Labrador vs Golden Retriever is a question I’ve asked myself and answered more than once in the past when planning a new puppy. They have a lot going for them both. Similar working histories, cooperative natures and playful personalities. They are both large but still pretty family friendly, learning fast and fitting in with kids and adults alike. The main differences come down to coat care, where they are both high shedding but Golden Retrievers need more attention, and energy levels which can be a lot higher in the sporting lines of Labrador.
- Golden Retriever vs Labrador size and weight
- Coat length, shedding & grooming
- Variations in temperament
- Differences in health
Golden Retriever puppies are gold coated, with longer fur and wavy tails:
When you compare them to Labrador Retriever puppies with their short coated and otter tail, you can see how someone might mix up the two breeds!
Is a Golden Retriever a type of Labrador?
A Golden Retriever is not just a long haired Labrador. Golden retrievers and Labrador Retrievers are two separate dog breeds but they both belong to the same group of dogs, known as ‘sporting dogs’. And they both share a similar original purpose as hunting companions.
Sporting dogs are further divided into sub groups depending on their role, and Golden Retriever and Labs are both members of the Retriever sub group. These are dogs that have been bred for generations to retrieve dead and wounded animals that have been shot by their human hunting companion. Retriever breeds are affectionate and friendly dogs that love human company.
Confusion about the relationship between these two breeds is common. Not only because some Labradors are very similar in color to some Golden Retrievers, but also because of the accidental use of the name Golden Labrador for yellow Labrador Retrievers.
Golden Retriever vs Lab Size
While both are medium to large breed dogs, their builds can differ more than a little. English Labs tend to be from show stock. They are stockier, with broader heads and chests. American Labs are slimmer, from working stock, and can be less barrel-chested. The same is true of the Golden Retriever show and working lines.
The average Golden Retriever weight comes in at slightly less than a Labrador but other than that they are very similar sizes.
Labrador Retriever vs Golden Retriever Colors
The Golden Retriever’s official breed name pretty much speaks for itself. But coloration at maturity can range from almost white to a rich dark golden red shade. Preference for color tends to lean towards one end of the color spectrum for a while, then swing back the other way.
At the time of writing darker shades of coat are coming back into fashion after a long time period where pale cream was in vogue.
Labrador Retrievers have three main coat colors: black, yellow or chocolate (brown). Just like Goldens, the shade of fur in a Yellow Lab can very widely from palest cream to a deep rusty red. The darkest Yellow Labs are often called Fox Red Labs by their fans. Just as with Golden Retrievers the darker coats are becoming more popular, especially within the hunting community.
When we compare a Golden Retriever vs yellow Lab, the differences in coat are clear. The Golden’s coat is water repellant with a thick, wavy outer coat and a soft, insulating under-coat.
The Labrador’s coat is also water repellant has two layers. Bu they have a short but dense outer layer and a soft, insulating inner layer.
This shorter coat may look less warm than the Golden Retrievers, but the dense short fur functions a lot like a diver’s wetsuit to trap body heat for self-warming, and the Labrador is able to cope with extremely cold water.
There is little difference between the Golden Retriever and Labrador Retriever when it comes to shedding. Both will shed even more twice per year in the spring and fall during the seasonal coat changes.
However, Golden Retriever hairs are longer and often paler, so can be more problematic for owners who don’t like shed hairs stuck to their clothes. And if you wear a lot of dark clothes, the hair from a Golden Retriever is going to stand out much more than the hair from a black Lab.
Labrador Retriever vs Golden Grooming
While Labs need a once weekly brush down unless they are grubby, Golden Retrievers will benefit from at least three times a week to keep that coat glossy and tangle free.
Both Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers love running, playing, swimming and rolling in mud, leaves, or anything new and interesting they may find on the lawn.
Luckily, both breeds love the water, which can make bathing them much less of a challenge than it can be with other dog breeds!
You may also need to budget for professional grooming and hair trims to keep your dog’s coat manageable seasonally, as this can be a bigger job to tackle on your own.
Labrador Retriever vs Golden Retriever Temperament
While some dog breeds may be too high strung or fragile to make for good family dogs, this certainly doesn’t apply to either the Labrador or the Golden Retriever! Both dog breeds often make WONDERFUL family dogs, as long as they are well chosen and well raised.
They are normally great with children, with their affectionate, sociable, outgoing and eager-to-please personalities.
Labrador Retrievers and Goldens are also top choices for service dogs, search and rescue dogs, detection dogs, hunting dogs, and field work dogs. Beyond this, however, there are some important temperament differences that can indicate which dog breed might be the better choice for your household.
Golden Retriever traits
The Golden Retriever has a medium energy level, which means this is a dog that can roll with the daily ebb and flow of home life.
Daily walks and play time are a must, but in between these activities, the Golden will happily enjoy a restful nap or few!
Golden Retrievers in general are amongst the most intelligent dog breeds.
They are easy to train, quick to learn, and eager for praise and affection. They also tend to be patient and attentive, which makes training a joy.
Goldens also get along well with other dogs and with cats, which makes them a good choice for multi-pet households.
While Goldens are intensely loyal to and protective of their family, they are simply too friendly to be counted on to guard your home or belongings well.
Labrador Retriever characteristics
The Labrador Retriever is considered a high energy dog breed, which will be especially obvious during the puppy and young adult dog years.
Labs simply cannot tolerate being left alone for very long.
Labrador Retrievers, like Golden Retrievers, are also considered one of the smartest dog breeds around.
They learn quickly and are eager for the interaction that training provides. But their high energy level may interfere with their ability to focus and concentrate on training.
Labradors are great family dogs, provided you are fine with adding a canine child to your household.
Most Labs won’t begin to really mature in their behavior and focus until they have turned three years old – and for some Labs, it will be later than that.
Labs can be good with other household pets, but they will need supervision at first to be sure.
A Labrador is not a good choice if you want a guard dog. They are too friendly and eager for human interaction, and are more likely to wriggle up to an intruder asking for a pat than to sound the alarm.
Comparing Health Problems
Because both Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers are insanely popular as pets, working field dogs and show dogs. However, these two purebred dog breeds are each associated with certain known breed-specific health issues.
Hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia and sight problems are common to both breeds, but can be health tested for in potential puppy parents. Golden Retrievers however have a real issue with cancer emerging, and are therefore arguably the riskier choice in terms of health.
Difference Between Labrador And Golden Retriever Lifespan
For both these breeds the average life expectancy is generally accepted to be around 10-12 years. Though one study found that black Lab lifespan and that of yellow labs, was greater than for chocolate Labs. This wasn’t by a small amount either, chocolate Labs had shorter lives by almost a year and a half
A study in England in 2013 looked at around 400 Labs and 100 Goldens and put the median age at death of both breeds as 12.5 years. So what about the prevalence of cancer that we know is an issue in Goldens?
With Golden Retrievers there seems to be a division with some dying far too young from cancer, and those escaping the cancer gene surviving much longer. So it really is worth looking carefully at the ancestors of your puppy with regard to longevity. You won’t be able to tell much from the mother as she will still be a young dog. But having long-lived grandparents and an older father might give your puppy a better chance of a long life.
Ruby R says
Yes l like these and l want this dog
surinder singh says
hello, i am searching for “service dog” for my 5 year old autistic child, but cant afford it’s price/donation sites/trainers ask for it. can somebody suggest me a way to get it affordably ?. i lives nearby Chandigarh/Mohali India.
after some research i just found these breeds (Labrador/Golden Retriever) is much suitable for this purpose. please correct me if i am not right.
thanks in advance.
I have an autistic son and have owned a black lab for 13 years. This dog has been amazing with my son. Never has the dog nipped or became upset with my son even when he throws his tantrums and screams for an hour at a time. A puppy would be best to bring into the home as a puppy will grow up knowing your child’s behaviors as part of their normal life.
I grew up with labs most my life. I ended up getting a goldador (golden/ lab retriever mix) and she is amazing!!! I love goldens, but never wanted the long hair. My pup has more of the lab coat, she is perfect!! I just got an 8 week old yellow lab so it will be fun to see her compared to my one year old goldador.
I wanted a Lab but quiz got me confused.😅 but I still want Lab.
Stephen Schmidt says
We have a yellow Lab Lola. She will be 13 in February 2021. Lola ia my 3rd yellow female. An unbelievable dog. Smart as a whip. Never made a mistake in the house never. Trained hee to pheasant hunt. After one session the owner of the pheasant ranch wanted me to guide wirh her. She was only 18 months old. Swimming fool. We have a cottage 200 feet from Lake Huron in Michigans thumb. Everyday she picks up her duck walks to the beach drops it for us to throw retrieves until she is done. When she has had enough she carrys her duck back to the porch. We open the door she walks to the mud room for her toweling. Tomorrow repeat! Best
I’m not sure cause im also stick with those 2 breeds . I’m thinking about a dog who needs less gtooming but is smaller and lighter Cause labs need less frooming but the goldens are much lighter plus anyone help, e choose what is better for me 😀🥰🥰😘😅
i thnk both are good when u see for less hair u can go with lab and thinking wht u way u want
Yes I also think labs are best
Am I the only one who had a black lab that didn’t like water? He jumped off a dock as a pup and panicked. I had to lead him to the boat ramp. He could swim but hated it.The vet wanted a photo of him by the water because he liked his features. Good luck with that. He had hip surgery and again they said take him swimming lol. I would go in first and he would only go belly deep. He was my boy and stuck by my side everywhere. He was overbred I found out later so had some health problems but I wouldn’t trade our time together for anything. He traveled to 21 states with me and even had to sneak him into a few motels on the way. Any dog that loves you that much is the best dog in the world, even if he was a destructive puppy lol. I miss him but with my current work schedule it wouldn’t be fair to get another. All dogs are good dogs if you have the patience and time for them.
Thanks 😌 😊
Lisa K. says
No you’re not! I currently have a two year old Dudley Lab that HATES water! Bath time is a fight. She won’t go swimming, getting her out in the rain is a huge battle. I have never experienced anything like this. Every other Lab we have owned, we couldn’t get them out of the water. She’s a rescue, so I think somehow she was traumatized by water. We are working on it with a behavioral therapist (I know, for a dog right?!? But she’s my baby!).
My black lab would not swim either but we did not have anyplace to teach him. I think they need early pleasant experiences to love water just like anyone else.
Chris Williams says
The question is never “which breed is best.” It’s “which kind of pet is most suitable for you?”
Goldens have American and English variants as well as Labradors. The stocker and blockier English types are generally more docile and less energetic than their American cousins. The “white gold” variant of English Golden Retriever has become especially popular recently.
Golden Retrievers are rated the fourth most intelligent breed, and Labradors seventh.
The difference in shedding with retriever types is less how much they shed, and more what kind of fur they shed. If having to spend as much as 5 minutes vacuuming hair on a daily basis is too much trouble for you, you probably should not contemplate getting a dog, much less a retriever.
You cannot go wrong with either of these breeds, and will not regret your experience owning a retriever.
If you are able to train and enjoy your retriever fetching for you in the water, whether live game or not, your pet’s pleasure and yours will be multiplied. It’s in a retriever’s genes, so barring some initial traumatic incident involving water, it should be possible.
I am interested in adopting a Lab puppy and would like to know everything their is to know about them. I certainly want to have as much knowledge as I can and avoid being deceived and going through heartbreak.
I have had both three the golden retriever that I had constantly stuck by my side no matter where I was my two Labrador Retrievers stayed in the same room or area but not right against me like a golden this is my labs died of cancer my golden retriever had a stroke my black lab has skin issues and the female lab has Yuri through cancer the black lab had a large cancer tumor on his shoulder they are lovely dogs I don’t think I would have any other breed mine just passed two months ago the female lab I miss her so very much and my black lab also I have ever had animals cats and dogs throughout my life I am 61 years old I want another puppy but at this age I’m afraid if something happens to me it would not find a very nice home not the person I would approve that would take care of my animals like I do I’m very protective and have a passion for animals I miss my baby I wish everyone good luck with her choice and I beg of you to please treat them like they are your children they deserve it they are such wonderful creatures
I am 61 years old also and recently lost my black lab. He was my shadow. He never let me out of his sight. When I left home without him my husband said he would howl and watch for my return. The evidence would be a pool of drool under the window facing the driveway. He was very protective of me and I always felt safe when he was with me. He had a cancerous tumor on his spleen. I loved him do much my heart still aches and he is irreplaceable.
Lorna Lawrence says
We have two ‘Goldadors’, mother was a Lab and father a Golden Retriever. Though the genes split very symmetrically and instead of a hybrid mix of the two breeds, one looks like a Lab and the other a Golden Retriever!
I have a black lab. She was my guide dog, now she’s retired as my house pet. I love her to death. As far as a working dog, she’s my first, so when that scary time comes, it’s definitely going to be difficult. Not my first animal though, growing up my family had a cat.
I am the owner of an 11 year old yellow Labrador retriever. What a great experience it’s been! This breed has many great qualities about it, especially love and dedication to it’s owner. It breaks my heart to think about her passing away in the next couple of years but what memories!
That’s so amazing!!! AWESOME!
I have the ultimate solution. I have one of each.♥️ I have a 3 year old male Golden Retriever. He is a BIG BOY at 107. Vet recently said, “He’s not overweight, he is just BIG !!!!” The Lab is a female and she is 2 years old and weighs 69 pounds. They are best friends. ♥️
Jing Huang says
That’s so cute💕😂💕👌👍❤️
I am looking for a pup to be trained as my service dog. I am stuck between these 2 breeds.
Ralph Livingston says
I’m 60 years old and I have Parkinson’s. I love both breeds but I think labs are just a little better. Which is surprising because they are definitely more immature and for longer than goldens. Common sense would seem to indicate that goldens would be better but labradors far out number goldens in service dogs.Ralph Livingston
Having said that, I don’t think you can go wrong with either breed!
What did you choose?
I have a 2 (almost 3) year old female chocolate lab and will be getting a golden male in 2 weeks. Our chocolate is a love with HIGH energy. We thought getting a baby brother will he just the thing for additional companionship. I’m glad to hear they are bffs because that is our goal. Thanks for sharing.
Summer Lotus says
I’ve been lucky enough to grow up around several breeds of gun dogs. I’ve had both field labs and field goldens and love them both. I’d say that on average, my goldens tend to be more clingier than labs and are the ones that do less well in situations where they have to be kenneled for long periods of time.
Personally, I think that the biggest difference is in attitude. The best way I think I can describe it is when you take a lab upland bird hunting, it’s a machine–it smells every blade of grass, leaves no stone unturned. You need to tell a lab when you want it to go far out or come back in, and it happily will take the commands, even when it knows you’re wrong.
A golden on the other hand is going to check the place it knows birds like to sit from its past experience. It knows where the bird has gone and it isn’t going to waste time checking every stick. While it will happily take commands when it hasn’t found a bird, it knows when it’s right and is going to override you when your wrong.
This is how they behave in most aspects of everyday life.
It’s kinda a matter of what you think is right vs wrong–if always doing a command is right, then your a lab person. If doing an action correct in a given situation (even when it is contrary to a command) then your a golden person.
Srija Chatterjee says
I am a lab person
I have a beautiful golden-lab boy with two different eye colors, who is only 11 months old but is 80.2 lbs. I started him with kibbles and switched him over to a raw food diet then back to kibbles with raw bones. He is not neutered. I can attest, he has so much energy … more so than my bf’s Golden retriever (who is 4 years and 1 month older) but if he receives his play time and walks, he gets exhausted and calms down. What I do with mine is play fetch for at least 10 minutes before heading out for a walk so there is less pulling. My dog also enjoys walking off-leash on trails. It took a few practices until I know I can trust him to return to my call. But I find, taking him off-leash walking in trails to be the best form of exercise for him. I just make sure I bring his portable water bowl and give him generous water breaks (yup, I’m his water butler). I put him in my car and he sheds a lot. I would brush him thrice and would still fill up the brush completely. I do trim his fur every now and then— especially in-between his paw pads and his butt area. Since he is a cross-breed, he has more fur than a pure-bred Labrador retriever. He likes to jump into our pool but does not like cold baths. He has tried running away when I give him baths and is very stubborn when he gets an inkling of getting a bath. Other than that, he is extremely smart. I would corral him and he still finds ways to get through the barriers. He knows commands that I started repeating since he was a puppy, like “go to bed” and “go to your cage.” He does get antsy when I leave him in his cage alone but, fortunately enough, I have a chow mix girl who keeps him company every time he cries. I do go to work during the week but have someone to let him out mid-afternoon and my other dog is always there to keep him calm. I just have to make sure to let him out 20-30 minutes after he drinks so much water or after his meals. If I don’t let him out, he will pee and/ or poop in the house. So it’s not the pup’s fault but mine. My pup has pooped 2-4 times in a day. And when it comes to training, success hinges on you not your dog. Training = persistent consistency. If you slack off, expect your dog to slack off and not learn anything = more mess and stress for you. I would have to say: don’t get a dog if you don’t have patience, extremely selfish with your time, cannot commit to another living being, or don’t have the money to support a pup throughout his/ her entire lifetime. My pup has chewed 3 large beds, broken pots and anything he can find in the yard (including solar lights), uproots plants, and stomps on our flowerbeds. However, he is a very sweet boy and a joy to have in my life. When he was younger, he used to wake me up when it’s time for me to wake-up because he also needs to pee (by whimpering to barking and putting his head on your bed near your head). If you set a schedule, he will remember it and hold you accountable. But now that he is older, he can hold his pee for 8 hours or a little longer and will stay patient until you wake but he will need to pee immediately. My golden-lab also loves his toys so if you want him to stay busy and not chew your things, make sure you provide him with plenty of toys to choose from. Treats are also the highlight of his day so he receives them when he does somethings right. I find raw beef marrow bones to be his favorites and helps clean his teeth. As for vaccines, he only received rabies and the lyme vaccine. It’s all personal preference but after watching him go from energetic to lethargic after a vet visit in a matter of 1 hour, I got extremely scared and I decided to stop injecting him foreign objects. To this day, he is one very healthy boy but I researched so much to give him what he needs. I would urge anyone to research endlessly so you are educated well. I hope my extensive comment will help you decide whether a golden-lab is the right fit for you and open your horizons to the various ways to take great care of your new pup.
Charles Fletcher says
Thank you, very good……
Mrs Regain says
To potential puppy owners,
I’m getting a golden retriever puppy soon and I know that it is the right choice for our family. Make sure you have done lots of research if you are looking to get one: we researched for literately years.
Make sure you pick the right bundle of joy and we will make sure we do too.
Good luck x
Marie Miller says
Years ago we got a puppy-1/2 golden & 1/2 black lab. She looked more like a Lab- short black coat with golden hairs sprinkled in. She was an awesome girl–the best traits from both breeds. After we lost her to cancer we have had a parade of labs with a few American cockers thrown in for good measure. Currently a male yellow & his black sister,5 years old & a 5 year old cocker. Love my pups!!
The first dog I remember as a child was a golden retriever called Shumba, so I always had a soft spot for them. My husband and I adopted a border collie cross, Kim, from a rescue centre and when she died 14 years later, the search was on for our new canine friend! As it happened, the lady who kennelled Kim was having a litter from her Lab and for us it was crucial that we trusted our breeder and she was brilliant. We now have Izzy the lab who is nearly 3 – I would say if you the breeder right, then you’re onto a winner, be it Lab or Golden!! It’s so important, so please do your research and be prepared to walk away if you aren’t happy, much better to wait longer for your 4 legged friend than have endless problems for years to come x
Mrs Regain says
Lovely story. God bless you.