A full-blooded chocolate Labrador retriever looks like his yellow or black brothers and sisters, except he's a different hue. There's no difference in size or physique. While less common than the yellow or black variety, chocolate Labs are often found in the same litter as the other shades. Crossing two chocolate Labs results in an average of 73 percent brown offspring and 27 percent yellow puppies.
At maturity, male Labrador retrievers stand between 22.5 and 24.5 inches high at the shoulders, with females ranging from 21.5 to 23.5 inches tall. Males weigh between 65 and 80 pounds, while females weigh 55 to 70 pounds. Most Labs spend their lives as cherished members of the family, but the breed standard is geared toward their original use, as working gun dogs. That means your chocolate Lab appears strong, muscular and well-balanced.
The American Kennel Club standard allows a variety of brown shades for the Lab's dense coat, from "light to dark chocolate." What is not permitted is a brown dog with tan markings, or any brindling in the coat. Brindling appears as black or dark brown stripes on a lighter brown base. While chocolate Labs are occasionally born with tan markings -- over the eyes, on the chest and feet and under the tail -- these dogs can't be shown in AKC conformation classes. As with yellow and black Labs, the chocolate Lab might have a small white spot on the chest, although even this minor marking is undesirable.
Nose, Paw Pads and Eyes
The nose and paw pads of a chocolate Lab should be the same color as his coat. While the breed standard permits some fading of the nose color, actual discoloration disqualifies a dog from the show ring. As with the yellow and black Labs, a chocolate Lab's eyes can be brown. Unlike the others, hazel is a permissible eye shade for the chocolate Lab. Whatever the eye color, his eye rims should be brown.
Labrador Retriever Genetics
In basic Labrador retriever color genetics, black dominates brown and yellow, while brown dominates yellow. Brown puts less pigment into the hair than black, but more than does yellow. However, just because your Lab appears chocolate doesn't mean he doesn't carry heritable factors for other colors. If you plan to breed your dog and want chocolate puppies, have the potential sire and dam genetically tested for heritable color factors.
- American Kennel Club: Labrador Retriever Breed Standard
- Indiana University: Labrador Retrievers as a Model System to Study Inheritance of Hair Color
- Dog Coat Colour Genetics: The Brindling Gene
- University of California Davis School of Veterinary Medicine: Inheritance of Coat Color in the Labrador Retriever
- Indiana University: Inferences from Labrador Retriever Study
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.