The chocolate lab is one of the most popular dog breeds for pet lovers. Their coat can vary from medium brown to very dark brown. Their nose, characteristic of the Labrador, is broad, and they have deep brown eyes to match. You could say it’s chocolate all over. Recessive genes can affect the skin pigmentation around the lips, eye rims, and nose. It’s also interesting to note that some silver Labradors are classified as chocolate labs even though their coats have a silver color. The grayish color is thought to be a diluted coat color, and they are not a classification in themselves.
History of the Chocolate Lab
Back in the 1800’s, the brown color of the chocolate lab was undesirable. Most people felt like black was the only acceptable color for a Labrador. Yellows and browns were culled if they were found in a litter. However, yellow and black varieties can carry the gene that causes the brown coats. So, if the sire and dam carried the gene, litters of puppies would often have a chocolate or two among them. No matter how much breeders tried to cull the litters, and avoided breeding with a chocolate lab, the color continued to survive. At first, they were not called chocolate labs. Since it was considered a flaw, they were called Liver labs. Even though they started becoming more popular, they were still called Liver labs until the latter part of the twentieth century.
Even though the chocolate Lab didn’t have a lot of fans, and breeders tried to avoid them in the 19th and 20th centuries, the color eventually was recognized by kennel clubs and began to be written into the Labrador breed standard. Since then, they have become increasingly popular. For some time, the chocolate lab was only considered a family pet or used for show dogs. Over the last few years, they have started becoming more of a working dog. However, the chocolate lab is still outnumbered by black labs in the work dog category.
Temperament of the Chocolate Lab
Labradors are one of the most popular dog breeds in the US. It’s quite likely you’ll see them in training and obedience classes. That’s not so much because they need special training or have behavior problems; but more likely because they are intelligent and easy to train. Even though they are a work dog by nature, they make great family pets.
Please note that they do need a lot of attention and exercise. It’s important that they get plenty of exercise, including playing fetch, or other games. It’s not uncommon for them to like to swim, which is great exercise for this breed. They do not behave well if they are left alone for long periods of time. The chocolate lab doesn’t get enough exercise if they are confined to a back yard and do not get enough exercise. They can get quite rambunctious and destructive.
Overall, the chocolate lab is friendly, intelligent, and good-natured. They can also be quite independent and not quite as friendly as the golden retriever. In general, they have a very delightful and enthusiastic attitude toward life. They tend to be cheerful, steady-tempered, and dependable.
Health Problems Common to the Chocolate Lab
There are a few genetic disorders a Labrador might suffer from as it’s passed down from previous generations. This is why it’s important to get your chocolate lab from a reputable breeder. The breeder should provide documented health testing. Labradors in general, can suffer from hip or elbow dysplasia. Both of these conditions are developmental in nature and cause abnormalities in the affected joints. The Lab is also more likely than other breeds to develop problems with their eyes and vision. They can develop progressive renal atrophy. It’s important to take your chocolate lab to the vet for regular checkups and to get them tested for dysplasia and vision issues.
On average, the chocolate lab has a shorter lifespan than other Labradors. They can also have more skin and eye problems in general. Since the brown hue of the chocolate Labrador is gaining in popularity, breeders try to have more of them available. To ensure they have litters of the chocolate-colored pups, they have to pair two chocolates together. The leading thought is that when two chocolate varieties are bred the gene pool includes more of the genes that are conducive to developing ear and skin conditions.
Taking Care of Your Chocolate Lab
In general, the chocolate lab needs the same tender loving care every other breed of dog needs. They need food, water, and exercise. The chocolate lab is quite energetic and will benefit from lots of activities. Here are some general guidelines for caring for your chocolate lab.
Grooming Your Chocolate Lab
Even though the Labrador is considered a shorthaired breed, they will shed more than you realize. Twice a year for about three weeks, they will shed a lot more than normal. They shed more in the spring when their thick winter coat is thinning out in preparation for summer. In the fall, as summer transitions into winter, they will shed more again. However, please note they do shed some all year long. Because they shed more than other breeds, they will need to be brushed more frequently. Brushing them out at least a couple times a week will help keep their hair from landing on your furniture and floors. With that being said, they will not ever need any trimming, and that’s good news.
Bathing Your Chocolate Labrador
When it is well-bred, the chocolate lab has a nice, thick coat. It is thicker than most. They do not need to be bathed very often and bathing them too often can cause them problems. If they are bathed too much, they can develop dandruff, and their skin can be uncomfortably itchy. The Labrador breed has natural oils in the coat that makes them waterproof. When they are over-bathed, this natural property can start to break down and cause them problems. Bathing them too frequently strips the oils and leaves them unprotected from cold or wet conditions. Their skin can become dry and the coat loses its shine and becomes dull. They will only need a bath three or four times a year. Of course, if they are playing outside and get extra dirty or get into something smelly, it’s good to bathe them.
Feeding and Watering Your Chocolate Lab
Obviously, it’s important to provide your lab with adequate food and water. Labradors, in general, can have problems with obesity, so it’s important to measure out the right amount of food for them rather than letting them eat freely. To help them maintain a healthy weight it’s important to feed them twice daily and restrict their treats. The lab will need the right balance of fats, minerals, vitamins, and protein. Talk to your vet about the right type of dog foods to feed your chocolate lab.
Dogs have different nutritional needs as a growing puppy than they do as an adult. Once they are grown, your vet will likely suggest a food designed for large breed dogs. The vet can also suggest the amount of food your lab will need each day, balancing out calories with the weight of the dog. They need to be well fed, without being overfed.
Also, always remember to keep fresh water available for the chocolate lab at all times. Change it out regularly so it remains clean.
Monitoring Your Lab’s Weight
The chocolate lab has a propensity to becoming obese. They love to eat and they will eat almost anything they can find. The lab tends to eat just because they can and not because they are hungry. Putting on excess weight can cause them to develop numerous other conditions such as heart problems or arthritis. To help prevent this, monitor their weight, control their diet, and allow them lots of exercise to help burn off the calories. Your vet can help you develop a weight care plan that ensures the chocolate lab gets the nutrition they need, without putting on additional weight.
Providing Exercise for the Chocolate Lab
The Labrador breed is high energy and will need a lot of exercise. Providing them with opportunities for exercising will help them stay healthy, both physically and psychologically. When they don’t get enough exercise, they start to become bored and they may start to act out and become destructive. Not only will the lack of exercise cause negative behaviors, it can also lead to weight gain and health problems for the chocolate lab.
Your chocolate Labrador will need at least 30 minutes a day of good, solid exercise. This is in addition to the routine walks they need. If you have a good-sized yard they can run around in, that will help. At least one time a week, they will need a longer session of rigorous activity. Take them out for about an hour and a half for a good romp around the park or beach. Of course, this is the recommendation for the adult chocolate lab. When they are puppies, they only need a few minutes of exercise a couple of times a day. Too much exercise for puppies can be harmful to them. Once they are a year old, they will have the stamina to exercise for longer periods of time.
Socializing Your Labrador Pup
Socialization is an important aspect of taking care of your chocolate lab. They need to become accustomed to being around both humans and other dogs. Before you start taking them to a local dog park to socialize them, check with your vet. They will likely want the pup to have certain vaccinations before being socialized with other dogs.
In general, the lab is a social animal and ready to explore new worlds. Socializing them when they are younger, helps them develop confidence as they mature. They need exposure to people, kids, other dogs, and wheelchairs. You want them to learn to adjust to a variety of surprising noises and distractions. The more socialization they receive, the more easy-going they will be in different settings and situations. Teach them early on how to greet people and dogs. You want them to remain calm in new situations and presenting them with a variety of scenarios will help prepare them.
Finding a Chocolate Lab Breeder
Once you have decided a chocolate lab is the choice for you, look for a reputable breeder. This helps you be certain you will get a happy, healthy dog. A responsible breeder tests their dogs to ensure they don’t have genetic diseases. They will also make sure the sire and dam have good temperaments. The parents should have a health clearance from PRA and hip dysplasia. It is often best to choose a breeder who works from their home rather than a kennel. Oftentimes, kennel-bred pups don’t get adequate interaction with humans and are not well socialized. Also, be very wary of a breeder who is willing to sell a chocolate lab puppy that is less than eight weeks old. This may be a sign they are running a puppy mill. The chocolate lab puppy isn’t ready to leave the litter before they are eight weeks of age.
Is a Chocolate Lab the Right Dog for You?
Getting a chocolate lab isn’t the right choice for everyone. They are great dogs, but they need a lot of attention to ensure they don’t turn to negative or destructive habits. If you are serious about adopting a chocolate lab, you will be serious about the time commitment they will need. The lab doesn’t do well being left alone all day long. They need a human companion to be happy and content. They need plenty of exercise to keep them healthy too. Remember, they live for an average of about 12 years so it’s a long-term commitment to adopting a chocolate lab. If you are not afraid of the commitment, then get ready for years filled with a loving, energetic canine friend you’re not likely to regret adding to your family.