Prospective owners of Labrador retriever dogs often wonder whether coat color determines other traits, like temperament, when choosing a dog.

Labrador Retriever dogs come in three colors – black, yellow, and chocolate – plus a variety of shades. So there’s a lot to pick from when choosing a Lab, which leads many prospective owners to wonder whether the color of a Lab is related to other factors, like temperament and health.

While the short answer is no – a Labrador retriever dog’s coat color is strictly a genetically determined physical trait – there may be more to consider than just a favorite color. Here’s the lowdown on the different coat colors of Labs and why black, yellow, or chocolate might indeed matter.

Choosing a Black Labrador Retriever Dog

Black Labs are the most abundant of the three colors, which means they may be more widely available when it comes to choosing a Labrador retriever dog. But what about speculation that black Labs are stronger competitors or more intelligent than other Labs?

In his 1991 acclaimed book Training Your Retriever (Putnam), author James Lamb Free states that black Labs have won more field trials than other Labs but that more black Labs have entered competitions. Free further explains that breeders of black Labs have been able to focus on other factors besides color, like speed and trainability.

Although black Labs are still top competitors today, so are many yellow and chocolate Labs. The notion that black Labs are superior to other Labs is unfounded. Black Labs are simply the majority – which could affect a prospective Lab owner’s selection options.

Choosing a Black Labrador Retriever Dog

Choosing a Black Labrador Retriever Dog

The Yellow Labrador Retriever

Yellow Labs once had a reputation of being more whiny, more excitable, and more destructive at home than other Labs. They’ve also been touted as the healthiest color choice, due to less interbreeding. Experts disagree with all of these claims. What might matter, though?

Yellow Labs have been favored by some hunters, who believe that a yellow coat blends with the color of the field or dead grass of a duck blind, making them easier to conceal from waterfowl. (But black Labs tend to blend in better with wooded terrain.)

Yellow Labrador retriever dogs also offer the widest range of colors – from champagne or light cream to fox red, and everything in between.

Chocolate – The Newest Labrador Retriever Dog

The newest of the three, chocolate Labs come in shades of light chocolate to a deep, semi-sweet chocolate brown. Chocolate Labs were once considered rare and harder to find, although chocolate Labs, and breeders of chocolate Labs, are becoming more common today. (Note: Current “rare” colors, like silver or gray, are not AKC-recognized.)

However, breeding quality chocolate Labs takes time and expertise, something to keep in mind when choosing a Labrador retriever dog. Still, rumors that a chocolate Lab is more stubborn or harder to train hold no merit. Chocolate Labs do need plenty of shade to keep their coats rich and attractive, which is especially important for anyone planning to show a chocolate.

Chocolate – The Newest Labrador Retriever Dog

Chocolate – The Newest Labrador Retriever Dog

Other factors to consider when deciding on a Lab color might include:

  • Carpet color – since Labs will shed, which color would show up less?
  • The former Lab’s color – for owners who have lost a Lab, it’s often easier to pick a different color
  • Breeding results – for example, two yellow parents will produce a litter of all yellow puppies, a concept that doesn’t apply to two black or two chocolate parents

The bottom line? When it comes to choosing a Labrador retriever dog, any color Lab makes a wonderful pet, hunting companion, or working dog. Genetics, breeding, and care will determine a dog’s health and personality. Color, on the other hand, is a matter of preference – and, for some, practicality.

Labrador Retriever | Dogs 101

Sources:

  • Beckett, Diana. Dog Owner’s Guide to the Labrador Retriever. Buffalo, NY: Firefly, 2005.
  • Fogle, Dr. Bruce. Dog Breed Handbooks: Labrador Retriever. New York: DK Publishing, 1996.
  • Free, James Lamb. Training Your Retriever. New York: Putnam, 1991.
  • Labrador Retriever Club, Inc.