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Golden Retriever vs. Border Collie: All the Differences (With Pictures)

Grant Piper

By Grant Piper

Golden Retriever vs Border Collie

Getting a new dog is always an exciting time. Picking out a new dog breed is a lot of fun, but picking the right breed can be a very daunting process. Dogs can be with you for 10 years or more, so you want to make sure you get one that is going to be a good fit for you and your family. Golden Retrievers and Border Collies are both amazing family dogs that have their own quirks and personalities. But which one is right for you? This handy guide will help break down the key differences between these two popular dog breeds and help you make a choice you are sure to love for years to come.

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Visual Differences

Golden Retriever vs Border Collie side by side
Image Credit: (L) Jumpstory | (R) Jametlene Reskp, Unsplash

At a Glance

Golden Retriever
  • Average height (adult): 21–24 inches
  • Average weight (adult): 55–75 pounds
  • Lifespan: 10–12 years
  • Exercise: 1–2 hours per day
  • Grooming needs: Moderate
  • Family-friendly: Yes
  • Other pet-friendly: Often
  • Trainability: Eager to please, high mental stimulation
Border Collie
  • Average height (adult): 18–22 inches
  • Average weight (adult): 30–55 pounds
  • Lifespan: 12–15 years
  • Exercise: 2+ hours a day
  • Grooming needs: Low
  • Family-friendly: Yes
  • Other pet-friendly: Often
  • Trainability: Intelligent, enjoys having a job, high mental stimulation

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Golden Retriever Overview

Golden retriever dog walking outdoor
Image Credit: Lunja, Shutterstock

Golden Retrievers are America’s dogs. They are one of the most popular dog breeds of all time. They are the stereotypical family dog. Golden Retrievers are sweet, easy to train, and relatively low maintenance. That makes them great for almost anyone who wants to own a sweet dog. They are fairly large, much larger than Border Collies, which can be a turn off for some people. They also have a few health issues that should be known but otherwise they are fantastic on all fronts.


Golden Retrievers are very sweet, very loving, and very loyal. They are usually bright, are hardly ever aggressive, and rarely suffer from outsized amounts of stress or anxiety. Some people describe Goldens as dopey or happy-go-lucky. That is one of the reasons they are such good family dogs. Goldens always seem to be in a good mood and are always ready to spend time with the family.


Golden Retrievers have some health issues that need to be addressed. Golden Retrievers are prone to skin problems, heart issues, hip dysplasia, and cancer. These problems are a result of extensive breeding. There are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Golden Retrievers in the world, and so much breeding has led to some long-term health effects. Goldens have an above average risk of getting cancer earlier in life than other dogs, and that is something that you need to be aware of.


Golden Retrievers have long coats that need some maintenance. Golden Retrievers can shed a lot which can make them problematic for people with pet allergies. They will need to be brushed regularly to keep their coats from getting matted and tangled. The grooming can usually be done at home, but it should not be neglected.

Young beautiful woman combing fur golden retriever dog
Image Credit: Photo_mts, Shutterstock

Suitable for:

Golden Retrievers are suitable for almost anyone. Golden Retrievers usually are near the top of the list of the most popular dog breeds in America and the best family dogs. They are perfect for families and perfect for singles looking for a companion dog. Golden Retrievers are very sweet and friendly. They are easy to manage and have a lot of love to give. Golden Retrievers are much larger than Border Collies, and they also require more grooming, but there are very few people who cannot manage and adore having a Golden Retriever.

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Border Collie Overview

Border Collie outdoors
Image Credit: ForeverNaturalPhotography, Shutterstock

Border Collies were bred to be herding dogs. That means they were bred with a specific job in mind. That job makes Border Collies highly energetic, very intelligent, trainable, and bright. Border Collies have medium coats and a medium build. They can be excellent family dogs, but they can also be trained to participate in things like doggy agility.


Border Collies are very loyal and loving dogs. They are highly intelligent and very energetic. Border Collies have the potential to be a running companion during the day and a snuggly sleepy time partner at night. Border Collies can be prone to anxiety and stress, so you need to manage their behavior from time to time to keep them calm and happy.


Border Collies need regular exercise. Border Collies are very energetic, and they need at least 2 hours of exercise each day. If they do not get regular exercise, they can become anxious, which can lead to adverse side effects.  If you cannot give a Border Collie regular exercise, you might want to consider going with a Golden Retriever.


Border Collies are extremely smart, and that makes them easy to train. Border Collies are great dogs if you want a dog that will learn basic commands and tricks. Border Collies can be extremely responsive to training, and they have a very high ceiling when it comes to learning.

border collie dog playing fetch with the male owner
Image Credit: elbud, Shutterstock

Suitable for:

Border Collies are suitable for families or individuals looking for a smart and energetic dog that can be active with them. Border Collies love going for walks and runs. They also like getting out of the house and exploring new locations. They are incredibly smart and endlessly trainable. Border Collies can be great family dogs, but they do their best when they are being trained and are provided with plenty of mental and physical stimulation.

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Are Border Collies the Smartest Dog Breed?

Border Collies are routinely ranked as one of the smartest dog breeds. In intelligence surveys, Border Collies often receive top ranks. However, it is impossible to say whether individual dogs are truly more intelligent than one another. Border Collies often display above average levels of intelligence compared to other dog breeds. If you are interested in a smart dog that is easy to train and eager to please, you should consider going with a Border Collie.

However, Golden Retrievers are no slouches when it comes to intelligence. While they often rank behind Border Collies, Golden Retrievers still rank in the top ten for dog breeds in terms of intelligence. Goldens are also trainable and eager to please, but they are not quite as sharp as Border Collies.

Which Breed Is a Better Family Dog?

Both Border Collies and Golden Retrievers can make for excellent family dogs. Golden Retrievers are probably a better overall family dog than Border Collies. Border Collies are more energetic, and they are working dogs. That means if you do not regularly exercise your Border Collie or give it a job to do on a regular basis, they could get anxious and stressed, which can lead to adverse behaviors in a family setting. If you want to go with the best all-around family dog on the market, you should go with a Golden Retriever. There is a reason they are routinely listed as the most popular dog breed in America.

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Which Breed Is Right for You?

The choice between a Golden Retriever and a Border Collie will ultimately be up to you. They are both fantastic family dogs. Golden Retrievers are more well-rounded. They are easy to maintain and very easygoing. However, they are larger and have more health issues than Border Collies. Border Collies are very smart, loyal, and energetic. They do best in environments where families are active and doing many activities with their dogs. Either one could be the perfect choice for you depending on your exact preferences.

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Featured Image Credit: (L) MirasWonderland, Shutterstock | (R) Pauline Loroy, Unsplash

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