Difference between Golden Retriever and Labrador Retriever

Written by Wen Duan

Two of the most popular breeds of dogs, the golden retriever and the Labrador retriever have been neck and neck in the AKC rankings. For the last 5 years, Labrador retriever has been 1st popular breed in the US and the Golden retriever has been the 3rd most popular breed in the US. 

Both breeds are lovable and super trainable family dogs that are great retrievers for hunting. Who doesn't love a dog that brings them things like a good retriever does?

The thing is, Labrador retrievers and golden retrievers are very similar and both make excellent loving and gentle family dogs. It is difficult to decide sometimes which one is best for your family. 

That's why I've researched the differences and similarities between both to help you figure out the difference between the two. 


Both dogs inherited many of their physical traits from the now extinct Saint John's water dog.

Labrador retrievers were originally bred to retriever ducks and fish that floated free of nets in the cold icy waters of Newfoundland and Labrador in the northern region of Canada. Their short double coat helps them keep warm in the cold waters. 

Golden retrievers on the other hand were originally bred to hunt wildfowl in Scotland. They retrieved all sorts of birds and helped recover them in the Scotland landscape made up of lakes, rivers, rocks, and crags. 


Though there is a variation of sizes for all breeds, Labs in general are bigger than Golden by a marginal amount. The largest Labs would be 1" taller than the largest Goldens. 

Golden Retriever

Labrador Retriever

Female Weight: 55-65 lbs

Female Weight: 55-70 lbs

Female Height: 21.5-22.5 inches 

Female Height: 21.5-23.5 Inches 

Male Weight: 65-75 lbs

Male Weight: 65-80 lbs

Male Height: 22.5-24.5 Inches

Male Height: 23-24 Inches

Life expectancy: 10-12 years 

Life Expectancy: 10-12 Years 


Both labs and Goldens make for great service dogs because of their intelligence and friendliness. They share a lot of personality traits. They are both easy going , happy, and great family pets. They are too friendly to be guard dogs and are likely to greet a stranger warmly rather than be protective. 

Both breeds are sporting dogs that are easy going and easy to train. This makes them ideal service dogs and great for search and rescue. They are high energy dogs that need lots of exercise and activity. Both are great swimmers and would happily go into the water to fetch a floating toy. 

The American Kennel Club describes Labrador retrievers as friendly, active, and outgoing. Labs are super friendly and socialize well with humans and other dogs. They require lots of exercise. They love to swim, fetch, go on walks and runs. They need to be kept physically and mentally fit. 

 The American Kennel Club describes golden retrievers as friendly, intelligent, devoted. Golden retrievers are eager-to-please family dogs that is also outgoing and relatively easy to train. They are energetic dogs that love outdoor play.

Their puppy like personality stays with them into adult life. Between the two breeds, the golden retrievers are a bit calmer than the Labrador retriever. 

Golden Retriever and Labrador Retriever Coats

Both have a Double Coat: 

Labs and golden retrievers both have a double coat. They have an undercoat and a top coat. 

The top coat is also known as the guard coat that helps repel water and protects from harmful UV rays. 

The undercoat is an insulator that helps them keep warm in colder months and cool in the summer. The undercoat is made up of short, soft, thick hairs. It helps them keep warm even when the top coat is wet or when the wind is blowing. 

Labs and Goldens Both Shed: 

Both breeds shed throughout the year with increased shedding in the transitional seasons, spring and fall. The main difference is that golden retriever's coats are longer thus more visible than a lab's shorter coat when shed.

Their coat length is different: 

Labrador retrievers have a short, straight, shiny, and dense coat. When touched, a Labrador retriever's coat is a short and often more course feeling to the touch. 

Golden retrievers have a long dense wavy coat that is softer to the touch. Their coat may be longer around their forelegs, thighs, around the neck, and on the underside of the tail and under body. 

Golden retrievers need more grooming than Labs: 

Since golden retrievers have longer coats, they need more maintenance. Groomers recommend brushing their coats daily with a slicker brush and bathing them about once a month. Labrador retrievers' shedding can be maintained with semi-weekly brushing. 

Labs have relatively short hair, which means that you won't notice their hair as much as you would with a golden retriever in your home. 

Physical Appearance 

When it comes to their physical appearance, both have long tails, webbed feet, long layered coats, and folding ears. 

They mainly differ in their coloring, coats, and snouts.

Golden retrievers have longer snouts that give them the smiling expression. Labs have shorter snouts and a pronounced eyebrow that sit on their broader head. Labs also have a more muscular built than the rugged golden retriever. 

When it comes to coloring the dogs are very different: 

Golden retrievers come in variation of shades of gold from a reddish brown color to light gold color. 

Labs come in black, chocolate, and yellow colors. 

Health issues 

Both breeds have a lifespan of 10-12 year on average. They also have similar health issues that they are more susceptible to. 

Hip and elbow dysplasia: Retrievers are more likely to have malformed or problematic joints cause by genetic or environmental factors. As they get older, they are more likely than other breeds to suffer from osteoarthritis. 

Cancer: both breeds are prone to cancer. Though it is more common in golden retrievers. According to Golden Retriever Club of America , golden retrievers have a higher risk of cancer (hemangiosarcoma and lymphoid neoplsia) compared to other breeds. According to National Canine Cancer Foundation, golden retrievers have a 60% chance of cancer, one of the highest in the dog world. 


Retrievers are a very special and friendly breed that are high in energy and a great addition to your family. So whether you get a golden retriever or a labrador retriever, you will get a cute, loyal, and amazing new furry family member. 

About the author

Wen Duan

Wen is a proud dog mom and a frequent contributor to our GoldenRetrieverLove.com blog.