So, you’re looking for a lovable family companion. Retrievers are some of the most popular breeds in and make a good choice. But how do you choose between a Labrador or a Golden? They’re both incredibly similar, sharing intelligence, athleticism, and a goofy personality that dog lovers love!
Let’s find out what these two amazing retriever breeds have in common and their difference and decide which breed might be best for your home.
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The Labrador Retriever descends from the Saint Johns Water Dog, a now extinct breed (or just renamed, depending on how you look at it) that originated in Canada, bred to help fishermen drag their nets across the ice and retrieving fish, beginning in the 1700s.
The Saint Johns dogs were exported to England sometime in the early 1800s to be used as hunting retrievers. It’s in England where the Earl of Malmesbury was the first to use the name Labrador, after the Labrador region of Canada.
In Newfoundland, the Saint Johns breed disappeared because of government restrictions and tax laws. Families were allowed to keep no more than one dog, and owning a female was highly taxed, so girl puppies were culled from litters.
In England, however, the now Labrador breed survived and thrived, and the Kennel Club recognized the Labrador Retriever as a distinct breed in 1903. Today, the Labrador breed is the most popular dog breed worldwide.
While no single person can take all the credit for creating the Golden Retriever, the main person attributed its creation was a Scottish aristocrat and avid hunter named Dudley Marjoribanks the 1st Baron Tweedmouth.
Lord Tweedmouth live in the Highlands of Scotland and it is here that the Golden Retriever arose as an independent and separate breed of dog.
Marjoribanks was looking for a Retriever that excelled in retrieving from water as well as on land. He also wanted the dog to be loyal and even-tempered in the home.
His original cross was a yellow colored retriever and a now extinct Tweed Water Spaniel. In 1868, this cross produced a litter that included four pups; these four became the basis of a breeding program which included the Irish Setter, the Bloodhound, the St. John’s water dog of Newfoundland, and two more wavy-coated black Retrievers. The bloodline was also inbred and selected for trueness to Marjoribanks’ idea of the ultimate hunting dog.
Golden Retrievers were first accepted for registration by The Kennel Club of England in 1903, as Flat Coats-Golden. They were first exhibited in 1908, and in 1911 were recognized as a breed referred to as Retriever (Golden and Yellow).
In 1938, the Golden Retriever Club of America was founded. Golden Retrievers are ranked number two for American Kennel Club Registrations. As with the Labrador, the Golden is consistently in the top five most registered breeds by the AKC.
Enough about their history, let’s get to the stuff that makes these dogs so popular, today!
Although both breeds were born to be skilled hunting dogs, their intelligence and gentleness have brought them into the home as loving family companions. As a matter of fact, both breeds are among the most utilized breeds as service dogs, today. You can check out more about that in our Service Dog Playlist.
The Lab is truly “man’s best friend,” and at their happiest when engaged in family activities.
Loyal, lovable, happy and friendly to all he meets, the Lab has the reputation of being one of the most sweet-natured breeds. It’s outgoing, eager to please, and friendly with both people (all people) and other animals.
They make an excellent choice for first-time dog owners.
The Labrador Retriever not only loves kids, but it also enjoys the commotion that kids bring with them. If a Lab has had plenty of exposure to other dogs, cats, and small animals, and has been trained in how to interact with them, he’ll be friendly with other pets, too.
Golden Retrievers need people and are best suited for large, active families.
This is one of the finest family dogs in the world: cheerful, demonstrative, trustworthy with everyone, and forgiving of any mistakes made by inexperienced owners.
The Golden Retriever is the classic family pet. They are obedient, playful, intelligent, well-mannered, great with kids, and friendly to strangers. They are good watchdogs, but make lousy guard dogs as they love people far too much to be effective.
Personality wise the Golden Retriever can be a bit more in tune with his human’s emotions and needs than the Lab, but both breeds are excellent family companions.
Coats and Colors
Get ready for dog hair.
The Golden Retriever comes in all colors, as long as that color is Gold, in all shades of gold, from light to dark gold.
Golden Retrievers have a dense, water-repellent outer coat with a thick undercoat. Some coats are wavy, some are straight. The fur feathers on the back of the front legs and underbody, with heavier feathering on the chest, back of the thighs, and tail.
If you live with a Golden, you’ll need to adapt to a certain amount of dog hair in your house and on your clothes.
The Golden’s thick coat means lots of grooming. Daily brushing is recommended to prevent tangling, and once a week is a very bare minimum. Your Golden will also need a bath at least once a month, often more frequently, to keep down his noticeable doggy odor.
You can find the Lab in Chocolate, Black, and Yellow.
Its sleek and easy-care coat also has two layers: a short, thick, straight topcoat, and a soft, weather-resistant undercoat. These two-layer coats protect the dog from the cold and wet, a good trait to have for a water retriever.
Grooming doesn’t get much easier than with a Lab, but like the Golden, the Lab does shed — a lot, a really, really lot.
Buy a quality vacuum cleaner. Labs also need a bath every month or so to keep them looking clean and smelling good.
Of course, if your Lab or Golden rolls in a mud puddle, which it’s apt to do, it’s fine to bathe him a bit more often.
Both breeds are of comparable size and are considered large dog breeds. The Golden Retriever weighs between 55-75 pounds at 20-24 inches tall, while the Labrador Retriever weighs between 65-80 pounds at 21-25 inches tall.
As I mentioned before, both breeds are highly selected for assistance dog work. Besides their people loving personalities, these breeds possess a high level of trainability. They both have an intelligence and eagerness to please that make them a breeze to train.
And, training is definitely necessary because they both have a lot of energy and exuberance, and are easily bored.
But, these dogs are always at the top of their obedience classes and are often the champions of sporting competitions.
Just be aware that you are looking at a highly active dog. They need to run, they love to play and they really like water.
They can both be successfully housed in an apartment or other small homes, but you’re going to have to get out of the house with him several times a day and take frequent visits to the dog park.
These are not couch potato dogs. If you are a highly active person who enjoys outdoor activities, this is the dog for you. If you’re not up to the task, there are many other breeds to fulfill your needs. A bored Golden or Lab is not a happy dog.
Health and Lifespan
Both breeds generally live between 10-12 years, about average for dogs their size. Though some do live considerably longer. Adjutant the Labrador was born in 1936 and died in 1963, some 27 years and three months later. The oldest known Golden was nearly 20 when he died.
Health concerns that golden retrievers and Labradors share:
- High cancer risk,
- Obesity, Hip dysplasia,
- and ear infections.
Some health concerns specific to the Labrador include:
• Entropion: an abnormality of the eyelids in which the eyelid rolls inward, irritating the cornea.
• Malformation of knees and elbows.
• Laryngeal paralysis: an illness affecting older Labs that partially paralyzes the voice box, resulting in a muffled bark and difficulty breathing.
Health concerns specific to golden retrievers:
• Elbow dysplasia
• Skin issues such as hot spots
So with all the similarities, how do you choose between these lovable breeds? Since both breeds are so popular, it shouldn’t be too hard to find one at the dog park or a local meetup to spend time with, you may even have a friend that has one. No matter which you choose, you’ll be gaining a lovable family member.
Remember, if you’re considering one of these dogs or any other breed for that matter, there are breed specific rescue organizations all over the world that are usually a simple Google search away, or being so popular, you may just find one in your local shelter.
So, which of these amazing retriever breeds would you pick? Let us know in the comments.
If there are other breeds you’d like us to compare, shout them out, we’ll give them a look.
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