.

What Are the Similarities and Differences Between Golden Retrievers and Labradors?

Now that you’ve gotten an overview of the Golden Retriever and the Labrador Retriever, you’re probably wondering exactly what their differences are. It seems like the two are remarkably similar! 

While they have much in common, there are a few differences between them that you’ll want to be aware of before choosing which one will be joining your family. Check out this comprehensive breakdown of the similarities and differences between Golden Retrievers and Labradors below:

General Appearance of Golden Retrievers and Labradors

The Similarities

Golden Retrievers and Labradors are both the same general size, being considered medium-to-large dogs. The average Golden Retriever can weigh anywhere between 60 and 75 pounds, while the average Labrador weighs between 60 to 85 pounds. (Weights differ slightly between males and females of each breed.) Both breeds stand at a similar stature, growing to be anywhere between 20 to 24 inches tall. 

As with most retrievers, both breeds were bred to work in the water. That is why they both have webbed feet, making it easier for them to swim.

The Differences

The most notable difference between Goldens and Labradors is their coat. Both are double-coated breeds, meaning they have a top coat and an undercoat. That also means they’re going to leave some shedding around your house! With that said, their coats are not the same.

Golden Retrievers have longer, thicker coats than Labradors. Their hair may be described as long, flowing, and feathery. It typically lies straight against the body, with some slight waves as it gets longer. 

For this reason, Golden Retrievers do need more extensive grooming than Labradors. That would consist of regular brushing and trips to a professional dog groomer.

While they get their name from their golden hair, Goldens do come in a variety of shades. Their hair ranges anywhere from a whiter golden hue (referred to as English Cream Goldens) to a shade of gold with a reddish hue. The most common and standard shade for a Golden Retriever is a yellow-gold color.

Labrador Retrievers have a double coat, just as Goldens, but their coats are much shorter. Their hair is short and dense, feeling slightly stiff to the touch. Their thick undercoat contains natural oils that are actually water-repellant.

Unlike Goldens, Labradors come in a broader range of shades. There are yellow Labs, which have a white-to-golden colored hue. There are chocolate Labs, which have a rich brown hue. Finally, there are black Labs, which have a deep black hue to their coat.

Golden retriever vs labrador. Light colored labrador puppy sitting on the grass with a stick.

Personality and Demeanor of Golden Retrievers and Labradors

The Similarities

Goldens and Labradors have very similar personalities in terms of friendliness. This is why they both rank among the top four most popular family dogs. 

They are both devoted companions who are consistently eager to please their owners. They are both also highly intelligent, making it easy to train them to do several things for both recreational or service purposes.

The Differences

A key difference in demeanor between the two breeds is their hyperactivity level. While both breeds are highly driven and enjoy exercise, many owners note that Labradors can be very hyper. 

These high energy levels are especially apparent in younger Labs. On the other hand, Goldens are more likely to enjoy a simple, relaxing time with their owner.

Health and Wellbeing of Golden Retrievers and Labradors

The Similarities

Both breeds are agile, high-spirited dogs with great energy. They have the same lifespan, living anywhere between 10-12 years. In some instances, your Lab or Golden may live as long as 14-15 years!

Goldens and Labs are both predisposed to several health concerns, including hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, bloat, laryngeal paralysis, ear infections, retinal atrophy, and certain heart disorders.

The Differences

Some health issues differ between Goldens and Labs. One of which is exercise-induced collapse. While Goldens can acquire this, young Labradors have a higher predisposition because of their slightly higher energy levels.

While Labradors can develop several types of cancer, Goldens have shown to be slightly more prone to certain cancers, including hemangiosarcomas. In fact, it is estimated that about 61% of all Goldens will develop some type of cancer in their lifespan.

golden retriever vs labrador. Labrador puppy sleeping with a stuffed bear toy.

Is a Golden Retriever or Labrador Better for Your Family?

Deciding which breed of puppy to get is never easy, as they’re all adorable in their own ways! All in all, both Goldens and Labs can make a great family pet. They provide lots of love, fun, and years of loyalty. With that said, their slight differences are essential to consider.

If you need help determining which type of dog will best suit your family and lifestyle, you can always consult with your veterinarian and local, reputable breeders.

MORE>> The Best Dog Breeds for Families

Galen has been connecting quality Golden Retriever breeders with loving families since 2012 and is the founder of My Golden Retriever Puppies. He and his wife have four children and love spending time together, traveling (lived oversees for 4 years), enjoying the outdoors and connecting Golden families.