Labrador vs Golden Retriever – What’s the Difference?

Golden Retriever Picture

Both the Labrador Retriever and the Golden Retriever have earned immense popularity when it comes to a dog to add to family living. It’s not difficult to see why they are among America’s top dog breeds. Gentle-natured, friendly, and affectionate, both the Labrador and the Golden Retriever are easy to love. Yet, a lot of confusion exists about the breeds largely because the latter portion of their name is not all that they share in common. What are the differences between these two beloved breeds, and which one is the right one for you?

Comparing the Labrador and the Golden Retriever

To best understand the difference between these two breeds and determine which one you might like to add to your family, it is always a good idea to compare them. While both breeds make excellent, loving family companions, they each have their own distinct traits that might make one a better fit over the other.

Here is our comparison of the Labrador Retriever vs the Golden Retriever:

The Labrador Retriever

Picture of Labrador Retrievers

The Labrador Retriever bears the distinction of being America’s #1 dog breed, a position he has maintained for many, many years. But just what makes the Labrador Retriever so special?

The Labrador Retriever traces his roots back to Canada where he was originally used as a retrieving breed, primarily in water, to assist local fishermen with removing nets and other gear from the icy Atlantic Ocean. Though today many Labradors enjoy their days as beloved family pets, the breed is still highly prized for its ability to retrieve and work in water effectively.

The Labrador Retriever is a dog who is typically intelligent, energetic, and quite sensitive. The breed is well-known for its playful nature and friendly ways, all qualities the Lab shares in common with the Golden. Another commonality the Lab shares with the Golden Retriever is his natural affinity to work as a service dog.

When it comes to size, the Lab is generally a slightly larger dog than the Golden, measuring approximately 22.5”-24.5” in height at the withers (the highest point of the shoulder) for males. In weight, the average male typically weighs in between 65 and 80 lbs. In appearance, the Lab is seen to be a well-built dog of sturdy construction.

In coat type, the Lab is also similar to the Golden Retriever, possessing a double coat which provides protection against the water. This double coat consists of a top coat and an undercoat. In warmer weather, the silky undercoat sheds to keep the Lab cool. The top coat is slightly shorter than the average Golden’s would be.

Unlike the Golden Retriever, the Lab has no furnishings along the tail, legs, ears, and neck, so regular trimming is not necessary. However, this does not mean that the Lab does not need to be routinely groomed. The Lab’s dense undercoat should be raked using a slicker brush to remove any dead hair and maintain the integrity of the coat. Brushing the top coat will keep it healthy and prevent breakage.

Just like the Golden Retriever, Labs do shed. However, attending to the coat on consistent basis will keep excess hair to a minimum.

Labs come in three coat colors: yellow, black, and chocolate. Hence, contrary to popular belief today, there is no such animal as a Golden Lab; that is simply a combination of the two Retrievers’ names. The Labrador Retriever that is blonde in color is called a Yellow Lab. Golden is not a color that exists in the Labrador family nor does silver.

When it comes to health issues, both the Labrador Retriever and the Golden are prone to the same problems: hip and elbow dysplasia and eye problems. The Lab may also suffer from a condition known as “exercise-induced collapse.”

The Golden Retriever

Picture of a Golden Retriever

By comparison, the Golden Retriever originated in Scotland. The result of a mixed-breeding between a Wavy Coated Retriever and a Tweed Water Spaniel, the Golden was intended to be a dog who made an excellent, devoted companion to the gentlemen who liked to participate in hunting endeavors. The Golden’s skill lies in retrieving fowl on a hunt, a talent highly prized by hunters. Like the Labrador Retriever, the Golden loves water and is excellent at retrieving game, whether from land or sea.

Also like the Labrador, the Golden is intelligent and easy to train. He is also characterized by his soft mouth, a trait developed to help him prevent leaving tooth marks in retrieved prey.

The Golden Retriever is slightly smaller than the Labrador, with males standing from 23”-24” at the withers. In weight, the average Golden tips the scales at 65-75 lbs.

While the Labrador is a muscular dog of solid proportions, the Golden is more elegant and refined in appearance.

The Golden’s coat is double-coated like that of the Labrador. However, the feathering of the coat along the ears, tail, legs, and neck require regular grooming to keep the coat healthy and to look neat. Trimming is an absolute must with this breed, and while the Labrador can be groomed once a week, the Golden must be brushed many times throughout the week to keep his longer coat from matting or becoming tangled.

Goldens do “blow coat” twice yearly. This process occurs when the thick, soft undercoat essentially falls out to allow the dog to remain cooler in warm weather. When a Golden blows coat, you will definitely know it as there will be hair everywhere. Even a simple petting of your dog will leave your hand full of hair! To help prevent excessive shed hair, the Golden’s undercoat should be raked regularly in a similar fashion to the Lab’s.

The Golden Retriever comes in a variety of shades of “gold” from a light cream to a rich red.

Though the health conditions for the Golden are essentially the same as the Lab’s, Goldens have a heartbreakingly high incidence of cancer with 60 percent of all Goldens befalling the disease in their lifetime.

Labs and Goldens – is There a Difference?

From their origins to their coat types and colors to their personalities and more, there are many similarities and differences between these two fan favorite breeds. The largest differences are in size, grooming requirements, and coat colors. One thing is for sure, you can’t go wrong with either a Lab or a Golden!



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