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American Pitbull Terrier vs. Golden Retriever: Breed Differences & Similarities

Are you considering welcoming a Golden Retriever or American Pitbull Terrier into your home, but can't decide between them? These two pups are quite different from one another, but due share a few traits including their dedication to their owners. Continue reading to find out which breed is a better fit for your lifestyle.

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Last Updated: July 1, 2021 | 10 min read

The American Pitbull Terrier is a misunderstood pup. He has a bad rep, but really, that’s our fault, not his! And then there’s the Golden Retriever, who is one of America’s canine sweethearts. Loved by people, children, and the media.

But does this make the Golden Retriever the best family doggo compared to the Pittie? Absolutely not! Both of these pups make wonderful family additions. You just need to discover which one suits you and your lifestyle better.

Here in this guide, we will talk you through all of the differences and similarities between these two breeds. From their history to how that affects their personality and how they might be as a family pet. You’ll also learn about their grooming regime (which is a huge difference) and their puppy price difference. But overall, they are more similar than you might think! Let’s see how!

Breed Comparison

Pitbull

  • Height 17 – 21 inches
  • Weight 30 – 65 pounds
  • Temperament Affectionate, Energetic, Loyal
  • Energy Above average
  • Health Above average
  • Lifespan 12 – 16 years
  • Puppy Prices $1,000 and Up

Golden Retriever

  • Height 21 ½ - 24 inches
  • Weight 55 – 75 pounds
  • Temperament Friendly, Intelligent, Devoted
  • Energy Above average
  • Health Average
  • Lifespan 10 – 12 years
  • Puppy Prices $1,000 to $4,000

Breed History

Breed history is both interesting and important. It can tell you a lot about a breed’s purpose, which goes a long way to explain their personality. Plus, it will help you understand the public’s perception of a dog, which is especially true in the Pitbull’s case. Let’s take a look.

Pitbull

Grey Pitbull Standing in Woods
The Pitbull is a very friendly and obedient dog.

The American Pitbull Terrier (APBT) is thought of as the original Pitbull breed. The word Pitbull is an umbrella term, and there are four Pitbull-type breeds. Fighting dogs from England made their way over to America when dogfighting was outlawed there.

Over time, the best fighters were bred with one another to create even more powerful dogs. And these guys were named the APBT. Their dogfighting history is why some people think of them as dangerous. Thankfully, dogfighting was outlawed. Breed fanciers bred the friendliest and most obedient of Pitbulls to transform them into well-rounded dogs.

And slowly, with education and famous Pitbulls such as Petey from ‘The Little Rascals/Our Gang,’ we humans have come to love them again. He is a top pick for therapy and emotional support canines. The Pitbull is not recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC). Still, he can be registered with the United Kennel Club (UKC).

Golden Retriever

Golden Dog With Long Hair Standing in Grass
Golden Retrievers are great family dogs and are known to be wonderful therapy dogs.

The Golden Retriever was designed and created in the 19th century across the pond in Scotland. The first Lord Tweedmouth, Dudley Majoribanks, kept detailed records of how he created the ‘perfect gun dog.’ Majoribanks’s own Yellow Retriever was mixed with the now extinct Tweed Water Spaniel, with some Bloodhound and Irish Setter thrown into the mix. Goldens are known for their gentle mouth and will collect their master’s quarry without damaging it in any way.

Golden Retrievers made their way over to America via Canada in the early 20th century. But their popularity shot up in the 1970s. This was mainly due to former President Gerald Ford’s pet Golden, named Liberty, who showed her lovely self off to the nation. They consistently rank in the top three dog breeds in America and are recognized by the AKC. The breed is also a top choice for assistance work and in therapy settings too.

Appearance

Tan and White Dog next to Long Hair Golden Dog Posing
These two dogs are very different but both make wonderful family pets.

When it comes to the overall appearance, these two dogs are worlds apart. The Pitbull is known for his formidable looks and supposedly scary appearance (although we personally think he is gorgeously cute!). And Golden Retrievers are known for their family-friendly appearance that both adults and children alike cannot resist.

The Pitbull is usually the smaller pup of the two breeds, and he weighs between 30 and 65 pounds. He typically measures between 17 and 21 inches tall, from paw to shoulder. Making him a medium to sometimes large-sized dog. The Golden measures between 21.5 and 24 inches tall and weighs between 55 and 75 pounds. Making him a large-sized dog always.

The Pitbull is square, athletic, with clearly defined muscles thanks to his short coat. He has a long thin tail and a powerful gait. Compared to Golden Retrievers, who are much softer in appearance. His coat hides his muscles, but he is a lot stronger than he looks. This perfect gun dog is a hard worker, despite his pretty appearance. The Golden’s tail is thicker with pluming hair, and he has a slimmer face.

The Pitbull has a short coat that is smooth but slightly stiff to the touch. The Golden’s coat is medium length and much softer and silkier. They both have double-coats that help to moderate their temperature, so don’t be shaving them off! Golden Retrievers sport one color (albeit in many shades), which is, you guessed it, golden. It ranges from deep reddish gold to very white and shimmery. The Pitbull enjoys a wide variety of different colors. The only color that is not tolerated in the ring is merle.

Temperament

Brown Dog Smiling for Camera and Golden Dog Smiling in Camera
These two breeds are both known for their love and devotion to their families.

The personalities of both breeds are more similar than they are different. And this surprises many people. Especially those who have never met a Pitbull before and assume that they are just lean, mean, fighting machines. As we said earlier, both of these guys make fantastic family additions. You just need to work out what personality fits best with you. After all, the temperament of a dog is much more important than their appearance.

Let’s start by saying that both of these guys are some of the most loyal dog breeds around. Their history is entwined with humans, and their breed purpose relied upon us humans. So, even if you don’t work a Pitbull or Golden, you can be sure that they will form a close bond with you. These guys both adore children, but probably the Pitbull more so. He isn’t called a ‘nanny dog’ for no reason.

They are both quick to make friends with strangers. Meaning neither of them makes great guard dogs. The Pitbull is more likely to defend his family if push comes to shove, but only if they are in danger. Golden Retrievers are far more trusting and probably won’t pick up on danger as the Pittie does. But what they both are is in tune with human emotion. If you are feeling down, you can rely on these pups to smother you in much-needed love and cuddles.

If you’re in the mood for fun, so are they. They are both high-energy dogs who love to play, which is one reason children love them so much. They aren’t couch potatoes by any means, so they both need relatively active families who have the time to spend exercising and stimulating them. The Golden is probably the calmer of the two breeds in the home. And it is his well-balanced nature that many families like. You’re likely to find the Pitbull brushing up rugs with his zoomies!

Exercise

Two Tan Dogs Running
Both breeds will need about one hour of exercise each day.

Both dogs are relatively similar when it comes to their exercise needs. They are more active than your average doggo. But they do not require endless amounts of exercise compared to a Husky or a Kelpie. They both need around one hour of exercise every day to be happy and healthy. Sure, they could go on for a few more hours but would be equally happy to nap or chill afterward.

While each dog is different, Golden Retrievers are likely the more active out of the two breeds. He is an ex-working dog, so he naturally needs a little bit more stimulation. They both need access to a basket full of dog toys to keep them challenged and out of trouble. Golden retrievers will play with just about any toy, but Pitbull toys should be a little more durable.

And if not, they will both become destructive and problematic. That’s right, don’t be fooled by the angelic-looking Golden! He can be just as destructive and naughty as a Pittie if he wants to be.

Training

Two Tan Dogs Begging
These two breeds will want to please their owners when it comes to training making it fairly easy.

Both dogs are intelligent and biddable dog breeds who just want to please their master. And these two traits combined make them both doggy dreamboats to train. That’s why they are both commonly used as assistance, therapy, and search and rescue dogs. For you, this means that you don’t need much doggy experience to train these guys successfully. With a little research and plenty of effort, you’ll find an obedient pup in both breeds.

The best type of training for both of these guys is the positive reinforcement training method. Essentially, you reward good behavior so that they do it again. It really is that simple! But you need to begin training straight away and be consistent with it. Just because both of these guys are well-behaved and downright lovely doesn’t mean they don’t need showing the ropes!

One of the most important aspects of all dog training is socializing your dog. This process is simple, but it requires time and consistency. Mix your pup with as many dogs as possible, as well as humans, children, and new environments. This will teach them manners and increase their confidence in their new world. Some say that this is even more important for the Pittie because of his dogfighting history. And it can be an ongoing process to remind him to be polite.

As you might have figured by now, both breeds crave human companionship. This means that they could both suffer from separation anxiety. This is especially true if you don’t leave them alone as a pup that often. Be sure to leave them for short periods when they are a puppy. Invest in a crate, and be sure to crate train them. Even if they aren’t anxious, it can help stave off future problems, and it gives them their own space in the family home.

Health

Spotted Brown Dog and Golden Dog Smiling in Camera
Both the Pitbull and Golden Retriever are very healthy dogs and will typically live around 12 years.

Both dogs are relatively healthy. But the Pittie usually enjoys better health than the Golden, and he enjoys a long lifespan of 12 to 16 years. Compared to the Golden, who typically enjoys 10 to 12 years. They are both prone to inherited diseases. Meaning it’s wise to research these if you are thinking about taking either of these pups on.

The Pitbull is prone to a joint condition called hip dysplasia, and it is common in many breeds. It causes mobility reduction, and it increases the chances of hip dislocation and painful arthritis. Another common concern is problems with his sensitive skin. Skin conditions such as ichthyosis, demodectic mange, zinc-responsive dermatosis are found in the Pitbull bloodline. And many suffer from allergies that cause skin flare-ups.

Golden Retrievers are also prone to hip dysplasia, as well as elbow dysplasia. Good quality breeders will test for cardiac concerns, such as subvalvular aortic stenosis. The Golden also suffers from various eye conditions, such as progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), cataracts, and pigmentary uveitis. Neuronal ceroid lipofuscinoses is another rare condition that is more common in Goldens than most other breeds. It is a degenerative disease of the central nervous system.

Lastly, the Golden Retriever has the highest cancer rate out of all the different dog breeds. A responsible breeder will screen for cancer and not breed any dog in that family. Although you cannot prevent cancer, working with a reputable breeder is the best thing you can do to minimize it.

Nutrition

Tan and White dog and Golden Dog Sitting in Front of Food Bowl
These breeds will need a high-quality, well balanced diet.

The amount you feed any pup is determined by size, ages, activity levels, and the particular kibble you feed him. A typical Pitbull will consume between two and three cups of food every day. Compared to the larger Golden Retriever, who will consume more towards three cups a day.  Either way, always follow the package instructions and feed your pup to ensure you don’t under or overfeed him.

Stick to a high-quality kibble that will provide a well-balanced diet and healthy omega fatty acids. These are essential for general well-being and joint, cardiac, skin, and coat health. All of which are much needed by both the Pittie and the Golden.

Stick to a top-branded kibble suggested for the Golden Retriever, and a high-quality kibble recommended for the Pittie. The only real difference between the type of kibble to feed them is that the Golden will need one designed specifically for large breeds.

Grooming

Two Puppies In Bath
The Pitbull requires little grooming as opposed to the Golden, who needs a lot more maintenance.

The difference between the Pitbull and Golden Retriever’s grooming schedule is quite a lot. As you might expect, the Pittie has a relatively simple grooming regime. His coat only needs brushing once a week to remove dead hair and dirt. And to keep him looking fresh too. The best tool for a Pittie is a simple bristle brush. He is an average shedder, but his length and smaller size mean that his shedding is less noticeable.

A Golden Retriever’s coat is his best asset, and it is relatively high maintenance. He needs brushing two to three times a week throughout the year. And during the shedding seasons, he will need brushing most days if you want to keep on top of his hair. Have you ever heard of the term ‘blowing his coat’? Well, this is exactly what happens to the Golden. During the shedding seasons, it literally blows off because he sheds so much. Hope you are prepared!

Both the Pittie and the Golden should be bathed once every two to three months. Never any more than this because you will irritate the skin and ruin their natural coat oils. The Pittie will benefit from a natural shampoo designed for sensitive skin. And the Golden will much prefer a formula recommended for Golden Retrievers. Remember, when grooming your pup, always use products designed specifically for dogs. Including toothpaste when brushing their teeth weekly!

Puppy Prices

Two Light Colored Puppies Running in Grass
Expect to pay around $1,000 and up for puppies of either breed.

The price of a Pittie pup from a reputable breeder usually starts at around $1,000. This is usually about the same price as a Golden Retriever, but Goldens do get to be significantly higher in cost when bred from championship breeding lines. It is dependent on where you live and what breeder you work with. Considering adoption is an alternative to buying a pup, and the costs tend to be lower.

Look for a breeder with experience and one who encourages you to meet the pups in their home environment. And can provide you with relevant health certificates. Never, ever work with an irresponsible breeder, or worse, a puppy mill. Although the initial price might be lower, you need to factor in the likely future costs of genetic problems or behavioral concerns.

Additionally, there are ongoing costs to owning a dog. Setting up your home with all the goodies your pup needs to ensure they are looked after with medical care and insurance. The Labrador is slightly larger and has more health problems. But the Pittie is likely to require special insurance or license fees under BSL laws. So, the overall cost of owning these two breeds is probably marginal.

Final Thoughts

The Pitbull and the Golden Retriever look incredibly different. Still, in our opinion, they are both as gorgeous as one another. But they are surprisingly similar in their personality. They both make loving, well-balanced, fun dogs that will bring joy and happiness to their family. But remember, it has to be the right family!

A Golden requires more grooming than the Pittie, but the Pittie will probably be around for longer. Use all of the differences above to help you decide between the two breeds. But if we are honest, we don’t think you’ll be disappointed in either canine choice!

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