Labrador vs Golden Retriever: Breed Comparison

Pet Type


May 16, 2020
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If you’re looking to get a dog, both a Golden retriever and a Labrador retriever are incredible choices. The Lab vs Golden retriever debate has been going on for years. With Golden retrievers ranked third and Labradors in the first place, they remain some of the most popular pet choices. You may find it challenging to decide which one of these breeds will suit you best, however. With them being similar in size and appearance, a lot of people don’t know they are actually quite different. They can differ in appearance, personality, price, and can even have different health problems.

It’s essential to know which breed is right for you before purchasing a dog. Understanding the breed’s pros and cons is the main way to ensure a good future for your pup. With Labs being one of the most common purebred dogs left in shelters, knowing the breed’s personality before buying is crucial. 

Before deciding on one dog breed, you should consider these critical differences.

Key Differences: Lab vs Golden Retriever

Breed History   

  • Golden retriever

The Golden retriever is of Scottish origins and dates back to the early 19th century. They were created as gun dogs, able to collect and retrieve prey without mauling it, thanks to its soft mouth, which became a classic Golden retriever characteristic. This breed became very popular in America after it migrated from the United Kingdom, mainly due to its mild demeanor, hard-working skills, and beauty. Since then, the Golden retriever has remained one of the most popular dog choices for families.   

  • Labrador retriever

The Labrador was first called the St. John’s Newfoundland, due to it first being seen in Newfoundland, Canada. The possible reason for the name change is that this working dog got the name Labrador from the Spanish word for the laborer. They were used by Portuguese fishermen to fetch items from water and carry messages between boats. It became a highly popular breed among English royalty, so much that they brought it back to England. Labradors are still one of the most sought after breeds in England.


The Golden retriever and the Labrador are both medium-sized dogs. Their height range is 21-24 inches, and they both weigh around 55-80 pounds. They share several traits that may cause people to mix them up. They can both sport the characteristic yellow fur, although the Golden retriever cannot be black or tan, while the Labrador can. Both breeds feature folded ears, long tails, and webbed feet, which make them excellent swimmers. They also have water-resistant coats and love water. However, there are several key differences in the appearance between these dog breeds.   

  • Golden retriever

Golden retrievers have a more slender, elegant build than Labradors due to their wavy, soft coats. They only come in a golden color, with shades ranging from dark to light golden. Their tail also has long, wavy hair, so it looks more elegant than that of a Lab. They have a longer snout and a recognizable soft, smiling expression.   

  • Labrador retriever

Labrador retrievers can have yellow, chocolate, and black fur. Two trademarks of a Labrador retriever are their thick, short coat, and their otter-like tail. They have a shorter, more coarse coat than the Golden retriever, and a more muscular build. The head of a Labrador is larger and broader, and they have pronounced eyebrows. The snout is shorter, and it doesn’t taper at the end as the Golden’s does. As they age, their coat remains the same color, unlike the Golden retriever, whose coat turns white or dark golden over time.

Health Problems

With a lifespan of 10-14 years, both the Golden retriever and the Labrador retriever are generally healthy breeds. However, both breeds can develop health problems. Some of the ailments shared by these two breeds are progressive retinal atrophy and hip dysplasia. Due to their large, floppy ears, they are both prone to ear infections. Obesity is also a common concern if these dogs can’t get proper exercise.   

  • Golden retriever

Although elbow dysplasia is common in both breeds, it’s much more prominent in Golden retrievers. Goldens are much more susceptible to seizures as well. Skin issues, such as hot spots, are common problems for this breed. However, the most dangerous illness that this breed is prone to is cancer. A study done in the 1990s has concluded that over half of Golden retriever deaths in the United States were due to cancer. Cancer proneness is genetic, so it’s important to know the health of the puppy’s parents before purchasing it.   

  • Labrador retriever

Labrador retrievers are prone to entropion, which is an abnormality of the eyelids that irritates the cornea. Laryngeal paralysis often strikes older Labs. This illness partially paralyzes vocal cords and can cause difficulty breathing and a muffled bark. Although Golden retrievers are more prone to cancer, it is quite common in Labradors as well. Malformation of knees and elbows are a common ailment this breed faces and can cause them a lot of pain as they grow older.

Behavior and Temperament

Both Labradors and Golden retrievers, if raised well, can be an excellent family dog. These breeds are loving and affectionate with children and social with other dogs and people. They are patient and eager to please, which makes them highly trainable. These qualities make them top contenders as service dogs. They are also great as detection and fieldwork dogs or hunting dogs.   

  • Golden retriever

Although Golden retrievers need walks daily, they also enjoy napping and lounging around the house. Compared to the Lab, their energy is much milder and calmer. They are attentive and patient, as well as one of the most intelligent dog breeds. They can easily pick up new tricks and are very trainable. Goldens are not an aggressive breed, so they usually get along well with both cats and other dogs. They are very loyal to their families. Due to their friendliness towards people, however, they are usually not great guard dogs.   

  • Labrador retriever

Labrador retrievers are exuberant and stubborn in temperament, as well as loyal and intelligent. If you work with them and train them from a young age, they can be very well behaved. This breed is highly energetic and needs daily exercise. If not adequately stimulated, Labradors can become restless and destructive. They are chewers, so plenty of sturdy toys are a must. Labs are usually good with other dogs and cats, but they can be overly excited, which may scare some cats and dogs. They make great guide dogs and often work with police as well.

Grooming and Upkeep

The Golden retriever and the Labrador retriever both shed a lot, especially when shedding their summer and winter coats. They love exploring the outdoors, going into mud and puddles, and rolling around in the dirt. You have to bathe and groom them regularly if you want to keep them clean and looking nice. Both breeds need their nails trimmed once a month to keep their paws healthy and prevent ingrown nails.   

  • Golden retriever

The Golden retriever has a longer coat, which needs a bit more upkeep than that of a Lab. This breed requires regular brushing, at least once a week. The fur around their ears, legs, and tail need to be trimmed at least every couple of months; otherwise, they get too long for the dog’s comfort. Due to their silky fur, you will need to bathe them a bit more often than you would a Lab, about every four weeks.   

  • Labrador retriever

Labrador retrievers have less grooming requirements than the Golden retriever. They need to be brushed once every couple of weeks and bathed once every four weeks. However, they do shed just as much as the Golden retriever. This is important when choosing what color fur you want your lab to have. Yellow fur will be more visible on dark clothes and surfaces, and black and chocolate fur will stand out on white.


When choosing who you should buy a dog from, the breeder’s reputation is much more important than the price. Whether you’ve decided on a Labrador or a Golden retriever, researching the breeder is necessary. Ask them about the breeding process and the puppy’s parents. Buy only from breeders with an established excellent reputation.   

  • Golden retriever

The cost of a Golden retriever puppy is between $500 and $2,000, with excellent bloodlines on the upper end of the spectrum. The food and treats can cost up to $60 a month, due to their large size and love of food. And if you want a professional to train your dog, lessons can add up to $125. You can, however, train the dog yourself, if you have the patience for it.   

  • Labrador retriever

For a Labrador retriever puppy, you will spend anywhere from $800 to $1,200, depending on the breeder. Just like with a Golden retriever, the cost of food and treats can add up to $60 a month or even more, because Labs are a high energy breed that requires a lot of food. They are harder to train without proper knowledge, so if you want a very obedient dog, you may need to invest about $100 for adequate training.

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Final Thoughts

You’ll have a much better time training your pup and taking care of them if your lifestyle needs match up. If you are a family-oriented homebody, Golden retrievers can be your perfect companion. If you are active and need a dog who can keep up with you, than Labradors are the high-energy partner you’ve been looking for.