Labrador Vs Golden Retrievers: A Side by Side Comparison

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Deciding to adopt a dog is the easy part, but choosing between a Labrador Retriever and Golden Retriever is far more difficult. Although both breeds are Retriever dogs, they don't share as much in common as you'd think.

Labrador Retrievers have closer cropped coats and a different body shape than Golden Retrievers. Their coats also come in different colors outside of yellow, such as brown or black. Both breeds are friendly, intelligent dogs that love exercise and train easily. Expect seasonal shedding from both.

This resource will be your ultimate guide to the differences between Labs and Goldens. Ahead, we'll compare the two breeds side by side in areas such as appearance, size, temperament, intelligence, grooming, training, and the cost to own. You'll easily be able to decide whether a Golden Retriever or Labrador Retriever is the right dog for you by the time you've finished reading.

In this article

How Closely Related Are Golden Retrievers and Labradors?

How much in common do the Golden and Lab share? To answer that question, let's examine the historical origins of both breeds.

Labrador Retrievers existed first, sometime in the 1830s. They were bred in Newfoundland by curious European settlers who combined the genetics of St. Johns Water Dogs with British hunting dogs. Labs were favored then by royals such as Sir John Scott, the Earl of Home, the Duke of Buccleuch, and the Earl of Malmesbury.

Golden Retrievers came from Scotland and were first bred midway through the 19th century. As the breed name tells you, Goldens could retrieve on land and in water. To produce the Golden Retriever, prior generations of retriever dogs were bred with water spaniels.

Okay, so there are no matches on the lineage. It doesn't seem like the two Retriever breeds ever intersected in those early days.

Goldens and Labs aren't the only Retrievers, by the way. Other, lesser-known Retriever breeds include the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, the Flat-Coated Retriever, the Curly-Coated Retriever, and the Chesapeake Bay Retriever. These Retriever breeds are all recognized by the American Kennel Club.

Labrador Retriever vs. Golden Retriever Appearance

Comparing Goldens and Labs in the appearance department reveals very obvious differences between the two dogs.

Labrador Retriever Description

Let's start by describing Labs. According to the AKC, Labrador Retrievers feature a bony face, flat cheeks, curved lips, a long head, and an average-sized muzzle. Their ears are low and stay close to their face. A Lab's eyes are a regular size and mid-set; they're described as friendly. Their body is wide-chested with tapered front legs and short loins.

labrador retriever vs golden retriever

A Lab's coat can be dense, straight, or short but always soft. Along the back half, the Lab's coat may be wavy. The breed's forequarters are always taller and longer than the hindquarters and its tail is thick yet tapered. Some people call it an otter tail. Labrador Retrievers come in hues such as chocolate brown, black, or yellow.

Golden Retriever Description

Per the AKC, the Golden Retriever has a broader skull with a wide and deep foreface and a straight muzzle. Their ears are shorter than Labradors with a noticeable front edge that is set lower. Their eyes are regular-sized and deeper than a Lab's eyes. The AKC says Goldens have friendly eyes as well.

The Golden Retriever features a tall neck, a deep forechest, and a short yet deep loin. Their coat is water-repellant and quite dense. If left untrimmed, the Golden can develop feathering on their belly and their hindlegs, which is another way they're quite different from Labs. Golden Retrievers are known for their golden color, but they can be lighter or darker gold and even cream-colored.

golden retriever laying in woods

Their forequarters are strong and muscular, and their hindquarters are strong but broader. The tail starts at the base of the Golden Retriever and is muscular as well so the dog can happily or excitedly wag their tail.  

Which Dog Is Bigger: Labs or Goldens?

There's a barely imperceptible difference between the size of Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers. Male and female Labs are 22 to 24 inches tall. That's also the size of male Goldens. Females are slightly smaller, 20 to 22 inches in adulthood.

As for which dog weighs more, it's practically a tie. Female Labs are 55 to 71 pounds, as are female Goldens. Male Golden Retrievers may weigh 65 to 75 pounds whereas male Labradors are 64 to 79 pounds.

Labrador Retriever vs. Golden Retriever Personality

You want a dog with a big, kind, loving personality. Is the Golden or Labrador more of what you're looking for?

The AKC describes Goldens thusly: powerful, energetic, playful, joyful, eager-to-please, devoted, intelligent, and friendly. If you want a dog that acts like a puppy as they enter adulthood and even years after that, the Golden Retriever is that dog.

The Labrador Retriever is called friendly, sociable, companionable, energetic, easygoing, outgoing, and sweet according to the AKC. As the most popular dog in America, Labs have an affable personality that people can't help but love.

Are Golden Retrievers Smarter Than Labradors?

Between Goldens and Labs, which is the more cunning of the two? A 1994 book by Stanley Cohen called The Intelligence of Dogs: A Guide to the Thoughts, Emotions, and Inner Lives of Our Canine Companions compared the smarts of Goldens and Labs. Per the information in that book, Labs were declared to be the seventh most intelligent dog whereas Goldens were called the fourth most brainy. That would mean Golden Retrievers are smarter according to Cohen.

The book is old though and is but one piece of research into the intelligence of dogs. The AKC mentions nothing about Goldens being smarter, so don't be discouraged if you're more interested in owning a Labrador. Both Retriever breeds are plenty smart and will continually impress you with their intelligence.

Labrador Retriever vs. Golden Retriever Grooming

We hope you don't mind cleaning mountains of dog fur off your couch, your clothes, and just about any surface, as both Labradors and Golden Retrievers are shedders.

labrador laying down

We wrote about a Lab's shedding habits here. Per that article, Labradors shed twice per year during molting season. The first time they'll shed is in the spring, as the Lab will remove their heavy winter coat to prepare for warmer weather. Expect another round of shedding in the fall as your Lab develops a thicker coat. Each shedding period lasts about three weeks.

Golden Retrievers follow the same shedding schedule. However, as we mentioned earlier, the Golden has longer fur, so when the dog sheds, there's a lot more fur to go around.

To maintain your Golden Retriever's coat, brush your dog once per week when they're not shedding and then about daily during shedding season. You can also bathe your Golden ahead of their grooming to dislodge all those dead hairs that keep attaching to your clothes.

Labs need bathing slightly more seldom, but then again, that depends on how dirty your dog gets. You'll brush them about weekly and nearly daily when they shed. 

Labrador Retriever vs. Golden Retriever Exercise

One thing that Labradors and Golden Retrievers share is their love for physical activity of all kinds.

Labs were originally working dogs, revered for their detection abilities, tracking, hunting, therapy assistance, and carting. If they don't get at least 30 minutes of exercise daily, then their urge to do something physical can manifest in misbehavior. For example, your Lab might chew up household objects.

Golden Retrievers, being retriever dogs on land and in sea, were also bred to be active. A half-hour of activity might not cut it for the Golden, so try to give the dog an hour of exercise per day. Some Goldens can even romp around for upwards of two hours, but that depends on your dog's age, health, and personality.

golden retriever laying down

If you're bringing home a Retriever puppy, you can't expect to exercise it that much right away. You'll overexert the poor thing and put its health at risk. Instead, for each month of life the puppy has had, tack on five additional minutes of exercise.

For example, if you adopt a five-month-old Lab or Golden, you'd multiply 5 x 5 for a max of 25 minutes. This shouldn't be overly vigorous exercise either, but playing fetch or going for a walk with your puppy. Playtime generally does not count towards a dog's overall daily exercise requirements.

Do Golden Retrievers Smell More Than Labradors?

No one likes a stinky dog, that's for sure. Even if you bathe your Retriever regularly, is one breed prone to smelling more than another?

No, a Golden Retriever shouldn't smell more than a Labrador. Labs may have seborrhea if their sebaceous glands are overactive. This condition is common in Labs. Having seborrhea can lead to an oily, slick coat that might get stinky.

Then again, an oily coat can just as easily be a sign of hypothyroidism, which will cause dandruff, pimples, puffiness, and lethargy. Keep reading for more on the health issues that affect Labs vs. Goldens.

We will say this: if you've recently bathed your dog, they haven't done any hard playing, and they still smell like sweaty gym socks at the bottom of a clothes hamper, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian. The stink is indicative of a health issue.

Labrador Retriever vs. Golden Retriever Health Issues

Next, let's compare the health issues in Golden Retrievers and those that Labrador Retrievers are more likely to develop.

Labrador Retriever Health Issues

  • Cancer: Canine cancers common of Labradors are mast cell tumors, lymphoma, and/or osteosarcoma, which affects the bones. The symptoms could include lumps, vomiting, decreased appetite, and weight loss.
  • Seizures: Cancer is one cause of seizures in dogs, as are head injuries, kidney disease, liver disease, and blood pressure changes. Your Lab may foam at the mouth, chew their tongue, drool, or twitch during a seizure.
  • Elbow dysplasia: When the bones in a Lab's front legs grow unnaturally, such as in elbow dysplasia, pain can follow.
  • Arthritis: Canine arthritis can occur from dysplasia as well as joint trauma, nagging injuries, osteochondrosis, and aging. The stiff joints limit a Lab's mobility.
  • Laryngeal paralysis: In a case of laryngeal paralysis, your Lab's airway may be blocked, preventing deep breathing. Vets and experts are not sure what causes this condition, but it's definitely a serious one.
  • Hip dysplasia: A dog's hip socket and ball socket are supposed to fit naturally. When these areas misalign, it can lead to friction and rubbing whenever your Lab moves their body.  

Golden Retriever Health Issues

  • Low thyroid: Golden Retrievers may have low thyroid, which is also known as hypothyroidism.
  • Cataracts: Vision blockages in the form of cataract clouds often require surgery to remove. Without treatment, cataracts can cause blindness in a dog.
  • Luxating patella: The kneecap dislocation known as a luxating patella can make your Golden favor their other three legs over the bad one. They may also skip, hop, or limp to avoid stepping on the bad leg. 
  • Von Willebrand disease: If your Golden Retriever lacks the proteins to make their blood clot, then they may have Von Willebrand disease. The symptoms can include hemorrhaging out of various areas of the body, but dogs can also be asymptomatic.
  • Cancer: Like Labs, Golden Retrievers may develop cancers like osteosarcoma, mastocytoma, and/or lymphosarcoma.
  • Subvalvular aortic stenosis: A congenital defect, the heart condition called subvalvular aortic stenosis causes the left ventricle to shrink in size so blood flow cannot occur to and from the heart.
  • Skin issues: From lipomas to sebaceous cysts, seborrhea, sebaceous adenitis, and lick granuloma, a Golden Retriever is prone to many painful and uncomfortable skin conditions. Some can cause oily fur and others hair loss.
  • Hip dysplasia: Just as Labs can have hip dysplasia, the similarly-sized Golden Retriever can as well.

If you read our post on Goldadors, which are a combination of Labs and Golden Retrievers, then some of these health afflictions may seem familiar to you.

Labrador Retriever vs. Golden Retriever Training

Training your dog at the basics is a must, but what kind of training experience can you expect with a Labrador versus a Golden?

As we wrote about here, Labs are considered quite easy to train. They love the exercise, they want to make you happy, and they're highly intelligent. With some treats and lots of verbal and physical praise, you can encourage a Lab to learn just about anything, even guarding.

Golden Retrievers also train with little difficulty provided you put the time and work in. These dogs are smart, ready to learn, and happy to work with you to nail down basic commands such as sit, stay, and lie down.

Labrador Retriever vs. Golden Retriever Cost

There's just one more question you have about Labradors and Golden Retrievers. Which is the more expensive dog?

Labs might cost $800 to $1,200 and Golden Retrievers anywhere from $1,000 to $4,000. Do keep in mind these are averages and by no means indicative of what you might pay to adopt one of these dogs. The factors that influence the cost of a dog are the breeder you choose, where you live, if the dog has any rare genetics, and the health and quality of the dog.

Should You Get A Labrador or Golden Retriever?

As you can see, there's plenty of reason to consider either one of these wonderful breeds. It is unlikely that you'd end up disappointed with either decision.

happy goldador

However, if you find yourself really torn to make a decision one way or the other, consider a Goldador!

A Goldador is a mix between a Lab and Golden Retriever. I wrote an article specifically about them and would recommend checking it out. This may be the solution you need!


Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers share the Retriever name, but they're not the same in all respects. Now that we've compared these two breeds in full, you're one step closer to adopting the perfect dog for you and your family.