Breeds Category IconBreeds

Golden Retriever vs. Labrador Retriever: What’s The Difference?

Trying to decide between a Golden Retriever and Labrador Retriever for your next family pet? These two very popular dog breeds are very similar, and at the same time also quite different in many respects. Find out what you can expect with both breeds!

Emma Braby Picture

Last Updated: June 15, 2021 | 11 min read

Golden Retriever vs Labrador Retriever

The Golden Retriever and the Labrador Retriever are very similar dogs. At the same time, they are also quite different in many respects. They are both sweet-natured and caring family pups who have been favored across the world as one of the best family pets.

On the other hand, they are both different in their energy levels. Golden Retrievers tend to be more relaxed compared to the Labrador. The Golden also needs more grooming compared to the Labrador. Goldens can also be can be slightly cheaper when purchasing a puppy.

Whether you are here because you are deciding which breed suits you better, or you are simply here to educate yourself, hopefully, you will find the information you are looking for!

Breed Comparison

Golden Retriever

  • Height 21-24 Inches
  • Weight 55-75 Pounds
  • Temperament Gentle, Intelligent, Loving
  • Energy Very High
  • Health Above Average
  • Lifespan 10-12 Years
  • Price $1,000-$1,300

Labrador Retriever

  • Height 21-25 Inches
  • Weight 55-80 Pounds
  • Temperament Energetic, Intelligent, Friendly
  • Energy High
  • Health Average
  • Lifespan 10-12 Years
  • Price $1,000-$2,500

Breed History

Despite looking similar, these curious canines have very different histories and come from opposite sides of the world.  Both breeds were born and bred for similar working conditions. And both dogs have evolved into great family pets.

Golden Retriever

Handsome Dog Sitting on a Haystack
The Golden Retriever was bred to be an impeccable gun dog.

The Golden Retriever’s life began in Scotland in Great Britain in the 19th Century. The clever nobleman, Lord Tweedmouth I, desired a gun dog that was unlike any other. With his dog breeding experience, he created the Golden Retriever that we have today. It was created by a concoction made of the now extinct Tweed Water Spaniel, the ‘then’ Golden Retriever, the Irish Setter, and the Bloodhound.

The perfect gun dog had the ability to sniff out his master’s prey, and then collect it without mauling it, and in the gundog world this is known as ‘soft mouth’. After 50 years of engineering the perfect gun dog, Lord Tweedmouth’s sons sailed him across the Atlantic sea to America, where the Goldens popularity began.

The Americans fell in love not only with his perfected working skills, but also his grace and beauty. The Golden became particularly popular when America’s 38th president Gerald Ford adopted a Golden Retriever named Liberty. She was regularly seen on TV to be a perfect, and very smiley, family pet!

Labrador Retriever

Beautiful Black Dog Laying on the Ground
The Lab was bred to be a working dog for fishermen in Newfoundland, Canada.

The Labrador Retriever also hails from the 19th century, but this guy is from the other side of the pond, in Canada. Just like the Golden Retriever, he is also a working dog, but more traditionally worked on water rather than on the land. He was the fisherman’s favorite and was best known for collecting ducks, fish, and many other small water creatures.

The Labrador Retriever rose in popularity when visiting English nobles sailed him back to Britain. Ironically, he is not from Labrador but actually from Newfoundland; it is still unknown today why the English nobles called him the ‘Labrador Retriever’. Ever since then they have become a firm family favorite across the world.

Appearance

Two Handsome Dogs In the Snow
Labs come in Chocolate, Black, and Yellow, whereas Goldens come in a few shades of Golden Blond.

The Golden Retriever and the Labrador Retriever are similar in their appearance. They are both medium-sized dogs, and the Labrador only beats the Golden with half an inch in height at 24.5 inches at the withers (paw to shoulder). The Labrador is also slightly heavier than the Golden, on average, by five pounds. To put that into perspective that is only the weight of a bag of sugar, so there really isn’t much difference in their weight either.

The Golden is more graceful in his appearance due to being more slender than the Labrador, and the Labrador looks a bit beefier, which has a lot to do with his coat. The Golden Retriever has an undercoat and an outer coat in order to keep him warm, but his outer coat is longer, wavier, and softer in appearance, giving him an elegant look.

Similarly, the Labrador also has an under and outer coat, but his outer coat is much shorter and denser. The Labrador’s coat acts in a similar way to a wetsuit, trapping body heat to keep him warm in the freezing Canadian waters. Both of their coats are water-resistant, but the Labrador’s goes further in that his coat is also ice resistant.

The Labrador has a wider variety of coat colors than the Golden. The Labrador’s most popular color is the yellow coat, followed by chocolate, and then black. There are red labradors as well, but many breeders don’t recognize them as purebreds.

The Golden only sports one color, and that is Golden, albeit in various shades of golden. In maturity, the Golden Retriever’s coat changes to an almost white or a dark golden red shade, whereas the Labrador, minus a few grey hairs, maintains his color.

Another elegance about the Golden is his tail, it is long in length and the hair is also long and it plumes; and just like human arms, it shakes from side to side as he walks. The Labrador has a very different tail. It is long, but it is thick with short hair and resembles the tail of the otter.

His thick tail came in handy when swimming in the waters. Their tales act as a rudder to steer him in the water. If he ever became too fixated or even stuck, the fisherman could pull him out by his tail.

Temperament

Two Playful Dogs Running in a Field
Both breeds are playful and lovable, as well as amicable and communal.

Both the Golden Retriever and the Labrador Retriever are similar in their popularity! According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), the Labrador is the most popular breed in America out of a whopping 193 breeds and the Golden Retriever closely follows him at number 3. On a side note, for anyone wondering which dog managed to slide between them, the German Shepherd sits at number 2.

The Golden Retriever and Labrador have stayed put in their spot since 2013 according to the AKC, with other online resources further suggesting the Labrador has maintained his top spot for over a quarter of a century, which by anyone’s standards is pretty impressive!

They both have similar temperaments, and they are both known to be kind, sociable, obedient, affectionate and friendly dogs. This has made them both favorites to crossbreed with other dogs, like the poodle.  There are a few differences that set them apart, and these differences in temperament are usually the factors that help families decide which breed better suits them.

Golden Retrievers in the Home

Once the Golden Retriever has partaken in his hour of daily exercise, he is a very chilled-out pooch. Of course, he likes to play, have fun, and exercise, but in between those sessions he likes to lay around and snooze and snuggle with his family.

The Golden Retriever would enjoy a day out exploring but would equally enjoy a day in relaxing.  He will happily entertain himself if his humans must leave him at home, or if he has had enough with being entertained then will happily take himself off for an afternoon nap.

Labrador Retrievers in the Home

And then there’s the Labrador Retriever, who is best known for being energetic and boisterous. He needs to be entertained more frequently than the Golden Retriever. Labs also require longer and more intense exercise.

They also need additional mental stimulation. Rarely will you tire out a Labrador, and although he also likes a cuddle, he is often too busy to remember that he wants one! Once Labs calm down, they are happy to be a couch potato around the home and tend to love being near their families at all times.

Despite their difference in energy, they are equally as loving and sweet-natured which makes them a great choice for a family pet. They are both great with children and other family animals. As the Labrador is slightly more energetic, he may be more suited to a household with older children. This is due to the fact his liveliness and stocky stature could be too much for young children. But, this really is a personal choice.

Exercise

Two Dogs Running in the Snow
Both breeds need around an hour of daily movement and playtime to stay in good shape.

Both of these canine companions are working dogs. This means they both need a significant amount of exercise, more so than the average dog. It is recommended that they both get 60 minutes of exercise a day.

Both breeds will enjoy retrieving objects. You’ll be buying plenty of balls and frisbees, and both breeds will love participating in agility courses. They are also known to be great running partners. Just be sure to talk to your Veterinarian about this to make sure his joints can withstand long runs. In addition, the Labrador loves to swim, so playing ball in your local lake will be great fun for you both!

The Labrador’s lively personality means that he can become restless quite easily. Restless dogs become destructive dogs. He can get edgy if he is left at home for hours on end. And worse, he can be known to suffer from separation anxiety. The best way to overcome this is to leave him with puzzle treat-filled toys, to keep him occupied while you are away.

Training

Chocolate and Golden Dogs Sitting Outside
Both breeds are relatively easy to train, making them great options as service animals and therapy dogs.

Both the Golden Retriever and the Labrador Retriever are intelligent pups. They both love nothing more than to please their master. This perfect combination makes both breeds relatively easy to train.

This trainability is one of the main reasons why Golden Retrievers and Labradors are both selected as guide dogs for the blind and sniffer dogs amongst many other canine professions. Don’t take this for granted though. They still need to be taught the ropes and if you want results then you must be consistent.

Even though these pups are some of the friendliest dogs around they still need to be trained from a young age. Socialization is a great way to ensure that they grow into a well-mannered family member. You’ll want to train them with proper recall commands so they are comfortable outside of the house in all kinds of situations.

Health

Senior Black and Blond Dogs
Only a few breed-specific concerns arise in both breeds, making them fairly healthy dogs.

The Golden Retriever and the Labrador Retriever are healthy dogs. But, as with any dog, there will be health problems to look out for that can run in their bloodlines. Both breeds may, or may not, inherit these health conditions. Both breeds have the predisposition for the below health issues:

Progressive Retinal Atrophy

This is the degeneration of the retina which, over time, can cause vision loss. Both dog breeds are susceptible to this condition. This means it’s a risk no matter which breed you decide to welcome into your home.

Hip and Elbow Dysplasia

This is a common health issue in medium and large dogs. It’s an abnormal formation in the hip and elbow joints. Over time this can cause crippling lameness in limbs and painful arthritis in the joints.

Exercise-Induced Collapse

This is not a particularly common disorder. But, both Golden Retrievers and Labradors can suffer from this. Following a period of excessive exercise, the dog can suffer a loss of muscular control. Symptoms can range from dragging their limbs behind them while they are running to collapsing and being totally unable to move. In very rare cases the dog can die immediately. But, less serious cases can last up to 25 minutes.

There is one unfortunate difference to be aware of if you decide to bring a Golden Retriever into your life, and this is that he is particularly disposed to cancer. A study in the 1990s identified that 61% of Golden Retriever deaths were due to cancer of some form. Scientists believe that this is due to a genetic mutation in the North American Golden gene pool. The mortality rate in the European Golden Retriever was much lower at 38%.

For this reason, it is particularly important to ask about his parent’s health. You’ll want to ensure that there hasn’t been any cancer in the family. Reputable breeders should not breed from dogs that have had Cancer. By being selective, you can optimize the chances of having a healthier dog.

As with any potential health issues be sure to familiarize yourself with them and their symptoms. If you think that there is something wrong with your pup, or even if you are unsure, seek medical advice from a veterinarian immediately.

Nutrition

White and Chocolate Dogs Eating From Dog Bowls
Labs have a propensity to become obese, so they need a watchful eye to make sure they don’t overeat.

Both breeds are similar regarding their nutrition, they both need around three cups a day of food. As with any dog, good quality food keeps your pooch in tip-top condition. Golden Retrievers should eat high-quality dog food with plenty of omega 3’s to keep their coats healthy. Labradors should eat dog food made for active breeds.

No matter the brand of dog food you choose, it should always be age-appropriate. For example, puppy food tends to be very calorific so don’t feed him puppy food if he isn’t a puppy!

Both breeds are similarly renowned for being food orientated, although the Labrador slightly more than the Golden Retriever, and they can easily pile on the pounds if this isn’t monitored. Treats are great to reward good behavior, but be careful not to overdo it on the Scooby snacks.

Grooming

White and Black Dogs Getting Baths
Expect to bathe your Lab every six weeks and your Golden every four weeks.

Both the Golden Retriever and Labrador have double coats, this is their natural defense against the elements, which was needed both in the Scottish Highlands and in the Canadian cold. Generally, both breeds require brushing once or twice a week, however, they require more during shedding season which is usually twice a year.

In the winter both of their undercoats grow thick and dense to keep them warm, and then when Spring and Summer arrive their undercoat sheds. Generally, their shedding takes up to three weeks to complete, and during this period you can expect to groom them both more often, at about three to four times a week.

The Golden Retriever is slightly more demanding than the Labrador because he requires more grooming than just brushing. Because the Golden Retriever has longer feathering fur, he needs extra attention. This longer fur tends to mean the Golden Retriever sheds more during shedding season than the Lab.

The longer fur around his ears, neck, legs, feet, and tail all needs trimming every two months or so to prevent it from getting too long. The Labrador doesn’t require this extra trimming and therefore he is slightly easier on the grooming front.

Not only does the Golden Retriever need more trimming, but he also needs more frequent bathing because of his longer and silkier fur. The average dog requires a bath every four to six weeks. To keep the Golden Retriever looking healthy, he would need a bath every four weeks and the Labrador every six weeks.

If he gets dirty in between baths then you can use doggy wipes, dry doggy shampoo, or even doggy perfume to keep them looking and smelling fresh. Be sure not to bathe either of them more than the recommended amount, otherwise, you risk damaging their natural coat oils which can dry out their skin.

Price

Chocolate Puppy Licking White Puppy
Be sure to always use a reputable breeder for these popular breeds, as they will treat them right.

There is a difference in price between the two breeds, the Golden Retriever will cost, on average, anywhere between $1,000 and $1,300, and the Labrador Retriever will cost anywhere between $1,000 and $2,500.

Remember, buying from disreputable breeders means that you have a higher chance of having an unhealthy pup. If you do buy a puppy be sure to ask for their recommended health certificates, as this ensures that you are more likely to have a healthy pup. This is particularly important for the Golden Retriever given their higher rate of Cancer.

Final Thoughts

The Golden Retriever and the Labrador Retriever are both amongst the most popular dog choices in the world. With easy-going temperaments,it’s easy to see why. Both breeds are sociable and great fun. They both love nothing more than to go exploring, playing in the garden, or splashing around in the local lake. Both breeds are extremely intelligent and are keen to please their masters. This normally means they are polite pooches who are a pleasure to be around.

The main difference between the Labrador Retriever vs the Golden Retriever is that the latter is slightly calmer in temperament. They will prefer a more tranquil and relaxed environment after daily exercise. The Labrador Retriever is much more energetic and boisterous. They will function better in a livelier home, with constant stimulation.

Both these breeds are a fantastic family addition. Regardless if you are on the hunt for a Golden Retriever or fishing for a Labrador Retriever, you are guaranteed to come home with a dog that everybody loves and adores! Don’t forget that if you can’t decide between them, you can always adopt a mix of the two breeds!

Leave a Comment

2 Comments

Paula Navarette

December 28, 2019 at 12:59 am

Tremendous amount of information that I will pass along to my son as this is my 1st ‘Grand-dog’ and we want to do our very best in love and care for Lincoln. Great, thorough article. Thank you very much. P.N.

Reply

Kelly Wilson

December 29, 2019 at 1:14 am

Thanks for the comment Paula and good luck!

Reply