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Golden Retriever vs Labrador (8 Major Breed Differences)

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It can be tough to decide which is the better dog for you when it comes to Labradors vs. Golden Retrievers.

For starters, Golden Retrievers and Labradors are fairly similar in size, and they are both highly intelligent and love to be around humans.

However, there are some key differences between the two breeds that make them better suited to certain homes and lifestyles.

Read on to find out what makes a Labrador Retriever different from a Golden Retriever and which is the best dog for you!

Labrador Vs Golden Retriever

Main Differences Between Golden Retrievers vs. Labradors

The main differences between Golden Retrievers and Labradors are:

  • Golden Retrievers are originally from Scotland, whereas Labradors are originally from Canada.
  • Golden Retrievers are fairly light for their size, whereas Labradors are much heavier.
  • Golden Retrievers have a slimmer ribcage, whereas Labradors have a much broader chest.
  • Golden Retrievers have a long, feathery outer coat, whereas Labradors have a short, oily outer coat.
  • Golden Retrievers range in color from light cream to fox-red, whereas Labradors come in a variety of colors.
  • Golden Retrievers are very clingy and dependent on their owners, whereas Labradors are more independent.
  • Golden Retrievers love competition, whereas Labradors prefer not to be in competition with others.
  • Golden Retrievers are more cautious in new situations, whereas Labradors tend to go full-throttle into any new situation.

Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers suit different kinds of owners and living situations.

They both require a lot of love and attention and will bring you plenty of joy!

Golden Retrievers vs. Labradors: Introduction

Golden Retrievers and Labradors are two of the most well-loved breeds of dogs in the world!

In fact, the Labrador ranks as the number-one favorite breed, and the Golden Retriever comes in at third place (just behind the German Shepherd in second place) according to surveys conducted by the AKC for 2021.

These dogs are both loveable, can fit into big and small families, do well with other animals and small children, and are full of personality.

However, as I touched on earlier, there are some key differences between the two breeds to keep in mind. Let’s take a closer look at those differences below.

1. Golden Retrievers vs. Labradors: Origins

Dogs have been selectively bred for various reasons by humans for millennia. The Golden Retriever and the Labrador are no different–each breed was originally developed for a specific purpose.

Golden Retriever

Golden Retrievers originally come from the Scottish Highlands in the late 1800s. These dogs were bred as gun dogs. More specifically, they were bred to have very large yet soft and gentle mouths to carefully retrieve prey their owner had shot.

The Golden Retriever’s “soft mouth” allows them to retrieve prey without causing any damage to the prey animal. This makes them very useful for duck hunting, quail hunting, rabbit hunting, and fox hunting!

Labrador

Labradors were originally bred in Canada in the mid-1800s by fishermen and hunters who took to the rivers and lakes to hunt birds, fish, or other small mammals.

Similar to the Golden Retriever, Labradors were also bred to have large, soft mouths so they would not damage the prey they retrieved for their owners.

For many years, Labradors were mainly bred as water gun dogs.

They are strong swimmers and were often used to dive into lakes, rivers, or marshes to retrieve prey from the water.

Today, they are still a common and reliable hunter’s companion.

2. Golden Retrievers vs. Labradors: Weight

Both Golden Retrievers and Labradors are medium-sized dogs. However, due to the way each dog has been bred over the years, they have slightly different average weights.

Golden Retriever

Goldens typically weigh in at 55 to 75 pounds on average.

They were bred to be lightweight and agile in order to move faster and chase after prey their owners shot down on hunting trips.

This was because their owners were not always 100% accurate and sometimes only wounded the animal instead of killing them.

To ensure their prey didn’t manage to escape, hunters would send their Golden Retrievers after them to retrieve them.

Labrador

Labradors typically weigh in at 55 to 80 pounds on average. This is because they have been bred to have denser bones that make them heavier.

The dogs’ heavy, dense bones allow them to dive down into water more easily to chase after fish and ducks that may be trying to get away after being shot by their owner.

3. Golden Retrievers vs. Labradors: Build

Goldens and Labradors look fairly similar in height. However, Goldens are typically described as being more graceful and slimmer-looking than Labradors. This is because the two breeds have a slightly different bone structure in their chests.

Golden Retriever

Golden Retrievers have slim, narrow chests. They were bred to have this slim chest because the underbrush in the Scottish Highlands is very dense and can be difficult to run through.

Their narrow, thinner build allowed them to cut through the dense underbrush and chase after fallen prey quickly.

Labrador

Labradors, on the other hand, were bred to chase after prey in the water. They have much broader chests compared to Goldens, which makes them look quite stocky.

This is not purely an aesthetic difference!

Labradors’ larger chests enable their lungs to expand more, which allows them to change their buoyancy.

This helps them float in the water without having to paddle and waste energy while looking for their owner’s prey.

4. Golden Retrievers vs. Labradors: Coat

We all know the typical look of a Golden Retriever and a Labrador.

One is long-haired, and the other short-haired.

This is not a mistake in their breeding. These dogs were selectively bred for their long and short coats as they perform specific functions!

Golden Retriever

Golden Retrievers have a dense undercoat to protect them against the freezing weather of the Scottish Highland winters.

Interestingly, though, their long outer coats have very little to do with keeping them warm.

The Golden Retriever’s long, feathered outer coat was actually designed to protect them as they ran through the brambles and other thorny vegetation from scratching their delicate skin.

Labrador

Labradors also have a dense undercoat to protect them from the freezing Canadian winters and icy cold water.

On top of their undercoat is a thick, short outer coat of fur that is slightly oily to the touch. This oily outer coat acts as a barrier against water.

This oily outer coat repels moisture and protects the Labrador’s undercoat from becoming saturated when the dogs would fetch prey from rivers, lakes, and other bodies of water.

5. Golden Retrievers vs. Labradors: Coloration

There tends to be a lot of confusion over the coloration of Labradors and Golden Retrievers.

Some people believe the breeds are so similar that they come in the same colors. In reality, though, the two breeds each have their own distinct range of coat colors.

Golden Retriever

Golden Retrievers have a small color range with no visible markings in their coat. They are born a very light cream color, and as they age, they turn a more golden color or end up as what is known as ‘fox-red.’

A fox-red Golden Retriever is a reddish, burnt rust or auburn color. There are no black, gray, brindled, or spotted purebred Golden Retrievers.

As Goldens get older, their coat color gradually deepens into a darker golden or fox-red color, and they do not go gray!

Labrador

Purebred Labradors only come in three different colors.

They can be a light creamy yellow color, brown (which is also known as chocolate), or black.

Labradors do not have any visible patches, spots, stripes, or markings in their coats.

Labradors’ coats don’t change much as they age. The coat color they are born with is generally the color they will stay.

However, they will develop gray hairs that are focused around the muzzle and eyes as they grow older.

6. Golden Retrievers vs. Labradors: Dependence On Humans

When deciding on what type of dog you want in your home, it’s recommended to think carefully about their temperament and how dependent on you they will be.

Some dogs are incredibly needy by nature and will need you to be home a lot, while other breeds are much more laid-back and independent.

Golden Retriever

Golden Retrievers certainly fall into the “clingy/needy” category.

They need their humans to be around often, and they are happiest when they get regular physical attention in the form of cuddles, games, walks, and puzzles.

Unfortunately, this also means Goldens are prone to developing separation anxiety if they are not trained carefully or their routine is interrupted and they suffer some kind of trauma.

Keep in mind, too, that these dogs are incredibly intelligent, and they can become equally destructive if they feel abandoned or are allowed to become bored.

Labrador

Labradors are far more independent dogs compared to Golden Retrievers.

They are happy to make their own fun and games, run outside by themselves, and generally will not develop separation anxiety as easily as Goldens or other similarly clingy breeds.

However, they are also highly intelligent and can still become destructive if they are allowed to become bored and are not exercised regularly.

7. Golden Retrievers vs. Labradors: Trainability And Competitiveness

Both breeds of dogs were bred to be very active and intelligent and to perform specific jobs for their human companions. As a result, both breeds are highly trainable and task-oriented. 

However, the way each breed tends to go about completing these tasks, especially when met with competition, is very different from one another.

Golden Retriever

Golden Retrievers are highly competitive by nature and love a challenge. They are people pleasers and will constantly try to find ways to gain your approval.

This means they will try to out-compete other dogs for your affection and attention, especially if you have given them a task to do.

Fortunately, this is all in good fun, as they are happy pack animals and do not display aggression in more competitive settings.

Labrador

Labradors, on the other hand, do not like competition and can become fairly grouchy and upset if they constantly have to compete with other dogs for your affection, attention, or task completion.

Unlike Goldens, these dogs prefer to work alone when they have been given a job to do and will eagerly demand their praise whether you have time for it or not.

8. Golden Retrievers vs. Labradors: Overall Temperament

Before deciding on which breed you want to bring into your home, one of the most important things you need to decide on is which breed matches your lifestyle the best.

Golden Retrievers and Labradors have very different personalities and fit better into certain homes and family structures.

Golden Retriever

Goldens have very cautious temperaments. They do not run head-first into a situation before carefully thinking about and trying to solve the problem in their heads. 

While their Golden Retrievers are weighing up the pros and cons of a situation, some less patient owners often get tired of waiting and force their dogs into a position where they have not decided if they are comfortable or not.

This can make Goldens more anxious and unnecessarily cautious over time.

Labrador

Labradors, on the other hand, are an ‘act first, think later’ kind of dog.

They will enthusiastically run into just about any situation before deciding whether it is safe, scary, or appropriate to do so.

This works wonderfully if you live an active life and will be taking your Labrador on all your adventures. This is something they are instinctively happy to do!

If you have a more reserved and laid-back personality, though, this behavior can be exhausting.

FAQs About Golden Retrievers vs. Labradors

Do Labradors and Golden Retrievers shed the same amount?

Both Labradors and Golden Retrievers shed roughly the same amount of hair.

Both breeds shed lightly throughout the year and will have a serious shedding season during spring as they lose their very heavy winter undercoat.

Both breeds will need to be brushed two to three times a week to prevent their undercoats from becoming matted and compacted, which can quickly become very painful for the dog.

We’ve had many Labs and Goldens come through our house and in general the amount they shed is similar. However, individually I’ve had Labs and Goldens that shed more or less than others.

Two things I’d mention about dogs and shedding:

  1. Golden fur is much longer than Lab fur so it may appear that a Golden sheds more than a Lab.
  2. Depending on the color of your dog and your decor you may see more or less fur in your home. For instance, my first dog was a black Lab mix and I had black interior in my car. I noticed very little fur in the car but lots of fur at home.

Which breed is easier to train, Labradors or Golden Retrievers?

Goldens and Labs are both very intelligent dogs, which makes them easy to train.

Both breeds are used as working dogs as well as service animals, as they are easy to train and will stick to their training.

Can you mix Labradors and Golden Retrievers?

Yes! Labradors and Golden Retrievers have been bred with one another for decades.

A mixture of a Golden and Lab will give you a Goldador! These dogs combine the best of both species into one package.

To read more about this hybrid dog, check out my dedicated article on the Golden Retriever Lab mix!

A lot of service dog schools are mixing Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers to try and get the best traits of both dogs for the perfect working service dog.

Rolling Over On Golden Retrievers vs Labradors… 

Labradors and Golden Retrievers are two of the most well-loved dogs in the world! They are both very intelligent, energetic, trainable, and love their families fiercely.

Neither dog is necessarily “better” than the other–they merely suit different types of dog owners with different lifestyles.

There are several key differences between the two breeds you can refer to when determining which one better suits your own lifestyle and preferences. To recap, the differences are:

  • Their origins
  • Their size
  • Their chest size
  • Their outer coats
  • Their coloring
  • Their level of independence
  • Their level of competitiveness
  • Their temperament

Good luck choosing the right dog for you!

Hopefully, this article has helped you choose between these two excellent breeds.

Be sure to carefully consider all of the breeds’ characteristics before deciding which fits into your life best.

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Labrador vs Golden Retriever - black and yellow lab puppy in down position

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