Golden Retriever vs Labrador – Two of the Most Popular Dogs to Choose

golden retriever vs labrador

Golden Retriever vs Labrador. Labrador vs Golden Retriever.

The decision is going around and around in your head.

Which is the best breed for your new pet?

Well, don’t worry! We’ve taken a balanced look at both, to compare their characteristics and help you make a decision.

So you want to add a pet to your family.

Well, if you have children, then this is great news!

Studies show that children in homes with either a cat or a dog are healthier, happier, less moody, more physically active, and better behaved than kids who do not have a pet.

When it comes to dogs, specifically, a canine companion in the home can encourage more daily steps across all family members.

The animals can reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and keep all family members moving doing the cold and dreary months of winter.

Now that you are sold on a dog as the perfect addition to your home, you may be hemming and hawing between two of the most popular dogs out there:

The Golden Retriever and the Labrador.

As you really think about the Golden Retriever vs Labrador debate, you may need a bit more information to push you in the right direction.

Golden Retriever vs Labrador – The Great Debate

It may not seem like a true debate, but many families have a difficult time choosing between a Golden Retriever and a Labrador.

Why does such an issue exist between the Yellow Lab vs Golden Retriever?

To start, the dogs both have a rich history starting as sporting dog breeds.

golden retriever vs labrador

Golden Retriever History

Golden Retrievers can be traced back to the 1800s.

During the early 19th century, the abundance of English and Scottish game allowed for hunting as both a sport and a way to procure food.

To help with the retrieval of the game, a medium-sized dog was desired to fetch game both on land and water.

The Golden Retriever was just such the dog, at least once water spaniels and retrievers were bred to create the Golden.

The breed has long been recognized in both Scotland and England, and in 1925, it was recognized by the AKC.

As of right now, Golden Retrievers are the AKC’s third most popular dog breed.

Labrador History

Coming in at number one as the most popular AKC breed is the Labrador.

Like many other canines, the dogs are given an English and an American distinction.

However, the naming conventions have nothing to do with the origin of the dogs.

English Labradors are the show dogs, while the American ones are the working dogs.

Believe it or not, the English or show Labradors are the ones most of us are familiar with, and this is the canine you are more likely to adopt as a pet in the United States.

Labradors have been recognized by the AKC since 1917.

However, the dogs have been around much longer.

The canines originated as Newfoundland working dogs.

These working water dogs are the direct ancestors of the Labrador.

Specifically, the canines were brought to England in the 1800s and were bred as hunting dogs.

They originally, and officially still, came in three colors – Black, Chocolate and Yellow. But these pretty dogs now vary in shades too, with some dilute genes like that found in the Silver Lab appearing in more recent years.

The popularity, rich history, and of course, the well-known loyalty of the Golden Retriever and the Labrador…

It is easy to see why it it is so difficult to choose between the two canines.

Golden Retriever vs Lab Size

If you are ready to start looking at the different characteristics of Golden Retrievers and Labradors, then you should begin with the basics and examine size.

Both Labradors and Golden Retrievers are considered medium to medium-large dogs.

However, some classifications, like the AKC, state that the Golden Retriever is a large dog and the Labrador is a medium-sized one.

Well, when you look at the height of the canines, you will see that both dogs come in at about 21 to 24 inches, depending on the sex of the dog.

However, while Labradors are typically the same length from breastbone to hindquarters as their height, Golden Retrievers are a bit longer.

Also, you may notice that Labradors have a sloped back and shorter legs, while the Golden has a stockier structure, adding to the larger build of the canine.

So basically, if size is an important canine characteristic to you, then consider the fact that Golden Retrievers are a bit larger than Labradors.

Both dogs tend to weigh about the same, though, and Labradors will sometimes even be a bit heavier than Goldens.

Labrador vs Golden Grooming

If you like to keep your pets in tip-top shape (and who doesn’t?) then you may want to know a little bit about the grooming needs of the dog you choose to own.

Well, Golden Retrievers require a bit more grooming than Labradors.

This probably means that the Lab wins out on this issue of the Golden vs Lab debate.

Goldens have medium-length hair, and since the canines are on the bigger side, they have a lot of dense hair to care for.

Ideally, Goldens should be groomed once a day at the most and about three days a week at the very least.

This is necessary to remove loose hair from the undercoat and also to keep snarls and tangles at bay.

You can use a slicker brush as well as an undercoat rake to meet the canine’s grooming needs.

When it comes to Labrador Retrievers, a trip to the groomer every few months may be in order as well, since baths are generally needed at least a few times a year.

You can, of course, bathe your canine at home too.

When it comes to Labradors, grooming is a whole lot easier.

The dogs have short hair that is also a bit dense. Most of the time, a quick brushing once a week is all that is required to help remove loose hair as well as any dirt.

However, there is then the issue of Golden Retriever vs Labrador shedding…

Golden Retriever vs Labrador Shedding

It probably will not come as a surprise that Golden Retrievers shed quite a bit since they have a great deal of long hair.

The canines shed moderately during the winter and summer months.

Unfortunately, they will shed heavily in the spring and fall. This helps your dog adjust to the temperature changes with a fuller or lighter coat.

You may need to groom your Golden multiple times a day during the spring and fall to control the tumbleweeds of hair flying around your home.

Since Labradors have short hair, they leave very little of it behind.

However, your Lab may actually shed a bit more than you think he will.

The dogs have a double coat, just like Golden Retrievers, even though the coat is not nearly as extensive.

So you will see a similar shedding pattern during the spring and fall.

Hair may accumulate in your home to some degree, but you probably will not see the massive piles of hair like if you had a Golden Retriever.

You should stick to a twice-daily brushing regimen, though, to get the loose hair off your dog’s body while he sheds.

Difference Between Labrador and Golden Retriever Temperament

Of course, you want to know about the unique personality traits that make both Labradors and Golden Retrievers two of the most popular canines in the United States.

Well, the dogs do have somewhat similar personalities.

Words like friendly and loyal are typically used to describe the pups, and so are terms like family pet and energetic.

While both dogs are extremely keen on spending time with their families, Labradors are often described as outgoing.

They are also a bit more clumsy, so if you want the cutesy dog that is going to jump around and play games with your children, then a Labrador may be your best option.

If you are looking for a dog that is active but calmer and more likely to become a companion than a playmate, then a Golden Retriever may be best.

These dogs both thrive on social interaction, though, and separation anxiety may become an issue if you leave your canine home often.

Both Labradors and Golden Retrievers also like to chew, so make sure to provide appropriate items for the canines so they do not eat your favorite pair of shoes.

Dental chews, especially the hard varieties, are a great alternative to explore.

Studies show that these help to reduce oral issues like periodontal disease.

Golden vs Labrador Health Problems

So you want the healthiest dog possible, but you know that dogs often have health problems directly related to their heredity?

This is true for almost all canines, including Golden Retrievers and Labradors.

Of course, some ailments are worse than others for your pocketbook, your canine, and your emotional health.

Health Issues of Both Breeds

Golden Retrievers and Labradors share some health issues due to their size.

For example, both dogs can develop hip and elbow dysplasia issues.

The joint problems are genetic, and they also may develop due to environmental and physical factors like a poor diet, obesity, and high impact exercise involving the joints.

Also, the dogs are both prone to a disease called progressive retinal atrophy (PRA).

This illness is a retina degeneration ailment.

Specifically, the disease is an inherited one, where abnormalities are detected in the photoreceptors that line the retina.

Unfortunately, PRA, like many other degenerative eye diseases, will cause progressive blindness. The disease usually develops within the first year.

When buying a puppy, both the Lab and Golden Retriever buyer should make sure the parents are hip and elbow scored, PRA clear, and have a recent eye test.

However, there are some health differences too.

Golden Retriever Health Issues

Golden Retrievers have some other health problems that are specific to their breed.

They are prone to other eye diseases besides PRA, like the development of cataracts.

Of all genetic eye diseases though, Golden Retriever Pigmentary Uveitis, or GRPU, is considered one of the most common.

The illness is marked by eye inflammation as well as intraocular pressure. As intraocular pressure increases, so do the chances of your canine developing glaucoma.

Thankfully, glaucoma and GRPU can be treated with medications that reduce inflammation and pressure.

Scientists have also been studying these eye diseases, as well as PRA, for some time.

They have started to come up with some promising treatments to help canines, like Golden Retrievers, live happy lives with clear vision.

Retrievers are prone to hypothyroidism as well as something called subaortic stenosis.

Subaortic stenosis is a congenital and hereditary issue that involves a blockage inside the heart.

The blockage places stress on the organ, and this can lead to sudden death.

This happens with serious cases, but it is wise for your dog to undergo a full heart examination if you are concerned that the issue may be present.

Cancer can develop in Goldens, as well, and these dogs are more likely to develop the disease than others.

In fact, around 50% of all Golden Retrievers will develop cancer.

Lymphoma, osteosarcoma, mast tumors, and hemangiosarcoma are the different types of cancer that Goldens may develop.

While researches know that Golden Retrievers are prone to the development of cancer, there is not yet a clear answer as to why.

This is why an ongoing 3,000-participant study is currently being conducted.

The study is run by the Morris Animal Foundation and allows researchers to look at a variety of factors that may contribute to cancer risks.

Labrador Health Issues

Labradors have some of their own health problems, just like Golden Retrievers.

Like these dogs, Labs can develop hypothyroid issues and abnormalities of the heart.

It also should be noted that Labradors are prone to more joint issues than Golden Retrievers.

For example, studies show that elbow, hip, and other dysplasia issues are seen in the same dogs.

Also, osteochondritis can affect many of the joints.

Diabetes is also an issue seen in Labradors, but this problem is not exactly a genetic one.

Diabetes is linked to obesity, and since many Labradors become overweight, they can develop the ailment.

There is a specific genetic component you should be aware of.

Recent studies suggest that Labradors are genetically predisposed to begging behaviors and other actions that help them garner more food.

Exercise-induced collapse is something to be aware of as well with Labradors.

This ailment is noted in canines when they exert a lot of energy through rigorous exercise within a short period of time.

During the episode, dogs will develop muscle weakness, clumsiness, and they will then collapse.

The issue is life-threatening and requires medical attention.

However, Labradors can live long and happy lives with the ailment, as long as they exert only moderate energy while exercising.

Labrador Retriever vs Golden Retriever

Now you know the difference between the Lab and Golden Retriever.

So you can try to make the harrowing choice between the two dogs.

They each have some distinctive features and some genetic health issues to be aware of.

But both dogs are wonderful choices.

The Golden Retriever has some more serious health issues, but the Lab is often bouncier and pushier as a pet.

So which would you prefer?

If you want to know more about which dog may be right for you, then speak with your veterinarian. This is especially important if you are concerned about medical issues.

Of course, you also want to adopt the canine that speaks to you and your family.

Have you already made the difficult decision between Golden Retriever and Labrador?

Or have you experienced the loyalty and love of both of these breeds?

Let us know in the comments below.

Find Out More


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Ann E. Cooper, Saija Ahonen, Jessica S. Rowlan, Alison Duncan, Eija H. Seppälä, Päivi Vanhapelto, Hannes Lohi, András M. Komáromy. A Novel Form of Progressive Retinal Atrophy in Swedish Vallhund Dogs. PLoS ONE, 2014; 9 (9): e106610. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0106610

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  1. I guess both breeds are great.

    I live with Loti, a Golden Retriever that I adopted after he suffered for the death of his previous owner.

    This is my first dog.

    Loti is 5 years old now and is with me for almost 4 years.
    Loti is simply a wonderful creature. He is tender, loving, playful, caring. He is smart and intelligent.


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