Labrador Retriever vs Golden Retriever [Key Differences Between Them]

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[Updated August 2019]

It’s a battle of breeds, Labrador Retriever vs Golden Retriever, is one better than the other?  How do these two breeds differ?

When you are looking for a dog to add to your family, you can’t go wrong with a Lab or a Golden. Both breeds are loyal family dogs that get along well with children, and both are easygoing. How do you decide which breed to get?

In this article, I will help you make the decision between these two breeds easier.  While there are many similarities between these dogs, there are also some key differences.

Let’s take a closer look at both breeds below and what they have in common and what is different between them.

They Are Both Retrievers

Black Lab retrieving a ball from the water.

Labs and Goldens share the same name, and many people get confused between the two because they are both retrievers.

The word retriever means someone who gets or brings something back.  Both breeds live up to this name because they love to play fetch for an endless amount of time.

It is not uncommon to see a Lab or a Golden carrying something in his mouth, whether it is a stick, tennis ball, rock, or glove.  They will pick up and carry whatever they can find.

Their Origins Are Different

Golden Retriever

The Golden Retriever was originally bred in Scotland as a gun dog to retrieve shot waterfowl during hunting and shooting parties for the Scottish elite during the mid-nineteenth century.

It was necessary for the shot game to be brought back to the hunter undamaged, and to be retrieved from both land and water.

The best water dogs and retriever dogs were crossed to develop the Golden Retriever.

Golden Retrievers are known for their soft mouths, meaning they can carry the game in their mouth without biting into it and causing damage.

Labrador Retriever

The Labrador Retriever originated in Newfoundland, Canada during the 1500s. Small water dogs were bred with Newfoundlands to create the St. John’s Water-Dog.

These dogs would work alongside fisherman to jump into icy water to bring back fish that had fallen off fishing hooks, and to help haul in fish-filled nets.

They were perfect for the job because they were excellent swimmers with their webbed paws and water repellent coats.

In the 1800s they were imported to England to be used in shooting sports by the Earl and Duke of Malmesbury.  They began to call them “Labrador Dogs”, and the name stuck.

Their Coat Is Different But Similar

Headshot of a Golden Retriever looking happy.

Probably one of the main differences between the Labrador Retriever and the Golden Retriever is their coat, the length of it and the colour.

You certainly can’t mistake a Black Lab for a Golden Retriever, but when looking at a Golden Retriever vs Golden Lab, they look quite similar with subtle differences.

Colour Of Coat

Golden Retrievers come in one colour, golden, but the shade can range from light golden to dark golden.

Labrador Retrievers are either black, chocolate, or yellow (ranging from pale yellow to fox red).

Length Of Coat

Golden Retrievers have a long flowing coat that is soft and feathery.  Labs have a short dense coat that feels coarse to the touch.


Both breeds have a water-repellent coat, as well as webbed paws.  Because of the shorter coat on a Lab, they will dry quicker than a Golden Retriever.

They Both Shed

Many people think that because Labs have shorter coats they will not shed, or not as much as a Golden Retriever sheds.  This is not true, a Lab will shed just as much, if not more.


Both breeds have a double-coat, meaning their coat consists of a top-coat and an undercoat.  The top-coat protects them from dirt and debris, and the undercoat keeps them warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

The undercoat is what sheds heavily twice a year during Spring and Fall, and throughout the rest of the year, you can expect moderate shedding from both breeds.

Grooming Requirements Differ

The shorter coat on a Labrador Retriever means less maintenance compared to a Golden Retriever’s coat.

The long coat on a Golden needs regular trimming of the feathering, to keep it looking neat and free from tangles and mats.

Both breeds need to be brushed regularly, but brushing a Golden Retriever will need to be done more often.  Daily brushing is recommended to keep your Golden Retriever’s coat from tangling and looking ragged.

Brushing regularly will help minimize some of the hair in your home.

Find out what the best brush for a Golden Retriever is.

Size And Appearance

Both a Lab and a Golden are similar in size and are considered a medium to large-sized dog.

They share a height of about 22-24 inches, and their weight is roughly the same.

Golden Retrievers weigh 55-75lbs, and Labs weigh 65-80lbs. Females of both breeds will weigh less than their male counterparts.

Labs are generally slightly larger than Golden Retriever’s and have a more solid and sturdy frame. They are more muscular.

Both of these breeds have floppy ears, long tails, happy enthusiastic expressions, and webbed feet.

Golden Retrievers have a longer snout, and Labs have a broad head and a medium non-tapered muzzle.


Both Are Friendly, Active & Outgoing

Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers make great family pets and get along with other animals.

Both breeds are friendly to strangers and everyone they meet, this makes them terrible at being guard dogs. They do make good watchdogs, however, barking at strangers coming to your door.

Both Are Highly Intelligent

Golden Retrievers are ranked as the 4th most intelligent breed and Labrador Retrievers are ranked at number 7, according to Stanley Coren’s The Intelligence of Dogs.

Both Are Used As Working Dogs

Both Golden Retrievers and Labs make excellent working dogs. They are intelligent and easy to train, and they have a willingness to please.

They make great bomb-sniffing dogs as they have a great sense of smell, and they are often used as therapy and assistance dogs. Both of these breeds are extremely popular and are often seen in television and film.

A Golden Retriever Has A Calmer Demeanour

Both Labs and Goldens enjoy human interaction and love to be with their family, but Goldens have a stronger need to be around humans all the time.

I would say that a Golden Retriever is more sensitive, meaning that you cannot get angry at them or use a harsh tone of voice when they have done something wrong, their feelings will get hurt.

A Lab, however, is not that sensitive and when scolded can easily brush it off.

Both Are Great With Kids

Both breeds do well in families with children, but a Labrador will be able to adapt easier to a household of young boisterous and loud kids. Golden Retrievers prefer a more calm home environment.

Because of their size, supervision is a must around small children because these dogs can easily knock a small child over.

Energy Level

Both breeds are high energy when they are puppies and up to the age of 2-3 years.

The Lab is a more high energy dog than the Golden, and all of that energy can be focused on chewing and being destructive, if they are left alone for long periods of time, or they become bored.

Do you need tough chew toys for your Lab or Golden?  These are the toughest chew toys for dogs guaranteed!

A Golden Retriever has a medium energy level and is comfortable with the daily flow of the household. Daily walks, and playtime is a must for both breeds, but a Golden will be happy to take a nap in between.

Labradors Are More Independent

Both breeds enjoy being around their owners and family, but a Golden Retriever will be a little more clingy.

It is important to remember that the temperament of both breeds is a generalization of the breed, and every dog is different and has its own personality.


Yellow Labrador Retriever with a black and red rubber tire toy in mouth.

Both a Lab and a Golden are highly intelligent, they want to please their owners, and they are quick to learn new things.

Training a Golden Retriever is likely more of a joyful experience because they are eager for praise and affection.

Golden Retrievers are patient and attentive, and their calm demeanour makes them easy to train. A Labs high energy level will mean they might lose focus and concentration on the training.

Both breeds are considered easy to train and will do anything for a treat.

Health Problems

There are certain health problems associated with each of these purebred dog breeds.

Both share similar health problems, as well as have different breed-specific health problems.

Both Breeds Are Affected By:

  • Cancer:  Golden Retrievers have the highest rate of cancer among dog breeds.  They are more prone to certain types of cancers, such as Hemangiosarcoma and Lymphoma.  About 60% of Golden Retrievers will die from cancer.
  • Obesity:  Labs are more prone to obesity than any other breed, this is due to a deletion of the canine POMC gene.  A study showed that out of 310 Labs, most were missing this gene.  Dogs with this gene deletion are more likely to beg for food, always seem hungry, and be overweight.
  • Hip and Elbow Dysplasia
  • Ear Infections
  • Glaucoma and Cataracts

Labrador Retriever Specific Health Problems:

  • Exercise-Induced Collapse: an inherited condition that affects young adult Labs.
  • Entropion: a genetic condition that causes a portion of the eyelid to be inverted or folded inward.
  • Patellar Luxation: when the dog’s kneecap is dislocated from the groove of the thigh-bone.

Golden Retriever Specific Health Problems:

  • Seizures.
  • Skin issues, such as allergies and hot spots.


Labs have a slightly longer lifespan on average.  Living 12-13 years.

A Golden Retriever’s average lifespan is 10-12 years.

To Bark Or Not To Bark

Golden Retrievers and Labs are generally quiet dogs and bark very little. They are not the type of breed that barks a lot and at everything.

They will bark at strange noises, when alarmed, and when a stranger comes to your door, or for food, but other than that they are quiet.

Both breeds are known for their friendly and outgoing personality, and they want to be friends with everyone they meet, including strangers.

They may bark at a stranger, but once that stranger approaches them their tail will wag and they will expect to be petted. The bark of these breeds is a friendly bark, not aggressive.

While these breeds are quiet, obsessive barking can become an issue if they are left alone for a long period, or if they become bored.

Find out how you can keep your dog mentally stimulated to prevent boredom and destructive behaviour.

They Are Both Food Motivated

Chocolate Labrador retriever licking his lips.

I often hear from Lab owners that their dog eats anything and everything and that it is a “Lab Thing”.  Well, let me tell you, I own a Golden Retriever and this has become one of my problems too. It is not just a “Lab Thing”.

Both breeds are motivated by food and will give their owner that “sad puppy dog look”, wanting food while you are eating.

Owners of these breeds know that food-motivated dogs are easily trained by treats, and the trick to getting their dog to behave or do what they want is by giving them a treat. All the treats add up, and as an owner of these types of dogs, you really need to watch their food intake.

Both breeds are prone to obesity, but Labs are more prone (see health problems above), so it is very important not to overfeed, and to keep your dog at an ideal weight, to improve their quality of life.

Summary Of Similarities

  • Both are retrievers, and live up to their name.
  • Both have a love for water and are excellent swimmers.
  • They make great family pets.
  • Both are friendly and outgoing.
  • Motivated by food.
  • They both shed, and have a double-coat.
  • Both are quiet.

Summary Of Differences

  • Goldens have a longer fluffier coat that requires more maintenance.
  • A Labs coat is short and coarse.
  • Labs are more muscular.
  • Golden Retrievers are calmer and more sensitive.
  • Labs are more boisterous and can adapt well to a lively household.
  • Golden Retrievers prefer a calmer environment.
  • Labs live slightly longer on average.
  • Labs are slightly larger than Goldens (more muscular) on average.

Final Thoughts On Labrador Retriever vs Golden Retriever

While the Labrador and the Golden do share a lot of similarities, there are a few key differences between them.

Both require an active lifestyle and are happy to go swimming and play fetch with you. If you are looking for a more energetic dog, then a Lab might be your choice.  A Golden is active as well but might prefer a calmer environment.

Some people might have a tough time deciding between these two breeds, and others are either a Lab person or a Golden person. Regardless of which breed you choose, you will end up with a friendly, outgoing and loving member of the family.

What About You?

Do you own either of these 2 breeds or are you trying to decide between them?  Which breed is your favourite, the Labrador Retriever or the Golden Retriever?

Share your thoughts and comments below.  I would love to hear from you.

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I am the proud owner of a Golden Retriever named Ellie. She keeps me busy, and when she is resting, you can find me working on my blog. She is always close by though. I live in Stirling, ON Canada with my husband, and we both enjoy the never a dull moment life with our Ellie.

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