Golden Retriever vs. Labrador Retriever: Which Is Best?

Golden Retrievers and Labradors, how do you choose between them?

Loving, kind and playful, they are two breeds that make the perfect family pet.

Golden Retrievers are one of the most adored dogs in America. Not only do they have a beautiful long golden coat, but they are also incredibly gentle and sweet. They are trusty partners that will always try to cheer you up with hugs, kisses and their goofy personality.

Labrador Retrievers are actually the most popular dog in America. It is their friendliness, playfulness and fun personality that makes them so beloved. There is not a moment that will not be exciting or where you will not be laughing with your Lab.

Since these dogs are so popular and similar it can be confusing to know which one to bring home. Keep reading to find out their differences and similarities…

Golden Retriever vs. Labrador Retriever

Differences Between Golden Retrievers and Labradors

Coat Color

Labrador Retrievers
Three Labrador Retriever dogs.

Golden Retrievers come in golden colors, as their name suggests!

These shades can range from a lustrous light golden cream to a rich, dark red. They should not have any white hairs. The feathering on their legs and belly can be a lighter color than the rest of their coat.

Labrador Retrievers come in three colors: black, chocolate, and yellow.

These colors must be solid and any markings are considered a fault. If you see a retriever with white paws or a white chest, they probably are a mixed breed Lab and not a purebred.

Golden Retrievers will never be black or chocolate.

If you see a retriever dog in black or chocolate you know that it is not a Golden Retriever.

Yellow Labradors can confuse some people into thinking that they are some type of Golden Retriever. There is some overlap between the Gold and Yellow coat colors.

White champagne Labradors can be as light as a white cream.

Fox reds can have such an intense yellow that they look like a red Golden Retriever. Color alone cannot always tell you the difference between these dogs.

Coat Type

Golden Retriever dog

Golden Retrievers have a dense, double-layered and medium-length coat.

The outer coat can be straight or wavy and it should feel firm (not silky) when running your hands through it.

It should only have short hair on its head, front of the legs and paws. Usually the hair on its chest is longer and feathering is seen on the back of their legs, underbody and tail.

The coat of a Labrador is known for being short, straight and very dense.

When touching it, it should feel very firm.

A Labrador Retriever will never have long or wavy hair. Any dog you see with hair that is not stuck close to its body is likely a mixed breed, like the Border Collie x Lab mix.

Looking at coat length is one of the best ways to tell apart the Golden Retriever vs. Lab.

Golden Retrievers can never have short hair. Their hair will always be between one and three inches. On the flip side, the most that a Labrador’s hair will grow is one inch.

The difference between these two breeds in fur length will be about an inch.

However, both dogs do share in common that their coats are water-repellant. This is a feature they get from being originally bred for hunting water fowl.


Golden Retriever service dog
The Golden Retriever’s coat does require a bit more upkeep and grooming.

As a modest shedder the Golden Retriever does not need a lot of brushing.

Brushing its coat twice a week with a pin brush is enough to remove all the dead hairs and redistribute the natural oils on its fur.

Maintaining their coat is not hard, but it is necessary to keep their long fur knot and mat free. It is recommended that they are fully groomed every four weeks. A groomer will give them a bath, good brushing, trim, and nail clipping.

The Labrador is a modest shedder that needs weekly brushing.

Like the Golden Retriever it does shed more when preparing for the heat of the summer or the cold of the winter. During this time both dogs will need to be brushed daily.

The good thing is that a Labrador does not need to visit a groomer. Its short coat should never be clipped or trimmed.

As long as you are confident with bathing your dog every four to six weeks at home, you will not need a groomer! Just remember to also clip its nails when you hear them clicking against the floor.

Golden Retrievers and Labradors shed the same amount of hair.

It might be more noticeable for a Golden Retriever since it has long hair, but there is no difference in how much they shed. You will be picking up the same amount of hair from the floor for both of them.

If you think in terms of grooming, the Labrador is easier to keep.

For an owner that does not know a lot about grooming, or does not have the time to meticulously brush their dog’s coat, the Labrador would be best.

Activity Levels

A happy Yellow Labrador laying on the ground
A happy Yellow Labrador laying on the ground

A Golden Retriever has a lot of energy so you will have to exercise it quite a bit.

They enjoy swimming as much as Labradors do and they will never say no to a walk in the woods or going on a camping trip.

This dog will need at least an hour a day of walks to be happy. Their working genes demand that they are exercised, as well as trained.

Training is another important part of deciding between a Golden Retriever vs. Labrador Retriever.

They are a malleable and very smart breed so training will be easy, this is why they are so great for first time owners. Labradors can be handled by first time owners but they might find them a bit stubborn.

A Golden Retriever is full of zest and life but it knows when to chill out more than a Lab.

Their energy levels do not match those of the Labrador. Labradors are easy going and gentle, but do not let that side of them make you forget that they are super energetic working dogs.

The Labrador will want to stay active longer and be nudging you to do more with them. They can be very angsty if they do not get the time they need to exercise.

For a family that is more easy-going they probably want to choose a Golden Retriever.

Labradors are also a bit more vocal and will bark.

They are both horrible guard dogs because of how much they love people, but the Labrador Retriever might bark when they see something suspicious. Goldens will stay completely silent.

If you don’t mind a bit of noise then you will be perfectly happy with a Lab, but a family that wants a quiet dog will find the Golden best.

When it comes to living with these dogs the Golden Retriever is the easiest. This is mainly due to its more laid-back nature.

Health and Cancer

Golden Retriever vs. Lab
Both breeds live from 10 to 12 year old.

Life expectancy is something that Golden Retrievers and Labradors have in common.

But even so, Labradors are a bit healthier because Golden Retrievers have such a high chance of developing cancer in the later stages of their life.

In a study done by the Golden Retriever Club of America it was found that as much as 61.4% died of cancer.

Goldens tend to be healthy dogs, but like most of their retriever cousins they are prone to inheriting various genetic diseases.

The most common health issues include: elbow and hip dysplasia, progressive retinal atrophy, exercise induced collapse, and subvalvular aortic stenosis.

Labrador Retrievers are generally healthy dogs too. They even share some of the same genetic diseases: elbow and hip dysplasia, progressive retinal atrophy, exercise-induced collapse, obesity and gastric torsion.

Health issues unique to them include hereditary myopathy (muscle weakness) and cardiac problems.

Golden Retrievers and Labradors share many of the same diseases so medically caring for one will not be so different than for the other. As a consequence, both dog breeds have the same life expectancy of 10 to 12 years.

Family Compatibility

Golden Retriever sitting on the grass
Goldens know how to have fun but keep their cool when around small kids.

Sweet, silly, playful, and gentle are some of the best qualities that make Golden Retrievers a great choice for families, especially those with little kids.

These dogs love to play as they are so full of energy but they are never overwhelming.

They know how to be patient with small children and might even add a bit of humor to each play session because of their goofy side. They never seem to grow out of their puppy phase, which is a quality that children really enjoy.

What families love in Labrador Retrievers are their friendliness and high-spirit.

There is never a dull moment with them, life is all about wonder and excitement.

These dogs are so full of energy that they will want to play with you all day. Every day is just a new adventure so you’ll find that they make great hiking partners. Any thing that keeps them moving will make them happy, especially swimming.

Labradors are great family dogs because of their willingness to play and have fun.

They get along great with children, but they are recommended for families with older kids. Their energy can be overwhelming and sometimes they might not know how to control their own strength.

If a Labrador were to play with small children, it should be supervised at all times.

For families that want a playful dog that isn’t hyperactive, the Golden is the best choice.

Labradors are also great with children, but they can be overwhelming and those from working lines can be mouthy. If your family is more active and has older kids, the Labrador is the better choice.

Similarities Between Golden Retrievers and Labs


Chocolate Labrador

Both Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers are large dogs.

When it comes to size it can be hard to spot the difference between them.

Golden Retrievers measure between 21.5 and 24 inches. Females tend to be 1.5 inches shorter. That might not seem like a huge difference but that 1.5 inch does translate into 10 pounds worth of a difference.

Females weigh between 55 and 65 pounds while males weigh between 65 and 75 pounds.

Labrador Retrievers are very similar in height ranging from 21.5 to 24.5 inches, but females tend to be only one inch shorter.

The weight for a female is 55 to 70 pounds while for males it is 65 to 80 pounds.

If you measure these dogs from the floor to their withers, you won’t find much of a difference between them.

Labradors might be a bit bulkier, especially a large American working Lab. If you catch one of these dogs you will feel their well-defined muscles under their smooth coat.

Goldens can work too, but they are not as muscular and their muscles are often hidden under their long coat.

SizeGolden RetrieverLabrador Retriever
Height (inches)Female: 21.5-22.5
Male: 23-24
Female: 21.5-23.5
Male: 22.5-24.5
Weight (pounds)Female: 55-65
Male: 65-75
Female: 55-70
Male: 65-80

Personality and Temperament

Black Labrador laying in the middle of a path

Both Golden Retrievers and Labradors are excellent family dogs. They have an ability to balance friendliness and joy of life with a patient and gentle nature.

Golden Retrievers have a heart of gold to match their golden hair.

These dogs are one of the most friendly, trustworthy and devoted pets that you can have. They have a shining personality that just exudes joy whenever they enter a room.

These social butterflies just want to make friends with everyone. Their playfulness and silly puppy behavior will make anyone smile, and they will do their best to keep you happy.

Goldens are evenly-tempered dogs that know how to balance their enthusiasm and energy with lightheartedness and calmness. They are amazing dogs for children because of their gentle and docile nature.

Labrador Retrievers are the definition of spirit and friendliness.

According to their breed standard their temperament is as much of a hallmark as their “otter” tail.

They are kind, outgoing, eager to please and non-aggressive.

Labradors are enthusiastic people pleasers and they get along with anyone, no matter if they are an animal or person. They just want to spend as much time as they can with their family having fun and showing love. If it were up to them, they would be playing with you all day.

They love to play and know how to take it slow when they are around kids, which is what makes them such great family dogs.


Golden Retriever face

There is a lot of debate on whether Golden Retrievers and Labradors differ in price.

The truth is they do not vary in price.

For both breeds you can expect to pay between $500 and $3,000.

Good places where you can start your search for either of these puppies is the Labrador Retriever Club and the Golden Retriever Club of America.

Their price depends on its pedigree, breeder and health.

You will often find both breeds ranging from $1,500 to $3,000 from reputable breeders, they tend to be more expensive but you are paying for the quality of the dog. You should not pay more than this if you just want a family pet.

Lighter Golden Retrievers can be more expensive than their darker siblings. Some breeders might advertise them as a rare English Cream colors to try to get you to pay more.

On the other hand, the Chocolate Lab tends to be more expensive than the Black and Yellow because its coat is due to a rare recessive gene.


Golden Retriever standing outside

The Golden Retriever owes its existence to Dudley Marjoribanks, the first Lord Tweedmouth.

In 1865 Lord Tweedmouth acquired a “Yellow Retriever” from a cobbler and three years later he crossed it with the now extinct Tweed Water Spaniel. His hope was to create the ideal gundog that could handle the rainy climate of the Scottish Highlands.

Lord Tweedmouth bred the first Golden Retrievers in 1868. He wanted an exceptional working dog able to hunt game on the ground and in the water.

Eventually these golden dogs made their way into the dog shows of Britain to show off not just their incredible obedience and agility but also their beauty and elegance.

The Golden Retriever Club of England was founded in 1911 and shortly after the Kennel Club recognized these dogs. In America these dogs became recognized in 1925.

While they have always been admired, it was not until the 1970s that their popularity really skyrocketed when President Gerald Ford brought his Golden, Liberty, into the White House as a family pet.

Many people might be misled into thinking that Labrador Retrievers take their name from their birthplace, the truth is that they did not come from Labrador.

This breed descends from the old waterdogs of Newfoundland who accompanied fishermen in catching fish and chasing after waterfowl. These dogs caught the fancy of English gentlemen in the early 1800s who then brought them to England to standardize the breed.

Why these Englishmen called these dogs Labradors is unknown.

The Kennel Club first recognized the breed in 1903 and the American Kennel Club in 1917.

Labradors became very popular sporting and hunting dogs, valued for their incredible working abilities. They are now America’s top dog and have been for over twenty years. They are also one of the most popular breeds chosen to do service work.

These two breeds might have different birthplaces, but they were bred for very similar purposes.

Both breeds are true working dogs that are able to take on similar jobs. They were both used to hunt water fowl, which is why they have webbed feet and double coats that are water resistant.

Yellow Labrador


CategoryGolden RetrieverLabrador Retriever
Size (inches)Female: 21.5-22.5
Male: 23-24
Female: 21.5-23.5
Male: 22.5-24.5
Weight (pounds)Female: 55-65
Male: 65-75
Female: 55-70
Male: 65-80
ColorLight to dark goldenBlack, yellow and chocolate
CoatMedium length and straight or wavyShort and straight
PersonalityFriendly, easy-going, devoted and sillyFriendly, trustworthy, kind and outgoing
OriginScottish HighlandsNewfoundland, Canada
GroomingFully groomed every four weeksDoes not need to visit a groomer
WalksAt least an hour a dayAt least two hours a day
Price$500 to $3,000
Life Expectancy10-12 years
Family CompatibilityAffectionate with young children, good with other dogsGreat with older children, good with other dogs

Golden Retrievers and Labradors are very similar in many aspects which is why they can be so easily confused.

Both dogs are very similar in size, but the Labrador will be slightly bulkier and muscular.

Their most distinctive features are their colors and coats.

Golden Retrievers will always have long coats that range from a light cream color to a dark golden. Labradors will only have short hair and can only come in three standard colors: black, chocolate and yellow.

Sometimes yellow Labradors can be confused, but just remember that they can’t have long hair. In general, the coat of Golden Retriever will be an inch longer.

Personality-wise both dogs are incredibly loving and get along with everyone.

They are super playful and energetic which makes them great family pets.

What makes them different is that the Golden is a bit more calm and less overwhelming. It is a better choice for smaller children.

Labradors do better with older children and active families who are always on the go.

Goldens are pretty energetic too, but they will tire out more easily and can adapt to fit the needs of a more easy-going family.

When choosing between a Golden Retriever vs. Labrador Retriever, you should really think about which one will fit best with your lifestyle. Both are equally family-friendly and loveable.

One thing that all families need to have in common to own one of these dogs is that they need to give them a lot of love, affection and quality time. Neither dog does well with loneliness because they just love their family too much.

Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers will both bring you equal amounts of joy into your life.

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