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As man’s best friend, the Labrador and Golden Retriever are amongst America’s most beloved dog breeds. 

Popular as household pets and as service dogs, both are famously friendly and rank as the most desirable dogs in America. Both breeds are medium-sized dogs with strong builds, friendly natures, a fondness for water, and an outgoing personality. In this post, we will look at the many similarities between the breeds, a few distinctions, and why they make wonderful service dogs.


These dogs are two peas in a pod. They are both among the top favorite breeds in America: The Labrador ruling as the most popular dog and the Golden Retriever ranking close behind as the third most popular dog breed. These two breeds are similar in both build and temperament. They are highly trainable, outgoing, friendly, and lovable. Both have a calm and friendly temperament, are intelligent, outgoing, eager to please, and non-aggressive. Both the Labrador and Golden Retriever were bred to be hunting and sporting dogs, giving them a love of water.

The Labrador Retriever originated from Newfoundland. They were used by fishermen to retrieve fish and pull in nets. A short, water repellent coat, webbed feet, and famous “otter tail” (long and thick, tapered tail) makes them excellent swimmers. The Golden Retriever was bred in the 1800s by Lord Tweedmouth in the Scottish Highlands. Goldies were made to retrieve game such as ducks and waterfowl, also making them great swimmers. 

Both types have soft mouths which made them a favorite among hunters as they returned game undamaged and is a physical trait that they still hold today. Another similarity is that both the Labrador and Golden Retriever have a life expectancy of 10-12 years and share similar health needs and concerns. Because they are outgoing and energetic, both need at least one hour of exercise each day and thrive in engaging outdoor activities, training, and other challenges.

Potential health problems that affect both breeds include hip & elbow dysplasia, obesity, and some eye problems such as progressive retinal atrophy. Health tests and screening can easily spot these problems, and obesity can be avoided with daily exercise and an appropriate food regimen.


There are a few differences between the Labrador and Golden Retriever. Key differences between the two lie in their physical traits.

According to The American Kennel Club, the Labrador stands from 21.5 to 24.5 inches tall and weighs anywhere from 55 to 80 lbs. The Golden Retriever stands from 21.5 to 24 inches tall and weighs 55-75 lbs. These measurements show that Labrador Retrievers are a slightly larger breed when compared to the Golden Retriever.  Another difference, and perhaps the most noticeable, are in their coats and colors. 

Labrador Retrievers have a short, dense water repellent coat. Their colors vary from yellow, black, and rich chocolate. Goldies also have a dense water-resistant coat but they have longer fur that is wavy, straight, or feathered. Their coat comes in various shades of gold from which they get their name.


It is no surprise that the most popular dog breeds are also the go-to breed to use as service animals. Both make remarkable companions and service animals to a handler.

One of the biggest reasons these breeds work great as service dogs is that they are highly intelligent, quick learners that require less energy than other breeds to train. They can understand both verbal commands and hand signals and train easily with treats (as they are highly food driven). Their high trainability makes them ideal dogs to do work and complete tasks as a service animal.

But this is not the only reason the Labrador and Golden Retriever make incredible service animals. Both breeds also possess temperaments and personalities to thrive as service dogs. Here is a list of some more characteristics that make both these breeds ideal service dogs:

  • Alert

  • Attentive

  • Intelligent

  • Outgoing

  • Obedient

  • Loyal

  • Trustworthy

  • Gentle

  • Sociable

  • Good nature

  • Eager to please

  • Calm and friendly temperament

  • Love working with people

  • Naturally sensitive to people and their emotions

  • Non-aggressive (toward people and other animals)

Finally, the build of both the Labrador and Golden Retriever plays an important role in service dog work. Their size is large enough to aid in mobility assistance and other tasks in which a handler may need a larger dog, such as helping to steady a handler while standing. They also have large and soft enough mouths to retrieve items for a handler while leaving them undamaged. Their medium size is not too big either, which makes it possible for these dogs to enter public places without disrupting their surroundings. 

Both the Labrador and Golden Retriever have an incredible work ethic and have the behavioral and physical characteristics to make ideal service dogs. Both breeds make remarkable companions, not only as family pets but also as service animals to people in need. Are you interested in seeing some of New Life K9’s dogs? Check out the “Our Dogs” page here.

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New Life K9s places service dogs with veterans and first responders with PTSD at no cost to the veterans and first responders.


Hertz, Lisa “Golden Retriever Vs. Labrador” The Labrador Site. December 11, 2017

“Labrador Retriever” American Kennel Club

“Golden Retriever” American Kennel Club

“Breed History: Where Did Labrador Retrievers Come From?” The Dog Blog. August 27, 2018

“The Loving Lab vs The Good Natured Golden Retriever” Advantage Petcare

“Golden Retrievers as Excellent Service Dog! Why? Here is a Quick Look” Amazing Service Dogs. December 18, 2018

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