What’s the Difference between a Lab and a Golden Retriever?

When shopping for a furry addition to your family, it’s easy to get distracted by the swarm of puppy-dog faces, wagging tails, and enthusiastic kisses. It’s even more difficult when faced with a choice between two breeds that not only look similar to one another but also have very similar temperaments. 

Choosing between a Labrador Retriever and Golden Retriever is a great example of this dog-shopping conundrum. Both breeds have similar features, are known for their sweet dispositions, and are great companion animals that can care for any family. To add to their list of similarities, Labs and Golden Retrievers are characterized by their intelligence, which makes both breeds suitable service dogs for the blind, for search and rescue purposes, and more. 

So, how can you tell these two breeds apart? Before you head out to the pet store, let’s review the differences between these furry companions.


Labradors were first bred from the St. John’s water dog in the early 1800s. The labradors of today are the result of breeding Newfoundland dogs in Canada with St. John’s water dogs. 

Once Labs gained popularity, the English colonists brought them to the U.K. 

The first Golden retrievers, however, weren’t recorded until the 1850s, when they were discovered off the coast of the British Isles. Golden retrievers were quickly coveted for their superb hunting abilities. This affinity for hunting earned them their nickname “the gun dog.” It appears that these two types of retrievers might be direct descendants, but unfortunately, there isn’t enough evidence to support this claim.


When comparing these medium-sized dogs, there isn’t a significant size difference. Labradors (that measure anywhere from  22.5 to 24.5 inches for males and  21.5 to 23.5 inches for females) barely surpasses the Golden retriever in height regardless of gender (males measure anywhere from 23 to 24 inches and females measuring from 21.5 to 22.5 inches). 

Labradors (males weighing anywhere from 65 to 80 pounds and females weighing between 55 and 70 pounds) are also a bit heavier than their Golden counterparts (males weighing from 65 to 75 pounds and females between 55 and 65 pounds).


The most obvious difference between these retrievers is their coats. Both Golden and Labrador Retrievers have double coats that require a lot of maintenance and grooming. Golden retrievers, however, have longer feathering fur and a higher concentration of fur around their ears, neck, legs, feet, and tail. 

This fringe of hair needs to be brushed once to twice a week but can be trimmed every two months. Because of their longer, silkier fur, you’ll need to bathe your Golden Retrievers more often than you would a Labrador. Ideally, a Golden should be washed once to twice a month, where Labs can go without bathing for four to six weeks. Despite their varying grooming needs, overbathing can damage the coats of both types of retrievers, as it interferes with their natural oils and dries out their sensitive skin.

The color of their coats is also drastically different. Golden retrievers get their name from their golden hues. Labradors, however, range from yellow to black to chocolate shades. Colors outside this range are considered undesirable and not dog-show worthy.


Dogs are great companions with an assortment of talents. As the most well-loved dog breeds, both types of retrievers are known for their intelligent and affectionate nature. Although, their energy levels throughout the day vary immensely. 

Golden Retrievers are similar to waves of an ocean. In their high tide, they can be very playful and energetic, but after a while, their low tide will make an appearance. They’ll be visibly ready for a nice nap or snuggle session with the family. Unlike Labs, Goldens are capable of entertaining themselves when left at home alone for long hours. Once they’re adequately entertained and doted on, they’ll treat themselves to a nice snooze.

Labradors, on the other hand, needs a lot more entertainment for longer periods of time. It can be quite a challenge to tire-out a Labrador. Their temperaments are reminiscent of rushing river rapids. This restlessness stream of energy can stir a lot of problems if you have a collection of delicate trinkets around your home. Labs aren’t hardwired to be left at home alone for long periods of time. Labradors may even be subject to episodes of separation anxiety. Because of their attention-hungry spirits, your small children can safely cuddle this furry addition to your home. 


When it comes to life span and health, Labradors have a slightly higher life expectancy.  On average, a Lab can have a life span of 13 to 14 years. Golden retrievers, however, live only 11 to 12 years. Unfortunately, both breeds are susceptible to progressive retinal atrophy, hip and elbow dysplasia, and exercise-induced collapse. Golden retrievers are at a higher risk of developing cancer. The scientific world speculates that this is a result of a genetic mutation.  Although, European Golden Retrievers’ mortality rates are significantly lower than North American Goldens.


Another notable difference between a Golden and Labrador Retriever is their price. On average, a Golden Retriever can range between $500 and $1000. A Labrador Retriever will cost a bit more, ranging between $850 and $1,200. Before purchasing a retriever of any kind, be sure to request the pups’ recommended health certificates. This can help ensure the healthiness of your new pup, especially if it’s a golden retriever.

Final thoughts

When making your final decision, you should factor in your home environment, work schedule, the temperament you’d like in your future dog. Labradors are boisterous and energetic most of the time and, therefore, prefer homes that are lively. Golden Retrievers are calmer and tend to like homes that are tranquil and relaxing. No matter what breed you settle on, the Golden and Labrador Retriever would make a fantastic pet that your whole family will love and cherish. 

For more information on your favorite retrievers, consult resources like this helpful guide from Snowy Pines White Labradors, before purchasing your new furry friend.