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Labrador Retriever vs. Border Collie: Breed Differences & Similarities

Comparing a Border Collie vs. a Labrador Retriever for your next four-legged friend? Both breeds make excellent family dogs, but they also have some differences and aren't well suited for every potential dog owner. Find out which is a better fit for your lifestyle!

Emma Braby Picture

Last Updated: May 13, 2021 | 9 min read

Labrador Retriever vs Border Collie

The Labrador and the Border Collie are favorite dogs in the family home across the world. They are very different in appearance; if you sat them next to one another, it’s immediately obvious which breed is which. But how similar are they in their personality? And what about their exercise, grooming, and nutritional needs?

Here in this guide, we compare every detail of these two dog breeds. So, if you’ve whittled your next family doggo choice down to these two breeds, you’ll find all the information you need to make that all-important decision.

Although they are not all that different, there are a few differences that might make one pooch more suited to you over the other. So, let’s find out which of these hardworking pups is a better fit for your lifestyle.

Breed Comparison

Labrador

  • Height 21.5-24.5 Inches
  • Weight 55-80 Pounds
  • Temperament Friendly, Active, Outgoing
  • Energy High
  • Health Average
  • Lifespan 10-12 Years
  • Price $1,000 and Up

Border Collie

  • Height 18-22 Inches
  • Weight 30-55 Pounds
  • Temperament Affectionate, Smart, Energetic
  • Energy Very High
  • Health Above Average
  • Lifespan 12-15 Years
  • Price $1,000 and Up

Breed History

Learning about any dog’s history is the key to understanding why they are like they are. Plus, it will also help you understand what they will be like as a family pet. It is this part of the research many soon-to-be dog owners skip, and why many dogs end up in rescue shelters. So, let’s take this very important doggy history lesson.

Labrador

Four Labs on a Hay Bale
Labradors actually originated in Newfoundland, Canada.

The Labrador Retriever is a purebred pooch that dates back to the 18th century. Originally from Newfoundland, Canada, he was discovered by traveling British nobles. They took the Labrador back to England and refined the breed to the one we know and love today.

He was the canine colleague of choice for fishermen and duck hunters. His thick otter tail, water and ice resistant coat, and love of the water meant he excelled in herding fish into the nets and retrieving ducks.

The Labrador is America’s canine sweetheart and the reason why there are so many mixed breeds with a Lab parent. According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), he has ranked as the most popular dog breed for three decades. His love for humans, combined with his obedience and friendliness, means he is commonly used as an assistance dog. And he is also useful in therapy and in search and rescue operations.

Border Collie

Four Dogs Running
Border Collies got their name from being popular on the border of England and Scotland.

Border Collies are not quite as popular as Labrador Retrievers. He usually finds himself between 30th and 40th place in the AKC breed popularity contest. The breed is more popular over in their native lands of the British Isles.

He is an ancient dog breed that dates back thousands of years ago when the Vikings conquered the Romans. It is believed that the Vikings bred their Icelandic Sheepdogs with the larger Roman dogs, and the Border bloodline started.

The Border Collie is a sheepherder and possibly the best herding breed in the world! Herding is this breed’s original purpose, and he’ll herd anything from geese to children (when bored!).

The word ‘collie’ means sheepdog in Scottish dialect. He is called the Border Collie because he was popular on the border of Scotland and England. They are also believed to be the most intelligent dog breed.

Appearance

Yellow Dog and Black and White Dogs in the Snow
These two breeds are very different in appearance.

Both breeds are very different in their appearance. Besides having four paws and a wet nose, there’s not much similarity between the two breeds. They are both gorgeous and proportionate in size. The Border Collie is more athletic in appearance and more slender than the Lab. The Lab is a stocky pup with lots of power behind his muscles.

The Border Collie iis the smaller of the two breeds. They measure up to 22 inches, and Labs measure up to 24 ½ inches. They weigh weighs between 30 and 55 pounds, making him a medium-sized dog.

Labradors weigh between 55 and 80 pounds, making him a large-sized dog. The largest Border Collie is the same as the smallest Lab, so size is often a deciding factor for many families.

Border Collies have two coat types, the smooth or the rough coat. The smooth coat is short all over. Compared to the rough coat, it is longer and much shaggier than the smooth coat. Ironically, the rough coat is smoother in texture compared to the smooth coat.

All Labs have the same coat, short to medium in length, with a dense texture. Both have a double coat that is weather-resistant and sheds lots.

Labs have three color choices of solid black, brown, and yellow. There are also Red Labs, and Silver Labs, but many breeders view these colors as controversial.

Border Collies have many more colors to choose from, including black, blue, blue merle, brindle, gold, lilac, red, red merle, sable, sable merle, saddleback sable. Some dogs have two different colored eyes, with one of them usually being blue. Many of these colors are mixed with white, and the most common color is black and white.

Temperament

Close Up of Handsome Dogs
Both breeds are generally very happy and friendly dogs.

Both dog breeds are more similar in their temperament than their appearance, and both are well-balanced and friendly dogs who adapt well to most family environments. This is why they are both very popular as family pets. They both get on well with other dogs if socialized well as a pup, and they are both fond of children.

Both breeds are energetic, meaning lots of fun for the whole family. Both dogs need to be homed with an active family to be happy and healthy. The Lab is a barky dog in play, whereas the Border Collie uses his eyes to stare you out rather than his voice.

The Lab is more sociable and is everyone’s instant best friend. The Border Collie has an aloof side, meaning it takes him much longer to warm up to strangers. This aloofness can cause them to be protective of their family. Both the Border and the Lab are equally warm and affectionate with their family, making them ideal cuddle buddies.

The Lab is the more easy-going of the two breeds, with the Border Collie being the most sensitive out of the two. They crave human companionship and don’t like to be left alone for too long. For this reason, we recommend investing in a dog crate that’s made to soothe anxiety. Whereas the Lab is happy to snooze and chill for a few hours while his family is at work.

Exercise

Dogs Running Outdoors
Though both dogs are fairly active, Border Collies need more intense daily exercise.

Both dogs are both very active working dog breeds, so only active families should apply here! But which breed needs the most exercise? The Lab needs at least 60 minutes of daily exercise and the Border Collie needs more than 90 minutes.

Both dogs need intense exercise that will get their heart pumping. If your pup is not panting after an exercise session, it’s not enough for either breed. A simple walk around the neighborhood won’t be enough for either of these guys. Remember that they are both working breeds who could work for hours on end in harsh conditions.

It goes without saying, if you are after a dog that can swim, the Lab is the choice for you. And if you are after a herder, the Collie is your best bet.

Labs are partial to an afternoon snooze between exercise sessions. Both dogs need access to doggy toys and interactive play sessions with their family, the Border Collie needs more mental stimulation. They will love a challenging puzzle game, and the Lab is more likely to find a chew toy enjoyable.

Training

Dogs With Mallard and Sheep
Labs have been trained to hunt and Border Collies have been trained as herding dogs.

Both dog breeds are both very intelligent and easy to train. They both love earning praise from their master, meaning they will do anything to please you. This is why they are both prime breeds for working and therapy dogs. When it comes to intelligence, the Border Collie is the cleverest of canines.

Still, they both need early training to flourish into the well-balanced and intelligent dogs we all know and love. These guys are ideal for first-time dog owners, but you should do a little reading-up of dog training beforehand. Socialization is crucial for both breeds, especially the Border Collie, who can be a little aloof. Socialization will teach him to trust people outside of his family unit.

Both dogs also respond well to positive reinforcement training. The Border Collie is the more sensitive out of the two, and he’ll sulk when you raise your voice to him. They are also more likely to be motivated by toys and sticks they can chase. The Lab and his love for food will be best motivated by doggy treats.

The Border Collie is a natural herder, and sometimes this herding instinct will come out in the home. Especially if he is bored! This is something you need to consider when inviting a Border into your home. Learning how to prevent herding behavior in the home is important because he might try to herd other pets and children. This is not a problem with the Lab.

Health

Mature Dogs With Graying Faces
Labs have slightly shorter lifespans of the two breeds since they are a large-sized breed.

Both breeds are relatively healthy, with few genetic health issues. The Border Collie’s life expectancy is 12 to 15 years. Compared to the shorter lifespan of the Lab, which is 9 to 10 years. Overall, Border Collies have the better health of the two breeds, which is reflected in the reduced amount of common health concerns and longer life expectancy.

It’s important to remember that all dogs are different. Not all Borders or Labs will suffer from the below conditions. Equally, they might suffer from different concerns altogether. The best way to find a healthy pup is to work with a reputable breeder. Feeding your pooch the best quality nutrition and keeping them fit and healthy will go a long way to look after their health.

Labs are predisposed to hip and elbow dysplasia. This is caused by gene inheritance and/or rapid and irregular bone growth. This causes additional wear and tear of the joints, which results in reduced mobility and painful arthritis.

Eye conditions are also another frequent concern in the Lab breed. With cataracts and progressive retinal atrophy being the most common. All reputable Lab breeders will test for exercise-induced collapse too.

Like the Lab, the Border Collie is also prone to hip dysplasia. He is also susceptible to the same eye conditions as the Lab, with additional concerns such as Collie Eye to look out for. Collie Eye is an inherited developmental disease of the retina. Rates of deafness are higher in the Border population compared to the Lab, especially in merle-colored Collies.

Nutrition

Dogs Eating From Dog Bowls
Both need an age-appropriate kibble to stay in tip-top shape.

Both breeds have similar nutritional requirements. They both do well on high-quality kibble and need age-appropriate food. The Labrador needs a kibble designed for large breeds. Border Collies eat best on a formula made for average-sized dogs.

When it comes to eating, both breeds eat between two and four cups of food a day. If they are working dogs, they are likely to need a bit more. Although you might expect the Lab needs more because he is the larger of the two, he needs less energy. Plus, the Lab has a slower metabolism and is more likely to become overweight. So, treat control is needed when it comes to greedy Labs!

Grooming

Mature Dogs With Graying Faces
Both dog breeds have similar grooming needs.

Both breeds are heavy shedders, especially during the shedding seasons where they will both ‘blow their coat.’ It might seem as though the Labrador Retriever sheds more than the Border Collie sheds, but this is only because they are bigger and have more hair. They both shed the same. So if you’re looking for a low-shedding dog, neither of these guys is suitable.

Both the Labrador and the Border need brushing around two to three times a week to keep their coat manageable. Unless you choose a smooth-coated Collie because these guys need less brushing; once to twice a week is ideal here. A de-shedding tool will be an invaluable tool for you to keep your home as hair-free as possible.

Their other grooming requirements are the same, including bathing, dental cleaning, and nail trimming.

Puppy Prices

Puppies on a Hay Bale
Expect to pay around $1,000 and up for either breed.

As purebred puppies, both breeds are typically priced the same from a breeder. The puppy price of a Labrador pup from a reputable breeder starts from around $1,000, and the Border Collie is usually priced around the same.

The average price of both breeds is usually around $1,500. If you work with a sought-after breeder or seeking a pup with more desirable traits or from a champion bloodline, you can expect to pay much more.

Both breeds are purebred canines, o you can choose to work with an AKC registered breeder. If not, at least be sure to work with a reputable and responsible breeder who can provide you with health certificates. The ongoing cost of looking after a Lab and a Border are relatively identical.

If you are looking for a pup with less potential health problems, looking at a mixed breed dog can always be beneficial. It’s even possible to find a Border Collie Labrador Hybrid, called the Borador.

Final Thoughts

The Labrador Retriever and the Border Collie are very different-looking dogs, but both as gorgeous as each other. Both are loving and affectionate with their family and are suitable for family homes, with kids and other animals alike. They are both intelligent and eager to please, making them both ideal for first-time dog owners.

The Labrador is the classic family-friendly pooch everyone swoons over. He is also the larger of the pair and is not suited to small apartments. He makes friends with everyone he meets, and he’s not aloof in any way.

Border Collies are some of the most intelligent, hardworking canines you could wish for. They are also the more sensitive pup out of the two. He needs constant company and much more interaction throughout the day. He also needs more intensive exercise to keep him entertained.

They are both similar in temperament, with a few stand-out differences that might make one breed more suitable for you over the other. But as long as you can meet their needs, you are bound to fall head over heels in love with your champion canine.

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