Complete Guide to Labs vs Golden Retrievers

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

History of the Retriever Breed

The Retriever breed has a rich history that backs it up as one of the most popular dog breeds for 30 years in a row. Americans tend to favor the Labrador Retriever, but the Golden Retriever is not far behind. But where do they both come from?

Both Retrievers are believed to have a shared ancestor which is the St. John’s Water Dog. This dog evolved from English, Portuguese, and Irish dog breeds and was brought to the United States by fishermen in the 16th and 17th Centuries. 

St. John’s Water dogs were skilled and helpful to their owners. They could retrieve birds on the land and fish that fell from nets, so they became an integral part of the rural communities of the U.S. Today’s Retriever breeds have inherited their aptitude for retrieving and swimming as well.

Another story of how Retrievers evolved is related to the founder of the Golden Retriever breed, Lord Tweedmouth. He originally bred a Tweed Water Spaniel and a Wavy Coated Retriever in Scotland, and the results, with later modifications, became today’s Golden Retriever. 

At the time, the Golden Retriever was a sporting dog. People had the Retriever fetching birds and all kinds of small game that hunters brought, including fish.

Whatever their history is and wherever they come from, these two breeds make lovely dogs for families and great working dogs for the rural country. They are intelligent, love to learn, and can be trained to do a variety of jobs.

Overview of the Golden Retriever

The Golden Retriever is a sweetheart of a dog, playful and full of energy. They have a beautiful outer coat, gold in color, and their bushy tails are always wagging to get you to play with them. They’re medium-sized dogs, standing at around 2 feet tall, and make a great family pet. 

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The Golden Retriever is intelligent and is one of the few dog breeds that can be easily trained to become a service or therapy dog. Not every dog breed excels at such intelligent companionship, so before you get a dog or puppy, you should have its temperament tested to determine if it’s cut out to be a service or therapy dog.  

The American Kennel Club recognizes the Golden Retriever as one breed with a variety of colors, ranging from dark red to an almost white color. Known as great family dogs, it’s hard to find a better fit if you’re looking to bring one home.

Overview of the Labrador Retriever

As one of the most popular dog breeds in the country, the Labrador Retriever is a playful, loyal, and enthusiastic dog. They can become sizable in terms of weight, but they’re usually similar in size to the Golden Retriever, about 24 inches talll. They come in a variety of colors, including yellow, black, and chocolate.

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If you can keep them entertained and have a big backyard that allows them to express their energy, they make great pets and productive hunting companions.

Now that we have an idea of the Retriever’s history, let’s explore the similarities and differences.

Appearance: Similarities and Differences

Similarities Between a Golden Retriever vs. Labrador Retriever

COAT COLOR

  • Golden retriever coats vary between blonde and reddish hues.
  • Labrador retrievers come in three colors;
    Yellow, Chocolate, and Black.

Size

  • Male
    23 to 24 Inches Tall.
  • Female
    21.5 to 22.5 Inches Tall.
  • Male
    22.5 to 24.4 Inches Tall.
  • Female
    21.5 to 23.5 Inches Tall.

Weight

  • Male
    65 to 75 Pounds.
  • Female
    55 to 65 Pounds.
  • Male
    65 to 80 Pounds.
  • Female
    55 to 70 Pounds.

There are many similarities between these two breeds which is why it’s so difficult to choose one over the other. The similarities in appearance include their height of 22 to 24 inches and cute folded ears. They have long tails that are always wagging and webbed feet.

Both Retrievers have enthusiastic, happy expressions which make their owners always say that they look like they’re smiling.

Differences Between a Golden Retriever vs. Labrador Retriever

Golden

Labrador

GROOMING

  • Soft, Flowing Coats
  • Bathe them Regularly
  • Easier to Maintain, Topcoat is Shorter and More Coarse
  • They Don’t Need to Bathe as Regularly

SHEDDING

  • Lot of Hair
  • Bit More Daily Grooming Than a Lab.
  • Shorter Hair
  • Bit Less Daily Grooming Than a Lab.

ACTIVITY LEVELS AND ENERGY

  • They Love Being Active β€” Active Lifestyle, Running, Retrieving Things, and Swimming.
  • Like a More Tranquil Environment.

TEMPERAMENT

  • Prefer a More Energetic Household
  • Love a Tranquil Home Environment.

INTELLIGENCE AND TRAINABILITY

  • Fourth Most Intelligent Breed
  • Seventh Most Intelligent Breed

While both Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers look similar, they have many differences, starting from the variety in their coat colors. Goldens tend to have a creamy white to a light blonde, which can vary, and go to almost a reddish hue. Labrador Retrievers have distinct colors: yellow, chocolate, and black.

Besides that, male Golden Retrievers are a bit smaller than Labrador Retrievers. The male Golden grows between 23 and 24 inches tall, while the females can be between 21.5 to 22.5 inches. The male Labrador grows between 22.5 to 24.5 inches, and the female Lab is between 21.5 to 23.5 inches.

Weight-wise, male Labradors are a bit heavier, between 65 to 80 pounds, and females weigh between 55 to 70 pounds. A male Golden Retriever is between 65 and 75 pounds, while the female is between 55 to 65 pounds. 

These are only averages, though, and your Retriever’s exact height and weight depend on the individual animals well as their parents.

Overall, Golden Retrievers also tend to have flat or wavy coats and a “smiling expression,” while Labrador Retrievers have a broader head, more pronounced eyebrows, and a more muscular build. 

Goldens also have a longer snout, while Labs have a medium muzzle. Finally, both animals have water-repellent coats or water-resistant coats, making them perfect swimmers.

Life Expectancy: Golden Retrievers vs. Labrador Retrievers

The two most popular dog breeds don’t have too many differences when it comes to life expectancy. Nevertheless, Golden Retrievers are known to live just a bit longer than Labrador Retrievers. For example, you can expect to have a Golden for 10 to 13 years and a Labrador for 10 to 12 years.

These averages can vary depending on the animal’s life, food quality, and potential health problems. But, if you can take care of your beloved pet, therapy, or service dog, you can expect them to live a long and healthy life with you.

Living with a Labrador Retriever vs. Golden Retriever

Grooming

Having healthy dogs also means having dog hair all-around your house. And both Labs and Goldens are notorious shedders. Both of them have a double coat, which means that twice a year, they shed considerably.

Maintaining their double coats (and reducing fur all over the house) means regular grooming and brushing. Their topcoat is water-repellant, while the undercoat is super soft. They also have what is called “feathering” fur on their legs, tail, neck, and ears which you should regularly trim, but never shave. 

Golden Retrievers have been bred to have soft, flowing coats, but many purists maintain the stance that since Goldens are hunting dogs, they should not have such a coat. Whichever side you’re on, you should regularly groom your Golden Retriever. 

Use an undercoat rake and a slicker brush for the topcoat. Test out a few different brushes so you can find the ones that your adorable pup likes. You should also bathe them regularly, trim their nails, and clean their teeth and ears.

When it comes to Labradors their coat is easier to maintain because their topcoat is shorter and more coarse, and their undercoat is soft and protects them from the cold weather and water. Since Labs do not have feathering like the Golden Retriever we do not recommend trimming them to keep the integrity of the coat. As with any double coated breed you should never shave them as it can make it harder for them to regulate body temperature. 

As for grooming, use a rubber curry comb and shedding blade to clean out the fur and remove any shedded hair. We don’t recommend using an undercoat rake because a Lab’s coat is not long enough for the tool to grab the fur. 

Labrador Retrievers have another advantage in grooming: they don’t need to bathe as frequently as Goldens. But they still need nail trimmings, as well as ear and teeth cleaning.

Shedding

With double coats and shedding twice a year, you will be dealing with a lot of hair wherever you’re keeping your dog. But does a Golden shed more than a Lab?

Golden Retrievers experience everyday shedding and have thicker undercoats during the winter that shed a lot in the spring, and a lighter coat in the summer that they shed in the winter. That’s why Golden owners call spring and winter “blowing the coat” seasons since you’ll be seeing hair everywhere.

While you can’t prevent the amount of shedding from your adorable Golden, you should pay attention to brushing them weekly but increase the frequency during shedding season. If you see a lot of dead fur on your brush, you shouldn’t panic. It’s normal for your Golden Retriever to shed a lot of hair, so it’s best if you have grooming sessions outdoors rather than in the house.

Labradors have shorter hair, but they shed just as much as a Golden Retriever. And just like the Golden, a Labrador also experiences that “blowing the coat” season, so you’ll be covered in the dog shed every spring. 

That’s why you should always groom their outer coat and undercoat regularly, and try to do it outdoors. If you have any concerns or are pressed for time to groom your dog, always consult a professional groomer to help you along the way. 

So, what’s the verdict? While your Golden Retriever’s coat will shed everywhere in your furniture, yellow Labs will shed just as much. The only difference is that a Golden might require a bit more daily grooming than a Lab.

Activity Levels and Energy

From what we know about the histories of Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers, they’ve been bred to be sporting dogs. They love being active β€” running, retrieving things, and swimming. 

Golden Retrievers need at least an hour of exercise each day. Labradors are similar, in terms of their need for play, but like a more tranquil environment. All this means is that Golden Retrievers are best suited to an active lifestyle, so if you’re also an active person, they’re the perfect dogs for you.

You can take both Labrador Retrievers and a Golden on regular walks, play retrieving games with them, and jog with them. Both these dogs love being with their families and spending time with the people they love the most. 

Mental exercise, also known as enrichment, is just as important as physical activity. Enrichment lets your dog use its natural abilities such as smelling, hearing, and sight. A physically exercised dog needs rest, and a mentally exercised dog needs sleep. 10 minutes of mental activity can be as tiring as an hour of physical play. Enrichment is great on rainy/cold/hot days when physical activity is not the best option.

Temperament

If you’ve ever seen people with their male Labs or Goldens, they might refer to him as a β€œsweet boy.” And that they truly are! Their temperaments are friendly, affectionate, and gentle. Both Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers are known as kind and reliable dogs, but many wonder whether there’s a difference in temperaments.

There’s no one-size-fits-all for dogs, and they all have their personalities, depending on how they were trained and raised from a young age. But, these two specific breeds have some overall minor differences. For example, some experts say that Goldens prefer a more energetic household, while Labradors love a tranquil home environment. 

While these are minor differences, and both dogs make great family pets, you should consider your lifestyle before adopting one or the other. Golden Retriever owners should respect the dog’s need for a more engaging or stimulating environment, while those with Labradors should adapt to their need for calm and peace.

Intelligence and Trainability

The average dog is quite intelligent, but few dogs compare to Golden and Labrador Retrievers. They are both extremely intelligent breeds and are eager to please their favorite people. Neither of them is difficult to train, so if you need to, they make excellent guide dogs, service dogs, sport dogs, and rescue dogs. But because of their friendly nature, they’re not very good at being guard dogs, so they won’t be very good at preventing intruders from coming into your home.

They have some differences in terms of their intelligence, with Golden Retrievers being the fourth most intelligent breed and Labrador Retrievers the seventh most intelligent dogs. So think about your needs and how you want to train each dog before making a decision.

Barking

Dog owners know that when you have a dog, you should get used to some barking. While the two dog breeds both bark, the Labrador Retriever is known to bark slightly more than the Golden Retriever. However, the right training and cues can help cut down and even eliminate these errant barking issues.

Health Problems: Labs vs. Golden Retrievers

Being a dog owner means caring for your cute pups in every way, and that also includes keeping them healthy. Before choosing which dog you want to get, a Golden or a Lab, you should also know what health problems they’re predisposed to.

Both dogs have a higher risk for cancer, obesity, ear infections, and hip dysplasia than some other breeds.

Labradors are more prone to Entropion, a problem where the eyelids roll inwards and irritate the cornea. They can also have a malformation of the elbows and knees and laryngeal paralysis which could partially paralyze their voice box, causing difficulty in breathing and making them sound muffled when they bark.

Golden Retrievers could have elbow dysplasia caused by growths in their elbow joints, seizures, and some skin issues. But let’s look at a few of the most common causes for concern.

Genetic Diseases

Some of the diseases we just mentioned are genetic diseases. For example, the elbow dysplasia that Golden Retrievers experience is a genetic illness, including heart and eye problems. Labradors can have hip and elbow dysplasia too, as well as “exercise induced collapse” and eye diseases.

Cancer

In recent decades, veterinarians have noticed a jump in the cancer rate for these two breeds, especially Golden Retrievers. Around 60% of Golden Retrievers may develop cancer, with two of the most common types of cancer being hemangiosarcoma which is cancer in the blood vessel walls, and lymphoma, cancer in the immune system. Both these cancers affect Golden Retrievers’ hearts, spleens, and livers.  This can be helped with great genetics on the dam and sire of the puppies.

Obesity

While Goldens are more likely to develop cancer, Labradors are more prone to obesity. Around a quarter of Labrador Retrievers have a specific gene variant, making them around 8 pounds heavier than dogs who don’t carry that gene. The best way to avoid obesity is to properly manage your Lab’s weight with a rich and healthy diet, along with proper exercise. 

Overall, Labrador health problems are at a lower rate than Golden Retriever problems, but at the end of the day, every dog could have their challenges. You can prevent such health problems with proper testing and regular check-ups.

Behavior Problems: Labrador vs. Golden Retriever

Both Goldens and Labs have more energy than any other dog breeds, so managing their activity levels is key to preventing behavior problems. These breeds will start getting themselves into trouble if they don’t get enough play.

Some of the most common behavior problems that Labs and Goldens display if they don’t exercise enough are pulling on their leash, digging in the ground, jumping on people, chewing on things they’re not supposed to, and excessive barking. 

To avoid these problems, you should keep your dog mentally and physically stimulated and avoid reinforcing their bad behavior.

The Golden Retriever vs. Labrador Retriever: Compatibility with Children and Families

Labradors Retrievers are excellent with families and children, and that’s why they’re such a favorite breed. The sweet and peaceful nature fits well if your kids are young. 

Golden Retrievers are similar, but their high energy levels means they can sometimes become overly excited. If you have extremely young children, wearing out their energy through exercise and training them to respond well to your directions will be the key to helping them adapt to your home.

Allergies

Even though both Goldens and Labs belong to the Retriever breed, you could be allergic to one and not the other. Doctors say that people are not usually allergic to the fur but the dog’s dander, so their dead skin, flakes, urine, and saliva.

Because neither dogs are hypoallergenic, you should take an allergy test before deciding on adopting a Lab or a Golden.

The Golden Retriever vs. Labrador Retriever: Compatibility with Other Animals

Other Dogs

Ask any dog lover if you should get another dog, and they’ll say the more, the merrier. If you have either a Golden Retriever or a Labrador Retriever, then getting another dog won’t cause any problems in your home. Quite the opposite! 

Both Goldens and Labs make excellent companions for other dogs too, and they’ll have a friend to play with when you’re busy.

Cats

Most people who have dogs don’t think of a cat as a natural addition to the household. But if you properly train your Golden Retriever and Labrador Retriever and make a slow introduction, both breeds won’t have a problem with a feline in the house.

The Costs of Raising a Golden Retriever vs. Labrador Retriever

Initial Buying Costs

When you decide to buy a Labrador Retriever or a Golden Retriever, you will have to prepare yourself for some expenses to bring your new adorable puppy into the house. Depending on the pedigree and who you’re buying your Retriever from, the cost of a high-quality Golden can be between $1500 to $17,500, while the cost of a Lab with the same quality would be similar at $2000 to over $17,500.

Day-to-Day Living Costs

Your new dog needs quite a lot of attention and care, including toys, food, maintenance items, and more. While all of these have a price tag, it’s all worth it. On average, you can expect to spend around $2,000 per year to care for a Golden Retriever or a Labrador Retriever properly.

The Bottom Line: How Can You Choose Between a Golden Retriever vs. Labrador Retriever?

With so many similarities and differences, picking one dog or the other is quite tricky. So how can you choose between a Golden Retriever vs. a Labrador Retriever?

Spend Some Time with Reputable Breeders

If you’re in between getting Golden Retriever puppies or Labrador puppies, then you can turn to breeders. Breeders will have more information about each dog’s history, heritage, and temperament. They’ll be able to advise you on which dog would fit better for you, depending on your lifestyle.

Join Your Local Kennel Club

Your local Kennel Club will have members with different dog breeds, so you can find those who own Golden Retrievers or Labrador Retrievers. You can talk to them more about what they love about their dogs, their breeders, as well as get tips on training the dogs. You will get information from different sources rather than simply talking to one person in a dog park.

The Snowy Pines Difference

Retrievers, with their enchanting personalities and happy smiling faces, make amazing pets. So whether you’re a Golden person or a Lab person, you won’t go wrong with either one. But if you’re looking for a place to get your next English Cream Retriever, we have you covered.

At Snowy Pines White Labs, we have some of the most friendly and loyal white Labs and English Cream Retriever puppies ready for their new home. Our pups are healthy and well-socialized, and they’ll quickly adapt to your home. So look through our selection of the cutest puppies on earth and choose your next best friend.