Update: I receive more than the occasional ‘what the hell?’ comment when sharing this article on Facebook, that calls into question the beloved chocolate labs intelligence. So I’ve just recently fleshed out this article in response.
A Chocolate Labrador Retriever can vary in color from a medium brown coat through to a very dark brown.
They usually come with a broad brown nose and matching brown eyes. So your typical chocolate Lab is kind of chocolate all over!
However, chocolate Labradors can have skin pigmentation on their lips, nose and eye rims. They can carry recessive genes that affect the color in these areas.
Also, not all chocolate Labradors are the common shades of brown we would expect. There does exist a so-called ‘Silver Labrador‘ too.
This color of Labrador is (usually) a chocolate lab with a ‘diluted’ coat color that gives it a silver sheen. However, these labs are still chocolate labs and are not recognized as a separate color in and of themselves.
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History of The Chocolate Labrador Retriever
During the 1800s the chocolate color, or ‘liver’ as it was known, was undesirable in comparison to blacks. Along with yellows they were mostly just culled at birth. For many, many years, society said that a Labrador must be black.
However, blacks and yellows can carry the chocolate gene and because of this, in particular pairings of sire and dam that carry the chocolate gene, chocolate pups would occasionally appear in a litter of puppies.
So despite the culling and nobody specifically breeding FROM chocolate labs, the color still survived these early unwanted times.
Origins of the Chocolate Labrador
A study of a huge database over at LabradorNet shows there are 8 routes back to The origins of chocolate Labrador retrievers. If you have an interest in ancestry of the breed, this site is a very interesting read!
Although the chocolate Lab had few fans or dedicated breeders in the 19th century, in the twentieth century the color was finally recognized by the kennel clubs and written into the Labrador breed standard.
Since then it has enjoyed ever-increasing popularity. For a long time almost exclusively as a family pet or for show, but in the last few years it’s finally begun to make strides into the working dog scene.
Though it is still far outnumbered by blacks in this respect.
Is the Chocolate Labrador Retriever Stubborn and Stupid?
Many people believe the Chocolate Labrador Retriever doesn’t have the famous hard-working and intelligent ways of the blacks and yellows. Some say they’re stubborn, unwilling to be trained, or simply a little stupid!
After some ‘Googling around on the subject’, the best explanation I can see for this belief is the rising popularity of the color being mainly within show lines.
The theory goes that they’ve been selectively bred for their conformation to the standard, for their looks, with little regard given to breeding them as a working line and selectively breeding them to enhance their working skills which would of course include intelligence and being biddable.
Secondly, some theories in forum threads (so, hearsay – but sounds logical to me!) is that because the color had a sudden boom of interest many years ago after the population was once very small, ‘backyard breeders’ focused on creating litters containing chocolate puppy’s for sale as pets.
With the main focus being on color, other characteristics such as temperament, being biddable and so on were ignored and allowed to slide.
I stress this theory relates to ‘backyard breeders’ only, not responsible breeders.
But anyhow, it’s possible the general population has a diluted and weak set of working genes, giving them a temperament less suited to work and training, and perhaps less problem solving skills, than the blacks and yellows.
Every Dog of Any Color Is An Individual
Just reading the popular labrador forums, you can read people having problems with ‘train-ability’ of their labs of all colors. You can also read people with labs of every color having excellent results.
There are experienced owners who’ve had labs of every color, with some saying their chocolate was or is the smartest they’ve ever had. And of course the opposite in some cases.
Black, Yellow, Chocolate, or even a ‘mismark’, dogs are individuals, a product of their different genes and environment. There is bound to be a wide range of intelligence across any population.
And the weight of people’s stories on forums suggests that there are disinterested, goofy labs of all colors, and headstrong, intelligent, problem solving labs of all colors too.
Basically, it doesn’t sound like there’s any real evidence of coat color affecting intelligence.
You Can Always Select ‘The Right Dog’ From ‘The Right Litter’
In more recent years, there are breeders who’ve concentrated on producing chocolate labs for field and trials disciplines. They’ve been proven to have the ability to compete with and to shine against labs of other colors.
So a chocolate Labrador Retriever can be just as smart and capable as any other lab.
You can increase your chances of getting a ‘smart chocolate lab’ by picking your puppy from a breeder who can prove the ancestry of their puppies is from smart and intelligent stock, perhaps from a working line.
With enough care and attention in selecting a breeder and the correct puppy from the litter, you can easily find a smart and keen chocolate Lab to rival the best of any other color…just don’t ask it to help you complete your expert level Sudoku puzzle!
A More Detailed – Positive – Look At The Chocolate Lab
Just recently (24th July 2015) TheLabradorSite.com has published a more detailed, fact filled and fun article looking at the chocolate Labrador that’s worth checking out: The Chocolate Labrador Retriever – Myths, Facts, and Fun
The article will put a smile back on the face of anyone feeling angry at their intelligence being questioned :-)
Do You Own a Chocolate Labrador?
Tell us about your own Chocolate Lab in the comments section below. Was (s)he hard to train? Would you say (s)he is less intelligent than the breed would otherwise suggest?
We’d love to hear your stories and will try to answer every comment we receive :-)
Sources and Further Reading:
The origin of Chocolate Labrador Retrievers – From LabradorNet
The Complete Labrador Handbook by Linda Whitwam
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