Chocolate Lab: An Ultimate Guide to Chocolate Labradors

Chocolate Labrador Retriever or chocolate Lab in the river

Labrador Retrievers remain to be a popular dog breed that many people go after. However, the same cannot be said for the chocolate Labradors as they are the least favored among the other Labrador variations. 

Many believe that chocolate Labs are weaker compared to other labs and that they have poor health conditions. But are all of these assumptions true?

I wrote this article to bust out the myths about chocolate Labs and answer some FAQs about these extraordinary pooches. 

What Is a Chocolate Lab?

Chocolate lab portrait photo

The chocolate Labrador is one of the three standard color variations of the Labrador Retriever breed — the other two being black and yellow. Chocolate Labs have brown pigmentation with shades ranging from medium to dark brown.

They were simply called chocolate Labs because they have a brown coat that resembles the color of chocolate (food).

Interestingly, they were more famously known as liver Labradors rather than chocolates during the 20th century. It was just recently when people started to appreciate the beauty of chocolate Labs.

Black dogs were considered more desirable back then, and the chocolates were unwanted by fishermen and hunters due to their inability to blend perfectly with the environment.

They are also thought to be less intelligent compared to other Labrador variants. However, this assumption has been refuted by many breeders and owners. They are, in fact, highly intelligent and easy to train. 

Nevertheless, the myth about chocolate Labs’ poor health could be factual at some point.

Unfortunately, they also suffer more frequently from common health problems. This could be an accidental result of breeding chocolate Labradors from a small pool of genes. 

Are Chocolate Labs and Silver Labs the Same?

Silver Labs are variations of the chocolate Lab. Their silver coat comes from the dilution of the usual brown or chocolate color. 

The dilution occurs due to the existence of the dilution gene. The shade or tone of color lightens up and becomes paler when it is diluted.

In the case of a diluted chocolate Lab, its brown color becomes light enough to exhibit a shiny silvery tone. Nevertheless, the silvery tone also varies from dog to dog, depending on the intensity of the dilution.

Silver is not an official color for the Labrador Retriever breed. Dogs with this coat pigmentation were only first bred and recorded in the late 1950s.

Many breeders and canine enthusiasts suspect that this color is a result of crossbreeding Labs with Weimaraners; hence, they question the pedigree of the silver Labs. 

Nevertheless, the American Kennel Club (AKC) allows the registration of silver Labs, although they will be classified as chocolate Labradors instead.

Unfortunately, Labradors with silver coats are not allowed to join conformation shows.

RELATED: Silver Lab: The Controversy Behind Silver Labradors + FAQs

Are Chocolate Labradors Purebred?

Most chocolate Labradors are purebred. However, exhibiting a chocolate color doesn’t instantly verify that a Lab is purebred.

Coat color is just one of the many parameters used to identify whether a dog is purebred or mixed.

If you want to make sure that your chocolate Lab is purebred, you can try assessing if it conforms to the other traits listed on the breed standard. 

You can also take a look at your chocolate Lab’s pedigree to see if it comes from pure Labrador Retriever lineage.

If you are still not satisfied, apply for a DNA test for your dog. There are various tests done on brown dogs to identify their pedigree.

READ NEXT: Lab Hound Mix: 8 Common Hound Dog Breeds Mixed With Labs

Chocolate Lab Appearance: What Does a Chocolate Labrador Look Like?

Chocolate Labrador Retriever in a forest

Chocolate Labradors appear pretty much similar to the other Labrador variants. The only significant difference they have in terms of appearance is color.

The chocolate Lab, as expected, has a brown coat color which could range from medium to dark shade. Meanwhile, diluted chocolate Labs will have a silverish color instead of brown.

Chocolate Labs should have a proportionate body stature; not long and low nor tall and leggy.

Overall, they must have a strong-built, well-balanced, and substantial physique that will enable them to perform their tasks as working dogs. 

The eye color of chocolate Labs can either be brown or hazel. Interestingly, some chocolate Lab puppies are born with blue eyes, which turn into brown or hazel once they reach adulthood.

If a chocolate Lab has blue eyes even on its adult stage, chances are it is not purebred. 

In terms of coat, brown Labs should also have a short, straight, water-proof, and very dense fur. This type of coat enables them to fulfill their task even in harsh weather efficiently.

Lastly, most chocolate Labs come in solid brown color. However, some might have markings on their body. The AKC permits small white markings on the chest, but it is considered undesirable. 

Chocolate Lab Size and Weight: How Big Will a Chocolate Labrador Get When Fully Grown?

Chocolate Labradors are medium to large dogs. Their fully grown height typically ranges from 21.5 to 24.5 inches tall.

On average, they can weigh around 55 to 80 pounds. Male chocolate Labs are a little bit taller and heavier compared to their female counterparts. 

The Labrador is a fast-maturing breed, so you can expect a chocolate Lab to experience a growth spurt after it turns six months old.

At the age of 12 months, a chocolate Lab should already have reached sexual maturity. In the 18th month, most chocolate Labs will reach their adult size and will stop growing.

Some might gain a few centimeters until their second year, but the growth will only be very minimal. Meanwhile, the weight of an adult chocolate Labrador is purely relative to its diet and health condition.

Chocolate Lab Coat Color Genetics: What Causes the Chocolate Coloration in Labradors?

Genetics tells what coat color a dog will have. In the case of chocolate Labs, the brown gene or b locus does all the job!

But before anything else, let me first give you a quick crash course about where dog coat colors come from. 

The colors of a dog are produced by the cells in the dog’s body called melanocytes.

These cells generate the pigments in the coat, skin, eyes, and other body parts. Basically, melanocytes only produce two colors: black (eumelanin) and red (pheomelanin). 

But hold up! If melanocytes produce only two pigments, where do the other colors (chocolate, yellow, blue, silver) come from? 

This is where the genes play their games. Specific genes in the dog’s body alter and modify the primary pigments (eumelanin and pheomelanin).

Some genes lighten up or darken the shade, while others create patterns and markings.

The gene responsible for the coat of the chocolate Lab is the b locus. This gene dilutes or lightens up the concentration of the black pigment (eumelanin), turning it into brown.

It is an autosomal recessive gene (b) which means a Labrador needs two copies of it to exhibit a brown or chocolate coat. 

A BB Lab will have a black coat color and will not carry the brown gene. Meanwhile, Labs with a Bb pair will have a black coat color, but they will carry the brown gene to pass on to their offspring.

The only Lab that will have a chocolate color is the one that has a bb gene pair.

READ NEXT: Red Fox Lab: An Ultimate Guide to Fox Red Labradors

Are Chocolate Labs Rare?

Chocolate Labrador with the legs of a woman

While chocolate Labs are not considered rare, they are the least common among the three Labrador Retriever colors. Black and yellow Labs significantly outnumber the population of chocolate Labradors.

Selective breeding is the leading factor for this. Most of the Labs bred are black and yellow because they are what people desired and demanded in the past years.

Chocolate Labradors are just recently getting attention, but there are breeders out there who are dedicated to breeding these Labs.

You won’t really need to go through the eye-of-the-needle just to find a chocolate Lab.

The second factor lies with the type of genes chocolate Labs have. Since the gene responsible for the brown color is recessive, a Lab needs two pairs of it.

The chance of a dog exhibiting a black color is relatively higher since black is dominant. 

Chocolate Lab Kennel Club Recognition: Can Chocolate Labradors Be AKC Registered?

The AKC recognizes chocolate as one of the standard colors for the Labrador Retriever breed.

Hence, chocolate Labradors can be registered to the AKC as long as their parents are purebred Labrador Retrievers. Chocolate Labs can also join AKC-sponsored events where they can show off their skills and abilities.

Aside from the AKC, you can also register your chocolate Labrador Retriever on other Kennel Clubs such as the United Kennel Club (UKC) and Canadian Kennel Club (CKC).

Both canine registries recognize chocolate as a standard color for Labrador Retrievers, and they can be presented in the show ring.

Chocolate Lab History and Origin: Where Does the Chocolate Labrador Come From?

Labrador Retrievers originated from Newfoundland and were transported to England in the 1800s. The breed was then developed and enhanced in British land, resulting in the Labradors we have today.

Although Labrador Retrievers back then were mostly black in color, chocolate and yellow Labs also existed.

However, chocolate and yellow Labs were then considered undesirable. Breeders kept on producing black Labradors while culling chocolate and yellow Labs. 

It wasn’t until the mid 20th century that the canine community fully embraced chocolate Labrador Retrievers. Since then, they have gained popularity and have become tough competitors on the conformation stage. 

Chocolate Lab Temperament and Personality: Are Chocolate Labradors Good Family Dogs?

Chocolate Labradors are friendly, playful, and outgoing companions. They are intelligent and gentle yet vigilant and protective when the needs arise.

This is why they are considered good assistance dogs. Luckily, chocolate Labs are not known to be aggressive. They can get along well with children, other pets, and strangers. 

Here is how chocolate Labs interact with their family, other pets, and strangers:

  • With Family and Children: Chocolate Labs are born to please their owners. They are cooperative and affectionate, especially if they have been trained well. When they are around children, they retain a gentle and caring personality while being watchful of the environment. If the needs arise, they will undoubtedly protect their family from danger. 
  • With Other Pets: Introducing new pets to a chocolate Lab is not a problem. They are highly adaptable, and they can get along with other pets in most cases. However, of course, this all depends on the way the chocolate Labrador was bred and raised. If they are not socialized and trained while young, they might show aggression towards other dogs.
  • With Strangers: This dog is friendly but watchful. It won’t show aggressive and protective behavior unless provoked. If they sense danger or something wrong with a stranger, they would likely bark to alarm their owners. 

Overall, chocolate Labs can make good family pets. However, they are not that advisable for people with busy lifestyles.

These dogs are highly energetic and active, so they need daily tasks to burn their energy. A bored chocolate Lab might engage in destructive behaviors. 

READ NEXT: Male vs. Female Labrador Retriever: Which Is Better For You?

Chocolate Lab Lifespan and Health Issues: Are Chocolate Labradors Healthy?

Chocolate Lab dog action shots

Among the three varieties of Labrador Retriever, the chocolate Lab has the shortest lifespan. On average, chocolate Labs can live for 10 years while the other varieties usually live for 12 years.

Although they are generally considered healthy dogs, many chocolate Labs have a higher risk of suffering from common health issues mainly because of inbreeding and a smaller gene pool.

Here are the common health issues that chocolate Labs might acquire:

  • Ear Infection: A study has found that chocolate Labs have a higher risk of developing ear infections than yellow and black Labs. An infected ear will be inflamed, which can cause discomfort and pain to the dog. This disease is commonly caused by bacteria, yeast, and mites.
  • Skin Infection: Skin allergies and irritations are also pretty common for chocolate Labs. The irritation and itching can lead to severe skin damage if the dog scratches the infected area. 
  • Hip Dysplasia: This is a crippling condition that affects the hip joints. Chocolate Labs with this joint disorder have difficulties in moving and walking. The deterioration of the hip joints causes excruciating pain to the dog and makes it immobile. 
  • Bloat: This gastrointestinal disease can be fatal if not given immediate medical attention. This condition occurs when the stomach of a chocolate Lab is filled with gas and then twists — blocking the passages in the stomach. The assistance of a veterinarian is necessary for treating bloat.

Luckily, the common health issues mentioned above are preventable and treatable.

Depending on the severity of the illness and the extent of required medication, the treatment costs of the said ailments range between $100 and $1,000. 

How to Take Care of Your Chocolate Lab?

Chocolate Labs are pretty low maintenance when it comes to food and grooming. They only become needy in terms of training and daily exercise. 

Feeding and Diet

Chocolate Labs need a high protein and fat diet since they are energetic and active dogs. This kind of diet will provide the energy they need to function well.

In buying dog food for your chocolate Lab, you should choose the one formulated for large dog breeds. A feeding schedule is also vital in keeping the growth of your chocolate Lab balanced.

Labs should be fed three times a day — twice in the daytime and once in the evening. They tend to overeat if not monitored, which can result in obesity. 

Cleaning and Grooming

With their short and dense coat, brown Labradors might only need occasional bathing.

According to the co-chairperson of the Labrador Retriever Club, it is recommended that these dogs should have a bath once every four to six weeks. 

Their coat should never be trimmed, especially if they will participate in conformation events. Daily combing of the fur will also help in managing the shedding of your chocolate Lab.

Nevertheless, you should also trim their toenails regularly. You’ll know that the nails already need trimming once you hear clicking on the floor when your dog walks. 

Training and Exercise

Obedience training and socialization are necessary for shaping the behavior of a chocolate Lab. They should be exposed to strangers, kids, and other pets to develop social skills as early as possible. 

In terms of exercise, chocolate Labs are pretty demanding. They need at least two hours of daily training so that they can exhaust their energy.

Walking, running, fetching, and swimming are just a few of the activities you can do with your chocolate Lab. 

A bored chocolate Lab may resort to destructive behavior and too much barking to release their pent-up energy so watch out!

Chocolate Labrador Puppy Prices and Expenses: How Much Does a Chocolate Lab Cost?

Chocolate Lab puppy for sale or adoption

Chocolate Labrador puppies usually cost around $800 to $1,500 on average. Show dogs cost higher than regular chocolate Labradors. 

The pricing also varies from breeder to breeder. Factors such as the breeder’s reputation, pup’s health condition, age, location, and registration are considered in the final cost of a chocolate Lab.

There are also other expenses that you should anticipate after buying your puppy.

These include primary supplies such as food, bowls, beddings, toys, treats, leash, collar, and grooming items. These one-time expenses will more likely set you back around $200 to $300. 

Places to Find Chocolate Labrador Puppies for Sale or Adoption

Although chocolate Labs are less common than other varieties, finding a chocolate Lab puppy for sale is not that difficult.

You just need to be patient and resourceful in finding the best breeder where you can buy your very own pup. 

Here are some of the reputable Labrador breeders to find chocolate Lab puppies for sale: 

  • Hidden Pond Labradors – This breeder produces quality chocolate, yellow, and black Labs with champion bloodlines. They raise their puppies in an 87-acre kennel facility in New York. They also offer a one-year health guarantee to their clients. 
  • Dry Pond Retrievers – The breeding program of this kennel facility started with the arrival of a chocolate Lab named Jenna in 2010. Since then, they have dedicated themselves to improving the lines of their chocolate Labs. All of their puppies are AKC registered, with some also listed in the UKC. 
  • Michigan Elite Labradors – Founded in 2005, the first Labrador of this kennel facility is also a chocolate Lab. They are breeding the three varieties of Labrador retrievers which are all AKC registered and complete with health records.

Make it a habit to check the credentials of the breeder you are transacting with so you won’t end up buying from a puppy mill.

A reputable breeder will have complete health records of their litter as well as a breeding certificate.

If you are new to buying puppies online, you should check out our puppy buying guide on how to safely transact on the web.

Here are some of the Labrador rescues where you can adopt a chocolate Lab:

  • Labrador Retriever Rescue (LLR) – LRR has been rescuing chocolate Labradors and other Lab varieties since 1993. Their rescue efforts extend to Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Washington, and Virginia. 
  • Golden Gate Labrador Retriever Rescue (GGLRR) – This non-profit organization operates in San Francisco Bay, Northern California. From time to time, they rehabilitate chocolate Labs that are abandoned or surrendered by their previous owners. 
  • West Coast Labrador Retriever Rescue (WCLRR) – This rescue focuses on saving Labradors in Southern California. They follow a careful and strict adopting process to ensure the welfare of each rescued dog. 

If you weren’t lucky enough to find a chocolate Lab among the rescues I mentioned, you could try visiting the other Labrador rescues in our rescue directory

RELATED: 10 Best Labrador Retriever Rescues for Adoption (2023): Our Top 10 Picks!

Name Ideas for Chocolate Labs

Naming one’s pet is one of the most exciting and memorable parts of being a pet parent. For chocolate Labs, the most common names are somewhat related to their “chocolate” color. 

To give you some inspiration in naming your chocolate Lab puppy, here are some of the most common names you can consider:

  • Coco
  • Cooper
  • Moose
  • Kisses
  • Hershey
  • Fudge
  • Chestnut
  • Rusty 
  • Mars
  • Mocha
  • Chewbacca

As you can see, most of the names have something to do with brown and chocolate. Nevertheless, no matter what name you choose, your dog will surely love and treasure it. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Chocolate or brown Labrador playing in the river

Do Chocolate Labs Shed a Lot?

Labs shed their coats but not as extreme as other dogs. Chocolate Labs usually shed twice a year heavily — before spring and after summer.

They shed their coats to prepare themselves for the changing season. A good vacuum and daily hair brushing could help in managing the coat shedding.

Are Chocolate Labs More Aggressive?

Coat color does not affect a dog’s temperament; hence, chocolates and the other varieties of Labrador Retrievers have the same general disposition.

The aggressiveness of a dog is mainly influenced by its environment and training. This means that behavior varies for each dog, and the chocolate Lab can very well be a great family dog.

Do Chocolate Labs Die Sooner?

Unfortunately, chocolate Labs has the shortest lifespan among the three Labrador colors. While yellow and black Labs can live for as long as 12 years on average, chocolate Labs only have a life expectancy of 10 years.

Can Chocolate Labs Have Black Puppies?

No. Chocolate Labs cannot have black puppies because they don’t carry the gene for the black coat. Meanwhile, two chocolate Lab parents can have yellow puppies if the yellow gene (e) is present. 

Can Chocolate Labs Have Blue Eyes?

Purebred chocolate Labradors should only have brown or hazel colored eyes. If your chocolate Lab has an eye color different from the mentioned ones, chances are it is not purebred.

Nevertheless, some chocolate Lab puppies are born with blue eyes, which change into brown/hazel as they grow. 

Can Chocolate Labs Be Guide Dogs?

Chocolate Labs can make good guide dogs because of their gentle and willing-to-please personality.

But to set the record straight, all Labrador Retrievers — regardless of color — can become excellent guide dogs and rescue dogs.

Final Thoughts: Is the Chocolate Lab the Right Dog for You?

Chocolate Lab dogs are truly magnificent dogs. They are not only beautiful but also obedient and well-tempered. If you are looking for the perfect lap dog, a chocolate Labrador Retriever will not disappoint. 

Just make sure that you are ready to provide its daily needs, especially exercise.

They are highly energetic dogs; hence, they need activities and tasks to work on. Chocolate Labs might resort to destructive behavior when they are bored.

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