Chocolate Labrador: Everything You Need To Know

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Chocolate Labrador

Labrador Retrievers come in three different colors. But, the Chocolate Lab is the rarest of them all. They have all the beloved qualities of the Labrador and a beautiful chocolaty brown coat.

The chocolate is equal to yellow and black Labs in physicality, temperament, and personality. There is a common misconception that Chocolate Labradors are less intelligent, but this is not true.

However, there is one common negative perception of them that is true. These dogs have shorter lifespans than other Labs.

Want to learn more about the Chocolate Lab? Continue reading…

Breed Characteristics
Family Friendly★★★★★(5)
Energy Levels★★★★★(5)
Ease of Training★★★★★(5)
Shedding Frequency★★★★(4)

Chocolate Labrador History

Chocolate Lab Sleeping

Originally most Labrador Retrievers were black. Back in the 19th and 20th century yellow and chocolate Labs were not popular because they were thought to be undesirable.

Though chocolate Labs were not bred for, these dogs weren’t eliminated because Black Lab parents can carry the hidden recessive gene for the chocolate fur. If both parents carry the gene, there is a slight chance that the mother can give birth to a chocolate puppy.

A Chocolate Labrador is just one of the three main color variations of the Labrador Retriever. It is not its own dog breed, and is classified as a standard Labrador.

While chocolate Labs were recognized as standard in 1917, it wasn’t until the 1960s that they started becoming popular. The demand for them soared, and soon they also made their way into the show ring.

Black Labradors to this day still dominate in the working dog field, as they were traditionally preferred for this role. But, chocolate Labs in recent years have become the kings and queens of the show ring.

Labrador Retrievers are also classified into either American or English. The Chocolate can be either of these two types of Labs.

Most Chocolate Labs today are English, meaning that they are bred more for show or as family pets. However, recently they have entered the working dog world and you see more and more American chocolate Labradors being bred for jobs such as search and rescue and serving as guide dogs.

The Chocolate is equal in most ways to the other two Labs, but there are some differences other than just their coat color.

What Are Chocolate Labs Known For?

Chocolate Labs are known for dominating the show ring.

This fun, loving, and well-natured dog is also perfect for families as they love to play with children and will never leave you bored. They are also one of the easiest dogs to train because of their intelligence. It is because of these qualities that Labradors have reigned for so long.

However, they are not as good gun dogs as Black Labs, because Black Labradors were traditionally bred for this role.

Chocolate Labradors are still purebred Labrador Retrievers. A true Chocolate can only be bred from two purebred Retrievers. But, the parent Labradors do not have to be chocolate-colored to have a puppy with an adorable fluffy, brown coat.

Sometimes chocolate Labs can have another color on their coat, like a white pattern on their chest or muzzle. These are not true Labs. Labs that have some kind of pattern on their chocolate coat are a Lab mix.


Chocolate Lab

What makes a Chocolate Lab standout from a yellow and black is its double layered brown coat. Its fur can vary in shade due to age, but it will always be a wonderful deep chocolaty coat. A puppy will have a deep chocolaty fur, while seniors have lighter tints of brown and gray.

A purebred will always be a solid brown color. The American Kennel Club does not recognize Chocolate Labs with any other colors or patterns because they are not purebred.

Some Labs with silver or blueish tones to their coat are considered dilute Labradors. These dogs are often considered separate from the Chocolate Labrador.

Silver Labradors are born when the recessive gene of the Chocolate Lab is diluted. They are very rare, and because of their genetic quirk, their pedigree and registration status are controversial.

Physically the Chocolate Lab has the same features as any purebred Labrador Retriever.

They should have a strong and lean body, and a short and dense double-layered coat that is water resistant. Their heads are clean-cut with a broad back skull, their ears floppy and their eyes expressive and kind.

All Labs have brown eyes, though sometimes the Chocolate Lab’s eyes can appear a little lighter or hazel colored. Puppies are born with their eyes blue, but as they grow their eyes darken to brown. A Lab that has eyes other than brown is actually a mixed breed, one example being the Lasky (Labrador Retriever and Husky).

One feature that is unique to all Labs is their “otter” tail. They also have webbed feet, and both of these features help them do one of their favorite activities: swim!

Genes and Coat Color

Two Chocolate Lab Dogs

Chocolate Labs are only born when they inherit the recessive chocolate gene from both purebred Labrador parents. To better understand this, let’s explore a little deeper into canine genetics.

Black is the dominant coat color in Labs.

For a Labrador, the black allele is represented by the letter B. Brown is the recessive coat color, so this allele is represented with the lowercase b.

Each parent will pass on one of its alleles to their puppies. Any Labrador puppy that inherits either BB or Bb will be black. For a puppy to be a beautiful chocolate, it must inherit bb.

Chocolate Labs can’t inherit a B because this is the dominant allele and it would mask the b, even if the puppy had one b allele.

GeneCoat Color

The coat color yellow is actually a different gene in Labs. The alleles for yellow are represented by E and e (not B like for black coats).

Different combinations of the E alleles give varying shades of yellow.

The recessive yellow allele can actually “turn off” the effect of the B and b alleles.

E doesn’t interfere with B and b, but e does. The recessive e allele masks the effects of the Bb genes, but it can only do this if the dog is ee. So an ee Lab will always be yellow. The E allele nullifies the effects of the e allele, so if the dog were EE or Ee, then there is no masking of the Bb genes. So, your Labrador would be either black or brown:

GeneCoat Color

What does this mean for a chocolate dog?

It means your dog could be either bbEE or bbEe. This might be a bit confusing, but the point to note is that all chocolate Labs must be bb and cannot have ee.

Fun Facts About Chocolate Labradors

  1. Two Yellow Lab parents cannot have a chocolate Lab puppy. Yellows are only born when they inherit the masking ee gene. The e allele masks the bb genes that produce chocolate puppies. So, Yellow Labs can only have yellow puppies. The same would be true for two chocolate parents.
  2. They were originally known as Liver Labs. Until the middle of the twentieth century their fur was described as liver colored. This is how they got their name. It wasn’t until people started falling in love with their brown fur and associating it with the sweet treat that these dogs were called Chocolate Labs.
  3. Chocolate Labs are the rarest type of Labrador. This is because they must be homozygous recessive for the brown fur gene. Because of genetic testing and high demand, these dogs are actually quite common now. Breeders can know whether the parents carry the genes for brown fur so they can selectively breed.
  4. The American Kennel Club registered the first Chocolate Labrador in 1932. The dog was named Diver of Chiltonfoliat and it came from a long line of Labradors.
  5. The first Chocolate Lab to win the National Fields Championship was a dog named Storm’s Riptide Star. He took the title in 1996 and is probably the most popular chocolate Lab of all time. Many champion dogs have since been bred from his bloodline including Banchory Bolo, the first dual champion Lab.

Are Chocolate Labs As Smart As Black Labradors?

Labrador Colors

Rumors have surfaced that Chocolate Labradors are not as smart as their yellow and black siblings. These same rumors claim they are more hyperactive because of inbreeding which makes them harder to train. But these claims are completely untrue.

It is a myth that they are stupid!

Many online forums and threads claim that these chocolate dogs are less intelligent than other Labs. There is no scientific evidence to support the claims that chocolate Labs are less intelligent. No studies have shown that fur color affects temperament or intelligence.

When it comes to friendliness, Labrador Retrievers are not shy to show you how fun they can be. They love everyone, both humans and other animals. The chocolate Lab is no exception. This is why they are so great for families with kids.

Their friendliness also means that they are terrible guard dogs because they don’t bark a lot and would rather say ‘hi’ to the intruder than chase them away. If they are barking, it is more out of excitement.

You shouldn’t ever have to worry about your dog being aggressive. They can be overstimulated or overexcited and maybe play a bit rough, but it is very rare for a Lab to show aggression towards a human.

These brown furballs are full of joy and energy. They just want to play with you all day and give unending cuddles and kisses.

Since they are so high-energy, they will chase a ball until they drop. While they love running around, another favorite activity of theirs is swimming because of their history as duck hunters. Your dog will be so happy if you ever take them to the beach.

Chocolate Labs do however have a high prey drive. It is in their blood from black hunting Labradors. They might want to chase around small animals, but this behavior can be controlled with obedience training since these dogs are highly intelligent.

Health Issues and Life Expectancy

Labrador Retrievers as a breed live 10 to 12 years.

In general, they are considered healthy dogs though they are more likely to suffer from degenerative joint disease, hot spots and swelling in their ear canals.

They can also suffer from medical conditions such as elbow and hip dysplasia and progressive retinal atrophy.

Many people think that chocolate Labs are unhealthier than their yellow and black siblings.

Unfortunately, this is actually true. These dogs fall on the lower side of the life expectancy range, living on average to about 10 years. The reason why is thought to be related to their breeding.

Because the brown fur color is a recessive gene, the easiest way to breed chocolate Labradors quickly is to inbreed Labs with the genes. This shrinks the gene pool because there is less diversity and can increase the likelihood of inheriting health conditions.

Some health issues that are seen are hot spots and ear infections. The increased frequency of skin and ear infections that create an inflammatory response cause an immunological burden which shorten their lifespan.

The brown gene itself does not cause Chocolate Labradors to have shorter lifespans.

It is the process of inbreeding that can cause them to develop medical conditions that can shorten their life.

How Much Is A Chocolate Lab?

Chocolate Lab puppy

You want a Chocolate Lab puppy because that cute brown face is too irresistible, but how much should you pay?

The typical price for a Labrador puppy from a good quality breeder is around $800 to $1,000. Since chocolate Labs are rarer, they can cost more and can range from $1,000 to $2,250. Puppies that are bred for the show ring tend to be the most expensive.

Usually breeders who produce puppies of a specific color tend to get a bad reputation. This is because people think they are only doing so to make a profit.

Most reputable breeders breed Labs of all colors because their main focus is the health and temperament of their puppies. However, there are some good breeders out there who specifically breed Chocolate.

While it might be tempting to buy a cheaper Chocolate lab puppy, you have to do your research on the breeder. Since they are more prone to inheriting health issues, related to their genetics and inbreeding, it is important to buy from a reputable breeder.

Reputable breeders tend to do genetic tests on the parents to make sure that they are not passing on any health problems like progressive retinal atrophy. They should also be able to provide documents certifying the health records and bloodline of the parents.

If a breeder doesn’t fully answer your questions on the puppy, chances are they are untrustworthy.

Backyard breeders are not always clear about their breeding practices and tend to be dismissive when it comes to the health paperwork of the dogs. These breeders might also not care for these puppies, so they might be fearful, shy, or have undesired behaviors.

Buying from breeders isn’t the only place that you can get a chocolate Lab.

It is unfortunate, but many make their way to shelters, especially adults. This can be because of their energy levels and health issues. Dogs from shelters tend to cost less than ones from breeders. You might not know its pedigree, but you sure would be making a chocolaty-colored puppy happy.

Some examples of shelters you can look into are Lab Rescue LRCP, Labrador Retriever Rescue of Florida, and Brookline Lab Rescue.

Puppy Care

Chocolate Labrador playing

Labradors are high energy puppies, so it is important to start their house training immediately. Since Chocolate Labradors are smart, your puppy will easily adjust to its new home. It is possible to house break them within two weeks.

Daily exercise is important too. A bored Lab puppy is a destructive puppy, so you want to make sure you give your new family member all the fun it needs. Deplete his energy levels so he does not get too bored inside the house.

One thing to keep in mind is that as chocolate Labs have dark hair color, they tend to overheat quickly. Make sure that the weather outside isn’t too hot, and that your dog doesn’t over exercise itself, to avoid heat stroke.

A lot of the times Labradors will not know when they should stop running because of how much they love to play. They will continue until the point of collapse, so it is up to you to prevent them from getting there.

All this energy means that your puppy needs a lot of food.

Typically, Labs eat between 2-5 cups of kibble a day. Your Chocolate Lab puppy should get the highest quality kibble made for large active breed dogs, and the amount given should be appropriate for its weight.

American vs. English Chocolate Lab Differences

Chocolate Labrador sitting

English and American Chocolate Labradors are the same dog breed. However, they are bred for different purposes, and so have different personalities and sizes.

American Labs are working dogs whereas English Labs are show dogs.

Most commonly Chocolate Labradors are English as they are used more as show dogs than hunting dogs.

An English Labrador is stockier and shorter, and has a deep barrel chest. Because it is bulkier, it is heavier than an American too. Its temperament is calmer, which makes it better suited for participating in the show ring. Since they are for show, it does not have the same stamina as the American.

The American will be much leaner, athletic, and stronger than the English. It is faster and has higher energy levels. It can also be slightly bigger, standing up to two inches taller.

Both the American and English Labrador are equally intelligent and have beautiful chocolaty brown coats.

English LabradorAmerican Labrador
PurposeShow DogWorking Dog
Height21.5 to 22.5 inches21.5 to 24.5 inches
Weight55 to 80 pounds55 to 70 pounds
ColorYellow, black, and chocolateYellow, black, and chocolate (rare)
AppearanceRounder, bulkier, shorter, larger head, shorter muzzle, thicker fur and tail.Thinner, taller, leaner, athletic build, narrower face and longer muzzle.
TemperamentCalm, mellow, easy-going and lovable.High energy, easily excited, athletic and explosive.


Chocolate Labradors are one of the most popular dog breeds in the world, not only because of their sweet personality but also because of their beautiful chocolaty coat. They are as irresistible as chocolate itself!

Chocolate Labs are just like any other Labrador Retriever. They are just as smart, goofy, fun and loveable.

However, they did get the short end of the stick when it comes to health. Chocolate Labs on average live up to about 10 years while the breed as a whole can live up to 12 years.

The Chocolate Lab is one of the best dogs that you can get for your family. They will have fun playing with the kids with their outgoing nature but be gentle enough not to cause them any harm. These dogs make the best house companions because of how loving and easy-going they are.


  1. My family has a chocolate lab, he is very dark in color and has a very thick wavy ridge down the middle of his back, can’t say I’ve seen anything like him! He is gorgeous! Are there specific kinds of chocolate labs?

  2. Our chocolate lab lived to be 13.5 years old, as did his chocolate lab father. They were AKC hunting stock.

  3. My chocolate lab lived to be 14.2 years old and the best companion anyone could ask for, he is sadly missed by all my grandchildren and myself.

  4. Our chocolate lab has a problem scratching himself. Is this common among chocolate labs. Does bathing hurt their oil in their skin? We do not know what to do for him.

    • I have the same with my 7 year old chocolate female, however, I give her salmon oil with her food daily and it has helped to improve her skin and coat. It tends to be a seasonal allergy and pollen related, so I always rinse her legs and underside off with fresh water from the garden hose when we come back from our walks and this helps.


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