What’s the Difference Between a Labrador and a Golden Retriever?

I’ve owned a variety of different dog breeds over the years, but my all-time favorite breed to own is a golden retriever.

Recently, one of my friends asked if they made a good first dog, which I believe they do, but Labradors were also suggested as an alternative.

I always believed there was little difference between the two breeds,

so this got me wondering,

what’s the difference between a Labrador and a golden retriever?

The short answer to this question is actually not much.

They both make excellent pets, and are both great for having around families.

However, the subtle differences between the two breeds could be enough of a deciding factor for some prospective dog owners, so here is a list of the main differences between Labradors and golden retrievers.

Physical Difference Between A Golden Retriever And A Labrador

Golden Retriever:

  • Golden retrievers were bred to be a sporting dog, and so have excellent retrieving abilities (hence the name)
  • Retrievers have long, and sometimes shaggy coats, which require quite a bit of grooming and shed regularly.
  • Male golden retrievers are typically between 23” and 24” tall, and females are 21.5” to 22.5”.
  • Male golden retrievers weigh between 65 and 75lbs, and females weigh between 55 and 65lbs.
  • Golden retrievers are typically of a slimmer build with elegant haunches and a symmetrical body.
  • Golden retrievers have a double coat that consists of a water repellant top layer and a softer under layer. They typically have longer feathery hairs around their neck, legs, and tail.
  • Golden retrievers are prone to several types of cancer, and hip dysplasia, and certain eye conditions, but these can all be managed easily.

Labrador:

  • Labs were bred for the purpose of fetching fishing gear, but were later used as sport dogs, and so also have great retrieving abilities
  • Labradors have shorter but thicker coats,and so can keep just as warm. While this does mean they need less grooming than a golden retriever, they do still shed, particularly during seasonal changes
  • Labradors are slightly taller, with males measuring between 22.5” and 24.5” tall, and females measuring between 21.5” and 23.5”
  • Male Labs weigh between 65 and 80lbs, and females between 55 to 70lbs
  • Labradors are generally stocky and sturdier than retrievers
  • Labradors also have a double coat, but both layers are significantly shorter than a retriever’s. This is because they were bred for cold water environments and so their coat keeps them much warmer
  • Labradors are also susceptible to hip dysplasia, and have issues with obesity and heart disease, but again these can be managed easily through diet and exercise

As you can see from the comparison, there’s actually very little difference between the two breeds.

The most notable difference is the length of their coats, which doesn’t actually make all that much difference when you consider that both breeds shed quite a bit.

I’ve got a golden retriever and I only find her coat to be a real issue when it gets really muddy.Golden Retriever in a muddy puddle

However, most dogs are a pain to clean when they’re muddy, so this isn’t even really a big issue.

Differences Between a Labrador and a Golden Retriever Video


One of the most important things to mention when it comes to choosing a dog is temperament.

I didn’t put this in the table because I don’t consider it to be a physical difference, but it’s definitely worth considering when it comes to choosing a dog.

Considering both breeds were created for very similar jobs, it’s unsurprising that they have very similar personalities.

Both dogs are incredibly loyal by nature, and are very friendly, even with strangers.

While this might sound like a good trait to have in a dog, it does mean that they don’t make great guard dogs.

However, it does also mean that they are a great choice as a family pet because they’ll inevitably get on with every member of the family.Labrador dog being cuddled by owner

Both breeds are also very trusting and affectionate, and will always be up for a cuddle.

Saying all of this about a breed’s temperament is one thing, but you do always need to remember that dogs are individuals, and these are mostly generalizations about the breed.

If you’re choosing a puppy, try to spend some time with the parent dogs and breeder to gauge how the dog is being raised before you take ownership.

Alternatively, do as I do, and always get adult dogs.

This ensures you already know how the dog is going to act, and also means you get to rehome a dog that someone didn’t want any more.

If you ask me, that’s reward enough in itself.

Another important thing to consider is how much both breeds need exercising.

Considering both breeds were working dogs, they both need quite a bit of exercise.

I try to take my golden retriever for a long walk every day, and I know it’s the same for Labradors.

Both breeds are capable of dealing with as much exercise as you can give them, so the danger is not giving them enough rather than giving them too little.

Conclusion:

Overall, there are very few differences between a golden retriever and a Labrador.

Both were bred as working dogs for very similar roles, and so both have a high level of intelligence, can be trained easily, and are loyal and affectionate.

Generally speaking, Labradors are bigger and heavier than golden retrievers, but you’ll definitely find some retrievers that break this rule.

The important thing is that both breeds make excellent family dogs, and great first dogs, because of their temperament and ease of training.

I know I’ve already mentioned it a few times in this article, but it bears saying again: if you’re considering getting a dog, make sure you do plenty of research about an appropriate breed first.

Consider things like exercise and personality, but also consider the benefits of choosing adult dogs over puppies.

Hopefully this article has helped clarify the difference between a Labrador and a golden retriever, and hopefully it’ll help you make the right doggy decision

Related Questions:

What’s the difference between a Labrador and a Labrador retriever? 

Although you might think that a Labrador retriever is a cross between a Lab and a golden retriever, it’s not.

A Labrador retriever is actually just the full name for a Labrador, in the same way that a Staffordshire Bull Terrier is often just called a Staffie.

As I mentioned earlier in the article, golden retrievers and Labradors were bred for very similar purposes (retrieving), and back when this happened dogs were often labeled for their working use.

However, as the years went by and both dogs became popular as family pets, the Labrador’s name was eventually shortened to what we know it as today.

The golden retriever’s name wasn’t because it wouldn’t make much sense to refer to a breed as “golden.”Although both British and American Labradors are the same dog, the breed can be identified by working dogs, pets, and show dogs.

Working Labradors generally have more energy, and will still typically be known as Labrador retrievers.

If you’re looking for a family pet, it’s best to avoid the working dogs because they will inevitably get bored as a pet.

Are golden retrievers smarter than Labs? 

Obviously there isn’t completely a accurate method for measuring the intelligence of dogs, but a good way of gauging it is by how quickly a breed can pick up commands.

Golden retrievers are noted to be one of the most intelligent breeds ever, ranking only behind German shepherds, poodles, and border collies.

Labradors, while not as clever as golden retrievers, are still very clever dogs.

Their intelligence again goes back to their original purposes as working dogs, as both breeds needed to be taught quickly to obey a wide range of commands.

The difference between the two breeds’ intelligence is quite negligible, and if you’re only getting them as a pet, then it won’t be enough of a difference to make you choose one over the other.

Which breed is better, golden retriever or Labrador? 

I find this to be a very subjective question, and my opinion is definitely biased because I own a golden retriever.

However, considering the similarities between the two breeds, I would actually say that neither is better, and both are excellent dogs.

Just as with any big decision, it’s important that you do plenty of research before committing to a particular breed of dog.

Both golden retrievers and Labradors make excellent family pets, and will both be friendly and loving pets.

RELATED: Do Golden Retrievers Bite?

The main difference between them is the length of their coats, and this might be enough of a deciding factor for some prospective owners.

Both breeds shed, but golden retrievers require a lot more grooming because their coat is longer.

If you don’t stay on top of this you’ll find it necessary to visit a professional groomer, as I’ve done many times, and this can become quite expensive.

So if this is something that concerns you, consider choosing a Labrador because their coat is easier to manage.

References:

Paulenoff, S. (2017, November 06). Labrador Retriever Dog Breed Information. Retrieved from https://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/labrador-retriever

Greenberg, A. (2017, November 06). Golden Retriever Dog Breed Information. Retrieved from https://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/golden-retriever

Pablo About The Author: Pablo Pascua created dogbreedsfaq.com because of his interest in all the different breeds, and his desire to learn more. His inspiration comes from the many dogs he has owned throughout his life.