Golden Retriever vs. Labrador: A Definitive Comparison

Both the Golden Retriever and the Labrador Retriever are two of the most popular dog breeds in the world. Their popularity among dog lovers is unmatched. Both these breeds have certain overlapping traits and skills. Their affable, loving and kind nature make them fan favorites. However, most people have been overwhelmed with the age-old debate of which breed is better. Let us consider some comparisons to get a clearer idea of the pros and cons of each breed.

Golden Retriever History

Hailing from Great Britain, the Golden Retriever’s history can be traced back to 19th century Scotland, when the creator of the breed, Lord Tweedmouth’s desire for the perfect gundog led him to cross a wavy coated Retriever with a Tweed Water Spaniel.

The Golden Retriever we see today is a result of this initiative and later modifications over the years. Golden Retrievers gained popularity in American after America’s 38th president -Gerald Ford adopted a Golden retriever and named it Liberty. It was often televised as a family pet. Originally this breed was bred as a sporting dog that assisted hunters by retrieving downed prey.

The Golden Retriever has a lovable, devoted and friendly demeanor that attracts all dog lovers. The appearance of a Golden Retriever may vary according to the location of its breeding- like the ones bred in Britain are larger and more muscular than the American and Canadian versions.

Labrador Retriever

The ancestry of the Labrador Retriever can be traced back to Newfoundland, Canada. Developed as a working dog and used to retrieve fish and ducks for fishermen, this breed has also undergone significant changes over the years.

Their impressive skills led English nobles and hunters to bring them to England and the US as waterfowl retrievers. There are two types of Retrievers- the working American kind and the British show type Labrador. Both these types differ in terms of their appearance and temperaments.

Comparing Golden Retrievers and Labradors

Comparing Their Sizes

Both the Golden Retriever and the Labrador Retriever are similar in terms of size. Slight differences also exist with regard to their built. The males of each breed tend to be larger than their female counterparts.

Golden Retriever

The Golden Retriever is slimmer than the Labrador. On average, an adult male Golden Retriever weighs around 65-75 pounds and grows to a height of 23-24 inches. A typical female weighs around 21.5-22.5 inches and weighs an average of 55-65 pounds.

Labrador

A Labrador has a broader chest and head as compared to a Golden Retriever. A male Labrador, on the other hand, grows to a height of 22.5-24.5 inches and weighs around 65-80 pounds. A female of the breed weighs 55-70 pounds and grows to an average height of 21.5-23.5 inches.

Comparing Their Coats

Both the Golden Retriever and the Labrador have dense double coats that are water-resistant. However, the real difference in terms of their coats is the length of coat hair that gives each breed its distinguished appearance.

Golden Retriever

The top-coat of Golden Retrievers have soft, wavy coat hairs that distinguish them distinctly from a Labrador. The upper-coat is flowy while the lower coat is quite dense. The coat grows fully by the time the pup is one and a half years old.

The main difference between the two breeds becomes pronounced in this regard. The coat coloration of a Golden Retriever is true to its name- a luscious golden, but there may be variations in terms of pigmentation – resulting in lighter to darker shades of golden. An adult Golden Retriever’s coat color can range from white-golden to shades closer to red.

Labrador

Labradors also have a dense double coat but they have shorter coat hair. The usual coat colors in a Labrador are black, chocolate and yellow. Again the pigmentation of the colors- much like Golden Retrievers- may vary from lighter to darker shades.

Grooming and Shedding Comparison

Both the dog breeds are extreme shedders and hence require expert grooming. Moreover, both the Golden Retriever and the Labrador love to playing, running and rolling in the mud, therefore, they require frequent baths. As both these breeds love spending time in the water, establishing a bathing routine should not be an issue.

However, bathing them too often may affect their natural coat oils adversely, causing dry skin. Their coat requires frequent brushing, especially during the shedding season.

During winters, to retain heat the undercoat of both these breeds grow thick and during summer and spring, the hairs begin to shed. This period demands much more frequent brushing and grooming.

Golden Retriever

Some Golden Retrievers have more luscious and flowing coats than others. However, all dogs of this breed-irrespective of the length of their coat hair- need frequent grooming.

Their coats require frequent brushing- brushing the coat at least once a week is recommended for Golden Retrievers. For the top-coat, a steel-tooth comb or a slicker brush works well to prevent the hairs from matting. For the bottom coat, an undercoat rake is recommended. This will help remove the hair shed from the undercoat.

Their coat might also need trimming. Use thinning shears to effectively trim the longer hairs. Areas around their ears, feet, tail and neck may also need trimming every couple of months. The bathing schedule has to be fixed at a four-week frequency.

Once a month check its ears for infections and redness. The nails of a Golden Retriever must be frequently trimmed every two weeks. Its teeth must be cleaned daily to avoid plaque build-up.

Labrador

The shorter-haired double-coat of a Labrador requires similar grooming protocols. As they do not have a flowing coat, trimming around the ears, neck and tail is not needed. The grooming requirements of the Labrador is comparatively less than the Golden Retriever.

However, their coat also needs maintenance. They are master shedders that need a good grooming regime. Labradors too require an undercoat rake to remove loose hair from their undercoat. For the top-coat, a slicker brush or comb can be used.

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The Labrador coat requires brushing at least once a week. The frequency of brushing doubles during the shedding season. They too need to be checked regularly for ear infections. Their nails need to be trimmed and teeth cleaned frequently.

Comparing Their Temperaments

There are some unmistakable similarities between a Golden Retriever and a Labrador in terms of their temperaments and personalities. Both the breeds are extremely friendly, affable, active, loving and playful. They are also loyal, sociable, gentle and kind dogs, which are well-suited for families with kids and novice dog owners.

Both breeds are also suited for tasks like search and rescue operations. They both are top choices for the role of service dogs and hunting dogs. Their mild demeanor makes them favorites among dog lovers. Their easy-going nature makes them extremely trainable.

Early training and socialization can help eradicate any potentially unwanted behavioral traits. Both dogs are extremely intelligent and make quick learners. There is an almost negligible difference between the two breeds in terms of intelligence. As both breeds respond well to such training they are extremely popular choices.

Their sweet and loving demeanors also make them a popular choice for crossbreeding. Lifestyle choices of the owner will determine and guide this choice between these two very similar dog breeds.

Golden Retriever

Golden retrievers are calm, loving, kind and gentle dogs that make great family dogs. The activity level of a Golden Retriever is a light lower than a Labrador. This means that a Golden Retriever likes to laze around during the day after it has exhausted itself from exercising and playing.

They prefer quieter and more peaceful households. It is a breed that loves relaxing just as much as it likes outdoor time. Apart from running around leash-less, napping and cuddling are favorite activities for most Golden Retrievers. Golden Retrievers are believed to be the fourth most intelligent dog breed in the world.

Their intelligence aids them in adapting quickly to training regimes. The ease of training a golden retriever is also one of the advantages of the breed. They fit well in a multi-pet household as they are congenial toward other animals. Golden Retrievers are a slightly softer breed than Labradors. Golden Retrievers are not the best guard dogs owing to their extremely friendly nature.

Labrador

A Labrador has a very similar temperament and demeanor, accompanied by extremely high energy levels. This hyperactive breed loves activity and constant engagement. They fit well in households with loud, boisterous children.

Longer periods of playtime and extended exercise routines are necessary for Labradors. They need intensive physical and mental stimulation as in absence of adequate activity engagement they tend to become bored and destructive.

They also suffer from separation anxiety and hence, cannot be left alone for long periods of time. Labradors are the seventh most intelligent dog breed in the world and are equally adept at learning novel things.

Due to their herding instincts, they may require supervision when living in a multi-pet household. Their friendly nature makes them an unsafe choice for the role of guard dogs.

Exercise Regimes Befitting Each Breed

Both these breeds are active- with the Labrador being hyperactive- and they require a detailed, regularized exercise routine to effectively release their pent up energy. At least an hour of exercise daily is recommended for both the Golden Retriever and the Labrador.

Both these breeds need constant physical and mental stimulation to avoid getting bored. They both enjoy running around leash-less in the yard or the park, playing fetch and playing with frisbees. Agility courses are well-suited for both these breeds.

Golden Retriever

Golden Retrievers need sufficient exercise and outdoor time, otherwise, they tend to display certain unfavorable behavioral traits like jumping on people, chewing on everything in sight, pulling on their leash, etc.

Labrador

Additionally, the Labrador loves to swim- due to its lineage. Swimming can be a good exercise routine for your Labrador. Enough exercise is mandatory for these hyperactive dogs as otherwise, they tend to become destructive.

Ease of Training

With their high level of intelligence, both breeds respond well to training. Both breeds are among the world’s most trainable ones.

The Golden retriever as well as the Labrador are predisposed toward pleasing their masters and hence are relatively easy learners. This quality makes them a fan favorite-especially among novice dog owners. Both breeds are suitable as guide dogs and sniffer dogs.

Early socialization and training is key to developing command following behaviors among both Golden Retrievers and Labradors. Positive reward-based training regimes work best for both these breeds.

Dietary Needs of Both Breeds

Both these dog breeds need a well-rounded diet to fuel their energetic selves. Always select nutrient-rich foods that enhance the health of your furry friend.

The food should be age-appropriate and your dog’s activity level has to be taken into account.  However, owners have to be mindful of the tendency to overeat in both these breeds and the predisposition toward becoming obese. 2-3 cups of dry dog food are recommended for both breeds.

Rationing food is a prudent idea when feeding either a Golden Retriever or a Labrador. Labradors are especially at a higher risk of suffering from obesity than Golden Retrievers.

Comparing Their Health Concerns

As purebred dogs, both breeds inherit several predispositions toward ailments. Both the Golden Retriever and the Labrador are prone to certain breed-specific illnesses. It is important to have a complete understanding of the health concerns these dogs can experience before deciding on either as a pet.

Some of these health concerns are shared by both breeds while others are more specific to either one of the two breeds. It is important to check the health of the parents to ensure a healthy offspring.  Both breeds have an average life span of 10-12 years.

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Golden Retriever

One of the most common health problems Golden Retrievers suffer from is cancer. Golden Retrievers are prone to Osteosarcomas, Lymphomas, Mast Cell Tumors and Hemangiosarcoma. The cancer-induced fatality rate among Golden Retrievers is quite high- at 38% for European Golden Retrievers and 61% for the American ones.

There is no way of predicting the future development of cancers in these dogs. Moreover, neutering in females of the breed also increases their risk factors and makes them more susceptible to cancers.

Hip and elbow dysplasia are extremely common among the members of this breed. This results in the development of painful arthritis due to joint malformation. In severe cases, this may also lead to complete immobility in the dog. 

These dogs are more prone to contracting allergies than other breeds. Skin infections and rashes are common in Golden Retrievers. Golden Retrievers are also known to commonly suffer from a congenital heart defect known as Subvalvular Aortic Stenosis. This defect blocks blood outflow from the heart.

Golden Retrievers suffer from several eye diseases as well. The most common ailment among these diseases is PRA or Progressive Retinal Atrophy. This progressively degenerative disease can lead to complete blindness in them.

Pigmented Uveitis is an inherited eye condition that is almost exclusive to the breed. This results in the inflammation of the uvea and can lead to blindness. Golden Retrievers are also prone to cataracts.

Labrador

Although the possibility of suffering from cancer is lesser in a Labrador, they are more prone to certain cancers like Lymphoma and Mast Cell Tumors. They can also develop cancer in the liver, spleen and lungs. Labradors like Golden Retrievers suffer from hip and elbow dysplasia that can be managed with palliative medicines.

Overeating can also result in compromised bone and cartilage development in young Labradors. Excessive exercising leads to loss of muscular control and causes younger Labradors to collapse. Such episodes may last for as long as 25 minutes. This is an inherited condition that commonly occurs when young Labs get overexcited while exercising.

PRA, Glaucoma, cataracts are all possible health issues that commonly affect Labradors. If proper medical attention is not provided to the dog, these conditions can result in blindness.

Do They Make Good Family Pets?

Both breeds make excellent family pets and thrive well in households with kids. Their temperaments and personalities are well-suited for family environmentsmaking them widely desirable.

Golden Retriever

Golden Retrievers are excellent fits for households with kids. They make wonderful family dogs. They love attention, cuddles and spending time with people. They also jell well with other pets in the household owing to their affable nature. Their loyal, sociable, friendly and gentle demeanor makes them the perfect pet.

Labrador

Labradors are also great matches for families with kids. However, because of their hyperactive nature and herding instincts, they may initially knock smaller children down. With training and supervision, these behaviors can be controlled. They are extremely lovable and social dogs that love the company and are an excellent fit for families.

Average Price of a Pup

Both breeds have a wide-ranging price bracket. The average price of a Golden Retriever pup is around $500-$3000. A Labrador pup will be priced around $800-$1200.  The Golden Retriever’s price upper limit is higher than the Labrador.

Things to Remember:

While selecting a pup or rescuing one belonging to either of the breeds, one has to remember certain important things. Try and meet the parents to gauge a sense of their personalities and temperaments. Inquire about the parent’s health. This is essential as it will give you a clearer idea of what kind of dog you can expect.

Discuss the parents’ health test scores with the breeder. You should also ask for health certificates to ensure a healthy puppy. If you are buying a Golden Retriever puppy be sure to ensure that the parents have no history of cancer in their lineages. Adopting is always a better option as this helps you provide the dog with a loving home.

Comparative Overview

  1. Size: Both breeds weigh around 55-80 pounds. Labradors may be larger than Golden Retrievers.
  2. Lifespan: Both breeds have similar lifespans of 10-12 years.
  3. Energy levels: The Labrador is hyperactive and hence, more energetic than the Golden Retriever.
  4. Temperament: Both dogs are gentle, friendly and lovable. They are highly energetic and playful.
  5. Coat and Shedding: Both dogs have a water-resistant double coat. Golden Retrievers have longer coat hairs that are soft and flowy. Labradors have shorter, wiry coats. Both dogs are extreme shedders. The color of their coats also varies.
  6. Grooming: Golden Retrievers require more frequent grooming and brushing (at least thrice a week) than Labrador (once a week). The former also require frequent trimming.
  7. Exercise and Training: Both breeds need regular exercise and are easy to train.
  8. Diet: As breeds predisposed to developing obesity, their food has to be rationed. 2-3 cups of dry dog food per day are recommended for both dogs.
  9. Health Concerns: Both breeds suffer from certain ailments common to medium-sized dogs. Comparatively the Labrador is the healthier of the two breeds as its conditions are medically avoidable as well as manageable. Golden Retrievers are at a higher risk of developing some form of cancer.
  10. Fit for families: Both breeds are an excellent fit for families.