Curly Coated Retriever vs Labrador Retriever – Battle Of The Gundogs


Curly Coated Retriever vs Labrador Retriever – the battle of the gundog retrievers! The Labrador Retriever is America’s favorite breed, and the Curly Coated Retriever is a lot less well known! But, both breeds are friendly, playful, and very trainable. Labs have more intense grooming needs, and Curly Retrievers can be a little more serious and work-oriented. When choosing which is best for your family, you should think about exercise needs, temperament, health. But we will cover all that and more here!

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Take a look at everything we will cover in this guide below.

Let’s get started by taking a close look at where both of these retrieving breeds came from.

Curly Coated Retriever vs Labrador Background and Purpose

It might not matter too much to you where your dog is from, or what its original purpose was. But, it can have a surprising impact on your dog’s personality! These two breeds have pretty similar backgrounds. So, let’s take a closer look.

Curly Coated Retriever History

The Curly Coated Retriever is thought to be one of the oldest retrieving breeds. There is no written documentation of the breed’s earliest ancestry. But many people have pieced together ideas. The four main dogs believed to be a part of the Curly’s history are:

  • English Water Spaniel
  • Retrieving Setter
  • St John’s Water Dog
  • Irish Water Spaniel

Some believe Poodles also have a part to play in this breed’s modern standard. The first breed club for the Curly Coated Retriever formed in 1896 in England. These dogs made their way to America shortly after, in 1907 and were first AKC registered in 1924.

curly coated retriever vs labrador

Labrador History

Labrador Retrievers actually share an ancestor with the Curly Coated Retriever – the St. John’s Water Dog! Originally St John’s worked alongside fishermen in Newfoundland, Canada. English nobles brought these hard working dogs back to England in the 1800s and worked on standardizing the Labrador breed.

Labradors worked as Retrieving dogs in England, but have recently become popular family dogs too. They were recognised as an official breed by the English Kennel Club in 1903, and the AKC in 1917. But it wasn’t until the 1930s that the Labrador Retriever started to become really popular in America.

So, Curly Coat Retriever vs Labrador history and purposes are quite similar. But what about their appearances?

Curly Coated Retriever vs Labrador Appearances

Appearance can impact the type of dog you choose. For instance, if you have a small apartment, you might not do well with a large dog breed. Let’s see how the Labrador and Curly Coated Retrievers compare.


Curly Coat Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers are very similar sizes, but the Curly Coat Retriever is slightly bigger. Labs tend to grow between 21.5 and 24.5 inches tall at the shoulder as adults. They will weigh somewhere between 55 and 80 pounds when fully grown. Curly Coated Retrievers will grow anywhere from 23 to 27 inches tall as adults. Their weight can vary from 60 to 95 pounds.

Females are generally smaller than males for both breeds. Training is important for bigger dogs like the Labrador and Curly Coated Retriever, because they can easily knock small children over by accident!

Face Shape and Features

There is a little bit of variation between working Labs and show Labs. But generally, these dogs have broad heads, long legs, and otter tails. They are well proportioned dogs. Curly Coated Retrievers are quite similar. They have slightly longer legs, well proportioned bodies, and a wedge shaped head. Their tails are straight. Both breeds should have muscular, athletic bodies, and floppy, flat ears.

Coat Type

One of the main differences in appearance between the Curly Coated Retriever and the Labrador Retriever is their coat type. Labs have relatively short, dense coats made up of an outer and inner layer of fur. Their fur can be longer on their chests and tails. Curly Coated Retrievers, on the other hand, have only one layer of fur, made up of beautiful curls! Their fur is short and sleek on their face, forehead, forelegs, and feet. Both breeds have water resilient coats.

Coat Colors

Another difference in appearance is over the coat color of these two breeds. Curly Coated Retrievers come in two standard colors – black and liver (brown). Labrador Retrievers also come in black and liver, but yellow is a third standard color. Diluted colors are also known in the Labrador, but are not standard. These are silver, champagne, and charcoal.

Curly Coated Retriever vs Labrador Personality

Another important element to consider before choosing between these two retriever breeds is temperament and personality. Let’s take a closer look at how the two breeds compare.

Labrador Retriever Personality

Labs are known for being friendly, social, and happy dogs. So, it’s no surprise they’re America’s favorite breed! They are generally not aggressive when socialized properly. Socialization will also help combat any nervousness or fear in puppies. Labs are often extremely loving towards their families. But, this can come with the downside of separation anxiety when left alone too long, or too often.

This breed is also known for being very mouthy. They love to explore the world with their mouth – but this means they may chew on things they shouldn’t!

Curly Coated Retriever Personality

Just like Labradors, Curly Coated Retrievers are known for being confident, intelligent, and friendly with family. Although this breed may be more wary around strangers than Labs. Socialize them well to encourage the most friendly temperament possible. They are known to be affectionate and gentle, but may be less needy than a Labrador. So, if you’re looking for a more independent dog, this could be an ideal breed for you.

As a retriever breed, you may find that Curlies also explore the world with their mouths.

Energy Levels

Both of these breeds have relatively high energy levels and do best when they have a job to do. Their history as working gundogs means they are happy running around all day. They will love retrieving games, such as fetch. It’s important to keep these dogs well exercised, as boredom can lead to destructive traits, such as digging and barking.


Both of these breeds are known for being friendly and affectionate, especially with their own families. But, socialization is important to ensure this. If you don’t socialize your dog well from a young age, they may be fearful or aggressive in new situations. Socialization will help them grow up to be confident, happy, and excited to experience new things with you. This is especially important in the Curly Coated Retriever, who can be wary of strangers.

Curly Coated Retriever vs Labrador Trainability

One of the reasons both the Curly Coated Retriever and the Labrador Retriever make such great gundogs is their trainability. Both breeds take well to training. They respond best to positive reward training, which often involves using your dog’s food as motivation.

Consistency is also key to training your dog. Both breeds are eager to please, so will be keen to learn. But, because they are intelligent breeds, these dogs can become easily bored. Keep training sessions short, interesting, and frequent for best results. Training is particularly important given the size of these dogs. Especially if you have young children.

Curly Coated Retriever vs Labrador Exercise Needs

Both breeds have similar needs in terms of their exercise. Curly Coated Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers both love having a job to do, and are very active. They will love playing games like fetch, or running around in an open area off leash. If you’re planning on doing this, you need to practice your recall well.

Training can be a fun way of exercising your dog. Both of these breeds will make excellent candidates for obedience, agility and other doggy sports, which are more great forms of exercise. They’re even great swimmers! These dogs can be easily bored if they don’t get to burn off enough energy. So, they are both better suited to active families.

Curly Coated Retriever vs Labrador Potential Health Problems

Every breed is prone to some unfortunately potential health issues. So, it’s important to learn about these before you commit to a puppy. Choosing responsible breeders can help to minimise some of these problems, but we will talk about this a little more later.

Labrador Retriever

The Labrador Retriever has a healthy body conformation, but is prone to some hereditary health problems. Here are some you should be aware of:

  • Hip and elbow dysplasia: malformed elbow and hip joints
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy: eye disorder that can lead to blindness
  • Cataracts: clouding over eye lens
  • Cranial Cruciate Ligament Disease: a problem of the knee joint
  • Gastric Dilatation Volvulus (Bloat): twisted stomach
  • Obesity

Curly Coated Retrievers

Some of the problems that Labs suffer from are also common for Curly Coated Retrievers. Here are some of the health problems to know if you’re interested in this breed:

Health Testing

Choosing a puppy from a reputable breeder is important, as they can screen doggy parents for many of these problems. They will choose from parents who have good hip scores, and no known diseases.

Make sure you ask for any relevant health certificates when you speak to your breeder. Testing is important to ensure puppies are as healthy as possible, and to reduce the risk of the problems above. Not all are testable – such as gastric dilatation volvulus. So, also do plenty of research to keep your dog as healthy as possible.

Curly Coated Retriever vs Labrador Lifespan

Lifespan is another thing that is likely to be important to you when choosing between these two gundogs.

A 2010 study used a health survey of purebred dogs in the UK to determine median lifespan in a variety of breeds. This study determined that the average lifespan of Curly Coated Retrievers was 10.25 years, and the Labrador Retriever’s was 12.25. Obviously, this is just an average. So, your own dog could live much longer than this, especially with regular exercise and vet check ups.

Curly Coated Retriever vs Labrador General Care

Another element of health that needs to be considered is general care of the breed. This involves any special care, as well as grooming, shedding, and feeding. Let’s start by taking a look at feeding these two energetic dogs.


Both the Curly Coated Retriever breed and the Labrador Retriever are energetic, active dogs. So, they need a food that can provide them with plenty of energy. They may also benefit from foods that have glucosamine and chondroitin in. These are joint supplements that can help dogs who suffer with bad joints, like Labradors.

Make sure you use a specific puppy food until your dog has fully matured. Also, check with your vet if you aren’t sure you’re feeding your dog the right amount. In healthy dogs, you should be able to easily feel, but not see, their ribs.

Shedding and Grooming

Labradors have a double coat and are moderate shedders all year round. They also shed more heavily seasonally. So, don’t be surprised if you have to spend a lot of time cleaning up fur after your Labrador. Grooming can help to maintain this, and to reduce the amount of shed fur around your home. You may also need to bathe your Lab regularly, especially if he rolls in anything smelly.

Curly Coated Retrievers do not have a double coat. They shed seasonally, but won’t shed as much as a Labrador all year round. Brushing can cause the Curly Coated Retriever fur to become frizzy, so an occasional wash and air dry is usually enough for this breed.

Curly Coated Retriever vs Labrador Puppy Price

Another difference between these two breeds can be their price as puppies. Make sure you always go to reputable breeders, when buying any new dog. For a Labrador puppy, you should expect to pay anywhere from $800 to $1200. Curly Coated Retrievers can cost from $1000 to $2500. This higher cost may be because Curly Coated Retrievers are less common than Labradors.

It’s important to avoid pet stores and puppy mills when choosing a new dog. These places breed for a profit rather than for healthy animals. Puppy mills sell puppies at much lower prices, but don’t be tempted. These puppies are often less healthy than those from reputable breeders, and can lead to increased costs when your dog is older.

Curly Coated Retriever vs Labrador – Which is Best?

So, both the Labrador and Curly Coated Retriever breeds are athletic, friendly, and hard working. Both take to training well, and are approximately the same size. Labs are often more social and friendly towards strangers than Curlyies and come in more colors, but they shed a lot more. Both dogs need consistent socialization and training to be happy and friendly. Neither dog is necessarily better than the other. So, it’s important that you choose one based on your current circumstances. Pick a breed that fits in with your lifestyle!

If you already have one of these dogs, make sure to tell us what they’re like in the comments. We would love to hear your experiences!

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References and Further Reading


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