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

Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers are, undoubtedly, among the most family-friendly, fun-loving breeds of dogs available on the market. Both breeds are known for their high energy and approachable dispositions, making them the perfect pets and companions for households with young children and other pets.

It’s interesting to note just how many characteristics they have in common. Both breeds are highly intelligent, loyal to a fault, easy to train, fun and playful, and low-maintenance pets. Their physical and temperamental similarities are so apparent that people often confuse one breed for the other. The fact of the matter is, Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers are very different, though most would classify their differences as purely appearance-based.

The following sections will focus on eight primary differences between these two breeds of dogs. For more insight into the differences between these two popular breeds, check out this helpful guide from Snowy Pines White Labradors.


Once fully grown, Labrador Retrievers lean slightly bigger than Golden Retrievers. An adult male Lab will stand at an average of 21.5 to 24.5 inches at the withers, while an adult Golden Retriever will stand at an average of 21 to 24 inches at the withers. In both cases, the female could be as much as one inch smaller.

As for weight, both breeds have similar averages. On the low end, both Labrador and Golden Retrievers approach the 55-pound mark. However, bulkier labs could be as much as five pounds heavier than the heaviest Golden, nearing 80 pounds.


All Golden Retrievers possess that unmistakable beautiful golden fur, hence their name “Golden Retriever.” As for the Labrador Retriever breed, they can come in three standard varieties: yellow, black, and chocolate. While it’s incredibly rare, some Labs will carry a reddish or silver coloring.

If anyone sees what they believe to be a Lab with golden fur, this coloring is only achievable if the dog in question is a Golden Retriever Lab mix. Otherwise, a Labrador Retriever puppy will always fall into one of the three color categories.

Fur length

The Golden Retriever breed has much longer hair than the Labrador Retriever. While both breeds are relatively low-maintenance dogs, the Golden’s long fur makes the breed a little more challenging to groom because of frequent shedding. Labradors do shed, but the process is usually limited to early spring and late autumn, as the dog’s fur prepares for weather changes.

It’s worth noting that both breeds have two dense coats of fur, which explains why both breeds love swimming and playing in nearly bone-chilling waters. Brutal winters are no match for the Labrador or Golden Retriever with their double-layer coat, meaning they’ll be more than willing to tag along on your hunting trip or winter camping excursion.

Energy levels

Both Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers are playful, energetic dog breeds. However, Goldens tend to be a little more restrained and more inclined to cuddle on the couch, while labs are highly active and prefer to be on-the-go from the moment they wake up to the moment they drift to sleep.

The difference in energy levels makes Labs better work dogs, while Golden Retrievers are house dogs at heart. Additionally, Goldens tend to be more well-behaved around small children, though both breeds are excellent dogs for families.

Country of origin

Very seldom do we stumble upon a purebred dog. The Golden Retriever stemmed from a mix of the Wavy Coated Retriever and the Tweed Water Spaniel. The bred originated sometime in the 1800s in the Glen Affric, Scotland area. As for the Labrador Retriever, this breed stemmed from the St. John’s water dog and was popular in the Newfoundland, Canada area.

It’s worth noting that the American Kennel Club officially recognized the Labrador Retriever and Golden Retriever breeds in 1917 and 1925, respectively.

Historical job suitability

Today, both breeds are considered excellent hunting dogs and excel as narcotic sniffers and companion dogs for the disabled. Historically, breeders bred these Labs for different types of jobs. Unbeknownst to most, the original Golden Retrievers were used as hunting companions, while the Labrador Retriever was very popular amongst fishermen.


Both breeds are very sociable with fun-loving dispositions. However, where they differ is that the Golden Retriever is more easy going than its Labrador Retriever counterpart, making the breed more patient and sensitive. Labs’ high energy levels make them more excitable and playful, ideal for homes with young children.

Life expectancy

Ideally, both of these breeds would have long life expectancies. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Generally speaking, Labrador Retrievers will have a life expectancy of around 10 to 14 years, while Goldens tend to live about 10 to 12 years, on average.


Whether you opt for a Labrador Retriever or a Golden Retriever, you’re sure to benefit from both breeds’ unconditional love and unwavering loyalty. If you purchase a Lab, expect days packed full of slobbery kisses, playful barking, and hours of fetch-filled fun. On the other hand, if you handpick a Golden at your local pet store, you can indulge in hour-long couch cuddle sessions and calming temperaments. Whatever your decision, choose wisely according to your family’s current lifestyle.

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