You Are Looking For A New Puppy, And You’ve Narrowed Your Search Down To Two Amazing Breeds. Labrador Retriever Vs Golden Retriever.
But How To Do You Choose The Perfect Breed From Two Such Similar Dogs?
Don’t Worry! We’re Here To Help.
Oh boy. Retriever versus Retriever. Is there any more challenging dilemma than this in a dog lover’s life?
The Labrador Retriever is the most popular pet dog in the nation for the 26th year in a row.
The Golden Retriever currently holds the number three spot in that same survey.
And both sets of puppies are equally cute.
So what information can you use to make the impossible choice between a Golden Retriever or Labrador for your next pet dog?
Well, you’ve come to the right place to find out!
Read on to learn about the difference between a black, brown and Yellow Lab vs Golden Retriever dog breed so you can choose the best next pet dog for you!
Because although Labradors and Golden Retrievers do have a lot of things in common, there are also some significant differences.
Golden Retriever vs Labrador – which is better?
It is likely safe to say this debate has raged ever since homo sapiens chose formal breed names for each of these two dog breeds.
But you are unlikely to find your answer in any kind of generalized assessment, because each of these amazing dog breeds has different traits and skills to offer.
The right dog breed for you might look very different than the right dog breed for your sister, your neighbor or your colleague.
Your hobbies and pastimes, family life, level of dog training skills, available time to spend with your pup, tolerance for dog hair and dander and similar factors will all point the way to your personal right choice in the Golden vs Lab debate.
The most important fact to remember here is this: you truly can’t go wrong with either of these two dog breeds.
As long as you buy a puppy from a good breeder, you should be fine. Choose one with health tested, friendly parents with excellent medical family histories.
After all, the Lab and the Golden are numbers one and three, respectively, on the nation’s most popular pet dog list!
When all is said and done, both dog breeds can make for incredible canine companions.
So without further ado, let’s dive into an exploration of the difference between Lab and Golden Retriever dog breeds so you can choose the dog breed that is the best fit for you!
Labrador Retriever vs Golden Retriever size
When comparing Golden Retriever vs Lab size, it won’t take you long to notice that both breeds are quite similar in this respect!
However, there is one important caveat to make here: there are actually two different breeds of Labrador Retriever: the American and the English.
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.
There are similar differences between working and show bred Golden Retrievers, although they aren’t as distinct.
Golden Retriever size
In every respect, adult male dogs will be slightly larger than adult female dogs.
• Weight: 55 to 75 pounds.
• Height: 21 to 24 inches.
• Length: 22 to 25 inches.
Labrador Retriever size
• Weight: 55 to 80 pounds.
• Height: 21.5 to 24.5 inches.
• Length: 22.5 to 25.5 inches.
Labrador Retriever vs Golden Retriever Colors
A big difference when it comes to Labrador Retriever vs Golden Retriever appearance is in their coats.
The Labrador Retriever’s coat is short and straight while the Golden Retriever’s coat tends to be longer and wavier.
They are also quite different colors
The Golden Retriever’s official breed name pretty much speaks for itself. But coloration at maturity can still range from almost white to a dark golden red shade.
Labrador Retrievers have three main coat colors: black, yellow or chocolate (brown).
So you have more variation in the Lab vs Golden Retriever
Labrador Retriever vs Golden Retriever coat
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 type of coat functions a lot like a diver’s wetsuit to trap body heat for self-warming.
But what does this mean in terms of shedding?
Golden Retriever vs Labrador shedding
Ask any Golden Retriever or Labrador Retriever owner “does your dog shed?” and prepare for a good, long and thorough answer!
Both dog breeds shed year-round, and both can shed great amounts of hair.
Both will shed even more twice per year in the spring and fall during the seasonal coat changes.
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.
So unless you have an incredibly high tolerance for dog hair during the molting season, you will likely need to commit to daily brushing, and weekly undercoat rake combing.
However, for some of the year Labs require less grooming than Golden Retrievers.
Labrador Retriever vs Golden grooming
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.
Let even a few days of this activity go by unaddressed, and it can add up to a pretty stinky, dirty dog!
Luckily, both breeds love the water, which can make bathing them much less of a challenge than it can be with other dog breeds!
One thing that can make grooming time easier on you: both Labs and Goldens are very social and eager to please, which means you will likely find you have an enthusiastic canine partner for your grooming sessions.
But the fact still remains that grooming will be a regular (and perhaps daily) part of your life starting the moment you bring a Golden Retriever or a Labrador Retriever into your life.
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.
Finally, even with regular at-home brushing and grooming, you will need to be the type of person who is fairly tolerant of dog hair all over your carpet, flooring, car, and anywhere else you and your dog go together.
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.
Labrador and Golden Retriever temperament
One of the most common questions dog “shoppers” ask is which dog breed is the best choice for families with young children.
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.
Both 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 temperament
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.
One thing you need to know up front is that Golden Retrievers are NOT the dog breed for you if you are looking for a guard dog!
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 temperament
The Labrador Retriever is considered a high energy dog breed, which will be especially obvious during the puppy and young adult dog years.
While this energy is typically expended as exuberance and enthusiasm for activity, play, work, and anything that is chewable, it can become a problem if you don’t have sufficient time to spend with your Lab.
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.
Labrador Retriever vs Golden Retriever as a family dog
Labs and Goldens make great family dogs, when you choose a puppy from a good breeder and socialize and train them well.
Labs might however be bouncier and clingier than Golden Retrievers.
This said, neither breed is ideal if you are away from home during the week and can’t bring them with you.
Golden vs Labrador 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.
Debatably the Golden Retriever has more concerning health issues than the Labrador, so let’s take a closer look at what they are and how we can prevent them, if at all.
So now, let’s take a look at the major health problems associated with each dog breed.
Golden Retriever health problems
Here are some common health problems in Golden Retrievers. You will find a few of these on the Lab list as well.
Hemangiosarcoma, lymphoma, mast cell tumors and osteosarcoma are the four most deadly cancers that affect Golden Retrievers.
One study even found that a staggering 38% of Golden Retrievers will die from cancer.
As there is no health test to let you know whether your dog might develop it, this is a big consideration for most potential Golden Retriever owners.
Neutering female Golden Retrievers also dramatically increases their chance of getting some forms of cancer.
Goldens can inherit a serious condition called subvalvular aortic stenosis, a congenital defect that affects blood outflow from the heart.
They tend to be more prone to allergies than many other dog breeds, and suffer especially from skin allergies such as infections and rashes.
Hip and elbow dysplasia
Both are inherited conditions that cause malformation of major joints, leading to lameness or inability to walk.
Early neutering doubles the risk of hip dysplasia occurring in Golden Retrievers.
For this reason it is important for this and the cancer risk that you do not neuter your Golden before 12 months of age, if at all.
Firstly there is PRA. A progressive degeneration of the retina of the eye that can cause blindness.
Then there is pigmentary uveitis. Nearly exclusive to Goldens, this inherited eye condition causes inflammation in the uvea, where the blood vessels are located. It can lead to blindness.
Cataracts, both inherited (juvenile) and non-inherited cataracts can also plague Goldens.
Labrador Retriever health problems
There are also several health problems that can affect Labradors, some of which you will have seen in the Golden Retriever list.
Lymphoma (lymphosarcoma) is known to happen more often in Labs than in most other dog breeds. Labs can also develop cancer of the liver, lungs, spleen, bone and mast cell (bone marrow blood cell) tumors.
However, the prevalence of cancer in Labs is far less than in Golden Retrievers, and neutering female Labs only slightly increases the cancer risk , although it still increases it, when compared with the increase in Golden Retrievers who were neutered.
Hip and elbow dysplasia. Both are inherited conditions that cause malformation of major joints, leading to lameness or inability to walk.
Overfeeding during the puppy stage of life can cause problems with cartilage and bone attachment as young dogs grow up.
Exercise induced collapse
This inherited condition affects primarily young adult Labs when they get over-excited during periods of intense activity or exercise.
Labs are also prone to PRA and need to be tested for it before they are bred from.
They can suffer from cataracts too, either as a result of PRA or through an inherited gene.
Glaucoma is another issue, a very painful, progressive eye disorder that culminates in blindness.
Golden Retriever vs Labrador Retriever health tests
Both Labrador and Golden Retriever parents should have good hip and elbow scores, be PRA clear and have eye tests of less than a year old.
But Golden Retrievers can also suffer from higher rates of cancer, for which there are no health tests.
However when considering Labrador Retriever vs Golden Retriever puppies, you can search for older Golden Retriever parents, and find a breeder who can provide veterinary proof of a lack of family history of cancer.
You will also want to check for family history of heart problems with the Golden Retriever parents.
Choosing a Golden vs Lab puppy
What about once the Labrador Retriever vs Golden Retriever puppy decision is made?
Whether you decide on a Golden Retriever or a Labrador Retriever choosing a single puppy out of a litter of cute puppies is never an easy task!
Plus, how do you decide which dog breeder to work with?
Or, if you are rescuing a Golden or Lab puppy, what kind of questions should you ask to learn as much as possible about your new puppy’s background and overall health?
While both dog breeds evolved to work, hunt and herd, both can also inherit serious health problems, as the previous section here explained.
These tips will help you choose the healthiest puppy of either breed!
Labrador Retriever vs Golden Retriever breeders
Whether you are choosing a Lab or Golden Retriever breeder, your criteria should be very similar.
A reputable breeder should willingly provide you with health information about both parent dogs.
Including results of health screenings, vet checks, and evidence of them.
The breeder should also readily provide you with past references, an initial health guarantee (usually lasting 6 to 12 months), as well as a take-back guarantee if the new puppy isn’t a good fit.
They should also have a record of required immunizations and a willingness to stay in contact to answer any questions you may have.
Meet the parent dogs and the puppies
If you have watched the hit movie “Marley & Me,” you already know why it is so important to meet both parent dogs before you choose a pup!
You want to observe their temperament, overall health and individual personalities, because these are the two dogs your puppy is mostly likely to resemble when he or she grows up!
Choose a puppy that readily meets your eye, lets you hold him or her without making a fuss, wants to engage in interactive floor play, interacts easily and good-naturedly with littermates and other humans, and has clear eyes and ears and a healthy coat.
Remember, some breeders choose the pup they think best matches the new home.
If your breeder operates this policy, that is there choice. Remember, they know their puppies best!
Labrador Retriever vs Golden Retriever – which did you choose
We hope you have enjoyed reading through this comprehensive side-by-side comparison of Labrador Retriever vs Golden Retriever dog breed similarities and differences!
Remember, there is no “right” or “wrong” choice – only the right choice for you!
Golden Retriever owners will have to consider the risks of cancer, the potential health problems of early neutering or neutering at all, and that additional coat care.
Labrador Retriever owners will need to think about that increased bounciness and pushiness with strangers, and the possibility of separation anxiety or chewing problems.
There is no easy answer to the Labrador Retriever vs Golden Retriever debate.
But what you can be confident in is, as long as you choose your pup carefully, train and socialize them well, either dog is a great bet for a family pet.
When you do decide, we would love to hear your story of which breed you chose and how you and your new canine bestie met one another and knew you had found “the one!”
- Deehr and Dubielzig. 1998. A histopathological study of iridociliary cysts and glaucoma in Golden Retrievers. Veterinary Ophthalmology.
- Sapienza et al. 2000. Golden Retriever uvetitis:75 cases (1994 – 1999) Veterinary Ophthalmology.
- Kraijer-Huver et al. 2008. Characterization and prevalence of cataracts in Labrador Retrievers in The Netherlands. American Journal of Veterinary Research.
- Torres de la Riva et al. 2013. Neutering dogs: Effects on joint disorders and cancers in Golden Retrievers.
- Hart et al. 2014. Long term health effects of neutering dogs: comparison of Labrador Retrievers with Golden Retrievers. PLOS.
- Dobson, J.M., “Breed-Predispositions to Cancer in Pedigree Dogs,” National Institutes of Health (NIH), 2013.
- Albright, S., DVM, CCRT, “Understanding Hemangiocarcoma in Golden Retrievers,” Morris Animal Foundation/Canine Lifetime Health Project, 2017.