Golden retrievers and Labrador retrievers are two of the most popular breeds in the United States, and they both make fantastic pets. They are loving, loyal and playful dogs, who meld into most families with ease.
But while these two breeds are undoubtedly similar in many ways, they also have a few key differences. This means that you’ll likely prefer one of the breeds over the other – you just need to learn about these differences, so you can make an informed choice.
Below, we’ll talk about some of the strengths and weaknesses of both breeds, as well as some of the things that make both of these dogs such great companions.
Golden retrievers and Labrador retrievers were both developed with the goal of creating excellent bird-hunting dogs, who were also great pets.
The vast majority of labs and goldens in the modern world are kept solely as pets, but many hunters still use both breeds – particularly Labrador retrievers – in the field.
Because they are bird dogs, both breeds were bred to have a “soft mouth,” meaning that they typically bite down gently when carrying things. This was important to ensure that these dogs wouldn’t mangle a downed duck while retrieving it.
Also, because many of these breeds were used to hunt lowland birds, who live on and around the water, both labs and goldens have webbed feet, water-repellent coats and a love of the water.
Both breeds have been popular for several years, but the golden’s popularity is a bit more recent.
Goldens and labs both have the same basic head and face shape, which seems to carry a perpetually friendly expression. Yet despite their similar appearances, you can learn to distinguish between the two pretty easily with practice.
Among other differences, labs have wider, blunter faces than goldens do, and goldens typically have smaller, narrower eyes than labs. Labs also possess very prominent eyebrow ridges, while goldens have rather subtle eyebrow ridges.
Both breeds have a relatively similar athletic build, although some individuals are heavier or thinner than others. There is plenty of variation in size among both breeds, but most labs and goldens weigh between about 50 and 80 pounds or so.
However, labs are a bit larger than goldens on average; exceptionally large or overweight individuals may approach 90 pounds or more in weight.
Both breeds reach similar heights, but the largest labs may grow about 1 inch taller than the largest goldens do.
Labrador retrievers come in three color variations: black, chocolate and yellow. By contrast, golden retrievers are, well, gold. However, goldens can vary from nearly white to strawberry blonde, so they don’t all look alike.
The hair length is variable in both breeds, but goldens tend to have moderately long hair, which far exceeds the length of most labs’ coats.
Labs and goldens are also intelligent dogs, who excel at a wide variety of jobs and roles, including service, police and search-and-rescue work. But their gentle, affectionate nature also makes them remarkable therapy dogs, who can quickly relieve their owner’s anxiety, stress and depression.
Both breeds will bark at odd sounds or unfamiliar visitors, but they aren’t terribly suspicious, and generally make quick friends with anyone they meet. Don’t select either of these dogs if you want a watchdog – they’d probably greet an intruder with their tennis ball in hopes of an impromptu game of fetch.
Both breeds have similar average lifespans of between 10 and 12 years, and they are both susceptible to many of the same illnesses and health problems.
Golden retrievers are more likely to suffer from skin problems than labs are, but such problems can be limited by keeping their coat clean and well groomed.
One of these breeds is likely the very best breed for families, and the other one is certainly the runner-up – we’ll leave it to you to decide which one is which.
We’ll try to draw a few key distinctions between the two to help inform your decision-making process, but some of these distinctions are incredibly subtle. In truth, most families that would love a lab would also love a golden, and vice versa.
Labs and goldens are among the friendliest breeds in existence, and they are generally trustworthy with children and other dogs. Many of them will even tolerate cats living in the home.
However, goldens are probably slightly more magnanimous than labs, so they may be ever-so-slightly better suited for families with lots of kids and pets than labs are.
Both breeds are clearly family dogs, who do not tolerate being left alone for long periods of time. However, labs may be slightly better able to deal with your absence than goldens, so they may be preferable for those who work long hours or travel frequently.
Nevertheless, you’ll still need to give your lab plenty of attention, and you should try to involve them in as many family activates as possible.
While neither of these breeds requires the amount of grooming as poodles and other high-maintenance breeds do, golden retrievers require much more grooming than labs do (labs don’t need any grooming other than regular baths and nail trimming).
So, be sure you won’t mind visiting the groomer regularly (or learn to how to groom yourself) before selecting the long-locked golden retriever.
Golden retrievers will be harder on your home than labs will, thanks to their propensity to shed heavily. However, labs will still coat your home in shed fur twice a year; so, neither is a great choice for allergy sufferers.
Goldens also drool a bit more than labs do, which may be off-putting to some owners. Generally speaking, labs are better for owners who prefer a tidy home than goldens are.
Labs are a little more intense and independent than goldens are, so they may benefit from a little more “serious” playtime than happy-go-lucky goldens will. But understand that both breeds require a lot of exercise to keep them happy and help prevent the development of problematic behaviors.
Additionally, while you should always keep your dogs leashed when not in an enclosed space, labs are more likely to wander off and explore the world than goldens are, although both dogs prefer to hang out right beside their owners.
Does your family count a golden or lab among its members? Let our readers know a little about your pet.
Tell us about his personality, habits and health, as well as some of your favorite (and not-so-favorite) things about the breed. Your stories may help others select the perfect option for their family.