Trying to decide between a golden retriever and a labrador retriever?
First off, if you’ve narrowed your search to these two breeds, you can’t go wrong.
Both golden retrievers and labs are medium to large, family friendly dogs with lots of love to give.
And they are both among America’s top dogs, with the labrador coming in at #1, and the golden retriever coming in at #3 on AKC’s 2018 most popular breeds chart.
Every dog is an individual, and you can learn a lot from meeting the dog’s parents, but there are some typical traits for each breed that may help you choose which one is right for you.
Firs, we’ll go through an overview of each breed, then, we’ll talk about how they compare on some important aspects of dog ownership, including:
- Energy levels
- How good they are with kids
- How good they are with other dogs and other animals
- And much more
Let’s dive in!
Golden Retriever Overview
Golden retrievers are playful lovers with a lot of energy.
They have long, beautiful, golden coats, stand a little shorter than two feet tall, and have bushy tails that seem to always be wagging.
They were originally bred in Scotland over 150 years ago to retrieve gunned down birds.
And although they’re still used as hunting dogs today, you can also find them walking hospitals as therapy dogs, or helping individuals as service dogs.
They’re smart and need a lot of training (which they love doing), but it’s tough to beat a golden retriever if you’re looking for a family dog.
Labrador Retriever Overview
The Labrador is America’s most popular dog for a reason.
They’re sweet, playful, enthusiastic, relatively easy to train, and loyal.
Like golden retrievers, they stand about two feet tall, but unlike goldens, they have short, wiry coats that come in yellow, black, or chocolate colors.
They were originally bred as hunting dogs and to this day are still one of (if not the) most popular hunting dogs.
They’re athletic, loving, and make great family pets for those that can manage their energy and keep them entertained.
Alright, now let’s get into the nitty-gritty of how these two dogs compare!
Golden retrievers are high energy dogs that need daily exercise.
Walks, games of fetch and tug, trips to the park and the occasional run will help get them the exercise they need.
Labradors are high energy dogs, too, and require the same games and activities as goldens to burn off some energy.
However, labs are a bit more energetic than golden retrievers.
If you have an active lifestyle, both golden retrievers and labs will fit into your home nicely.
And although both breeds have lots of energy, labradors typically have slightly more.
Are They Good For Families & Children?
Golden retrievers make excellent family dogs.
They absolutely love spending time with people and are great with kids.
Labradors are excellent family dogs as well.
They love people and kids, but given that they are a little more boisterous than retrievers, and often don’t know how big they are, they can get overexcited and knock small children down.
If you have a family, a lab or golden retriever would make a great addition to it.
They’ll love spending time with you and bring endless joy to everyone.
However, if you have small children and you decide to get a lab, you’ll need to watch out because labs sometimes don’t know how big they are and can get overexcited and knock small children down (even though it’s all out of love).
Golden retrievers are very intelligent dogs.
Plus, they love to please people.
These two factors make them relatively easy to train.
Labs are also smart dogs who are eager to please, too.
So labs are one of the easier breeds to train as well.
Golden retrievers and labs are both intelligent dogs who want to please their humans, so they are both relatively easy to train.
Golden retrievers have a sweet, gentle, loving, goofy temperament.
This is what makes them great family dogs and easy to train.
Labradors have similar temperaments to goldens with some slight differences.
They are kind and loving too, but a little more rough and tumble than the gentle golden retriever.
Both breeds are sweet, good-natured dogs and it’s tough to find a better dog for a companion than either of these breeds.
However, golden retrievers are slightly softer than labradors.
Coat & Shedding
Golden retrievers have a soft, flowy coat that ranges from white to gold, to red.
It’s a double coat (a dense undercoat and a flowy top coat) that grows in fully when they’re about a year and a half old.
Their coats require regular brushing and they shed a lot, especially in the spring and fall.
Like golden retrievers, labs have a double coat and they shed a lot.
And like golden retrievers, they especially shed in the spring and fall.
The big difference is that while golden retrievers have a soft and flowy top coat, labradors have more of a wiry coat.
Both breeds shed a lot, so if you’re debating between these two breeds, hopefully you don’t mind dog hair everywhere.
The only differences here will be, do you want a dog with a soft flowy coat, or a dog with more of a wiry coat?
Speaking of coats, let’s talk grooming…
Because of their double coat, golden retrievers require brushing every 1-3 days.
This will help with the shedding, get rid of dead fur and skin, and prevent matting.
They also require regular bathing (~1x/month), teeth cleaning (recommended daily), ear cleaning (~1x/week), and nail trimming (every two weeks) just like any other dog.
Where golden retrievers need to be brushed every 1-3 days, labradors only need to be brushed once a week (a bit more during molting season).
A like goldens and other dogs, they’ll need the regular grooming chores done as well.
Labradors have a slight edge here, needing to be brushed only once per week, compared to daily or almost daily brushing for golden retrievers.
(Read more about golden retriever grooming here.)
According to Very Well Health, it’s possible that people can be allergic to one dog breed and not another.
Therefore, you may be allergic to golden retrievers and not labs, or vice versa.
Also, according to WebMD, fur is not the major culprit of allergens, but dander (flakes of dead skin), saliva, and urine are.
So just because goldens typically have more fur to shed doesn’t necessarily mean they’re more likely to cause an allergic reaction in someone.
Since you may be allergic to one breed and not another, you likely have as good of a chance of being allergic to a lab as a golden retriever.
Neither of these dogs are hypoallergenic, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will give you a reaction if you’re allergic to dogs.
If you want to see if you’re allergic to either one of these breeds, you can talk to your doctor about getting allergy shots, or spend some time with them and see how you feel.
I’m allergic to some dogs, so before we decided we wanted a golden retriever, I went to a friend’s house and spent some time with his golden to see if I was allergic to him.
Thankfully, I wasn’t, and we ended up getting Oliver.
According to the AKC, below are the breed standards for golden retrievers.
Males: 23-24 inches tall, 65-75 pounds
Females: 21.5-22.5 inches tall, 55-65 pounds
According to the AKC, below are the breed standards for labradors.
Males: 22.5-24.5 inches tall, 65-80 pounds
Females: 21.5-23.5 inches tall, 55-70 pounds
With both breeds, you’re likely to get about 55-80 pounds of love, depending on the gender.
Labrador retrievers’ average lifespan is also 10-12 years (according to the AKC)
No matter which breed you choose, you can expect 10-12 years of love.
Golden Retriever & Labrador Health Problems
- Hip and elbow dysplasia
- Sub-aortic stenosis (SAS)
- Eye disorders
- Mast cell tumors
- Skin problems
According to PetMD, some common labrador health problems include:
- Patellar luxation
- Hip, elbow and shoulder dysplasia
- Exercise-induced collapse
- Muscular dystrophy
- Tricuspid valve dysplasia
- Retinal dysplasia
- Central progressive retinal atrophy
- Hot spots
No matter which breed you choose, each comes with several common potential illnesses.
As long as you find a good breeder, learn about their parents, have a good relationship with your vet, and take care of your pup, you’ll give your dog the best chance at a long happy life.
Are They Good With Other Dogs?
Their good-naturedness doesn’t end with people.
Golden retrievers are great with other dogs.
Like golden retrievers, labradors are known for being great with both people and dogs.
If you have or want a home with multiple dogs, labs and goldens are great candidates to be one (or more!) of those dogs.
Are Golden Retrievers Or Labs Good With Cats?
With a proper introduction and training, golden retrievers can make a good (or at least tolerable) roommate for a cat.
The friendliness doesn’t stop with people and other dogs for the lab either.
With a proper introduction and training, labs can also get along well in a house with a cat.
According to this list of cat-friendly dog breeds from VetStreet.com, golden retrievers and labs take the #1 and #2 spot, so if you want a dog and a cat, a golden or a lab is a good choice.
Do They Bark A Lot?
According to this chart from DogTime.com, golden retrievers bark a moderate amount (three stars on a five-star scale).
My golden, Oliver, rarely barks and I’m very thankful that.
According to this chart from DogTime.com, labs bark a moderate amount (four stars on a five-star scale).
No matter what breed of dog you get, you will need to get used to barking.
The good news is that neither goldens or labs are very serious barkers, although goldens may have the slight edge here.
Golden retriever puppies typically cost between $500 to $3,000, depending on the breeder and location.
According to The Labrador Site, the average cost for a labrador puppy is between $800 to $1,200, although they can range up to $2,500+ for champion pedigrees.
Both breeds have pretty wide ranges in price, although golden retriever puppies may be a little more expensive.
Note: both breeds will likely cost around $2,000 per year of owning them, so don’t let this slight difference in price upfront sway you in either direction.
According to Dr. Stanley Coren’s book, The Intelligence of Dogs, golden retrievers are the fourth smartest dog breed.
According to the same book, labradors are the seventh smartest dog breed.
Both breeds are among the smartest of all dog breeds, but goldens have slightly beat out labs here.
Goldens are high energy dogs that were bred to work and carry things with their mouths.
If they aren’t sufficiently exercised, they can get bored and get themselves into trouble.
Here are some common golden retriever behavior problems:
- jumping on people
- pulling on the leash
- destructive chewing
- demand barking/demanding attention
Since labs are also high energy dogs that were bred to work and use their mouths, they can exhibit similar behavior issues if they get bored.
Both breeds can be on the naughty side if they aren’t raised in a home that understands their needs.
Here are some tips to prevent and handle bad behavior:
- make sure their play, sleep, and social needs are met
- keep them mentally and physically stimulated
- redirect them to do something you want them to do
- stop accidentally reinforcing bad behavior
See the full article about handling and preventing bad behavior here.
If you’re looking for a new best friend, both golden retrievers and labradors are some of the best dogs for the job.
They’re both loving, people-pleasing dogs that get along with everyone from kids to other dogs to cats.
They’re relatively easy to train and aren’t very needy when it comes to grooming.
Plus, they’re both really stinkin cute.
So the big question is this…
What are the most important qualities in a dog for you?
Let us know what you think down in the comments!
And if you’ve decided on getting a golden retriever, check out this article on how to raise a golden retriever puppy.