Labradors vs. Goldens

Labradors and Goldens are both retrievers that the American Kennel Club, AKC, recognizes as sporting breeds with stable temperaments and a high degree of trainability. According to AKC registration statistics, Labrador retrievers and golden retrievers are the two most popular breeds in the United States. The physical characteristics, dispositions and temperaments, occupations, health issues and lifespan of the two breeds are similar.



Labrador retrievers or labs originate from Newfoundland, where they assisted fishermen, jumping into cold waters to retrieve loose fishing nets. In the 1800s, they came to England aboard ships sailing from Labrador. The refinement of their hunting instincts was the result of crossbreeding spaniels, setters and other types of retrievers. Golden retrievers or "Goldens" are native to the Scottish Highlands, where they were used for hunting within the distinctive terrain and area climate. Beginning in the 1800s, they were crossbred with the now extinct Tweed Water Spaniel, Flat-coated retriever, Irish setter and bloodhound.

Physical Characteristics

Labrador retrievers have short, dense, double coats that are water-resistant, straight and smooth and come in yellow, chocolate and black. They shed with the seasons and need moderate grooming. They have "otter tails," which are thick at the base, as well as strong, compact and webbed feet for adaptability to water and swimming. Female labs are generally 55 to 70 pounds, while males are approximately 55 to 100. Golden retrievers are recognized for their golden coats, which vary from light to dark. They also have water-resistant, double coats that shed seasonally. However, their coats are long, straight and wavy and require regular grooming. They have a unique feathering of hair on their necks, bellies and the backs of their legs and tails. Females are approximately 55 to 75 pounds and males are generally 60 to 80.

Disposition and Temperament

Labrador retrievers and golden retrievers are nearly identical in disposition and temperament. They make excellent family dogs due to their calm, gentle dispositions and stable temperaments. They are most content in active families with strong leadership because they are outgoing, devoted, loyal and enjoy pleasing their owners. They're intelligent, unaggressive, loving and affectionate — good with children of all ages or other animals. They require daily exercise and mental stimulation due to their high energy levels and may become nervous, easily excitable or develop behavioral problems without it. Although neither breed is useful as protection, they are excellent watchdogs and will warn their owners if they sense a stranger or impending danger.

Occupation and Performance

Labradors and golden retrievers are easily trainable, typically used in search-and-rescue efforts, for detecting narcotics alongside law enforcement, as guide dogs for the blind and service or therapy dogs for the disabled. As hunting partners, they succeed in tracking and retrieving prey. Both breeds perform exceptionally in performance and agility competitions.

Health and Lifespan

Common health issues for Labrador retrievers consist of eye disorders, such as cataracts and Progressive Retinal Atrophy or PRA, which can lead to blindness; elbow dysplasia, which affects approximately 20 to 35 percent of dogs in the breed; canine hip dysplasia or CHD, which is the weak or inadequate development of the hip joints; and hypothyroidism, which is an underactive thyroid. Golden retrievers are also prone to eye defects from birth, such as PRA. They are predisposed to suffer from skin allergies, heart problems, cancer and hip and elbow dysplasia. Both breeds have a tendency to easily gain weight and should not be overfed. Life expectancy is approximately 10 to 12 years.

By Charmaine Jens


About the Author
Based in Colorado, Charmaine Jens began her writing career as an editor and technical writer. Her professional experience includes work in executive administration and serving as a resume editor, specializing in military transition clients. Jens holds a Master of Business Administration from Colorado Mesa University.