Golden Retriever vs. Labrador Retriever (Are They the Same?)

Sometimes, it can be hard to tell certain breeds of dogs apart. This can happen when they look similar and have similar dispositions. Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers are examples of two dog breeds that can be difficult to tell apart.

Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers are two separate but similar breeds of dog. Both are medium-sized dogs who are generally healthy, intelligent, and friendly. The Labrador has a shorter coat and is more energetic while the more patient Golden Retriever has longer fur that will require more grooming.

If you’re interested in learning more about the similarities and differences between a Golden Retriever and Labrador Retriever, read on. You will learn some valuable information about both of these breeds, which will help you decide which one is right for you.

Golden Retriever vs. Labrador Retriever

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Golden and Labrador Retrievers at a Glance
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Is a Golden Retriever a Labrador Retriever

CharacteristicGolden RetrieverLabrador Retriever
Popularity#3#1
Land of OriginScotlandCanada
Life Expectancy10 – 12 years10 – 12 years
Size21 – 24″ tall21.5 – 24.5″ tall
Weight55 -75 lbs.55 – 80 lbs.
Coat LengthLong hairShort hair
Coat ColorsShades of gold /
Cream to Red
Yellow, Black
& Chocolate
GroomingDaily brushingWeekly brushing
Energy LevelHighVery High
Exercise
Requirements
1 hour a day1+ hour a day

Similarities Between Golden and Labrador Retrievers

There are many similarities between these two breeds.

Appearance

One reason why a lot of people confuse Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers is that they can be quite similar in appearance, (depending on their coat color). Both of these dogs are medium-sized, although Labradors are, on average, slightly taller and heavier.

Both breeds have double coats, consisting of an outer coat and an undercoat to keep them warm. Each dog sheds regularly and need to be brushed daily or weekly. Usually, they will grow very thick undercoats in the winter and shed them in the spring and summer over a period of about three weeks.

They also both have soft mouths, which will allow them to carry items without damaging them. This is a trait that makes both of these dogs ideal for retrieving and hunting.

Life Expectancy

Goldens and Labs each have a similar life expectancy of between 10 and 12 years (see my article here for some tips to increase the lifespan of these dogs).

Temperament

Both Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers have very similar temperaments. These dogs are social, kind, affectionate, obedient, and friendly. They are each known to be very sweet-natured and loving pets.

As someone who’s owned both of these dogs, I can tell you both breeds are extremely loyal and protective of the family. Neither of these dogs play “hard to get” or are aloof in any way. You are their whole world, and they will love you with everything they’ve got!

Also, Goldens and Labs are part court jester too, and they will have you regularly laughing out loud due to their many antics.

Labrador Retriever coat colors.
Labrador Retriever coat colors.

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Exercise Requirements

Golden and Labrador Retrievers were each bred to be working dogs and as such, they have a lot of energy. Because of this, they have higher exercise requirements than your average dog. They will each need about 60 minutes of vigorous exercise daily.

As is suggested by the “Retriever” in both of their names, they enjoy retrieving objects, such as Frisbees and tennis balls. Playing fetch is just about their favorite game in the world and playing fetch in the water is even better!

Speaking of water, these two breeds are 100% water dogs. My black lab (named Shady) jumps in our pool about 20 times a day, no matter the weather and my golden retriever Jackson loved, loved, loved the beach!

They both make good running partners (see my article here about running with you dog), although you should talk to your veterinarian before you regularly take your dog running to make sure that his joints will be able to handle it. They also both enjoy playing games, wrestling around, and agility exercises.

Training

Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers are both very intelligent dogs. They also love to please their masters. Put these two traits together and you have a very trainable dog.

In fact, they’re easy trainability is one reason why both of these breeds are often selected as working dogs, such as sniffers for many professions (see my article here about working Golden Retrievers) and guide dogs for the blind. However, you do need to be consistent with them to ensure a well-behaved dog.

Socialization is also important for both of these breeds. This is the best way to make sure that they will grow up into well-mannered adult dogs and can deal well with people and other animals inside and outside the home.

Golden retriever with light colored coat.
Golden Retriever

Health

Generally, both of these breeds are healthy dogs. However, they are predisposed to similar health conditions, which include the following:

  • Hip and elbow dysplasia. This issue is quite common in medium-sized and large dogs. It involves abnormalities in the formation of the joint’s ball and socket, which can lead to lameness and painful arthritis in their hips and elbow joints.
  • Exercise-induced collapse. This is somewhat uncommon, but these two breeds are among the few that can experience this. After excessive exercise, the dog can lose control of his muscles. The symptoms can include dragging of limbs and the inability to move. In very severe cases, it can be fatal.
  • Progressive retinal atrophy. This involves the degeneration of the dog’s retina, which can lead to vision loss over time.

Differences Between Labrador and Golden Retrievers

Even though there are many similarities, there are also some significant differences between Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers.

Appearance

Although we did mention that these dogs are similar in appearance, they are not identical. For example, Labrador Retrievers are somewhat more slender looking than Goldens, which is largely because of their different types of coats.

As I touched upon earlier, both breeds have double coats. However, the Golden Retriever’s outer coat is somewhat long, wavy, and soft. In addition, a Golden will often have “feathers” of long wavy hair on their legs, stomach and tails. The outer coat of the Labrador, on the other hand, is relatively short and dense.

This means you need to groom a Golden Retriever a little more often, including trimming the longer fur around his neck, ears, feet, legs, and tail about every two months. You don’t need to do this with a Labrador Retriever.

There are some facial differences as well. The snouts on Golden Retrievers are longer, and Labradors have more muscular builds and heads that are somewhat broader.

It would be best if you also bathed the Golden Retriever a little bit more often; Goldens should be bathed every four weeks, and Labradors should have a bath about every six weeks. Fortunately, both of these breeds love water, so bathing will not be as much of a struggle as it would be with some other dogs.

Golden Retriever vs Labrador Retriever

Coat colors on a Labrador can vary more than on Golden Retrievers. As per the American Kennel Club (AKC) breed standards, purebred Labrador Retrievers come in yellow, black, and chocolate varieties while Golden Retrievers come in various shades of gold, with coat colors from cream to reddish (see my article about Golden Retriever coat colors with pictures here).

As they grow older, a Golden Retriever’s coat will change somewhat to either a dark golden red or white color, whereas the Labrador will generally maintain his overall coat color but with some gray hairs, particularly on their faces and snouts.

There is also a difference in the appearance of the dog’s tail. The Golden Retriever’s tail is long, with long hair that will plume and move from side to side as he is walking. In contrast, a Labrador Retriever has a tail with short hair that is long and thick and looks like an otter’s tail.

Health

Generally speaking, these dogs are both fairly healthy, with many of the same prevalent health conditions in common. However, if you get a Golden Retriever, you should know that he has a higher predisposition to cancer.

A study done in the late 1990s showed that 61 percent of golden retrievers died of some type of cancer. This is thought to result from a genetic mutation within the Golden Retriever gene pool in North America.

There is a long-term, ongoing study being done by the Morris Animal Foundation that’s trying to determine why this is the case.

Temperament

Although these dogs are very similar in temperament, there are some key differences as well. For example, Labrador Retrievers are generally more energetic than Golden Retrievers. They need more physical and mental stimulation, as well as more general entertainment.

When a Golden Retriever is done exercising, he’ll like to lie around and relax with his family, while a Labrador Retriever will stay boisterous and excitable.

A Labrador is more likely to become restless, which can often result in destructive behavior if you leave him at home for long periods of time. Labs are more predisposed to separation anxiety. This is why it’s a good idea to leave him with stimulating toys, such as puzzle toys and automatic treat dispensers like this one at Amazon.

Labrador or Golden Retriever: Facts

This problem doesn’t exist so much for a Golden Retriever, who can fairly easily entertain himself if he’s left at home for a while. Although separation anxiety can be an issue with Goldens, it’s much more subdued. Overall they are a more laid-back and easy going dog.

Golden Retrievers are generally more gentle and patient, as well as sensitive. This might make them a better dog for anyone who has very young children at home. Labradors are also wonderful with children, but they can sometimes be more excitable than the children can handle.

Conclusion

Clearly, both Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers are wonderful dogs. However, they are not the same. There are a few significant differences between them that can actually make one a better fit for your home than the other depending on your lifestyle.

If you choose the right dog, you’ll almost certainly have a friend for life with either of these incredible breeds.

Additional Breed Comparisons


Sources

Bryan Mullennix

Bryan's a freelance travel photographer and happy dog dad. He currently lives in Las Vegas with his wife, his son, and two dogs Nom Nom & Speck.

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