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Golden Retriever Vs Labrador - What's The Difference? If Any?

By
 Jess Da Costa 
on 
February 11, 2021

Of all the dog breeds out there, two that are very similar in many ways are the Labrador and the Golden Retriever. You’re probably thinking, “but aren’t Golden Retrievers just long-haired Labradors?”. Keep reading to find out!

(image of a golden retriever and a Labrador sitting next to each other)

You’d be forgiven for assuming that the two breeds are just slightly aesthetically different versions of each other: one short-haired, one long-haired. Labradors and Golden Retrievers have very similar appearances and temperaments, but at the end of the day, they are two different breeds.

Things are not always what they appear, and this is indeed the case with these two dogs. While they might have many obvious similarities, it’s the less obvious differences that we need to get to grips with in order to fully understand how they compare to one another.

Although their similarities might seem to outweigh their differences, when you analyse the two simultaneously, you get a better idea of the contrast between the two breeds. Without further ado, let’s get into picking apart the tangles to reveal just how similar Golden Retrievers and Labradors are.

Similarities and Differences Across Different Criteria

Appearance

Harking back to the original question of goldies and labs being two versions of the same dog, it makes sense to begin by unpacking their appearances. This is the first thing you’ll notice when it comes to either dog after all.

Where yellow Labradors are concerned, Golden Retrievers look very similar indeed, bar their longer, wavier fur. Both dogs have a medium to large build, floppy ears, sweet smiles, and long tails that they love to wag! Labradors tend to have broader heads and are slightly larger and more muscular than Retrievers.

Although their fur may look different, both breeds are highly water-resistant which makes them ideal swimmers. They both also have gentle jaws which allow them to carry things carefully without damaging them (you’ve probably seen videos of people getting their dogs to hold eggs in their mouths without breaking them – both labs and goldies are exceptionally good at this challenge).

One of the most notable factors in which they differ is in colour options. Labradors come in three main colours: yellow, black, and chocolate, as well as some rarer presentations such as fox red and snow white. Golden Retrievers on the other hand, are somewhat bound by their title of “golden” and they only come in variations of similar hues: standard gold, white, and rust-red.

(image of a variety of colours of each breed)

Some people talk about “black Golden Retrievers” (yes, the irony!) but it’s likely that the dog they’re referring to is probably a flat-coated retriever. These black dogs look incredibly similar to Golden Retrievers but are in fact a different breed. It’s probable that some black “golden” retrievers exist, but this will likely be due to a normal Golden Retriever breeding with a flat-coated retriever or something similar.

Personality

You’ve probably heard it said that both Labradors and Golden Retrievers make excellent companions and family pets, and this is completely accurate! Both breeds are an absolute joy to be around and will provide you and your family with unending love and affection.

Labs and goldies are both gentle, sweet-tempered, and very curious, and it’s safe to say that both breeds love and require a lot of attention and exercise. Both can be fast and powerful, and it’s important to understand that regular walks and exercise will be vital if you decide to adopt one of either breed.

(image of dog toys or collar and leash)

Both Labradors and Golden Retrievers love to play and are naturally curious. Lots of walks with ample time to sniff around and explore will do both of them a world of good. They’re incredibly similar in that they don’t like being alone or cooped up, and will unfortunately turn their attention to chomping down on shoes and furniture if left to their own devices for too long!

Both breeds are exceptionally intelligent, and they like to learn. There’s no limit to the number of tricks and functions each one can be trained to execute. Labradors and Golden Retrievers both thrive on a challenge and enjoy following directions and pleasing their masters.

Service Dogs and Other Purposes

Whilst both labs and goldies make wonderful family pets, due to their intelligence and trainability, they’re both also commonly used as service dogs and for other functions.

Golden Retrievers are frequently trained for different services including guide-dogs for the blind, mobility assistance dogs for people in wheelchairs or with otherwise limited mobility, emotional support dogs, therapy dogs and many others.

(image of a guide dog)

Labradors are used equally commonly for the same functions and both dogs excel at the tasks they are given due to their trustworthiness, intelligence, and attentiveness. Due to their generally sweet and friendly natures, neither dog is particularly well-suited to the role of guard-dog, but they will defend you and themselves if threatened.

As their names suggest (Labradors are also commonly known as Labrador Retrievers), both breeds also love to retrieve. Be it a ball or frisbee in a park, or a pheasant or rabbit whilst out hunting, either dog will be the ideal side-kick.

Both breeds are natural-born hunting dogs and as such, have an impeccable sense of smell. This makes them perfect for search-and-rescue type missions as well as for hunting.

Because of their water-resistant coats and adventurous nature, Golden Retrievers and Labradors are very capable swimmers. They’re strong and powerful when in the water and they can also be trained as “lifeguard dogs”. This is a job that takes a lot of training but once certified, they take their jobs very seriously and can save people from drowning!

Health and Longevity

Labradors ad Golden Retrievers generally have the same sort of life expectancy, in the range of 10-14 on average. Because they are very similar in build and other traits, they tend to suffer from similar illnesses and other health concerns unfortunately.

Both breeds are prone to developing hip and elbow dysplasia which can be exacerbated by frequent strenuous exercise and age. If left unchecked, this condition can lead to pain, arthritis, and lameness in both types of dog.

Cancers are also very common in both breeds, and obesity, although more common in Labradors, is also something to watch out for in goldies. Both dogs love their food but as a general rule, labs tend to be bigger gobblers, so they need to be monitored more closely when eating.

Grooming and Care

We’ve seen several times now that Golden Retrievers and Labradors both have water-resistant fur, even though their coats are quite different in appearance. This water-resistance is due in part to the fact that both breeds have what is called a double-coat.

A double coat is basically the combination of a downy undercoat designed for warmth and the top-most layer which is more protective in purpose. Due to these double-coats, both labs and goldies shed A LOT. Because Golden Retrievers have longer, wispier hair, it tends to be more difficult to identify and remove from clothing and furniture than Labrador hair.

This means that both breeds will require regular brushing, although due to the Golden Retriever’s longer hair, more thorough grooming will be required to avoid matting. Goldies also tend to have even longer hair around their tails, bellies, and ears which is more prone to tangling. These areas might require trimming to keep under control.

In terms of baths, there’s no need to wash either breed too frequently – once every couple of months should do it. The only exceptions should be if your dog is visibly soiled by rolling or digging in something unsavoury, or if you’re using a very gentle shampoo in which case you can be a bit more regular with washes.

As far as food and nutrition go, there aren’t any notable differences in what goldies and labs can and cant eat. There are specific food brands tailored to each breed but at the end of the day, their contents and make-up are basically the same or do the same job so there’s no point stressing over which food to get. As long as it’s a decent quality food with balanced nutrients, all will be well!

No Matter What You Decide…

You’ll have a friend for life! As you can see from the information above, both Labradors and Golden Retrievers are perfect family pets and lifelong companions. From the moment you bring them home, they will be loyal and affectionate and loving.

What more could you ask for?

Yes, you might have to contend with the odd chewed shoe here or there, and a tumbleweed of fur rolling across your living room carpet when you let a breeze in, but these small inconveniences are barely a price to pay for such wonderful dogs.

Whether you have children or not, both breeds are gentle and intuitive, and will provide hours of cuddles and fun. No matter which breed you choose, you’ll see a furiously wagging tail and maybe some excited leaps whenever you enter the front door after coming home from work.

That sounds like a pretty good deal to me!

(image of a happy golden retriever and happy Labrador)

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